Best air fryers 2022: Make healthy and easy meals

Best air fryers 2022: Make healthy and easy meals

Healthy chips might sound too good to be true, but an air fryer makes it easy to serve up great-tasting fried foods using little or no oil. These tabletop appliances cook food by circulating hot air, like a powerful mini convection oven, to create a crispy finish without resorting to a deep-fat fryer.

Not only can they potentially help you to knock up healthier dishes, but research by energy provider Utilita also suggests that they’re more energy efficient than using a cooker. An electric cooker, for example, costs an average of around £1.05 a day to run, while an air fryer could set you back as little as 17p a day. With energy prices soaring, it might be time to change which appliance you use the most. And, luckily, air fryers can pretty much do it all.

In terms of design, most air fryers have one-touch settings for easy cooking and several also include extra functions – such as dehydrate, roast and rotisserie – to make them a one-stop worktop wonder. Pre-frozen foods, potatoes, meat and vegetables that are usually roasted all cook well in one.

Bear in mind that many of these machines take up quite a lot of room in the kitchen, so it’s worth considering your space and needs before buying. If you just want to rustle up the odd portion of chips, it’s best to keep it simple instead of choosing a multi-purpose machine crammed with extras.

However, more complex air fryers can be a great option for less confident chefs, anyone needing extra cooking capacity or those without easy access to a full-sized oven. Be aware that, unless you choose a self-stirring model, you will need to shake the basket occasionally during cooking to make sure food crisps evenly.

How we tested

Though it’s possible to cook everything from meat to vegetables in an air fryer, chips were our go-to when testing all these machines. We tested both frozen and homemade chips in every single one, judging crispiness, colour and taste to find the ones that made us swoon.

We also experimented with other dishes, including frozen and fresh fried chicken, burgers and any recipes included with each air fryer. We considered how simple each machine was to use (and clean), its price, noise when cooking and whether we could easily stash it in the corner of the worktop or in a cupboard.

The best air fryers for 2022 are:

  • Best for an air fryer – Ninja foodi dual zone air fryer: £200,

  • Best for a budget buy – Progress EK4490P air fryer: £64.99,

  • Best for small households – Lakeland digital compact air fryer: £89.99,

  • Best for a multi-function machine – Tower xpress pro combo 200W 11 litre 10-in-1 digital air fryer oven with rotisserie: £150,

  • Best for large households – Russell Hobbs express air fry mini oven: £99.99,

  • Best oven replacement – Ninja foodi max health grill and air fryer AG51UK: £300,

  • Best for roasting chicken – Innoteck 12L kitchen pro 6-in-1 air fryer oven with rotisserie and dehydrator: £129.99,

  • Best for cleaning – Swan retro air fryer: £99.99,

  • Best for variety – Tefal actifry genius XL 2in1 health air fryer: £284.99,

Ninja Foodi dual zone air fryer

This might not be the smallest machine we tested, but it was certainly one of the cleverest. The standout feature is simple, but a kitchen game changer: the air fryer comes with two independent cooking zones so you can cook two foods, two ways, at the same time. We found this invaluable for rustling up entire meals, including fried chicken and chips in one go, but also when catering for different tastes within one household – when one child fancies spicy sweet potato fries but the other will only eat plain bog-standard chips, for instance.

It’s super simple to use, too, with a digital control panel, countdown timer and variable temperature controls you can tweak to make every meal perfect. The auto-adjust fan automatically changes speed based on the cooking function selected, while the sync feature guarantees each drawer is ready to serve at the same time. It’s particularly good at cooking food such as chicken nuggets from frozen, reaching a temperature of 240C for meals in minutes.

Roast, bake, dehydrate and reheat settings mean it can replace your oven for cooking almost anything, including left-over pizza, vegetable crisps and roasted meat – we made deliciously moist salmon fillet and roast potatoes in ours. Having two smaller compartments instead of one large one means you won’t be able to cook bigger items such as a whole roast chicken though. But if you have the (considerable) space on your worktop, you’ll use this sturdy, good-looking machine over and over again.

Read our review of the Ninja air fryer

Buy now £200.00,

Progress EK4490P air fryer

If you’re just not sure an air fryer is worth the investment, this is a great entry-level machine for rustling up chips without breaking the bank. It doesn’t take up too much room so we found we could even store it away in a cupboard, making it perfect for occasional use. The curved black gloss exterior would still look neat and sleek if it was on show all the time.

It’s straightforward to use, with power ready indicator lights, digital temperature control and seven cooking pre-sets. Simply slide out the drawer, arrange food and choose a setting. The temperature control is adjustable, although it only goes up to 200C, so our chips weren’t quite as crunchy as we would have liked. They were still light and fluffy inside and tastier than anything we’ve ever cooked in an oven, so we’d have no complaints with this in our kitchen. While it’s currently out of stock, you can leave your email to be notified when it next becomes available.

Buy now £64.99,

Lakeland digital compact air fryer

This is a fantastic little machine for anyone with a smaller kitchen or those cooking for just one or two people. It’s far smaller than any other air fryer we tried and one of the quietest to operate. Its dinky footprint means you’ll only need to pull it out of the cupboard when it’s needed and it will save you heating a whole oven for every meal.

It cooks around 450g of chips in one go with just a teaspoon of oil, although frozen chips need none at all. There’s no need to even look at the instruction book to get it working and pre-set functions include ones for poultry, fresh fries or veg, and frozen fries and veg. Frozen foods such as chicken nuggets and sausage rolls came out a treat and there’s a pause button to stop cooking so you can check progress or give food a shake.

Buy now £79.99,

Tower xpress pro combo 200W 11 litre 10-in-1 digital air fryer oven with rotisserie

You’ll get way more than a new way of cooking chips with this machine, which is more like a table-top oven than an air fryer. With a whopping 11 litre capacity, this chunky appliance actually has 10 cooking functions, including grill, roast, toast, bake, grill and dehydrate.

It’s big enough to hold three separate trays of food, so it’s a doddle to cook potatoes or vegetables at the same time as a piece of meat or fish. We also loved the large clear glass door, which made it easy to peek at everything while cooking to make sure it turned out perfectly. It’s even big enough to squeeze in a pizza, which came out particularly well, with a crispy base and golden cheese on top. In fact, we soon found we were automatically heading straight to this do-everything machine instead of turning on our oven, as it’s much quicker to heat up and cook.

We were especially impressed by the rotisserie function, which can be used to make juicy kebabs better than any takeaway or cook a small chicken in less than an hour. It’s perfect for rustling up a midweek roast that tastes like you spent hours slaving over a hot oven.

Read the full Tower air fryer review

Buy now £150.00,

Russell Hobbs express air fry mini oven

If you’re always cooking for a full house, go straight to this machine. It looks more like a microwave than an air fryer, so you’ll need plenty of free worktop space – we also would have liked a longer cable so we had more choice about where it could go. Once you are plugged in, there’s very little this clever appliance can’t do, including grill, bake, toast and keep warm.

It preheats in a matter of moments (a godsend on a rushed weeknight) and fits in six slices of toast or a 12in pizza, which was cooked to perfection. You can even bake a cake in it. There’s plenty of space for a whole chicken and we loved the huge glass door that made it easy to keep an eye on dishes inside. This was also one of the few air fryers we tested without a digital display, but we found the chunky dials very intuitive to operate, so you’ll be rustling up golden chips for the whole family in no time.

Buy now £99.99,

Ninja foodi max health grill and air fryer AG551UK

You might never turn your oven on again once you’ve found a spot for this mighty machine on your worktop. It goes one step further than the average air fryer and includes a grill to cook everything from salmon steaks to sausages. It’s especially good at turning out the perfect steak, thanks to a built-in probe that determines the right time to cook the meat, whether you want it rare or well done.

Though it looks more like a mini pizza oven, the air-fryer function is excellent too, particularly at cooking frozen food to perfection. There’s a progress bar to monitor pre-heating and clear on-screen instructions when cooking, though, as with most air fryers, we did need to give the food a quick shake while cooking, to get the best results.

There are six cooking functions in total, including roast and bake, and we found it surprisingly successful at cooking a roast chicken and even baking a tray of chocolate-chip cookies. We loved the fact we didn’t have to heat the entire oven to cook these, so could hopefully cut down on our energy bills long-term too. Just be aware this machine is heavy at just over 10kg and fairly large, so you’ll need to have quite a bit of free space on your worktop to keep it out on display and get the best from it.

Buy now £300.00,

Innoteck 12l kitchen pro 6-in-1 air fryer oven with rotisserie and dehydrator

Another mighty multi-tasking machine that does almost everything but decide what you want for dinner, this Innoteck mini oven is a worktop whopper you won’t fail to be impressed by. The controls were among the easiest to operate thanks to easy picture guides for every pre-set, a clear display and one-button dial operation.

Inside, there’s also a fantastic rotating basket that automatically turns food during cooking to ensure it’s cooked evenly. This meant the freshly made chips from this air fryer were cooked in no time and among the best we tasted – perfectly crispy outside but gorgeously fluffy inside. Frozen sausage rolls and, surprisingly, parsnips were also both winners, but the stand-out dish from this machine was a whole roast chicken. Though it does have to be quite small to fit inside, we used the ingenious rotisserie setting for restaurant-quality chicken that was on the table in under an hour.

Although it’s currently out of stock, you can sign up to be notified when it’s available again.

Buy now £129.99,

Swan retro air fryer

Keep things simple with this cool, Fifties-inspired air fryer. There’s just one dial to add time and one sliding control to set the temperature, so there’s no need to figure out any pre-set programmes or consult an instruction book. However, that does mean it took us a little longer to work out exactly how long certain foods took to cook in this air fryer and our first few attempts weren’t always successful.

Yet once we learnt exactly where to set the controls to make the perfect chips, we had no complaints. Fried chicken tasted particularly delicious while chips were uniformly golden and cooked well all the way through – we also liked the retro audible alert to let us know when everything was ready. Best of all, it’s a cinch to keep sparkling as there’s just one easily cleaned basket, which pulls out completely. It can’t go in the dishwasher but washes in no time and there are no sneaky corners or ridges for grease to gather in. A major thumbs up from us.

Buy now £99.99,

Tefal actifry genius XL 2in1 health air fryer

This Tefal air fryer looks unlike every other appliance we tried but also operates differently. It has an integrated central paddle to do all the stirring automatically, while excess fat doesn’t drain away but collects at the bottom. We found this made for some of the best chips we cooked in all our tests and we’d buy this pricey model for those alone. You won’t be stuck eating just chips either (although we’d have no complaints about that). The appliance comes with a useful book of 20 recipes, plus access to an app with hundreds more dishes, which is really helpful for getting the most out of this air fryer.

Unlike others, it can make food with sauce as a slow cooker would, so casseroles, stews and curries are all an option. It’s easy to cook more than one type of food at once, too, as there are two levels and up to 54 pre-set combinations that will tell you when to add the second ingredient so it’s all ready at the same time. It is large out on the worktop and on the noisy side while cooking, but a great choice for anyone desperate for new mealtime inspiration who wants fantastic-tasting food every time with minimal effort.

A final point worth noting: Tefal measures capacity in grams rather than litres like the others, but claims this serves eight people, although we’d say six was more accurate.

Read the full Tefal actifry review

Buy now £284.99,

Air fryer FAQs

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is a mini convection oven that is designed to recreate the taste and texture of deep-fried food, without the need for boiling it in fat. The heating element is located at the top of the appliance and is accompanied by a powerful fan, which gives food its crispiness in next to no time.

How does an air fryer work?

Food doesn’t actually fry. Rather, it is placed in a basket where the airflow is designed to replicate that of deep frying in hot fat. The force of the air produces a convection effect that cooks, crisps, and browns food.

How to use an air fryer

When using your air fryer, there are certain steps we’d recommend you take for excellent results – after reading the instruction manual, of course. First, pre-heat it as you would an oven; second, it’s important to make sure there’s plenty of space around your food and not to overcrowd the basket; third, when adding oil, less is more as it has a tendency to make food soggy; fourth, you’ll want to shake the basket frequently to make sure food is evenly crisp; and, finally, use kitchen foil or baking paper to make the clean-up quicker and easier.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

You can cook just about anything you’d ordinarily prepare in an oven or deep fryer in your air fryer – the general rule is if you can bake it, grill it or fry it, you can cook it up in your air fryer. Some foods are known to excel: these include pre-frozen foods (for example, chicken nuggets), vegetables that you roast or grill, potatoes (including chips) and meat (sausages, bacon and chicken). Some models also have a function that allows you to toast and bake food, making them more like conventional ovens.

Are air fryers healthy?

One of the selling points of an air fryer is that food is cooked in substantially less oil when compared with a deep-fat fryer, making them a healthier alternative.

How to clean an air fryer

Air dryers are easy to clean. The basket, tray and pan can be washed in the same way you’d wash any other utensil, either with soap and warm water or by putting them in the dishwasher. With the latter, it’s worth checking your specific model specification, just to be safe. As for the exterior, wipe it down with a damp cloth, making sure your appliance is unplugged.

How to choose the right air fryer for you?

The best air fryer for you will of course depend on your needs and budget. But there are a number of things to consider:

  • Capacity: Think about how big you need your air fryer to be – if you have a small household, you’ll want a capacity of around 1.5l to 2l, while larger households would benefit from one that has a capacity of 2.5l and above.

  • Wattage: The more watts an air fryer has, the easier and quicker it will reach higher temperatures.

  • Self-stirring: Some air fryers come with a paddle that moves the food around as it cooks to make sure it does so evenly. This is beneficial because it saves you from having to stir or turn the food over yourself.

  • Ease of cleaning: You need to wash your air fryer after every use, so you might want to consider investing in one that is dishwasher-safe.

The verdict: Air fryers

We loved the Ninja foodi dual zone air fryer for its two cooking compartments, easy to use controls and outstanding-tasting food, which made it our new kitchen go-to even when cooking for fussy children. If you want even more bells and whistles, the Tower xpress pro combo 10-in-1 air fryer is as good as buying an extra oven. Its large capacity, three shelves and range of cooking functions are even more impressive given the price, and we’ll never tire of having our very own rotisserie for melt-in-the-mouth chicken and kebabs.

For more help on keeping costs low in the kitchen, read our guide to the best energy-efficient appliances