Are air fryers worth it? 7 pros and cons from the experts

Ninja Foodi DualZone FlexBasket cooking burgers and fries
(Image credit: Future)

In the battle for countertop space, one appliance has not only established itself as the must-have kitchen gadget, but its popularity is showing no signs of waning. That appliance is the air fryer.

Air fryer recipes get billions of searches and views online every month and, if my family and friends group is anything to go by, air fryers are consistently one of the most requested gifts for Christmas and birthdays.  

Such is their popularity, retailers and manufacturers are starting to list air fryer cooking instructions on packaging alongside the traditional oven and microwave instructions. 

The best air fryers promise a healthier approach to traditional frying methods. They're more compact and easy to clean than ovens and, depending on the model, are faster, more effective, and more energy efficient. Yet despite the hype, air fryers don't always come cheap and they may not suit everyone's lifestyle or needs.

If you're still on the fence over whether an air fryer is worth it, we've listed their key benefits, as well as several drawbacks to consider to help you make an informed decision. We've also got expert insights from Allen Fung, Managing Director at Typhur Inc., and Saul Davies, Buying Manager at Salter. 

And if you're already thinking of buying one, we've got some expert advice on how to choose an air fryer that's right for your home. 

1. They're healthier than frying

I've been reviewing air fryers for years and many of the original models, such as the Tefal ActiFry, were made with almost the sole purpose of cooking chips, wedges, and chicken wings with little to no oil. 

Over the years, the appeal, versatility, and design of air fryers (including the Tefal model) have evolved yet their popularity has remained in large part due to their health benefits. 

Allen Fung Managing Director of Typhur Inc.
Allen Fung

Allen has more than 15 years of industry experience in cross-border e-commerce and brand building. He has built several brands from ground-up for both startup and established businesses across a wide number of verticals including consumer-electronics, smart home/kitchen, and home theatre, and more.

The Typhur Dome Air Fryer promises to cook fries with 95% less fat compared to deep frying, for example. While the Philips Airfryer XXL, with its Twin TurboStar technology, goes a step further and is designed to remove fat from foods.

Instant Vortex Plus Dual cooking potato and veggies

(Image credit: Future)

2. They save you time

The compact size of air fryers and the way they circulate the hot air means they tend to heat up and cook faster and more efficiently than standard ovens. As much as twice as fast in the case of the Ninja SF301 Speedi and 30% faster in the Ninja DZ401 Foodi 10 Quart 6-in-1 DualZone XL. In fact, unless a recipe specifically tells you to do so, you rarely need to pre-heat an air fryer. Such is its efficient heating. 

"Compared to a traditional oven, an air fryer will heat up and cook faster, which results in shorter cooking time. This means more convenience and flexibility for people to cook after a hectic day," says Fung. This is great if you're preparing meals in a hurry, or if you've got hungry children who simply can't wait.  

Elsewhere, the way in which the hot air circulates the food means that more moisture is removed, faster. This adds to the increased cooking speed and is also why air fryers are able to produce such crispy results. The wicking away of moisture allows the outside of your food to become browned and crunchy, without the middle of the food becoming overcooked. 

3. They're easy to clean

Cleaning an oven is one of the worst household chores. It takes ages, can be hard on your knees, and requires a lot of elbow grease to remove all the caked-on residue. 

By comparison, cleaning air fryers is easy. Most of the baskets themselves are lined with non-stick coating. This means residue rarely sticks to the inside and if it does, it's easily removed. 

You can remove the baskets for easy access to clean the inside of the fryer, and the portable nature of the baskets means they fit easily in the kitchen sink, or even the dishwasher (depending on the model). This means they can be washed up, and dried, alongside the rest of your pots, pans, and crockery. 

You don't need to get your hands on knees to scrub them and because they're easier to clean, you're more likely to clean them regularly. This further removes the chances of burnt grease and food causing you problems.  

We explain more about how to clean an air fryer here.

Cosori Air Fryer TurboBlaze Compact Air Fryer being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

4. They're versatile

There's a common misconception that air fryers are only really good for cooking chips or meat but the millions of air fryer recipe videos across TikTok, YouTube, and the web showcase just how versatile they are. 

I've baked muffins and cakes in my air fryer, made Mac and cheese, cooked pastries, and even made pizzas and garlic bread. Air fryers can do everything a standard oven can, and in a lot of cases, more.

They bake and roast, as you'd expect, but they can also be used in place of a frying pan for sauteeing onions, for example, or searing meat. Some models, such as the COSORI Smart 12-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven Combo can broil, reheat as well as dehydrate. Others have built-in rotisserie features, including the Nuwave Brio Air Fryer Oven SS Rotisserie Basket &-Skewer Kit. The Nuwave model additionally has a Probe setting that lets you check the temperature of your food without opening the door, adding even further to the efficiency and time-saving elements. It will even turn off when your food reaches the desired temperature so you'll never overcook meals again. 

5. They're good value for money

Although air fryers require an initial investment, their versatility makes them good value for money. Once you realize just how many of your favorite dishes can be made on your countertop, in less time and with less hassle, you'll find yourself using the air fryer more than any other appliance. This should see you getting a return on your investment within weeks. 

This is especially true if you buy an air fryer that also offers features seen on other kitchen appliances, such as a slow cooker or steamer. 

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Air Fryer, for example, covers the tasks of multiple appliances. It's an air fryer that can roast, bake, saute, and dehydrate but it's also a pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, and steamer in one. It can be used to sterilize baby bottles, kitchen utensils, and more, it has a Warm function to keep your food from getting cold. You can use it to make yoghurt and it even offers a sous vide option. 

Ninja Foodi DualZone FlexBasket Air Fryer being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

6. They can even save you money

In addition to air fryers themselves being good value for money, owning and using an air fryer regularly can also save you money in other ways. 

The biggest cost-savings are in your energy bills. "Despite the upfront cost, air fryers are cost-effective over time as they are energy efficient, making them a worthwhile investment for the average household," says Davies. 

Air fryers generally consume less energy compared to conventional ovens. They heat up quickly and cook food faster due to their compact size and efficient design. This shorter cooking time means less energy usage, which can lead to lower electricity or gas bills. "Air fryers do not need to be preheated in the same way that ovens do either," continues Davies, which further reduces how long they run, and use energy for. 

The level of saving varies based on the model but it's estimated you could save around $350 a year by switching the majority of your meals from a conventional oven to an air fryer. 

Tip:  "To keep the cost of running your air fryer as low as possible, refrain from opening the air fryer drawer regularly as this allows heat to escape and increases cooking time, and therefore electricity costs," explains Davies. "Instead, only open the drawer once when you’re halfway through cooking, to shake the contents and ensure even distribution of heat."

Headshot: Saul Davies
Saul Davies

Saul is responsible for product development across Salter's SDA product category. With over 13 years of experience in the field, Saul applies his wealth of knowledge to consistently innovate and bring new Salter products to market. Along with his team, he has been involved in the design and development of some of Salter’s most-loved air fryers, developing one to suit every home and every budget.


The drawbacks

Although air fryers offer a number of benefits, they're not without their flaws. 

Spending money on a new appliance, when you have a perfectly good oven at home, may not be possible. Or needed. 

Their smaller size, while great for cooking food quickly, comes with limitations. Unless you buy an extra large model, you won't be able to use your air fryer to roast larger items such as whole chickens or birthday cakes. Plus, even the smallest air fryers take up valuable countertop space meaning they won't suit all kitchens and lifestyles. 

Finally, they're not always the easiest appliances to get to grips with, especially if you buy one with multiple features. As a result, there can be a learning curve involved. 

In most cases, the benefits of healthier cooking and convenience should outweigh these limitations but these drawbacks are worth bearing in mind. 

Victoria Woollaston
Lifestyle and technology journalist

Victoria Woollaston is a freelance lifestyle and technology journalist with almost two decades of experience reviewing gadgets, beauty tech and household appliances for the likes of WIRED, TechRadar, Expert Reviews, Alphr and more.