The Best Air Fryers for Tater Tot Parties and Lonely Batches of Fish Sticks

We put top-ranked air fryers to the test to find the best one.
One of the best air fryers alongside a chicken cutlet and salad.
Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Simon Andrews

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Air fryers: They aren’t just a marketing gimmick any more. While originally pushed using the specious concept of “healthy frying” without oil, the air fryer has proven that a fast-heating countertop convection oven is a truly useful kitchen addition.

Sure, it’s nice to make french fries at home that rival those of your local pub. But also: crispy-edged slabs of glazed tofu, exemplary sandwiches, silky caramelized eggplant, perfectly bronzed salmon filets or chicken thighs, crispy chickpeas, blistered brussels sprouts, and even a whole air-fried chicken. The fun of an air fryer is in trying to figure out what it can’t do. And while all this cooking is surprisingly satisfying, it’s also often the quickest and easiest path to dinner too.

As its faddish reputation gives way to a more permanent place in the small appliance lineup, dozens of brands continue to release new models, and at this point the options are downright dizzying. But that’s why we continue to test popular and highly-rated basket-style air fryers in order to help you choose the best one to suit your needs. (If you’re looking for air fryer toaster ovens, those are over here.)

After testing 18 models, we have three recommendations for air fryers: a solid, space-maximizing model at an accessible price point; a worth-the-money splurge fryer that’s disrupting the air-frying space as we knew it; and a compact model for small kitchens or small households. Find our top picks and full reviews below—scroll down to learn more about air fryers, how we tested them, and what you can cook in yours.

The best air fryer overall: Instant Vortex Slim 6-quart Air Fryer

Instant Vortex Slim 6QT Air Fryer

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 17.78"D x 10.2"W x 11.85"H
  • Weight: 14.7 pounds
  • Capacity: 6 quarts
  • Power: 1700 watts
  • Max temperature: 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Colors: black
  • Material: plastic
  • Warranty: 1 year

Most air-fryers have the same basic build: a coiled heating element, a fan to move hot air around, a “frying” basket to put food in, and a control panel that adjusts temperature and time. The characteristics that distinguish one from the next are how evenly air circulates through, how easy the controls are to operate, and in particular, the size and shape of the basket. That last one is important because, unlike a deep fryer, where hot oil will evenly cover whatever you’re cooking, the circulating air needs plenty of exposure to the surface of your food to make things brown and crispy. The Instant Vortex Slim has an efficient design that does just that with a narrow shape and cleverly long basket.

Even though the Vortex Slim’s footprint is comparable to other high-performing air fryers like the Philips Premium Air Fryer, the basket’s shape adds up to an extra 8 square inches of surface area. We could fit four medium sized chicken breasts or veggie burgers, up to 2 pounds of french fries (which require a few shakes or stirs to brown evenly), or over a pound of frozen nuggets. This is nearly double the capacity of other air fryers, including our former top pick, the Phillips Vortex, but with a nominally larger countertop footprint.

On top of that, the Instant Vortex Slim is quiet and lightweight, with an easy to navigate control panel. It offers a reminder to flip or shake the food halfway through cooking, and a built-in preheat feature, which takes less than two minutes before a sound rings indicating that it’s time to add food. The basket’s fryer rack is easy to hand wash (we don’t recommend dishwashing it, as this will speed up the nonstick coating’s decline). On top of all this, at $120, the Instant Vortex Slim isn’t nearly as much of a splurge as other options, It’s half the cost of our former top pick.

What we didn’t like about the Instant Vortex Slim 6-Quart Air Fryer

Its temperature ranges from 180°F to 400°F, and we wish that it got up to 450°F as some other models do. Also, during our first few uses the Vortex Slim gave off an undeniable “factory burn” smell (this is typically the result of oil in the cavity as a result of the production process or residual plastic stuck on from the packaging process). It certainly wasn’t the only air fryer to produce the smell, but it was more persistent than some of the others, taking about three cooking sessions to cook off.

Sometimes when you spend more, you get more. The latest model of our original winner from Philips is four times more expensive than some competitors. But it has the most intuitive control panel of all that we tested, with a single dial for the time and temperature. When tested with smaller amounts of food—and most air fryers, we should note, work best with small batches of two to three servings—it performed admirably, though on par with much cheaper options. But it distinguished itself with panache when filled up with fries: It cooked a pound and a half of them with uncanny consistency. Other air fryers that claim a large capacity had nothing on the Philips. And while it's not a compact air fryer, when it came to counter space, it did have a smaller and tidier profile than many of the other machines.

A worthy air fryer splurge: Typhur Dome

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 19.7”D x 15.6”W x 9.6”H
  • Weight: 20.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 5.6 quarts
  • Power: 1750 watts
  • Max temperature: 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Colors: Silver
  • Warranty: 3 years

Right out of the box, the Typhur Dome makes it very clear that it is a category disruptor. It has the striking look of a futuristic pizza oven, with a broad but short curving dome shape that’s sheathed in textured matte gray, and an air frying basket looks more like a drawer than a deep fry basket.

The first thing to highlight about the Typhur is its enormous surface area, 12.5-inches square, over 50% bigger than even the already-generous Instant Vortex Slim, and double to triple the size of most other air fryer models. It’s large enough for a 12-inch pizza, 6 slices of toast or sandwiches, 18 to 20 chicken wings, 8 to 10 slices of bacon, or 2 pounds of french fries, all in an even, single layer. You can really cook for a crowd using the Typhur Dome.

This air fryer has an incredibly powerful and effective heating system. It shaved several minutes from the cook times required for other air fryers to crisp up french fries, chicken breasts, and toasted bread. It requires no preheating, so you can fill the basket with food, lock it into place, and start cooking right away. A nice feature of that basket is that its nonstick coating is ceramic, so it avoids the issues present in teflon coated nonstick surfaces.

Another significant innovation is its cleaning mode. If you’ve used an air fryer before, you know that oily grime buildup on the inside of the chamber is real, typically only remedied with soap and elbow grease. The Typhur has a feature that allows you to program a 1 hour self clean, or a 2 hour deep clean, using high heat to burn away buildup on the inner chamber, similar to the self-clean feature of a traditional oven. If you’ve used the self-clean feature on your oven you know that it isn’t a singular solution, but it does improve a dirty situation.

The Typhur Dome’s interface is among the most intuitive we’ve used, with presets for common foods (“wings,” “frozen,” “toast,” “bacon,” “broil”) that worked well. But the Dome also comes with an app that connects your phone to the air fryer via Bluetooth. The app includes recipes and allows you to monitor the progress of a cook or make adjustments to the time and temperature from afar. (The self-cleaning program actually requires the app.)

And while not a primary consideration in this review, the Dome also works very well as a dehydrator, thanks to the size of the basket and the ability to set the temperature to a very low 140°F. Dried orange or apple rings, or even chiles to make your own chile flakes are easy and rewarding projects.

Overall, the Typhur feels sturdy and durable, and is a functional fashion statement of an air fryer.

What we didn’t like about the Typhur Dome

Well, it’s expensive! At $499 (though we’ve seen it on sale for $399), this isn’t the kind of purchase to make without serious consideration. It’s also quite heavy—it’d be best living on the countertop rather than moving in and out of storage. And most significantly, its short height is limiting, because you can’t fit any food inside that’s more than about 2 inches tall, ruling out items like a whole roast chicken.

The best compact air fryer: Cosori Lite 2.1-Quart Mini Air Fryer

Cosori Lite 2.1-Quart Air Fryer

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 10.1"D x 8.3"W x 10.5"H
  • Weight: 4.87 pounds
  • Capacity: 2.1 quarts
  • Power: 900 watts
  • Max temperature: 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Colors: gray, green, red, and white
  • Material: metal and plastic
  • Warranty: 1 year

If you’re low on kitchen storage, counter space, or don’t have the need to feed more than a couple people at a time, the compact Cosori Lite 2.1-quart Mini Air Fryer is a great option. The Cosori produces perfectly crisp double servings of sweet potato fries and tater tots (we tested with half the amount we cooked in the full-size models), yields beautifully browned zucchini, and (just barely) fits two frozen veggie burger patties in its square-shaped basket. The digital interface is easy to use, with four settings that can be custom-programmed if you so choose. The machine fully pauses when you take the basket out to shake or check its contents, but picks right up where it left off as soon as you insert the basket back into place.

It’s worth noting that the Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer was a close second here. Both the Cosori and the Instant performed similarly in each of our tests, and while the two have essentially the same capacity, we actually preferred the flatter shape of the Instant Mini’s basket because it meant more surface area for browning, allowing food to crisp up a minute or two faster than it did in the Cosori. But the Cosori won out for three reasons: It’s smaller (an important factor in this dedicated compact category), lighter (under five pounds, as opposed to the Instant Mini’s over seven), and much quieter.

What we didn’t like about the Cosori Lite 2.1-Quart Mini Air Fryer

Because of its size, the Cosori really only excels at cooking or reheating very small batches of food—we’re talking one, maybe two servings. It also won’t remind you to shake or flip your food, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the time yourself. Luckily, the display makes that relatively easy.

Basket style vs. oven-style air fryer

Air fryers typically fall into one of two categories: basket-style and countertop oven-style. In this review we chose to focus exclusively on basket-style air fryers because the process of using an oven-style air fryer is entirely different and you’ll want to use it for a lot of things besides air frying.

How we tested air fryers

In the search for the best air fryers, we cooked a range of foods: hand-cut french fries, slices of zucchini, cubes of marinated tofu, chicken breasts, salmon filets, and a host of frozen foods like tater tots, frozen sweet potato fries, and as many frozen veggie burger patties as would fit in a single layer. Whenever possible, we relied on the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of time and temperature for each preparation, though those recommendations ended up being pretty similar across all machines. Some of the models we tested can also do things like dehydrate or broil, but unless they proved particularly useful, as they were in the Typhur Dome, we didn’t consider how well they worked. Instead, we looked for features that provide versatility across the more commonly air fried items listed above.

How well does the air fryer crisp food?

This is the paramount concern. We focused on foods that test the machine’s ability to get foods crisper than they would get in a traditional oven (even if they aren’t quite like deep-fried foods). We consider other types of cooking projects, like baking a small batch of cream puffs or a whole chicken, more a perk than a testing criteria.

Does the air fryer cook food evenly?

With the stipulation that the user must shake or stir the frying basket once or twice during cooking, does the design of the machine maximize the movement of air over all the food in the basket? Does the food end up evenly brown and crunchy, or does the air fryer cook it unevenly—too brown in parts and raw in others?

Is the control panel easy to use?

Many air fryers offer various presets for cooking foods like fries and pizza. And while those functions can provide some additional ease of use, more often than not, you’ll want the ability to set a specific time and temperature. So we mostly ignored presets and focused instead on how easy it was to adjust the time and temp (this also made for a more apples-to-apples comparison of cooking outcomes).

Does the air fryer have a functional design?

Basket-style air fryers come in a variety of sizes, but models with square- or rectangularly shaped air-fryer baskets offer more surface area for arranging larger pieces of food than round ones do. We also preferred baskets that have as few interlocking parts as possible—which are not only easier to clean, but easier to maneuver when hot.

Is the air fryer easy to clean?

This isn’t the most important factor because the designs and cleaning processes are largely so similar (except for the self-cleaning Typhur), but the more separate parts an air fryer has, the more individual pieces we have to clean. And while all our recommended air fryers claim that their baskets and inserts are dishwasher-safe, it’s worth noting that when it comes to nonstick coatings, we recommend hand-washing for maximum longevity.

Is the air fryer easy to move and store?

Not everybody will want their air fryer to be on permanent display in the kitchen. So we factored in how easy it is to move around and store each model in the pantry or cupboard. That meant bonus points for lighter models with slim profiles.

Other air fryers we tested

Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer

Philips Premium Digital Airfryer

  • Size: 12”D X 10"W X 11”H
  • Capacity: 4.1 quarts

This air fryer was our former top pick, but we’ve found that the competition has caught up with Phillips in recent years. The Phillips Premium still has an intuitive control panel and excellent performance in terms of even crispiness with minimal shaking or stirring required. But it’s quite a bit heavier than most models, has a smaller fry basket, and is kind of loud. It is among the most challenging to clean due to its many interlocking parts: a removable mesh rack, a 2-part basket that detaches from the fryer drawer (both of which must be cleaned), and a plate insert. This 2-part basket drawer also makes shaking food while cooking more involved. You have to remove the entire frying drawer, press a button to detach the basket insert, and then shake it over the sink (per their recommendation). It’s still a very good air fryer, but with its higher price tag, we just don’t feel that the pros continue to outweigh its cons.

Cuisinart Air Fryer Oven

Cuisinart Air Fryer Oven 6 Qt

  • Size: 12"D x 16.5"W x 12.25"H
  • Capacity: 6 quarts

The Cuisinart Air Fryer oven is competitively priced and in most ways performs as well as the Instant Vortex Slim. It’s not too loud, has an easy interface, and a built-in preheat feature. It also comes with a viewing window and a light that allows a peek of your food while it cooks (though, similar to an oven window, there’s only so much you can see from a narrow, dimly lit side view). Despite the same 6-quart volume capacity as the Vortex Slim, it has a smaller, square shaped basket, which limits its capacity. That’s especially glaring because the machine clocks in at roughly the same size and weight as the Vortex Slim. But its square shape can fit an 8-inch round baking pan if you intend to do that kind of thing with your air fryer.

Ninja DoubleStack XL Air Fryer

Ninja DoubleStack XL 2-Basket Air Fryer

  • Size: 11.25"D x 19.22"W x 15.14"H
  • Capacity: 10 quarts total (an 8 quart size is also available)

The new Ninja DoubleStack XL offers a few great innovations in the space-saving, volume-maximizing department. It’s narrow and tall (but not so tall it won’t fit under most overhead cabinets), with baskets stacked on top of one another rather than side by side, similar to an earlier model we previously tested (the Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer). Its two frying compartments can be programmed separately and thanks to a “Smart Finish” feature, these separate baskets can even be programmed so that you can put all your food in at once; it delays the start of the shorter cook so that both finish at the same time. Because the Doublstack doesn’t require preheating, this feature actually works pretty well. At about 7 inches by 8.5 inches the rectangular baskets are big enough to fit a 5-pound chicken. On top of that, each basket includes a wire rack insert designed for arranging two layers of food in each one, the top one, say, for your protein, and the bottom one for roasted veggies, which works if you don’t cram too much food into the bottom layer. That blocks air flow and messes with the whole process. The interface takes a little getting used to—there are three different buttons that pair the top and bottom baskets differently and a combination of buttons and knobs—but 10 minutes with the manual can clear that up. All this may be more than what most people need in an air fryer, but the features are a boon for people who regularly use their air fryer to cook a whole meal for their entire household.

Instant Vortex Plus 4-Quart Air Fryer

Instant Vortex Plus 4QT Air Fryer

  • Size: 10.2"D x 13.03"W x 11.02"H
  • Capacity: 4 quarts

Our former budget pick, the Instant Vortex Plus 4-Quart Air Fryer is still an admirable option if you’re looking for a model with a smaller capacity, a sleek, shorter profile, and a more rectangular basket that better accommodates food in a single layer than round designs. We still think that regardless of household or kitchen size, the Vortex Slim will suit most kitchens better and prove more useful.

Ninja AF101

Ninja AF101 4-Quart Air Fryer

  • Size: 8.5"D x 12.1"W x 11"H
  • Capacity: 4 quarts

The Ninja AF101 is lightweight and easy to use. You won’t go wrong with this model if you plan to use your air fryer primarily for foods like fries and other things you pile in the fryer basket and toss around as they cook. But because of its round basket shape, we don’t find it to be as versatile as models that have square-shaped baskets that better cook things like salmon filets or chicken breasts.

Gowise USA Programmable 7-in-1 Air Fryer

GoWISE USA 3.7-Quart 7-in-1 Programmable Air Fryer

This inexpensive air fryer was a top performer in our product test. Its small size makes it perfect for making a batch of fish fingers for one.

Key Specs

  • Size: 8.5"D x 9"W x 12"H
  • Capacity: 3.7 quarts

In tests of smaller amounts of food, the Gowise USA Programmable 7-in-1 Air Fryer performed well, and it’s definitely a budget-friendly alternative, with a price tag well under $100. This one is great for single people making small batches of fish fingers, or anyone using it to prep small amounts of food. It’s quite and very intuitive to use, and comes with an easy to clean basket. The 7-in-1 is a little misdirection though. It doesn’t refer to different cooking methods, but to different presets for things like chicken or fish. Still, a good budget choice.

Instant Vortex Mini 2-Quart Air Fryer

Instant Vortex 2-Quart Mini Air Fryer

Key Specs

  • Size: 11.26"D x 9.02"W x 11.73"H
  • Capacity: 2 quarts

This mini version of our top budget pick was a close second choice in our compact air fryer category. It performs as well as the Cosori that won, and we even prefer the somewhat shallower shape of its basket, as it was more conducive to laying food out in a single layer. In the end, the Instant Vortex Mini was not our winner because it’s louder, heavier, and slightly larger. The Vortex Mini is actually only an inch or so smaller on all sides than the 4-quart Vortex. If you have the space for this model, you probably have the space for that one and it will give you twice the cooking capacity.

Dash 2-Quart Compact Air Fryer

Dash 2-Quart Compact Air Fryer

  • Size: 8.1"D x 10.2"W x 11.4"H
  • Capacity: 2 quarts

The compact model from Dash is cute and retro-looking and it’s available in a handful of fun colors. We really like that it has two easy-to-use dials for time and temperature. Unfortunately, its results were underwhelming. Sweet potato fries turned out greasy and soggy, cubes of tofu were generally crisp but a bit uneven, and the basket could only fit one veggie burger at a time because of its round shape. The analog time and temperature dials mean you can’t be as exact with your settings, and the machine is one of the loudest mini models we tested, with both a ticking noise and a strong whirring sound.

Gowise 4-Quart Air Fryer

This model from Gowise has a larger, square basket and a viewing window. While it turns out food that’s as crispy as what we got from other models, it’s the bulkiest and heaviest of the machines we tested. Also, while over time we expect we’d grow accustomed to its touchscreen interface, we find it to be significantly more complicated to navigate. It seems to turn off completely when we stop to shake or flip the food. Its detachable frying basket insert also wasseems prone to getting jammed.

As of June 2023, this product is no longer available.

Cosori 4-Quart Air Fryer

Cosori 4-Quart Air Fryer

Key Specs

  • Size: 10.8"D x 10.8"W x 12.8"H
  • Capacity: 4 quarts (a 13-quart model is also available)

The larger Cosori air fryer we tested performed as well as other inexpensive options like the GoWise and we liked the square basket. It just didn’t offer as many useful settings as the Vortex Slim. It does, though, also include an app that allows you to monitor cooking progress if you’re out of the room.

NuWave Brio Digital

Nuwave Brio 7-in-1 Air Fryer Oven

Key Specs

  • Size: 9"D x 9"W x 12.5"H
  • Capacity: 7 quarts

While most of the air fryers we tested had nonstick-coated or ceramic-coated metal baskets with holes or slats, the NuWave Brio Digital has a wire basket that’s annoying to clean. We also found the interface confusing.

Dash Tasti Crisp Electric Air Fryer + Oven Cooker

Dash Tasti-Crisp Electric Air Fryer Oven

Key Specs

  • Size: 8.7"D x 10.8"W x 11.3"H
  • Capacity: 2.6 quarts (a 6-quart model is also available)

No bells, no whistles, no additional cooking functions, but the Dash Tasti, a frequent guest star on #airfryerTikTok, is undeniably a bargain. Alas, it proved too good to be true, yielding greasy results that at best recall mediocre dive bar fare.

Ninja AF080 Mini Air Fryer

Ninja AF080 Mini Air Fryer

Key Specs

  • Size: 8.03"D x 10.39"W x 9.65"H
  • Capacity: 2 quarts (a 5.5-quart model is also available)

We liked the look of the mini Ninja at first glance: It’s nearly identical in size and shape to the Cosori Mini, making it one of the smallest compact air fryers we tested. But it just wasn't very versatile. Like the compact Dash model, the machine’s dial-operated timer means you sacrifice some precision when it comes to cook time. But the real nail in the coffin was that it only has one temperature setting (400°F), making it unsuitable for certain foods that would benefit from a lower heat. We also didn’t love how the heating element and timer continue running when the basket is removed for a quick shake.

Farberware 3.2-Quart Air Fryer

The Farberware 3.2 Quart Air Fryer has a timer that ticks loudly and—more importantly—the food we cooked in it was the worst of the lot. The air-fried zucchini, for instance, was practically jelly, cooked to death with scarcely a hint of browning on the outside.

As of June 2023, this product is no longer available.

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that makes your food crispier. It can also make your life easier by streamlining dinner prep. The whole “deep-frying with less oil” thing is a bit of a marketing gimmick—air fryers work by moving a lot of hot air around a compact space, so technically, they’re countertop convection ovens, and for results that mimic anything like deep-frying, you’ll need to use some oil, about as much as you’d use in oven roasting.

Why use an air fryer instead of an oven?

The appeal of using an air fryer over the convection setting on a wall oven or range mostly lies in the ease of cooking smaller portions and how much more quickly an air fryer can heat up. Because air fryers are so compact, it takes just a few minutes to reach cooking temperatures, whereas a full-size oven can take three, four, five times as long. Getting an air fryer can actually improve your day-to-day cooking experience by making heating or reheating foods (and lots of other cooking tasks) easier and quicker. If you’re someone constantly strapped for time around lunch or dinner, then an air fryer will likely prove really useful.

What to cook in your air fryer

Yes, you can crisp frozen tater tots and chicken tenders in your air fryer. But there’s so much more you can do with it too. In fact, there isn’t much you can’t cook in your air fryer as long as it fits in your model. Check out the gallery below to find recipes for air fryer chickpeas, salmon, chicken wings, Buffalo cauliflower, and more.

Why should you trust Epicurious?

We’re home cooks just like you—and we bring a home cook’s perspective to all of our rigorous testing. But unlike you, we have an extra 10 hours a day to spend geeking out over kitchen tools because it is literally our job. We don’t only use our recommended products in controlled settings, we bring the best ones into our own kitchens to help us put dinner on the table on a Wednesday night for our families, or to throw a dinner party for 12. When we recommend a product, you should trust that we’ve used it—a lot—just like you will. Read more about our testing process and philosophy here.