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Best air fryer 2021: our top 5 air fryers, reviewed

Our Homes and Gardens edit best air fryer in 2021, featuring reviews of Ninja, Instant, Philips, and Cosori air fryers

best air fryer
(Image credit: Instant Brands)

If you've yet to invest in the best air fryer, you're missing out. We've been reviewing the 5 best air fryers from Ninja, Instant, Philips, Cosori and more top brands to bring you our complete air fryer reviews. 

While they don't technically function like a deep fryer, an air fryer is a small convection oven that can sit on your kitchen counters and circulate hot air around your frozen fries and chicken nuggets, for speedy cooking. They also make your food deliciously crispy, because moisture leaves the air fryer through a fan at the back of the appliance. 

We've also reviewed the best toaster ovens, which often have an air fryer function, but all 5 of our best air fryer picks come with pros and cons from our hands-on testing, so whether you want a large air fryer to cater for your family, or a budget-friendly air fryer for speedy lunches, we've got the right air fryer for you.

Best air fryer 2021: our top 5 picks

Instant BrandsH&G gold badge

(Image credit: Instant Brands)

1. Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer

Best air fryer: our favorite for speedy meals and delicous fries

Specifications
Dimensions: 14.92 x 12.36 x 12.83 inches
Capacity: 6-quart
Settings: Air fry, roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, reheat
Reasons to buy
+Makes delicous homemade fries+Budget-friendly+Large capacity, great for families+Removable air fry insert
Reasons to avoid
-None! 

Not only does it air fry like a dream, but the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer has six setting to bake, reheat, broil, and even dehydrate. 

What we love

First off, we found that the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer made the best homemade fries of any air fryer we tested. They had a fluffy interior and crispy exterior, with evenly browned edges and consistent cooking throughout.

Because there is a removable air fry insert, you can also use the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer to reheat things such as rice or pasta, which would usually fall through the slots in the air fryer tray. 

Features

The six-quart capacity is perfect for families, and it will easily cook for over 5 or 6 people. We also found that our food cooked far faster than the estimated cooking time for a regular oven, so if you want speedy meals, it's a game-changer. 

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars 

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(Image credit: Ninja)

2. Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone

Best air fryer for families: the two basket design is great for mealtimes

Specifications
Dimensions: 15.63 L x 13.86 W x 12.4 H
Capacity: 8 Quarts
Settings: Air broil, air fry, roast, reheat, dehydrate, and bake
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use and clean+Cook two dishes at once +Generous capacity
Reasons to avoid
-The controls are a little fiddly

What's better than one air fryer? Two, in one. The is incredibly versatile, so prepare for it to replace your oven. 

Why we love it

There are six modes: air broil, air fry, roast, reheat, dehydrate, and bake. We found that the air fry mode is great, especially when you use the removable crisper plates, and you can use one in one drawer to air fry chicken while baking or roasting vegetables in the other drawer to make fajitas or simply a balanced meal. 

We enjoyed the fact that you can sync the two drawers so every element of your meal will finish together. When you're done you can place both drawers and the crisper insert into the dishwasher, so not only is it easy to use, but it's easy to clean, too. 

Features

You can choose between smart finish, which allows you to cook at two different modes simultaneously with them finishing at the same time, or match cook, where the settings in drawer 1 are automatically applied to drawer 2. 

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars

CosoriH&G silver badge

(Image credit: Cosori)

3. COSORI Smart Wi-Fi Air Fryer

Best value air fryer: Amazon's favorite air fryer is amazing value

Specifications
Dimensions: 11.8 x 14.3 x 12.7 inches
Capacity: 5.8 Quarts
Settings: 13 cooking functions, keep warm, pre-heat
Reasons to buy
+Specific cooking presets+Great recipe book included+Remind to shake included 
Reasons to avoid
-No removable inserts

The COSORI Smart Wi-Fi Air Fryer only air fries, so it's great for those who want a budget-friendly investment without the add-ons of reheating and baking that you'll find from Ninja and Instant air fryers. 

Why we love it

The 13 cooking presets make it easy to get the process started. Choose from steak, seafood, fries, frozen food, veggies, and even cake and bread settings. You can also opt for a keep-warm setting that switches on once your food is finished cooking, so if your side dish isn't finished yet, you won't have to worry about your chicken wings getting cold. 

Features

The drawer and basket can go through the dishwasher, and the basket lifts right out, so you can pour out your food onto your plate as soon as it's finished cooking. This does mean you can only cook dry foods in the COSORI Smart Wi-Fi Air Fryer, because it doesn't have the option of removing the air fry insert. 

Homes & Gardens rated 4 out of 5 stars

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(Image credit: Ninja)

4. Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 6.5 Qt Pro

Best multi-cooker air fryer: it air fries and so much more

Specifications
Dimensions: 16.18 x 13.98 x 13.23 inches
Capacity: 6.5 Quart
Settings: Pressure cook, steam, slow cook, yogurt, sous vide, air fry, bake/roast, sear/sauté, broil, dehydrate, keep warm
Reasons to buy
+11 modes in 1+Great value for so many settings+Large air fryer capacity
Reasons to avoid
-Large and tricky to store

The Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 6.5 Qt Pro does a lot more than air fry. It also acts as the best slow cooker, it pressure cooks, and it even dehydrates. There's a lot you can do with it, but here's how it performed when we used it to air fry. 

Why we love it

We found that the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 6.5 Qt Pro did a great job of air frying. It fits large cuts of meat thanks to the deep circular air fry insert, and you can simply open the air fry lid and give it a shake to make sure that everything is evenly cooked.

The multi-cooker is a little more pricey than other options, but when you consider how much it does, and how well it actually air fries, it's very reasonable. Just keep in mind that it has two lids, so you need to store the pressure cooker lid when it's not in use. 

Features

For what it's worth, we were also wowed by the slow cooking and roasting modes with the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 6.5 Qt Pro. It can fit an entire chicken thanks to the 6.5 quart pot, and all attachments can go through the dishwasher. 

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars

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(Image credit: Ninja)

5. Philips Essential Airfryer

Best air fryer for small homes: a smart, sleek option

Specifications
Dimensions: 13.31 x 13.31 x 13.98 inches
Capacity: 1.8lb
Settings: 7 cooking modes, reheat
Reasons to buy
+A top option for compact kitchens+Easy to clean+Preset cooking modes for convenience
Reasons to avoid
-Modes are a little confusing

We were impressed by the air frying in the Philips Essential Airfryer. It has a unique 'starfish' base that makes sure the air circulates around the entire basket, for even results. 

What we love

We found that the Philips Essential Airfryer had a lot of smart preset cooking modes, but they were a little confusing. They all have specific timings, when you may well be cooking very different sizes of cuts of meat in one mode. 

That said, it chooses the right temperature, which means you won't have to worry about guessing the correct setting for your food. Our homemade fries also came out looking very crispy and evenly cooked, and they were finished about 10 minutes ahead of when we'd usually expect them to be ready. 

Features

The compact design is perfect for small homes. It's lightweight too, so you can move it in and out of cupboards without straining too much. Smaller households or those with less kitchen space to spare will love the Philips Essential Airfryer, but it is expensive for the capacity. 

Homes & Gardens rated 4 out of 5 stars

What is the best air fryer?

Philips

(Image credit: Philips)

The very best air fryer you can buy is the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer. It has a generous capacity, several cooking modes, and is easy to clean with great results. If you want an air fryer to cook every element of your meal at once, try the Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone. The two drawers and removable inserts give you so many cooking options, all in one device. 

How to decide on the best air fryer

Cosori

(Image credit: Cosori)

The best air fryer for you will depend on your budget the the size of your household. While it's tempting to get a smaller air fryer that won't take up so much space, opting for one with at least a 5 quart capacity will really pay off if you plan on cooking for four or more people. 

We tested every single air fryer in this guide for its ability to make tasty and low-fat air fried potato fries, so we were able to compare the results directly. We also made all sorts of frozen food from chicken nuggets to fish cakes in order to see how well they crisped up breaded foods. 

If all you want is the best air fryer to make fries and frozen food, every option in our guide will suit, but choosing something with removable inserts will allow you to also bake, roast, dehydrate, reheat, and even slow cook. This adds real versatility to your kitchen counters, so we would recommend a Ninja or Instant air fryer if you want to make the most of your investment. 

Is air frying healthy? 

Cosori

(Image credit: Cosori)

Many love the best air fryers for how well they work with a low-fat diet. Unlike deep fryers, which require you to immerse your potato chips in oil, air fryers make the most of even a tablespoon of oil to circulate it around the fries, and if you cook bacon or chicken, fat will render and drip away from the meat and stop it from making its way onto your plate. So while air fryers don't necessarily make your diet healthy, because it depends on what you cook in them, they really can help. 

Millie Fender
Millie Fender

Millie has been with the Homes and Gardens team since early 2021, bringing with her a love of cooking appliances and al fresco entertaining. She writes about stand mixers, blenders, and other small appliances, and loves putting barbecues and pizza ovens to the test. Millie thinks that the kitchen is the most important room in any home, but then, she is very biased.