Many kitchen appliances claim to replicate the results of traditional cooking methods without truly delivering, but the best air fryers appear to be an exception to this trend.
The Best Air Fryer – How Close Do They Get to Deep Fried Food?
Indoor grills and budget electric pasta makers often fall into a category where they promise but fail to deliver. Most indoor grills are no better than using a broiler, and inexpensive pasta machines tend to produce mediocre noodles while creating a mess.
That’s the skepticism that crossed our minds when Your House Garden first encountered air fryers a few years ago. The idea of frying food without the added fat and cholesterol found in deep frying is undeniably attractive. However, we couldn’t help but wonder if it would taste subpar. After all, how can you achieve the frying effect without using oil?
As it turns out, we were mistaken, but let’s be realistic. While most air-fried foods are enjoyable, they don’t quite capture the exact texture and crunch of their deep-fried counterparts. The process of fast-moving hot air in an air fryer can’t entirely replicate the way hot oil cooks food from the inside out, retaining moisture while creating that delightful crispy exterior.
Attempting to achieve this in an air fryer with an extra layer of dry batter will result in the air simply blowing it off, while excessive wet batter can make the food turn out soggy. However, when cooking pre-frozen items like store-bought bags of French fries, the residual oil from the initial pre-cooking often gets the results very close to the desired outcome.
Air Fryer – Deep Fried Taste Without the Oil
Despite this consideration, our top 5 best air fryers come remarkably close to replicating the taste of deep-fried foods. These appliances excel at retaining food’s moisture while providing a lighter yet still crispy exterior, resulting in delicious renditions of chicken, fries, onion rings,, and other traditionally fried delights.
Some items, such as wings, turn out exceptionally well. Moreover, air frying achieves this with up to 80% less fat (though most models may still require adding a tablespoon of fat or so to the appliance) while offering enhanced versatility. While deep fryers are limited to frying food, most air fryers also allow you to roast or bake meat and even prepare cakes, all with impressive results.
Added Benefits of Air Fried Food!
Furthermore, there are additional advantages when it comes to safety and cleanup. An enclosed machine circulating hot air inherently offers more safety than a deep fryer filled with scalding oil. Air fryers also eliminate the mess and potential oil splatters in the kitchen, sparing you from the task of disposing of used gallons of oil.
Ultimately, the key benefit lies in health. While we all have a fondness for fried food, we are well aware of its detrimental effects on our well-being. With an air fryer, you can indulge without fretting about its impact on your health. Sacrificing a bit of crispiness in the skin or food is a small trade-off when weighed against such a significant health benefit.
Ranking Factors for the Best Air Fryers
The top 5 best air fryers are assessed based on several critical factors, including:
- Their maximum attainable temperature
- The efficiency of their air circulation
- The quantity of oil required for cooking
- The dimensions of their cooking basket (which can often be quite compact)
- The level of control they offer to users over the cooking process
- And, of course, the quality of the food they produce.
So, let’s embark on a culinary journey with the power of hot air!
1. Philips Digital AirFryer HD9230/26
It’s a rare occurrence when we find ourselves in near-unanimous agreement with other reviewers regarding the top product in a specific category. However, in the case of air fryers, consensus prevails, and the latest offering from Philips, the AirFryer HD9230, reigns supreme.
This should come as no surprise, given that Philips pioneered this innovative appliance approximately five years ago, and over five million units have been sold to date. This extensive experience has allowed the company to refine its products, and the HD9230 is a testament to this commitment to excellence.
While the review team does wish for a slightly larger cooking basket, this is our only complaint. The standout feature of this air fryer lies in Philips’ “Rapid Air” technology, which propels hot air throughout the interior at an impressive speed. Coupled with a unique chamber design, this ensures even heat distribution, resulting in more thorough and consistent cooking compared to its competitors. Furthermore, it requires just a tablespoon of oil (or even less) for air frying, baking, or roasting.
Notably, the HD9230 represents a significant improvement over its predecessor, the HD9220. It boasts a fully digital touchscreen control panel, allowing you to effortlessly set temperatures as high as 390°F and cooking times up to an hour. It also includes an automatic shutoff feature to prevent overcooking.
Another noteworthy upgrade is the inclusion of a double-layer rack in the otherwise compact cooking basket. Although it can hold only 1.8 pounds of food, the addition of the second layer theoretically doubles its capacity compared to the HD9220.
In terms of maintenance, everything is dishwasher safe, and the construction exhibits high-quality craftsmanship, with a noticeable reduction in plastic components often found in other air fryers.
Did you think we’d overlook the food? It’s outstanding. The air fryer delivers a surprising level of crispiness, and items like French fries, chicken, and fish turn out moist and flavorful. Even broiled and roasted meats are delicious and perfectly cooked. The baked cakes were pretty good too.
It’s not as fast as a deep fryer, and as we’ve mentioned, foods like freshly-cut fries aren’t quite the same as when they’re deep fried. They’re a whole lot better than when cooked in an oven, however, and they’re better than in any other air fryer. Just be ready to cook in two batches if you have a large family, because of the smaller-sized basket. The Your House Garden review team think the price of the HD9230 is well worth it.
Facts and figures for the Philips Digital AirFryer HD9230/26:
2. T-fal FZ7002 ActiFry Multi-Cooker
ActiFry’s food doesn’t achieve the same level of crunchiness or flavor as the HD9230’s. However, it remains tasty, and it typically comes with a lower price tag despite having a larger cooking basket, which could be a tradeoff many would consider.
There are a few other reasons why this T-fal air fryer, while very good, doesn’t quite compete for the top spot on our list of the top 5 best air fryers. It offers limited control over the cooking process; you can only turn it on and monitor the countdown timer. Additionally, you need to keep an eye on the food (easily done thanks to the steam-free see-through lid) because there’s no automatic shutoff when cooking is complete.
Another convenient feature of the ActiFry can sometimes pose an issue: a stirring paddle continuously moves the food for even oil distribution and cooking, but it can get stuck on larger items in the basket. Furthermore, the fryer is a bit noisy and not as sturdy as the HD9230, although it’s easy to clean up.
Having said all of that, Your House Garden still liked this unit as a lower-priced alternative to the Philips. The 2.2 pound capacity can handle a smaller family’s food in one batch, items like wings and vegetables cook extremely well, and French fries come out tasty (but a little dry). For convenience we give the ActiFry an A-, and food quality it gets a solid B. With so few high-quality air fryers on the market, those are very good grades.
Details on the T-fal FZ7002 ActiFry Multi-Cooker:
3. Living Basix LB200 Digital Oil-Free Fryer
Here’s another air fryer that falls just below the Philips model in terms of performance and is priced similarly to the T-fal. We have slightly more concerns about the LB200’s durability compared to the T-fal, and its air blower is slightly less powerful, which is why it ranks just below the ActiFry on our list.
However, the LB200 makes up for these shortcomings with its comprehensive digital control panel, offering full control over the cooking process, which many cooks may prefer.
Despite its name, which might suggest it can’t use any oil, the Living Basix air fryer allows you to use a tablespoon of oil or so to enhance the crispiness of the food. It employs a slightly different cooking method by incorporating infrared heating alongside the standard convection approach for circulating hot air.
The results are quite similar to other air fryers. Pre-fried store-bought foods turn out nearly perfect, while fresh foods are cooked well, although they may not have the same level of crunchiness as deep-fried ones. The food capacity is about the same, roughly two pounds, and the unit can grill or bake with good results.
This is not an air fryer that can compete with the Philips, but none of them can. It’s a good alternate choice at a much lower price.
More info on the Living Basix LB200 Digital Oil-Free Fryer:
4. Kalorik FT 42139BK Smart Air Fryer
The Kalorik air fryer is primarily made of plastic but is more durable than our last reviewed product. While the manufacturer promotes its ability to fry, roast, grill, and bake, we wouldn’t recommend it for cooking fresh foods as it’s not as powerful as our top-ranked models. However, for “frying” frozen foods like French fries and fish sticks, it’s a good choice in its price range. If you want to experiment with the roasting function to make steak and fries, there’s an inside rack that allows you to place the meat on the top and the fries on the bottom.
The controls on the Kalorik are dials rather than a digital touchpad, but you can still set the timer for up to 30 minutes and cook at temperatures as high as 400°F. The basket is a bit smaller than those found in most air fryers, but you can still prepare approximately two pounds of food or a little less in one go. Similar to the Living Basix model, no oil is required for cooking, although you might find that adding a bit of oil enhances the crispiness of the food’s exterior.
Dedicated cooks won’t find this air fryer an indispensable kitchen tool, but it’s great for making fries or onion rings straight from the freezer.
Specifications for the Kalorik FT 42139BK Smart Air Fryer:
5. Avalon Bay AB-Airfryer100B
The Your House Garden review team believes that the fourth and fifth entries on our list of the top 5 best air fryers are interchangeable. They are similarly priced, best suited for frozen foods, have dial controls instead of digital ones, and are designed to operate without the need for added oil.
In fact, the specifications for these two air fryers are nearly identical: both have 1400 watts of power, can roast, bake, and fry, feature a 30-minute timer, and offer a convenient front handle. It’s almost as if two different designers were given the same set of specifications to create these fryers, resulting in two products that look somewhat different but are quite similar in functionality. We only rank the Avalon Bay slightly lower than the Kalorik because it’s not as sturdy.
The fried food that comes out of each model is basically equal in quality – we wouldn’t choose the AB-Airfryer or Kalorik over an oven for baking or over a deep fryer for homemade fried food, but they’re a whole lot better than the oven for preparing frozen appetizers or fries.
Looking deeper at the Avalon Bay AB-Airfryer100B:
Kalorik Convection Air Fryer
* Unfortunately, it looks like this model Kalorik might not be available right now, so please consider another air fryer for now.
The Kalorik FT 37999SS model is quite similar to the Kalorik FT 42139BK Smart Air Fryer, which has now taken its place at the number four spot on our list.
Dedicated cooks won’t find this air fryer anything special, but it’s great for a bag of fries or onion rings straight from the freezer.
Specifications for the Kalorik Convection Air Fryer:
Frequently Asked Questions
What cannot be cooked in an air fryer?
While air fryers are incredibly versatile kitchen appliances, there are certain foods that aren’t suitable for cooking in them. Foods with a high moisture content, such as whole vegetables like tomatoes or leafy greens, are not ideal for air frying as they can become too soggy. Delicate items like cheese or thin tortillas can also be challenging to cook in an air fryer, as they may melt or burn quickly. Finally, dishes that require a slow and low cooking process, like braised meats or stews, are better suited for traditional cooking methods as air fryers excel at high-heat, quick cooking.
Can you put raw meat in the air fryer?
Yes, you can put raw meat in the air fryer. In fact, air fryers are excellent for cooking various types of raw meat, including chicken, beef, pork, and seafood. They can produce crispy and well-cooked meat with less oil compared to traditional frying methods, making them a popular choice for those looking for a healthier cooking alternative. However, it’s essential to ensure that the meat reaches the recommended internal temperature to be safe for consumption, as the cooking times may vary depending on the meat’s thickness and the air fryer’s settings.
Can I put aluminum foil in an air fryer?
Yes, you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer, but you should do so with caution. It can be used to line the air fryer basket or wrap food items, but you should avoid covering the entire basket or blocking the airflow. If you completely cover the basket with foil, it may disrupt the air circulation and affect the cooking process. It’s best to use foil sparingly and ensure that it doesn’t touch the heating element to prevent any safety hazards.
If you are in kitchen item shopping mode, why not consider replacing that outdated gas range – if so, be sure to read our review of the top 5 best gas ranges.