Best air fryers for making healthier versions of fried foods

Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored
Updated Wed August 1, 2018

Story highlights

  • Air fryers imitate fried foods but use little or no oil for a healthier alternative
  • Many models can also bake, roast and grill foods

Life is too short to skip the foods you love most. For some, fried foods are the one splurge that they can't seem to live without.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then, in moderation. The issue with these fatty food options is that eating them too frequently can sometimes lead to health issues. And even if that's not the case, the guilt we feel after giving in to the temptation of a greasy meal was enough to send us searching for an alternative.

When we say an alternative, we aren't suggesting that you never eat fried foods again. After all, french fries and fried dumplings are some of the best foods known to man. Instead, we went looking for a new way to prep fried food classics that cuts back on grease and fat, but still offers that same satisfaction.

What we landed on is pretty close to genius. If you haven't already, say hello to the air fryer, a device that uses way less oil for "up to 90% less fat" depending on the model used.

How does the air fryer work? The way this appliance creates a fried-like result is by circulating air around the food. Using just a few tablespoons of oil, the air fryer acts as a countertop convection oven to create browned, crisp fried foods at home.

As with most kitchen appliances, the quality of your air fryer will usually depend on how much you're willing to spend. The model you choose does make all the difference. And so, depending on how serious you are about perfecting your culinary creations, you may want to spend a bit more on your fryer.

Here, we've included a range of the best air fryers paired with air fryer reviews. These are the top models we came across while scouring the market. Here's to finally adding crispy fries to your movie night snack lineup.

1. GoWise USA 5.8-Quarts 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL ($93.30; amazon.com)

This device is called the 8-in-1 Air Fryer XL because, like many fryers, it can do it all. With little to no oil, it can fry, bake, grill, and roast most anything from crispy fried chicken to steak, french fries, pizza and more. What sets it apart is that it costs less than $100 — many can run much higher — and it is the No. 1 best-selling air fryer on Amazon.

2. GoWise USA 3.7-Quarts Programmable Air Fryer ($69.93; amazon.com)

For those who just want to see what the air frying trend is all about, we'd recommend this smaller GoWise option. It's super affordable at just $70 and takes up far less counter space than the 5.8-quart option. Also a best-selling air fryer on Amazon, this programmable fryer has eight ready-to-go presets, including warm, fries/chips, chicken, steak, shrimp, pork, cake and fish. Or you can hit a timer and set the cooking temperature for a more manual approach.

3. 3.7-Quart Air Fryer by Cozyna with Air Fryer Cookbooks ($79.99; amazon.com)

This one is similar to the others in that it can make a number of fried creations using a fraction of the oil of traditional frying. Biggest differences include that it's dishwasher safe, it comes with two cookbooks filled with air fryer recipes, and it received more than 1,200 reviews from happy customers, rating it an average 4.4 out of 5 stars. When you consider most people are rating it based on how close it gets to authentic fried food, that's a pretty darn good review for this air-circulating crisper.

4. Philips HD9630/98 Avance XXL Twin Turbostar Airfryer ($299.95, originally $349.95; amazon.com)

This Philips HD9630/98 Avance XXL air fryer is the big kahuna of air fryers. Still following the same principles of using very little oil to make fried food creations, this model has a 3-pound capacity, meaning it can handle more food than your average air fryer. That means when the kids bring over friends, you won't have to make several batches of fries. Instead, simply whip up one batch and join everyone on the couch for movie night. As an added plus, this model is also an Amazon's Choice product — a title given to only the best Amazon products.

5. KRUPS AJ1000US Air Fryer Low-Fat with Adjustable Temperature ($89.99; amazon.com)

Available via Amazon, the KRUPS Air Fryer is a Prime eligible item, meaning Prime members can have it shipped at no cost within a day. It features 3D Air Pulse Technology that operates using an upper heating element and an optimized airflow, ensuring healthy, rapid, and easy cooking. In addition to frying, the KRUPS Air Fryer allows users to grill, roast and bake yummy "fried" concoctions. Other features include a 2.5-liter capacity, 30-minute timer and dishwasher safe parts.

Our team tested this particular fryer and were blown away by the results. Within minutes, we'd whipped up air-fried avocado fries — a healthy, satisfying treat. Most notably, we noticed that this device is easy to assemble, operates quietly and emits very little smell when cooking.

Air fryer recipe books to help you get started:

My Philips AirFryer Cookbook: 100 Fun & Tasty Recipes For Healthier Families ($12.59; amazon.com)

My GoWISE USA Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Amazing Recipes for Smart People ($11.59; amazon.com)

Air Fryer Cookbook: 550 Recipes For Every Day. Healthy and Delicious Meals ($10.41; amazon.com)

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.