If you are trying to eat healthier, but are having a hard time completely giving up fried foods, the T-fal-ActiFry-Low-Fat-Dishwasher-Multi-Cooker is your answer. Using no more than one tablespoon of oil to make two pounds of delicious, crispy French fires the T-Fal offers the best value compared to other brands of air fryers. Our tests show that the T-Fal can cook the same quality food, and often in larger quantities, than it’s more expensive counterparts. Sold with a cook book that includes 38 delicious recipes, it ensures you are never going to get bored of eating healthier, and won’t regret getting rid of your deep fryer.
When we started comparing air fryers, it wasn’t easy to narrow down the options. Most of the air fryers on the market provide fairly similar features without too much of a price difference. One of the biggest advantages the T-fal-ActiFry-Low-Fat-Dishwasher-Multi-Cooker has over any other brand is the unique stirring paddle it offers. It is also one of the largest air fryers on the market, with a 2.2 pound food capacity and features a digital countdown timer with buzzer.
If the T-Fal is unavailable, another great option that is worth considering is our runner up, the Philips-HD9230-56-AirFryer-Technology . Although it holds less than the t-fal, holding just 1.8 lbs of food and costs significantly more, it has an adjustable temperature setting and comes with a double layer rack which enables you to cook two foods at once.
Budget Pick: Big Boss 1300 Watt Oil-less Fryer
If both the T-Fal and the Phillips HD9230 aren’t available, or you are just looking for an air fryer to have on hand for occasional use, the BIG BOSS 1300-Watt Oil-Less Fryer While the Big Boss is not dishwasher friendly and is heavier, it is more budget friendly.
How do Air fryers Work?
An air fryer has the ability to give you foods that taste fried while using up to 80% less oil. The air fryer works by using a mechanical fan to circulate the hot air, up to 400°F, around the food at a high speed and using the Maillard Effect (explained below) to produce a crispy layer on the food. This results in food that is crispy on the outside and deliciously well cooked on the inside.
What in the world is the Maillard Effect?!?
The Maillard (my-YAR) Effect, also known as the Maillard Reaction is the chemical reaction that causes browning, but more importantly, it is the reason behind the characteristic smells and taste of roasted, baked and fried foods. Simply put, it rearranges the amino acids and certain simple sugars which will then appear brown. It also creates molecules that which provide the aroma. What starts as a simple reaction quickly becomes complicated as the molecules continue reacting.
What is important to know though, is that the Maillard Reaction is what distinguishes the differences in the flavours of boiled or poached foods from grilled and roasted foods. It requires food to be cooked at high temperatures, quickly enough so as not to overcook the interior, which is exactly what air fryers do.
Why is Air Frying Healthier than Deep Frying?
There are a few reasons why using an air fryer produces healthier foods than a Deep Fryer. The first, and most obvious, is that the deep fryer is using hot oil to cook the food. This encourages the oil to go into the food. While deep fryers are supposed to seal the outside of food to prevent oil from going into the food, this only works when the oil is at a high enough temperature, and it definitely is a fool proof science. The outside of your food is still going to be oily and greasy however, even if the interior isn’t. Since the air fryer uses such hot air to cook the food, not only does it cook with less oil but it also expels oil from the foods you are cooking while retaining moisture.
The second reason air fryers are so much healthier is that you now it is easier to use healthier oils. Healthier oils tend to be more expensive. Since a deep fryer requires so much oil, that needs to be changes on a regular basis, people tend to grab the cheapest, bulk oil they can. This is often the least healthy option. Which makes the unhealthy deep fried foods, even unhealthier. Since the air fryer uses a tablespoon or less of oil, it is no longer as overwhelming to your pocketbook to choose the healthier oils.
Why you should buy an air fryer
Aside from being healthier, an air fryer is also a more economical choice over a deep fryer. Since you aren’t going to be emptying and refilling your deep fryer over and over with oil, you are going to be saving money on the oil you are purchasing, even when you switch to a healthier oil.
Air fryers don’t just make French fries. They can make almost anything, fresh or frozen, from sausages and chicken to vegetables and more. A lot of models come with cook books, but there are also numerous recipes you can find online.
All of the air fryers we looked at emit no frying odors. Unlike a deep fryer which has a very distinct oily smell, the air fryers allows you to smell the food you are cooking without smelling hot oil. There are also no oil splatters all over the kitchen, because you aren’t cooking your foods in oil.
Air fryers are also quick to use and clean. An air fryer requires no time to heat up, you can turn it on and use it, and clean-up is a breeze, since almost all air fryers have dishwasher safe parts. Since there are no oil splatters, you also aren’t going to have to clean your entire kitchen.
What can I cook in an air fryer?
An air fryer is a pretty diverse cooking tool. You aren’t limited to only cooking your typical deep fried foods. You can also roast potatoes, cook your vegetables and even make meatballs, pork chops and even foods like chili and spaghetti sauce in the T-Fal because it offers a ceramic coated non-stick pan. Because of its unique cooking method, you are even able to bake in your air fryer. Baking muffins and cupcakes in your air fryer will result in fluffier, softer baked goods then what you would get in an oven. This is because the air circulation works in a similar way to a convection oven which provides a much better cooking process then the traditional oven.
There are lots of places you can go to get recipes for the air fryer. A simple internet search will bring up sites with lots of options. There are also cookbooks you can purchase online as well as from book stores with even more options. Of course, you can also get creative and make up your own recipes and cooking ideas.
What kind of oil should I use in my cooking?
You can use any type of oil you want in your air fryer. But some oils are healthier than other oils. Since you are using such a small amount of oil, you should purchase the healthiest oil to help you achieve all the benefits of using the air fryer. Some oils withstand heat better than others. It is important to select oils with a high smoke point (the temperature that causes enough volatile compounds to emerge and create a bluish smoke). You also want an oil that doesn’t react with oxygen when it is heated.
You want to use an oil that is primarily saturated and monounsaturated fats, and avoid oils that contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fats, which tend to react with oxygen and form harmful compounds when exposed to high heat.
Coconut oil is the best choice when coking at high heats. Since coconut oil is semi solid at room temperature, it can last for a long time before going rancid. Over 90% of the fatty acids found in coconut oil are saturated. Coconut oil also has health benefits such as the ability to improve cholesterol and offer a slight boost to your metabolism.
Another great choice is extra virgin olive oil. Well known for its healthy effects on the heart, it also has refined antioxidants and contains nutrients. The downfall to extra virgin olive oil is that it has a more distinct flavor and fragrance than coconut oil which may be off-putting to some people.
Some oils to avoid are vegetable oils including soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil. Using these oils at high temperatures is more likely to result in large amounts of oxidized fatty acids and harmful compounds.
Other Advantages to an Air Fryer
Air fryers are easily portable. This means that if you are going to a house party, or a potluck, you can bring your air fryer with you and make fresh hot food. Since it is so easy to use, and most have a timer, you don’t need to stand over top of your fryer while it cooks. Just listen for the timer to sound and soon everyone will be enjoying hot, fresh, fried food.
An air fryer is able to cook foods from frozen. Which means that on those days you need a quick meal and forgot to pull anything out to thaw, you can still have a quick meal. While it will take a couple minutes longer to cook then thawed foods, the quality of the food is going to be just as good cooking from frozen.
How We Picked
Choosing the best air fryer didn’t come down to what air fryer cooked the best food. In fact, all of the air fryers were pretty much equal when it came down to the quality of the food.
To make our decisions we had to look at other factors. The factors we considered included price and features. Some of the important features we considered are as follows:
Timers and alarms: Having a timer to time your food cooking is important. One of the main advantages to using an air fryer is that you can walk away from it while it is cooking and not need to worry about your food burning. An alarm to let you know when your timer is up ensures that your food isn’t getting cold because you forgot to pay attention to when the timer went off.
How the air fryers cooked: Most of the air fryers had mesh baskets that allowed the hot air to move around the food and cook it. The downfall to the mesh basket is that if it is over-filled the foods in the middle may not come out as crispy as the food on the outside. This means that you would have to move the food around yourself in order to ensure even cooking.
Size: Air Fryers come in different sizes. Some can only cook enough for one person at a time while others allow you to cook for two or more people. Even people who live on their own, often don’t want a single person cooking tool, as this is ineffective if they have company.
Appearance: No one wants to have a huge bulky appliance in their kitchen. Not only is it almost impossible to find the storage space for it, but when it is on the counter it is an eye sore. Most air fryers have a very futuristic appearance.
Customer reviews: Most people only leave reviews when they are dissatisfied with a product and they want to prevent people from making the same mistake. Many people don’t bother to take the time to leave reviews of things they liked. On that note though, when people absolutely love a product, they are more likely to leave reviews.
The Best Air Fryer Overall: T-Fal FZ7002 Actifry
The T-fal ActiFry was definitely our top choice. With a simple two button operation, an on/off switch and digital countdown timer with buzzer, it’s by far the easiest of the air fryers to use. The digital timer can go up to 99 minutes which definitely the highest timer is setting among air fryers. Even though there likely isn’t a recipe requiring a 99 minute cook time, it is a great advantage to have the flexibility to set the timer to whatever time you need. All parts are dishwasher safe, including the detachable lid and it includes a custom spoon to measure the oil.
The T-Fal also offered one thing that no other air fryer did. A revolutionary, removable stirring paddle that ensures all of your food is cooked to perfection. The stirring paddle allows T-Fal users to focus their attention on other things while their food is cooking without needing to return to flip or stir their food.
The fact the paddle is removable allows you to make battered foods without worrying about all the breading coming off when it is moved around with the paddle.
Measuring 16.7 inches by 13.6 inches by 9.4 inches and weighing only 8.9 lbs, the T-Fal is easy to find storage for and doesn’t overwhelm your counter or table top when it is in use.
If you are unsure that the cooking time in a recipe you are following is accurate, the T-Fal has a steam free lid and viewing window which allows you to peek in at your food anytime you want to without having to stop the cooking process to check on things.
Flaws but Not Deal breakers
The T-fal ActiFry Low Fat Dishwasher Multi Cooker isn’t without its flaws. Unlike most of its counterparts, the T-Fal doesn’t offer a wire basket to allow you to cook breaded foods. This isn’t the end of the world though, as if you removed the paddle and set the timer in intervals you can flip the foods by hand and achieve the same quality.
Another thing the T-Fal doesn’t have that some other models do, is an adjustable temperature control. The T-Fal advertises that it uses an optimum temperature to cook any food. In our experience this is true, while some of the cook times may be a bit longer because you can’t turn the heat up, the food turns our perfect every time if you follow the recipes in the cookbook.
Step up Pick: Philips HD9230/56
Philips HD9230-56 AirFryer
A more expensive option to our main pick is the Philips HD9230, which has even more useful advanced features making it our number one choice for a step-up pick. It is significantly more expensive than our first choice, but it does offer a few things that the T-fal doesn’t. The Philips air fryer offers an intuitive control panel that allows you to select the temperature you want to cook your food at, which can lead to faster cook times.
The faster cook times are offset by the smaller basket. Having just a 1.8lb capacity compared to the T-Fals 2.2lb capacity, it is almost 20% smaller.
The Philips air fryer also comes with a top grill to help ensure uniform cooking and browning to foods that are breaded.
Budget Pick: Big Boss 1300 Watt Oil-less Fryer
BIG BOSS 1300-Watt Oil-Less Fryer is another great choice. As long as you don’t mind washing the fryer by hand. Similar to our top picks, the Big Boss quickly cooks foods that are fresh or frozen in a healthier way. It comes with two trays allowing multiple foods to be cooked at the same time.
The design of the Big Boss is significantly less sleek looking then the other models we chose, and is also bulkier and heavier. However, if you don’t plan on using the air fryer very often the size and weight of the Big Boss is outweighed by the low price point.
Another thing that we noticed with the Big Boss compared to our top choices was that it does emit a lot of heat while it is being used, which is going to warm up your kitchen.
Also from Philips but significantly less expensive is the Philips HD9220/26 AirFryer. It is almost identical to the one we selected for our runner up, except it only has a 30 minute timer on it compared to the 60 minute timer offered by the Philips 9230/56. The 30 minute timer may not seem like too big of an issue, but most of the recipes we found required 30-40 minutes of cook time. The benefits of the timer feature are irrelevant if you need to use an external timer to time the food you are cooking.
Best Air Fryer with Timer
Another great choice, but also with only a 30 minute timer, is the GoWISE USA GW22621. The GoWise offers 7 built-in smart programs that will program a time and temperature for you if you are cooking chips, meat, chicken, steak, shrimp or fish. It also gives you the option to program the settings on your own. While that may seem like enough to make it our top pick, the GoWise has a mesh basket which limits the food you can cook and it doesn’t have the paddle that the Actifry offers.
The BLACK+DECKER HF100WD is another excellent choice. Coming with a 60 minute timer and variable temperature control the only reason this isn’t one of our top picks is it doesn’t come with a wire rack or a mixing paddle which means you will need to move your food around during cooking to ensure an even crispness of your food.
The Glip AF800 Oil-Less Air Fryer features a roasting plate that allows you to cook just about any food. From burgers and fries to calamari and pork chops. Unfortunately, it only features a thirty minute timer which may restrict some of your cooking options. It is also a lesser known brand with very limited online reviews, which leaves us cautious to the long term quality of the product.
Best Dishwasher Safe Air Fryer
The Farberware Multi functional Powerful Versatile Splatter is dishwasher safe and is one of the few options that comes with a cookbook. On the down side, it only has a 30 minute timer. It is also the only air fryer that requires preheating before being used. One of the biggest appeals to the air fryer is that you don’t need to preheat it before use, this is lost with this model.
Best Non-Stick Air Fryer
The Avalon Bay AB Airfryer100R Airfryer offers a non-stick mesh metal basket that is dishwasher safe as well as a temperature control. This was a top contender for one of the top spots in our reviews, but unfortunately this air fryer only features a 30 minute timer.
What Should I Look For In An Air Fryer?
You really can’t go wrong with any of the air fryers that are currently on the market. The biggest differences among them are the timer lengths, whether the temperature is adjustable, and the type of basket they offer. To choose the best air fryer for you there are a few things you should take into consideration before you chose one.
If you have a large family, you are going to want to choose one that has a larger cooking basket. If you select one with a smaller basket you are going to end up having to cook multiple times in your air fryer before you have enough for your whole family. This may mean you have to keep your food warm, which can dry it out. The other possible options are that someone is eating cold food, or you aren’t able to sit and eat as a family.
The timer is a huge factor to consider. Selecting an air fryer that only has a thirty minute timer is going to limit the cooking options you have. While a lot of recipes call for 15-30 minutes, there are also a significant amount of recipes that require a 30+ minute cook time. Choosing a fryer with a longer cook time will enable you to cook anything you want without the need for an external timer.
The size of the air fryer itself is also an important factor. If you are limited in storage and counter space you are going to want to really look at the physical size of the different options. All of the air fryers on the market come in around 10-12 lbs, but the dimensions of each can vary widely.
The option of an adjustable temperature may be a benefit or a drawback. If you are the type of person who likes to have total control over every aspect of your cooking, the control will definitely be beneficial to your cooking experience. If, however, you prefer to have the simplicity of knowing that your food is being cooked at an optimal temperature every time you use your air fryer, then one that has a pre-set temperature is definitely for you.
If you do choose to get one that has a temperature control, you want to choose one that has a maximum temperature of at least 390°F. The higher the temperature you cook at the more similar to fried foods you cooking is going to be.
Wrapping it up
With obesity rates being on the rise in the United States, many people are looking for ways to get healthier. A popular option is fad diets. The downfall is people will cheat on these diets. They end up craving the foods they shouldn’t be eating and get stuck in an endless circle of losing weight just to gain it back.
An air fryer is a great way to get all the flavors of the foods you crave without the all the extra unhealthy fats, it becomes even easier when you select the right oils. The T-fal ActiFry Low Fat Dishwasher Multi Cooker is a great choice of air fryer. If you don’t need the size of the T-Fal and you really want to be able to control the temperature and time of your cooking the Philips HD9230/56 is a great choice to go with. Finally, if you are on a tight budget and still want the option to eat healthier the Big Boss will provide healthy eating for a fraction of the cost.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.