January 18, 2022

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10 best air fryers for healthy, easy cooking of chips, meat and more

Air fryers come in a range of sizes, so make sure you get the right capacity for your household (The Independent/iStock)
Air fryers come in a range of sizes, so make sure you get the right capacity for your household (The Independent/iStock)

By combining hot air and a small amount of oil, air fryers are a much healthier alternative to deep fat fryers. But with some machines producing bland results, or being tricky to operate or not lasting well, it’s important to get the right one.

Air fryers come in a range of sizes, so make sure you get the right capacity for your household. And think about storage too – some of these cookers are clunky and even the smaller ones can be an awkward shape that won’t fit neatly into a cupboard.

Consider if you want your machine to be a multi-tasker – some also roast, grill, bake and reheat, and often more besides. Do you want nifty features like rotating baskets and stirring paddles? And if you want something low maintenance, check the parts are dishwasher friendly.

We tested a range of fryers on criteria including ease of setting up, use and storage as well as cleaning. But above all, we were interested in the culinary results, especially – but not exclusively – how they made chips.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Tefal actifry genius XL 2in1 healthy air fryer: £229.99, Ideal World

This beast of a machine is the latest version of the extremely popular Tefal actifry which, in our opinion, makes the best chips ever with cloud-like fluffiness and a golden brown crispy casing. As you’d expect with a machine this size (1.7kg capacity), there’s easily enough room to feed the masses – five for dinner and chips for up to eight.

With nine pre-set cooking programs including chips, chicken, breaded snacks and deserts – and two compartments – you can experiment to your heart’s content, including at the same time, when cooking fish and chips or meat and veg for example. And thanks to the stirring paddle, you get even cooking, with other handy features including the digital timer and see-through lid. But good luck fitting in a kitchen cupboard and be warned the machine itself can get hot.

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Ninja foodi max multi-cooker: £199.99, Argos

This enormous machine initially won us over with its sheer speed, cooking chips in just over 10 minutes. It’s also exceptionally easy to use – no mean feat given how much it does, including air frying, pressure cooking, slow cooking, steaming, baking, roasting and grilling. The digital display shows you how long is left and the huge six-litre cooking pot can even fit a large whole chicken.

It’s easy to clean, with all the extras going in the dishwasher (except the pressure-cooking lid). But as with the Tefal actifry, it’s no good for anyone short on storage space and we were also disappointed that there are no pre-set functions to automate temperature and time, depending on what you’re cooking.

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Lakeland touchscreen air fryer: £79.99, Lakeland

This sleek looking, surprisingly compact machine with 2.6L capacity heats up in no time and the intuitive digital LED touch screen makes it very simple to work. Our chips did not disappoint – beautifully crispy on the outside, light and soft within – but you will need to stir them frequently when cooking. Fish and chicken came out well too.

The handle is cool to the touch at all times, while the machine doesn’t get too hot, and everything is dishwasher friendly. It’s energy efficient and makes enough chips for one to three people, depending on hunger levels. It’s quieter than some machines and it stores away easily but it doesn’t like greasier foods like pork chops and sausages.

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Tefal easy fry compact: £79, AO

We rate this mini air fryer both for ease of use and cleaning, with everything coming out gleaming from the dishwasher time after time. And because it really is mini by air fryer standards, it’s ideal for smaller households and is a doddle to store away after use. You could even leave it out in the corner of your kitchen work surface if you have no cupboard space left.

It’s relatively quick – chips are ready in just under half an hour and they are tasty enough, albeit not on par with the larger Tefal machine reviewed above. There are six pre-set programs, making it versatile, but don’t expect bells and whistles – there is no paddle to keep things moving, for example, meaning that you’ll need to keep stirring fried foods and shake your chips regularly.

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Philips viva collection air fryer XXL HD9650/99: £235, Amazon

This large machine – which can air-fry, grill, roast and bake – impressed us with the succulent meat and seafood it produced, although the chips were average. It will easily feed large families (six to eight portions of chips), and it does so healthily thanks to the minute amount of oil needed. As with other expensive machines, there is patented technology – in this case, named “turbostar”, which makes for consistent circulatory heat, meaning you don’t have to stir the food every few minutes.

The controls, which set the timer up to an hour and temperature between 40C and 200C, are manual and everything can go in the dishwasher. The (downloadable) instructions are clear and the recipe booklet has 200 recipes, but we suggest cooking for a bit less time than the brand suggests for most foods.

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Tower air fryer with rapid air circulation system: £34.99, Argos

If chips are the sole reason for your air fryer purchase, we think there are better machines. But for meat – from chicken wings to sausages to lamb chops – this is a winner and you can use it for heating up food too, from pies to croissants, with no need to even bother with your oven. It’s a manual machine, controlled via the usual two knobs for temperature and timing, comes with clear instructions and is easy to clean and use from the front loading drawer. It doesn’t feel quite as well engineered as some of the more expensive machines we tested and you’ll need to get stirring while cooking, but for a budget buy suited to two to three people we think it’s a worthy purchase.

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Vonshef 1.5L air fryer: £29.99, Vonshef

At just 1.5L capacity, this isn’t a machine for those with a lot of hungry mouths to feed, but for a small air fryer for one or two people, it’s great value – particularly as you can roast, bake, grill and fry. There are two knobs – one for temperature (which goes up to 200C) and one for the timer (up to 30 minutes) and there’s a reassuring operational light to let you know when it’s ready to go.

We tried chicken, steak and fish – all came out just as well, if not better than cooked in an oven, although we would have liked the chips to have crisped up a lot more on the outside. Instructions couldn’t be easier to follow and cleaning is easy, but the machine doesn’t feel as robust as some and we found it required a lot of stirring.

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Salter EK2559 XL: £58.95, Amazon

Our potato wedges and sweet potato chips turned out better than regular chips when using this, but the latter were still decent enough, with a nice golden hue. Roasted veg also stood out, showing off the versatility of this air fryer, which is very easy to get going straight out of the box thanks to the intuitive LCD display, while the automatic switch-off which makes it relatively low-maintenance too.

The 4.5L capacity is about average – feeding three to four people – and everything comes out of the dishwasher as good as new. But the non-stick coating on the cooking basket showed signs of wear and tear even early on and it’s not the best machine for even, consistent cooking even with frequent moving around of food during cooking.

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Swan 5 litre manual air fryer: £69.99, Swan

Available in black, cream and red, this machine will look smart in your kitchen and is good for those who want to stay in control, with a timer that works up to 30 minutes, a temperature range from 80 to 200C and a light coming on to show you when it’s ready to use. The rapid air circulate system means it works nice and fast (chips are ready in under half an hour), while also being energy saving.

The results are delicious – although, as with many other machines, you will need to stir your chips frequently and they didn’t come out quite as crispy as some. Everything (even the pan) can go in the dishwasher. It uses less oil than most air fryers and it’s quiet. But the instructions could be clearer, which for us meant a bit of trial and error, especially with timings. Best for smaller families.

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Lidl silvercrest digital air fryer: £49.99, Lidl

You’ll need to do lots of stirring for best results, but it’s worth the faff. The alarm helps – it sends reminders every five, 10 or 15 minutes. The machine fries, grills or bakes using one of eight pre-set programs which covers fresh chips (enough for four people – all ready within 20 minutes), frozen chips, chicken, ribs, steak, fish, shrimp and cake.

And it’s easy to use with the touchscreen digital controls, where you can set the temperature between 80C and 200C and the timer up to 60 minutes. We’re giving it extra bonus points for the non stick pan which stays no stick even after going in the dishwasher and the fact that the machine itself doesn’t get hot. It’s quite bulky, though, and some foods, especially fish, can come out a bit dry.

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The verdict: Air fryers

If you’ve got enough room for it, the Tefal actifry genius XL 2in1 healthy air fryer will prove an excellent and versatile culinary companion, making particularly good chips. But it’s big, so for something smaller you might prefer the Lakeland touchscreen air fryer which is quiet, efficient and easier to store away.

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