Reliable and powerful heating method
A reliable heating method is crucial for an air fryer, since that heat is responsible for cooking the food. Most air fryers range from 1200-1500 watts, and consist of a heating element made from stainless steel or other metal. The most common heating method for air fryers is rapid air circulation, which is when the heat is moved through the fryer chamber by exhaust fans, encasing the food so it cooks evenly and all the way through. This is why air fryers do not require any oil (or very little), producing less fatty, crispy food.
One of the advantages of air fryers over conventional cooking methods (oven and stovetop) is that an air fryer is super fast. Because of the tightly-insulated frying chamber, the heat is less likely to escape like it would in an oven, so all the heat penetrates the food. Some air fryers prioritize speed and include special settings for faster frying. You can have food like chicken tenders or French fries in a matter of minutes, and unlike in the microwave, the food is actually crispy. If you’re always in a rush when it comes to cooking, the air fryer will save you a lot of time and stress.
You can find air fryers in just about any size. Air fryers are often measured in quarts, liters, or pounds. If you want an air fryer mainly to make side dishes or snacks for one person or a family, you would be okay with a smaller unit, like 2-4 quarts. If you plan on preparing bigger meals or batches for parties and other gatherings, you’ll need one that’s more in the range of five quarts and up. Of course, you can always make several batches in a smaller air fryer if you’re fine with taking the extra time.
In order to make a variety of foods, from steamed veggies to roast chicken to steak, a good air fryer will allow you to adjust the temperature. Using either digital controls or a dial, you can adjust a fryer’s temperature anywhere from around 200-degrees to upwards of 300. Some air fryers even go higher than that and break 400-degrees, but most of the commonly-fried foods don’t need that high of a temperature.
Preset cooking programs
If you like cooking to be as easy as possible, you will want to look at air fryers that offer preset cooking programs. These programs include selections for popular air-fryer foods like chicken, cakes, steak, shrimp, and French fries, so all you have to do is push a button and the air fryer will pick the necessary temperature and time.
Most (if not all) air fryers, no matter the price, have convenient timers so you can know exactly how long to fry a food. These timers typically go up to 30-minutes, which is about the maximum length of time it would take to cook most foods in the fryer, and often include a beeping sound when they’re done. This way, you don’t have to hover around the air fryer or worry that you’ll miss the end time and burn your food.
Easy-to-use control panel
There are two kinds of control panels: fully-digital ones and partly-digital. Some air fryers will have dials for temperature and time, while others have all their features packed into a touchscreen with buttons like +/- for adjusting the temperature. If you aren’t experienced with digital controls, locating all the presets and adjustment can take a little time to figure out. If you do not care about presets and just want to be able to control the time and temperature, spending the extra money on a fully-digital touch screen air fryer probably is not necessary. Digital controls are typically lit with LED or LCD.
Air fryers are arguably automatically safer than traditional deep fryers because you are not working with scalding oil, but air fryers are still electrical appliances that generate very high heat. Being as safe as possible is very important. In addition to keeping time, the timer on an air fryer acts as an auto shut-off for the fryer. When the time cycle is over, the fryer will automatically turn itself off. This is crucial for both keeping your food from overcooking, and keeping the fryer from overheating. Other important safety features include cool-touching housing, so you don’t burn yourself if you touch the fryer exterior when it’s on. Cool-touch handles are also a good feature to look for.
Besides making healthier food, air fryers that use very little oil – or no oil at all – have the advantage of being much easier to clean than traditional deep fryers. Without messy leftover oil in the pan or basket, cleaning up takes much less time and work. If the pan has a nonstick surface, just be sure to not use an abrasive sponge, since that will scratch the surface off. Many air fryers are also dishwasher-safe, so you can separate the pan and basket from the electric part of the fryer, and wash it with your other dishes.
Size and weight
Air fryers usually weigh somewhere between toasters and microwaves. The more compact air fryers can weigh in at 10-12 pounds, while the bigger ones can be as heavy as 18 pounds. Size does not always mean more weight, however: the Philips Digital AirFryer only holds about 4 cups of food and weighs 18 pounds. In general, air fryers also tend to take up a good amount of counter space, though many are designed with sleek, almost egg-like curves so they do not look ugly sitting out. To keep storage convenient, it is best to get an air fryer with the capacity you think you will use most often, so if you do not plan on needing a lot of cooking space, go with a smaller air fryer.