We cooked thousands of french fries and more than 50 pounds of chicken to answer one question: Which air fryer reigns supreme?
Last Updated Sept. 6, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 23: Chicken Two Ways
We recently tested a few more air fryers, including two with glass drawers. Our winner remains the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer.
Air fryers are all the rage, and for good reason. The best models cook food quickly and efficiently, and because they're essentially countertop convection ovens, they can be used in place of a toaster oven or wall oven. Our favorite, the Instant Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryer, can fit enough food for four people, has an easy-to-use basket that slides into the appliance like a drawer, and features intuitive digital controls. We also like another Instant model, the Instant Vortex Plus ClearCook + OdorErase 6-Quart Air Fryer. It offers everything our winner does, and its viewing window, simple control panel, and odor filtering technology impressed us during testing. We’re naming it our Upgrade Pick.
Despite their name, air fryers don’t fry your food. They’re essentially small convection ovens with powerful fans that circulate hot air around food to approximate the crisp and juicy results of deep frying. They require less oil—mere tablespoons, as opposed to quarts—and are less messy than deep frying. Air fryers are also marketed as a smaller and more convenient alternative to conventional ovens; they generally cook food quicker, shaving off 5 to 10 minutes from most recipes. They need to be preheated for only a few minutes, if at all, and they won’t heat up your entire kitchen. Even people who already have a convection oven may appreciate the speed, convenience, and extra cooking space that these appliances offer. Throughout years of testing air fryers, we’ve concluded that even the best models can’t achieve the perfect golden crispiness that deep frying offers, but some come impressively close. With a little finessing, some of our favorite oven and deep-fry recipes can work quite well in an air fryer.
We tested three styles of air fryers: drawer-style models with baskets that pull out from the front; flip-top models with lids that lift up from the top to reveal the baskets inside; and bigger, cube-shaped models with doors that swing open in the front and multiple racks inside like an oven. The oven-style models often include revolving rotisserie baskets or propeller-shaped auto-stir attachments, both of which automatically rotate to toss food around, supposedly for more-even heating and crisping. After testing air fryers with all sorts of innovations, we found an exciting new winner. Its capacity is bigger, it cooks better, and it costs less.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Chase is an associate editor for ATK Reviews. He's an epidemiologist-turned-equipment tester and biscuit enthusiast.
Sarah is an assistant editor for ATK Reviews who is deeply passionate about anchovies and sourdough bread.
Valerie is an assistant editor for ATK Reviews. In addition to cooking, she loves skiing, traveling, and spending time outdoors.