The latest gadget to capture our Test Kitchen’s attention (and the attention of home cooks everywhere) is the air fryer. A small appliance that can give snacks like french fries and egg rolls that crisp texture without the mess (or calories) of frying? Sign us up! But like all new gear, it’s hard to know if you’re getting the best option out there. Unlike basics like pots and pans, there are a lot of unknowns with new tools. Here’s everything you need to know
First of all, what does it do exactly?
The machine uses super-hot air to fry foods with little or no oil, and with little or no mess. It can turn your favourite comfort foods (chips! French fries! doughnuts!) into healthier versions, compared to their deep-fried counterparts. Plus, it’s a safer way to cook food, than, say, frying in an oil-filled pan on the stove.
What should I look for when shopping for one?
Our Test Kitchen decided to test the most popular air fryers on the market. We had to know which brand gave our favourite foods that crunchy fried texture—and was easy to use. To find the best air fryer, our team purchased several and put them to the test, whipping up all sorts of recipes and judging them on these standards:
- Texture: How well do our favourite air fryer recipes turn out? Is the finished product crisp? Tender?
- Cooking quality: Does the air fryer cook food thoroughly? Our Test Kitchen cooked all kinds of dishes, including meatballs, shrimp cakes, chicken wings and even cinnamon rolls.
- Price: Is the product affordable? Was the performance reflected in the price?
Which one is the best?
Features we loved
- Intuitive controls: The Philips air fryer looks sleek and modern with its digital screen, but our prep cooks really loved that this model also has some traditional buttons and dials that make it very simple to use.
- Perfect fan speed: Air fryers rely on hot air circulating around the food to get the perfect texture. In some models, the fan that powers the air flow can be too strong, meaning your fried pickles might end up flying all over inside. (FYI: Pickles are not the only food that’s high in natural probiotics.) This Philips model, though, had a great fan that cooked food well without making a mess inside.
- Even cooking: The Philips air fryer heated all the tested recipes perfectly—no hot spots, no irregular temperature fluctuations.
- Sharp design: Sleek and modern, it would be right-at-home in any contemporary kitchen.
How did it perform?
In each of our tests—texture and cooking quality—this Philips model outperformed its competitors. When our test cooks made crab cakes, the exteriors were perfectly crisp and the centers warm and tender. They also cooked meatballs, pork chops and chicken breasts, and found that they were similarly perfect—done exactly as expected.
Of course, a stellar performance like this one—five out of five on our judging scale—does come at a cost. The Philips air fryer is priced at about $300, which is likely too much for someone with just a casual interest. However, if you’re the type that loves frying up frozen apps for your game-day parties or experimenting with new tools, it’s well worth it according to our cooks.
Next, read up on the cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic.