The 30-Second Review

The best air fryer should consistently produce the familiar crunch of deep-fried foods, while still being easier to maintain and use than a traditional deep fryer. We tested seven air fryers, cooking more than 20 pounds of fries, chicken strips, and veggies. Most of the models disappointed, but our top two came close to giving us deep-fried results.

Best Overall

The T-fal Actifry’s unique, self-stirring mechanism gave us crispy fries and tender chicken in a simple, easy-to-use machine. This is the closest you can come to deep-fried food in an air fryer.

Runner-Up

With a simple design, consistent food quality, and customizable time and temperature, the Philips Avance is a good choice for anyone who wants to customize their cooking.

The Best Air Fryer

Air fryers are marketed as a healthier alternative to deep frying your food without dipping the food in oil, but the truth is they essentially bake the food instead. Rather than being a comparable alternative to deep frying, air fryers are more similar to convection ovens in both technology and results. But we still found two models that impressed us for being easy to use and coming close to the deep-fried taste and texture we were looking for.

The T-fal Actifry won us over with its self-stirring design that produced the most even cooking of any air fryer we tested. French fries came out crispy without being dehydrated, and the chicken was cooked to a nice, tender texture. The self-stirring also frees you up to focus on other things while waiting for your food instead of babysitting your air fryer. The T-fal is a little bigger than the other fryers we tested, but it makes up for its size by producing food that was crisped to perfection. And at only $150, the T-fal is one of the cheapest fryers we tested.

The Philips Avance HD9641 outperformed the remaining competition by a long shot. At $300, it’s about twice the price of our top pick, but it does have some valuable qualities we just didn’t find in the T-fal. The Avance boasts adjustable temperature settings ranging from 150-400 degrees, plus presets for commonly air-fried foods. If you like to tinker with your cooking settings, this is the air fryer for you. We also found that the Philips Avance was easier to clean up after cooking — without the hassle of taking apart basket pieces and scrubbing all those nooks and crannies, we were able to simply wipe down the Avance’s basket with a little warm water.

Top Picks for Air Fryer

Our top picks: the T-fal Actifry (left) and Philips Avance HD9641 (right).

Our Picks for the Best Air Fryer

Best Overall

T-fal ActifryA consistently high performer with convenient self-stirring tech.

At $150, the T-fal Actifry is half the price of our runner-up while still producing the best air fried food we tested. The T-fal came out on top for having some of the best and most consistent cooking across all of our tests, at half the price of its closest competition. Instead of the usual rapid air-circulation tech that keeps hot air constantly moving around the food, the T-fal uses pulsating heat technology to pump hot air periodically throughout the food, maintaining the temperature without drying things out. We initially thought the pulsating-heat tech was marketing nonsense, but we couldn’t argue with the results.

T-fal Fries for Air Fryer

The T-fal's frozen fries had a delightful crunch.

During our french fry cook-off, the Actifry excelled with homemade fries, getting closest to the crispy outside coating we were craving from deep frying. Other air fryers we tested could eventually produce a crispy outer layer, but not before the inside had begun to dry up. And although air frying vegetables was a flop across the board, we could actually stomach the T-fal’s broccoli and zucchini. The veggies tasted like they had been grilled and seemed almost like a mid-day, on-the-go snack — but they were still too dried up for any of our testers’ liking. The chicken strips were “light and fluffy” and pleasantly less oily than deep-fried chicken; however, the constant movement of the self-stirring mechanism slowly stripped some of the chicken of its breading, leaving pieces of bare chicken that were lacking their crunchy outer layer. But our testers still noted that the chicken “was cooked more evenly than in an oven.”

T-fal Interior for Air Fryer

The T-fal features a unique stirring arm that helps cook the food evenly.

Even though the chicken and the self-stirring didn’t mix well together, we still think the T-fal’s unique self-stirrer makes for a better air fryer. Unlike the other models that required us to take the basket out and shake every few minutes, we were able to leave the T-fal alone for the allotted cook time and carry on with our day. It was a win-win for convenience: We were spared an arm workout, and we didn’t have to babysit our air fryer. And at the end of it all, the T-fal still cooked the most evenly of all our products.

T-fal Stirring for Air Fryer

The one downside: T-fal doesn’t provide an automatic shut-off component for when the timer goes off, which means you have to remember to actually shut it off when you’re done — other air fryers did that automatically.

The T-fal was the only model we tested that stayed room-temperature across the entire surface, which helps keep children’s curious hands safe. It also requires two steps to open: Instead of simply pulling the handle to access the cooking bowl, we had to push and lift the handle and then press another side button to release the top. It wasn’t a complex maneuver, but it gave us a little more peace of mind when thinking about young ones trying to get to their fries early.

We were initially hesitant about the T-fal only having a single temperature setting: 338 degrees. We worried things might come out undercooked, but it turned out not to be a problem. Its unique pulsating heat technology and constant rotating of the food kept the results consistent. In fact, the preset temperature made using the T-fal slightly simpler to use. There was no fiddling with different temperatures — all we had to worry about was how long to cook our food.

Runner-Up

Philips Avance HD9641Patented air flow tech gives an even cook in a compact machine

The Philips Avance HD9641/96 soared through our first round of testing, cooking the frozen fries just as well as the T-fal Actifry. We loved how simple it was to operate: We could use one of the four preset options or just set our own temperature and time. And the Philips Avance offers much more customization with your cooking settings: Where the T-fal is set unwaveringly to 338 degrees, this air fryer can go anywhere from 150 to 400 degrees. If you’re the kind of person who likes to tinker with your settings to get things just right, we recommend the Philips Avance over the T-fal.

Accessorize your air fryer If you want to expand your air-frying horizons, Philips offers different kinds of baskets for specific food types or cooking purposes for a wider variety of cooking possibilities, including baked goods like muffins and cupcakes.

The Avance didn’t outperform our top pick with homemade fries, but it was still significantly better than our other air fryers, which either overcooked the fries or didn’t brown them enough to have much of any texture or taste. The Avance aced our chicken strip testing and was the overall favorite among our testers, with one saying they would even order them in a restaurant. We also appreciated the fact that we didn’t have to stir the strips at all during cooking: They came out perfectly crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside.

Chicken Close-Up for Air Fryer

Although the Avance didn’t do well with veggies — none of our air fryers did — the Avance’s broccoli still fared better than the Philips XL, probably because of the 300-watt difference in power between the two. The XL drastically overcooked our veggies, even after following the manual's guidelines. Instead of coming out grilled or roasted as advertised, the XL produced dehydrated and shriveled little veggie trees.

Philips Avance Interior for Air Fryer

The Philips Avance employs the same rapid air-circulation technology that most other air fryers do, but the swirling, starfish-like arms that cover the bottom of the bowl set it apart from the competition. These thick, raised wedges force the air to first spread out and then rise back up to the top, helping move the air more evenly around the bowl rather than simply blowing hot air into it. This technology may seem gimmicky at first glance, but we found it actually cooked the food more evenly than other air fryers. All our fries came out nice and crispy, unlike what we got from the Avalon Bay or GoWise USA: a layer of burned fries on top of undercooked ones.

Another handy element we found in the starfish design is that oil and food fragments gather in neat little piles at the bottom of the basket, allowing us to simply wipe it all down in a flash for quick cleaning.

The Philips Avance was a breeze to operate and handle. With its removable grill bottom and a detachable basket, we were able to hand clean the entire contraption with very little effort and time. Like the T-fal, this Philips’ surface area also stayed the coolest out of our finalists. We were able to easily pick it up and bring it over to the sink after cooking, feeling only the slightest warmth from the sides of the machine.

Did You Know?

Fluoropolymers get a bad rap, but they’re not always dangerous.

In the beginning of our research, we were concerned with fluoropolymer non-stick material (aka Teflon), which has the potential to be hazardous if it melts and gets into the air where it can be inhaled. But with a little digging, we found that these non-stick materials actually have a seriously high melting point of 620 degrees Fahrenheit — a temperature far higher than any of our air fryers can reach. And as the American Cancer Society explains: “Other than the possible risk of flu-like symptoms from breathing in fumes from an overheated Teflon-coated pan, there are no known risks to humans from using Teflon-coated cookware.”

Even oil-free air fryers need a little greasing up.

Some air fryers claim to be oil-free, meaning you don’t need to use any oil while cooking as opposed to the commonly suggested 1 tablespoon. While you don’t technically have to use oil in these products for functionality purposes, we recommend using some oil if you’re going for the traditional fried food texture. Some sources we read suggested using a spray-on oil instead of just drizzling it directly on the food. This can help spread the oil over a larger area more evenly, crisping up the food more effectively.

Putting some extra time into cleaning will pay off over time.

Although all the air fryers we tested are technically dishwasher safe, our research suggested washing any non-stick surface by hand with warm, soapy water. A dishwasher’s high water heat combined with the abrasive chemicals found in detergent can wear down the non-stick coating over time. You should also avoid using a harsh material like steel wool, which will have the same effect — ultimately ruining the surface of your cookware.

The Best Air Fryer Summed Up

Air Fryer
The Best
T-Fal Actifry
Best Overall
Philips Avance HD9641
Runner-Up