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Best air fryer 2021: for crispy chicken and homemade fries

Find the best air fryer with our hands-on reviews of Instant, Ninja, Philips, and Cosori air fryer ovens

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Best air fryer
(Image credit: Instant Brands)

Now is the season to invest in the best air fryer for your home, but if you're wondering which air fryer is best for you, it can be tricky to tell the difference. Many of the top models come with the same drawer-style designs that are useful for shaking up food for even cooking, and tipping it out onto a place once it's cooked.

Looks aside though, there is plenty that sets the best air fryers apart, and we'd know, because each and every air fryer in our guide is Homes & Gardens approved. We've reviewed the best air fryers from Ninja, Cosori, Instant, and Philips hands-on in our own kitchens to bring you our honest thoughts and comparisons, and with Black Friday small appliance deals just around the corner, it's the perfect time to buy. 

Odds are, you're shopping for the best air fryer because they're a great gift to give in the holiday season, or because you want to treat yourself with a Black Friday air fryer discount. Many associate air fryers with the best toaster ovens, which are also smaller countertop convection ovens capable of crisping up fries and frozen food. We've separated the two for the purposes of our air fryer reviews, but we have included one of the best Instant Pots you can buy, which also comes with an air fryer lid for maximizing your space. 

Best air fryer 2021: our top picks

Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer best air fryer overallH&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 

Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone best air fryer for familiesH&G gold badge

(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

Instant PotH&G gold badge

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

Best Instant Pot air fryer: switch out your lid for added functions

Specifications
Dimensions: 15.35 x 12.57 x 14.78 inches
Capacity: 8 Quarts
Settings: Pressure Cook, Sauté, Slow Cook, Steam, Sous Vide, Warm, Air Fry, Roast, Bake, Broil, Dehydrate
Reasons to buy
+Air fryer basket fits a whole chicken+Smart and easy controls+We love the sleek black finish
Reasons to avoid
-An expensive choice when compared to standalone models

While it's not the best choice for those who are simply looking for an air fryer, if you want to double down on functions (or, multiply them by 14) the Instant Pot Pro Crisp is a genius device. It has 14 presets in total and can be used as one of the best slow cookers when it's not making delicious homemade fries. 

Why we love it

We were able to air fry things we'd never tried before in the Pro Crisp. It has a very generous basket that slots into the stainless steel pot, and we were able to use this to pressure cook a chicken for just 20 minutes before air frying until crisp. All we needed to do was switch lid midway through. 

Cleaning is easy, too, because most of the parts are dishwasher-safe. The air fryer lid cannot go in the dishwasher, but the pressure cooker lid actually can. We do find that having an extra lid that's constantly spare can take up additional space in your kitchen, so this is the best air fryer for those who want to replace numerous appliances in one machine. Overall, it takes up far less space than an air fryer and slow cooker would separately. 

Features

The basket is round, and the lid is quite high, so there is a lot you can cook in this device. Note that the capacity is relating to the stainless steel pot, though, and while you can air fry without the air fryer basket, the air circulation won't give you the best results. 

You do need oven gloves to lift the air fryer basket out of its cooking pot. It's great for giving your food a shake-up midway through the cooking mode though, and the display shows your progress on a handy chart. 

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars. Our Instant Pot Pro Crisp review has more details

COSORI Smart Wi-Fi Air Fryer best value air fryerH&G silver badge

(Image credit: Cosori)

4. 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

Instant Vortex 4-in-1 best small air fryerH&G gold badge

(Image credit: Instant Brands)

5. Instant Vortex Mini 4-in-1

Best air fryer for two people: a neat and colorful option for small households

Specifications
Dimensions: 13 x 12.15 x 12.14 inches
Capacity: 2 quarts
Settings: Air fry, roast, bake, reheat
Reasons to buy
+Removable air frying insert+Speeds up cooking times+Four fun color options+Easy to clean in the dishwasher
Reasons to avoid
-Capacity isn't large enough for more than two people

The Instant Vortex 4-in-1 air fryer has modes for baking, roasting, air frying, and reheating food. It's got a smart control panel at the top of the machine with a dial to increase time and temperature. 

What we love

We tried the Instant Vortex 4-in-1 in the red color, but it comes in aqua, white, and black. It's very neat and easy to move around the kitchen, so if you want an air fryer to speed up meal times without being an eyesore or taking up an entire kitchen counter, this is a top choice. 

The fries we made in this air fryer came out very evenly cooked despite the compact basket, but you will struggle to make servings for more than two people in it at any one time. We really enjoyed it for easily heating up leftovers. Because the air fry insert is removable you can put different food such as rice or even dishes with sauce in to heat up for quick lunching. 

Features

The drawer is dishwasher-safe and so is the removable insert. Because it's so small it is also very easy to clean by hand too. Another thing we enjoyed (which is also down to the small capacity) is how quickly this air fryer preheats, so it's not only a sweet option, it's also very speedy.

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars

Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 6.5 Qt Pro Best multi-cooker air fryerH&G gold badge

(Image credit: Ninja)

6. 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

Philips Essential Airfryer Best air fryer for small homesH&G silver badge

(Image credit: Ninja)

6. Philips Essential Airfryer

Best air fryer for small kitchens: 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

Black Friday air fryer deals 2021

Last year we saw some brilliant Black Friday air fryer deals on top brands like Ninja, Instant, and Philips. We're expecting the same great savings this year, so if you want to find the best air fryer at a discounted price to treat yourself or a loved one for the Holiday season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday air fryer deals can save you hundreds of dollars. 

Many of the best deals were available through Amazon, who had regular lightning deals on models from Cosori and Ninja, and brands like Macys and Best Buy also had some impressive discounts on some of our favorites. 

We'll be bringing you all the best Black Friday air fryer deals in 2021 with our air fryer guide, so if you are already preparing for the big event, this is the place to look. You can look at our Black Friday appliance deal guide for more great savings.

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 Fender is the Small Appliance and Cooking Editor on the Homes and Gardens Ecommerce team. She specializes in cooking appliances and also reviews outdoor grills and pizza ovens. Millie loves to bake, so she will take any excuse to review stand mixers and other baking essentials. All of Millie's reviews are conducted at home, meaning she uses these products in her own kitchen, the way they're designed to be used. 

Millie is from Bath, England, and she grew up surrounded by classic Georgian architecture and interiors. She dreams of buying her own house and filling it with antiques, but for now, she lives in a sunny London flat with a very busy kitchen.