With so many air fryer types, this ultimate guide to air fryer will help you choose the best one for you!
Air fryers changed the way we cook forever.
The apparently simple invention solved many problems that seemed unsolvable, making fried food healthier and more efficient while allowing everyone to cook new and exciting meals.
Air fryers were first met with skepticism; after all, most new appliances are nothing more than a fad.
Still, air fryers proved they were here to stay and are now a must in every kitchen.
In this air fryer guide, we’re covering how air fryers work, the types of air fryers and their accessories.
We discuss the pros and cons of cooking with an air fryer and answer the most frequent questions about the appliance.
This is our complete guide to air fryers, and it will surely clear all your doubts.
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance introduced in 2010 by Phillips, though the idea and technology was invented by Fred van der Weij in 2005.
In just under a decade, air fryers are everywhere.
Concisely, an air fryer is a convection oven with a fan that circulates hot air at high speed, effectively ‘frying’ anything inside the cooking basket or tray.
Air fryers are a convenient way of cooking food with little to no oil, reaching temperatures as high as 204°C (400°F) with some even going to 232°C (450°F).
Food that is usually deep-fried, like French fries, fried chicken and fish sticks, helped the air fryer gain popularity, as people could cook these comfort foods without needing copious amounts of oil.
Of course, air-fried meals have become much more sophisticated, and now people use them for cooking anything, from roast chicken to cakes.
Along with the stand mixer and slow cookers, the air fryer is among the most successful kitchen gadgets since the invention of the microwave.
Some sources suggest that, as of 2022, nearly 40% of households in the USA have one.
Of course, not all air fryers are created equal and there are different types.
To find the best air fryer for you, you need to know the different gadgets in the category and how air fryers work.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Air fryers originate from convection ovens, fan-assisted ovens that allow for faster and more consistent cooking by circulating the hot air inside the oven and around the food.
Convection ovens go back to the early 1900s, although they became popular until the mid-1900s.
Air fryers are an evolution of this innovative technology.
Air fryers come in all shapes and sizes, but they all work similarly.
The gadgets have a tray, or most commonly, a cooking basket, where the user places food.
A heating element, commonly an electric resistance, heats the air inside the cooking chamber.
At the same time, a fan, not dissimilar to but more potent than the one you’d find in an electric convection oven, circulates the hot air.
The hot air roasts food on all sides with dry heat, causing a Maillard reaction, browning the food and giving it a crispy texture.
The results are remarkably similar to what you get from submerging food in hot oil, therefore the gadget’s name.
The combination of an electric heat source and a fan circulating the air from below was called Rapid Air Technology, and all air fryers use it.
Air fryers are even more convenient because of their ability to adjust the temperature and cooking time.
The simplest foods are ready in just a few minutes, reducing frying times by at least half.
With my first ever air fryer, I was so excited I made Air Fryer Bacon Cheese Tots!
Depending on the type of air fryer, cooking settings and presets allow users to cook food with the click of a button.
Air frying is only partially a hands-off approach, and most foods need at least a thin oil layer to air fry properly.
Air fryers must also be supervised: stirring or shaking the food halfway through ensures even cooking and reduces the risk of burned food.
Overall, air fryers are popular because they’re fast, efficient and easy to use.
Most importantly, they’re aligned with the current health trends calling for less cooking oil.
Types of Air Fryers
The most common types of air fryers depend on their size and a few distinctive features that make them unique.
Every model in the market is different, and they all have pros and cons.
Here are the most common types of air fryers:
Basket Air Fryers
Among the air fryer types, the basket air fryer is the most common.
These are air fryers fitted with a basket that’s easy to fill, insert and remove.
Some air fryers come with dual baskets and are amongst the most convenient on the market.
On the downside, basket air fryers need you to shake or stir the contents at least halfway through the cooking process to ensure even cooking.
If you’re getting this type of air fryer, ensure the basket capacity suits your needs.
Paddle Air Fryers
Paddle air fryers are fitted with a paddle that stirs the contents inside the tray or basket, reducing the need to shake or stir the food as it air-fries.
Although not precisely game-changers, paddle air fryers are indeed easier to use and offer a more comfortable approach to air frying.
Countertop Convection Ovens / Toaster Ovens
Although all air fryers are inspired by convection ovens, some have evolved into something in between.
Manufacturers have designed efficient electric ovens fitted with more powerful heat sources and fans to offer an air-frying preset.
Some new-generation ovens can air fry food while still having the functions you’d expect from a countertop oven like bake, broil and toast.
With an air fryer toaster oven, you can “grill” items without a grill, which is perfect for condo living.
Air fryer toaster ovens can typically go as high as 450-500F and the food comes nicely charred and looking grilled, complete with the “grill marks” coming from the mesh basket like the Air Fryer BBQ Pork Tenderloin.
Multi-purpose Air Fryers
Multi-purpose air fryers are handy appliances that can do what several gadgets can.
Some air fryers in this category are also slow cookers and pressure cookers, all in one.
These appliances are often on the bulkier side, and the air fryer function is in the lid with the rest of the device being a conventional slow cooker.
Now there are even multi-purpose air fryers types that are microwaves and steamers.
Some air fryers are advertised as the only appliance you’ll need.
They can bake, roast, air fry, broil, sauté, dehydrate and so much more.
Though this type of air fryer is convenient, this doesn’t necessarily mean it does everything equally well.
Specialty Air Fryers
Specialty fryers are designed to cook particular food that is incompatible with other appliances.
The most typical examples are the turkey fryers, designed to air fry whole birds.
On the downside, unless you roast turkey and chicken often, these appliances will sit there gathering dust.
Air Fryer Examples
I’ve been an air fryer user since 2018, and it’s been my most used kitchen appliance!
Now that we’ve covered the different types of air fryers, here are three models from some of the top air fryer brands that I have used or am currently using:
Ninja Speedi™ Rapid Cooker & Air Fryer
Ninja air fryers are amongst the most efficient and versatile, and they offer several models – there’s one for every need, including an indoor grill with air fryer.
The Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker & Air Fryer is a compact gadget and an inexpensive one too.
This multi-purpose type air fryer has two modes: an air fryer mode and a ‘rapid cooking’ mode that combines air frying with steam (think of steamed rice and tender vegetables).
Switching between modes is easy so you can cook every element of a balanced meal in the appliance and still have time to make dessert.
What makes the Speedi one of the more unique air fryer types is the Steam capability in the rapid cooking system, allowing foods to be steamed first before air frying, which would be amazing for something like air fryer fried fish.
Plus with its two level system, you can now cook a full meal for four in fifteen minutes because where you steam your grains at the bottom and air fry your protein on top.
My Ninja Speedi Italian Meatball Soup recipe is a great example of this.
What this also means is you can reheat a full meal in the same way like reheating your leftover fried rice and fried chicken together.
I reheated my Jollibee leftover fried chicken and spaghetti together using the Speedi and was amazed they came out perfectly.
With the some useful Ninja Speedi accessories, you can maximize the use of this kitchen gadget and do more kinds of cooking.
Here are best Ninja Speedi recipes for you to enjoy!
Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer
America’s most popular multicooker, Instant Pot, has changed cooking with its instant cooking technology.
The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cookers with multiple functions and presets.
This appliance lets you cook soups, stews, broths and sauces (liquids are rarely compatible with air fryers).
Bringing air fryer to the Instant Pot, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer comes with two lids: one for pressure cooking and one for air frying.
This allows you to switch lids based on your needs and also allows you to do a combination of pressure cook then air frying of dishes, reducing cooking times and optimizing your kitchen counter space.
Now you can, air fry, roast, bake, broil and dehydrate with this versatile gadget.
You can even make yogurt!
My favourite Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer recipe is the Instant Pot BBQ Pork Ribs because you can do the pressure cooking and broiling (for caramelization) all in one pot – no need to broil the ribs in the oven.
Here are more best Instant Pot recipes.
Cuisinart TOA-95 Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven
Cuisinart has taken the convection oven approach, making multi-purpose appliances that still look like countertop ovens but have powerful air-frying presets.
The Cuisinart TOA-95 Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven has a large capacity and functions like bake, roast, reheat and air fry.
There’s no doubt the extra-large capacity in Cuisinart’s toaster oven separates it from other air fryer types like regular basket air fryers, allowing users to roast a chicken or bake a medium pizza.
The TOA-95 also comes with several accessories, like an air-frying basket that is especially useful when using its high-temperature presets.
Toaster ovens with air-frying functions might dominate the market in the future for their versatility and capacity.
With an AirFryer Toaster Oven, you won’t need the countertop bread/bagel toaster or traditional oven toaster.
With its larger surface area, it’s easier to spread your food and maximizing space without overlapping and crowding like for making Air Fryer Potato Chips.
I rarely even use my oven anymore since having the Cuisinart AirFryer Toaster Oven.
Digital vs Analog Air Fryer Types
Before going over the pros and cons of cooking with an air fryer, let’s talk about one of the most common topics regarding these appliances: The difference between a digital air fryer and an analog air fryer.
Digital air fryers are the most common, and almost all current models are entirely digital.
These gadgets have smart displays and rely on technology to set cooking times and temperatures, often with the help of presets.
On the other hand, analog air fryers might only have a timer, a temperature knob and a start/stop button.
These appliances are usually less expensive than digital models but have a higher learning curb — one must get to know the device intimately to guarantee reliable results.
Analog air fryers are also easier to set up and require less electricity.
Which one is better?
Digital air fryers are much more convenient for experienced and inexperienced users alike, but they can be costly.
Analog air fryers are not dissimilar to a standard electric oven or a toaster.
In terms of quality, there’s no significant difference between these two types of gadgets, and choosing one over the other is a matter of preference and budget.
Advantages of Using an Air Fryer – Why Use an Air Fryer?
One of the most common questions I get about air fryers are why use an Air Fryer when I can deep fry or use the oven, and is it worth it?
It really depends on your usage and how big a group you normally cook for.
But for me, here is why I love air fryer and why you’d want to have one:
- It replaces existing kitchen gadgets:
- The Air Fryer Oven replaces my toaster oven and oven.
- The Instant Pot Duo Crisp replaces my rice cooker.
- For someone like me who loves fried food, this removes the need for a deep fryer which uses a lot of oil, is very unhealthy, very messy to clean, and is not convenient for a small group.
- For food that are inherently oily or fatty, you can just air fry them directly to cook.
- You can air fry food that you would normally pan-fry, bake, broil or toast as long as it fits and holds on the basket.
- Air frying can be a better way to reheat your food than using the microwave because it doesn’t suck the moisture out of your food. I try to reheat leftovers with air fryer whenever possible.
- You can even make “hard boiled” eggs in an air fryer by simply air frying the egg with its shell intact. No water needed.
- Air fryer is a great way to caramelize or brown your food. For example, when making BBQ ribs at home, you would tend to broil the cooked ribs after for caramelization, but it would come out better and faster in an air fryer.
Disadvantages of Using an Air Fryer
Air fryers sound marvelous, and they are.
Still, these aren’t miracle appliances and, despite what the manufacturers say, they’re not always the easiest way to cook all meals.
- Air fryers can be hard to clean, and although most moving parts are dishwasher safe, you must clean the appliance by hand with a damp cloth.
- Air fryers are a healthier alternative to deep fryers but are much more expensive. In fact, sophisticated air fryers are amongst the most expensive kitchen gadgets.
- Air frying doesn’t allow cooking ‘wet’ food, including soups, stews and broths. Even frying food coated with a runny batter can become a problem.
- Air fryers often have small capacities and are not suitable for large families. Even cooking for four can be complicated in most compact units and working in batches can be tedious and time-consuming.
- Air fryers are bulky and not ideal for kitchens with small counter space.
- Different types of air fryer are also often noisy and not very subtle.
- Air fryers are not a set-and-forget appliance, and burned food is common if unattended, especially if cooking unfamiliar food.
- People have reported that the lifespan of some air fryer types is shorter than most kitchen gadgets.
- Although rare, the risk of fires exists.
Air Fryer Accessories
Although standard air-frying baskets are versatile and usually all you need to cook most foods, accessories can improve your experience and allow you to cook more types of food.
Here are some of the popular air fryer accessories people love to use:
Silicone mats are heat resistant and naturally non-stick.
These are the perfect liners for your air-fryer basket and prevent food from sticking.
Silicone is also easy to clean.
Choose the right silicone mat size for your appliance and ensure the mats don’t obstruct the airflow.
Metallic racks of the right size to fit most air-frying baskets are readily available.
This accessory allows you to cook more food simultaneously on distinct levels.
You can also benefit from the dripping food on the top level to season the food below.
Ensure your unit allows racks since they’re often incompatible with models with the heat source on the lid.
Baking pans are ideal for cooking, baking and reheating wet food, from scrambled eggs to deep-dish cookies.
Smaller ramekin-sized pans or silicone cupcake liners can be helpful too.
Smaller foods, such as diced vegetables or chunks of meat (like the Air Fryer Kofta Kebab), are easier to handle if held together by a skewer.
The trick is finding skewers that fit in your air-fryer basket.
Most air-fryers need to you to flip, rearrange or stir the food after a few minutes to guarantee the food is cooked evenly on all sides.
Tongs are an easy and safe way to handle food, which is often scorching hot.
Cooking oil in spray
Although not an accessory, cooking oil in spray is a must-have for all your air-fried meals.
These sprays help give the food the thinnest oil layer, encouraging even roasting and frying.
Ninja Speedi Accessories
If you’re looking for accessories specifically for your Ninja Speedi, I’ve compiled a list of the best Ninja Speedi accessories worth getting.
Air Fryer Accessories Set
If you use the air fryer a lot, you can even consider buying accessories set with the most common and popular air fryer accessories.
Check out this highly rated 12-piece air fryer accessories set that’s compatible for 4, 4.2, 5.3, 5.5, 5.8 QT Air Fryers here.
Air Fryer Tips for Beginners
If you’re new to air fryers, here are some tips and tricks!
- Read the manual. Not all air fryers are intuitive, and the most valuable functions may not be obvious. Read your unit’s manual thoroughly.
- Preheat the unit. Preheat your air fryer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This ensures faster and more consistent results.
- Don’t overcrowd the basket. The hot air must flow freely and be in contact with the food on all sides. Overcrowding the tray or basket is a sure way of getting soggy fries and sad nuggets.
- Flip and shake. Unless you have a paddle air fryer, you’ll need to flip the food or shake the air-frying basket at least once halfway through the cooking cycle.
- Keep an eye on the food. Don’t take cooking times for granted; not all recipes work the same for all units. Check your food from time to time, and don’t be afraid of stopping the cycle ahead of time.
- Use cooking oil in spray. Spraying food before air frying ensures even browning and crispier food. Oil can also help your seasonings stick.
- Clean the unit. Clean your air fryer after every use to prevent stains or, even worse, mold and bacteria.
- Ensure proper ventilation. Ensure your unit has plenty of space and the air intake is not obstructed.
- Foil to prevent clean ups. For toaster oven type air fryers, you can put foil on the drip tray to avoid major clean ups.
- Shape matters. Rectangular shaped air fryers are better than circular ones because you have more surface area to maximize food capacity and align food better.
- Find Dishwasher Safe Components. Make sure to buy air fryers with dishwasher-safe baskets and trays. For air fryer toaster oven especially, the mesh basket is extremely hard to hand wash.
3 Most Popular Air Fryer Recipes
Here are 3 of my most popular air fryer recipes, and they work with all air fryer types:
Full list of best air fryer recipes here.
Air Fryer FAQ
Let’s conclude our guide to air fryers with the most frequent questions about the appliance.
I hope after reading this guide you have the knowledge to decide if air fryers are for you.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to choose the right model to suit your needs.
How to Clean an Air Fryer?
Unplug your air fryer after every use.
Clean the unit’s tray or basket and all accessories by handwashing or using the dishwasher (if dishwasher-safe only), and clean the unit’s interior and exterior with a damp cloth.
Read the instruction manual for specific models.
Is Air-Frying Healthy?
Air frying is healthier than deep and pan-frying since cooking with less oil reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and produces low-calorie foods.
On the other hand, air-frying makes eating processed food easier — an air fryer is healthy as long as you air fry healthy food.
Try making the dishes from scratch for the air fryer instead of buying frozen versions.
For example, you can make Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries than buying frozen sweet potato fries to air fry.
How Much Does an Air Fryer Cost?
Different styles of air fryers can cost anywhere from $20 to $400.
Analog air fryers with small capacities are the cheapest, while the most expensive are often multi-purpose appliances.
An inexpensive air fryer might be ideal for you if you cook for a few people, especially if you don’t need many functions.
On the other hand, people rarely use most functions in multi-purpose appliances, so the most expensive models are seldom the best choice.
Can You Use Foil in an Air Fryer?
Although aluminum foil is a big no-no in some appliances, such as microwaves, you can use foil in different air fryer types safely, as long as the foil doesn’t obstruct the airflow.
Aluminum foil is rarely necessary when cooking in an air fryer, as the foil can reduce the food’s surface in contact with the hot air.
For oven type air fryer, the foil is very useful on the drip tray to catch food and oil to make clean-ups easier.
VIDEO: Air Fryer Types – Which is the Best Air Fryer for YOU?
Watch this great and really in-depth video that covers different types of air fryers and featuring best non-toxic air fryers, the most budget-friendly, and the most multipurpose models out there.
Hope this ultimate guide to air fryer gives you an idea on this popular kitchen gadget and the different air fryer types you can choose from.
I hope you’ll be able to decide if an air fryer right for your kitchen!
If you already have an air fryer or ended up buying one, which of the air fryer types did you choose and which brand and model?