How to choose an air fryer: 10 things to consider when shopping

Ninja air fryer with chips
(Image credit: Amazon, Ninja)

If you're wondering how to choose an air fryer for quick and easy cooking, we're here to help with the 10 key points to look out for.

You may have had your eye on buying one of the best air fryers for a while, and as the air fryer trend is showing no signs of slowing, this means there is an almost overwhelming range of options to choose from. 

From dual-basket designs to air fryer ovens, multi-function machines, combo-cookers, and even air fryers you control from your phone - there's plenty of choice. And that’s before you even factor in your budget. 

To help guide you through how to choose the best air fryer for your home, we've listed the main points to look out for. Read on for our expert guide.

How to choose an air fryer

1. Capacity

Before you even consider which brand of air fryer is best or how much you’re willing to spend, you need to establish what capacity you need, and this will depend on how many people you’re regularly cooking for. 

The most common air fryers typically range in capacity from 3.7 quarts / 3.5 liters to 5.8 quarts/5.5 liters, and this should be more than enough capacity for a family of four. 

You can then buy air fryers with as little as 2-quart / 1.9-liter capacity or as much as 12 quarts / 11.3 liters. A mini air fryer is best for single people or couples, while large and extra-large air fryers are best suited to larger families of 5 or more. Or if you like to batch-cook large amounts of food at one time. 

As a guide: 

  •  1-2 people: 1-2 quarts / 0.95-1.9 liters 
  •  2-3 people: 2-3 quarts / 1.9-2.8 liters 
  •  3-4 people: 4-6 quarts / 3.8-5.7 liters 
  •  5-6 people+: 7-8 quarts+ / 6.6-7.6 liters+ 

2. Size

Going almost hand-in-hand with capacity when choosing an air fryer is how much space you’ll need either on your countertop or for storage when it’s not in use.

Generally speaking, the larger the capacity, the larger the air fryer, but there are models that manage to combine high capacity in a streamlined frame. 

If space is of a premium, opt for an air fryer at the lower end of the capacity and size needed for your family. If this is less of an issue, you have more freedom in which size you choose. 

COSORI Air Fryer

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Design

In terms of design, the majority of fryers are black, gray, or white so they should fit in with most kitchen aesthetics. A few brands sell all-metal versions, while others offer colorful options, but these are few and far between. 

The choice then sits between whether you want a matte or glossy finish. Shiny air fryers often look better, but they can show fingerprints, as well as water marks from washing them, more easily. 

4. Baskets

Next up, you’ll need to decide if you want a single-basket air fryer or a dual-basket model. Having multiple baskets isn’t just about increasing the air fryer’s total capacity. They can be used to cook different elements of a dish in your air fryer at different temperatures, for different times, simultaneously. 

We have a dual-basket air fryer but, in reality, very rarely cook more than two things at a time. If we were buying an air fryer again, we’d likely opt for one larger basket instead, but this will come down to personal preference. 

Proscenic T22

(Image credit: Future)

5. Cooking functions and pre-sets

The majority of air fryers allow you to set the time and temperature settings for each dish manually, but some additionally offer presets. These presets automatically select the best temperature and cooking time based on what you’re air frying. For instance, if you’re cooking air fryer chips, you can just select the “chip” setting, and the heat and time will be set accordingly. 

This only really works for common air fryer dishes; more elaborate recipes will have their own time and temperature requirements. Also, the time saving is minimal. However, if you’re cooking a lot of the same things, then having presets will be beneficial. 

Then, some air fryers offer a wider range of functions beyond just air frying. Some come with roasting and baking modes. Others offer frying and dehydrating options. In our experience, you can easily roast a chicken or bake muffins using just a standard air fryer, but if you want more versatility, a multi-function air fryer may be the way to go. 

Ultimately, choose an air fryer that suits your cooking habits and style. 

6. Ease-of-use

Air fryer controls typically fall into three categories. 

There are those with physical temperature and time dials. With these, you just turn the dial to the required settings, and the cooking will start. Other air fryers pair a digital display with physical buttons, while some use touchscreen displays. 

We’ve yet to use an air fryer that is difficult to use, but some can be fiddly more than others. If you don’t consider yourself to be very tech-savvy or just want an easy lift, then either of the physical options will suit you best. 

Touchscreen displays have a tendency to be more complicated. Again, they’re not so complicated that they’re impossible to use; they just take a bit more getting used to.   

There is also a fourth control type, but it’s rarer than the other three, and that’s remote control. There is a small but growing number of smart air fryers that connect to your phone or a smart speaker via Wi-Fi and allow you to change the time and temperature settings remotely. 

7. Cleaning

In addition to how easy an air fryer is to use, you should also choose an air fryer that’s easy to clean. If you’re regularly cooking meat or meals that contain melted cheese, as just two examples, scrubbing the crusted-on remnants from the bottom of your basket will soon become tedious. 

If you have a dishwasher, make sure that the air fryer you choose is “dishwasher safe.” This means all of its components are able to withstand the high heat and use of strong detergents common in dishwashers. If they’re not, the dishwasher could end up damaging the design of these components or removing the non-stick coating that is common on most air fryer baskets. 

Air fryers with detachable baskets are then easier to keep clean than fixed baskets. 

8. Safety features

Make sure that the air fryer you choose has key safety features such as automatic shut-off, cool-touch handles, and overheat protection. We haven’t yet used an air fryer that doesn’t have these features as a standard, but it’s worth bearing in mind. 

Most air fryers get warm to the touch while cooking but none of them should get so hot that they could easily burn your skin, or the skin of your children or family members. 

9. Customer reviews and ratings

Once you think you’ve chosen an air fryer, it’s worth checking out recent customer ratings and reviews for that fryer. Not only because the manufacturer’s site will be written deliberately to encourage you to buy, but there may be flaws that could sway your decision. Some negative points may be small and not matter to you, others may be specific to the particular reviewer, although some may highlight fundamental problems that are worth avoiding. 

What’s more, real-world reviews are the most effective way to discover how an air fryer performs rather than simply how it works. And make sure you remind yourself of how to spot fake Amazon reviews - you'll be surprised how many there are.

10. Quality of deals

This point specifically refers to shopping for air fryer deals during events like Black Friday and Prime Day: make sure the deal you find isn’t too good to be true. Some retailers may increase the price of products ahead of sales in order for the discounts on the day(s) to look better than they are.

It’s worth searching for the make and model of the air fryer you’re interested in to see what it’s being sold for at other retailers. This will give you an idea of whether it’s a good deal or not. You can also use price comparison sites like CamelCamelCamel and Honey to see trends in the product's price history and compare prices with other sites. 

If you follow our guide and do your research, grabbing one of the best Black Friday air fryer deals will be an easy win when it arrives next year.

cooking in an air fryer

(Image credit: Getty)
Victoria Woollaston
TTR Contributing Editor

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.