If you’re looking to be a little healthier in 2019, it makes sense to start in the kitchen


But aside from altering what you eat, you may also want to alter how you cook it.

Air fryers are one such gadget that claims to cook the food you love, but in a much healthier way. Requiring little or no oil, the counter-top ‘fryers’ are convection ovens that circulate heat to cook your food. Cooking items often much quicker than a regular oven, giving them a crispy texture, the results are similar to frying, but with significantly less fat. They’re also less messy than frying and easy to keep clean.

And they’re versatile, able to cope with anything from traditional fried food, to meat and fish, pizza dough and even cupcakes. Simply place the food inside, spray with oil if directed (though many items don’t need it) and set your temperature and timer. Most fryers will require you to take your food out and shake it part way through to ensure even cooking.

Prices for air fryers vary greatly depending on the size of the fryer, and how many settings it has. Things to consider when looking for the right one for you is how many people you intend to regularly cook for, and whether you’re looking to use it for cooking items such as chips and bread-crumbed food, or whether you want to ‘roast’ bigger items, such as a whole chicken.

We evaluated our machines, not only based on how well they cooked a range of foods, but also on ease of use, appearance, value for money, and crucially for a counter-top item that you may want to keep out or put in the cupboard, how bulky they were or not. Here’s our round-up of the best.
Power Air Fryer XL
£94.99, High Street TV
Best for: All-round healthier cooking

Key specs – Dimensions: 35.3cm (d) x 35.3cm (w) x 39.6cm (h); Capacity: 5 litres; Power: 1700W; Max temp: 200°C/400°F; Settings: 7; Accessories: Baking tray, basket divider, recipe book; Dishwasher safe: Some parts

With seven different cooking functions, the Power Air Fryer represents great value for money. According to its makers, this machine can air-fry, grill, bake, sauté, roast and steam. Family-size at a generous five litres, there’s plenty of space inside too.

Handy accessories, such as a baking tray and basket divider, mean that you can cook several different items at once, making it even more family-friendly. And the seven pre-set functions cover popular items, such as French fries, roasts, shrimp, bake, chicken, steak and fish, set at the optimum time and temperature.

The results were crispy on the outside, while the food items we tried remained moist and fluffy on the inside. That said, this egg-shaped machine does take up a fair bit of space, so won’t be for everyone, though it is also available in a smaller 3.2 litre format.
BuyTefal AH960840 Actifry Genius XL Healthy Air Fryer
£167 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Great-tasting food

Key specs – Dimensions: 47.6cm (d) x 32.8cm (w) x 26.3cm (h); Capacity: 1.7kg; Power: 1500W; Max temp: 220°c/428°F; Settings: 9; Accessories: 300 recipe ideas via the Actifry app; Dishwasher safe: Some parts

This is one high-tech gadget, which is reflected in the higher price point of this machine. Tefal’s air fryer is all about intuitive settings, and ease of use. While most fryers require you to remove the food part-way through to shake and check on cooking progress, Tefal’s does it for you with a stirring tool and window in the lid allowing you to check on your food.

There’s also nine automatic programs – chips, breaded snacks, battered snacks, rolls, meat and veg balls, chicken, wok, world cuisine, and desserts – and a touchscreen display, which makes using the machine nice and easy. Food was well cooked, crispy on the outside, moist in the middle.

You can also set a delayed timer for up to nine hours, while a keep-warm function automatically kicks in after three minutes. However, we found the stirring arm did have the tendency to knock the crumbs off bread crumbed items. And there’s no getting around the fact that the shape and size of this machine makes it a little awkward, as the housing for the display unit sticks out pretty far from the rest of the fryer. However, this has to be one of the most sophisticated, user-friendly and well thought out machines we tested.
BuyVonShef 5L Air Fryer
£64.99, VonShef
Best for: Value for money

Key specs – Dimensions: 35.5cm (d) x 35.5cm (w) x 38.5cm (h); Capacity: 5 litres; Power: 2000W; Max temp: 200°C/400°F; Settings: 0; Accessories: 3 recipe ideas; Dishwasher safe: No

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Stylish, with copper-coloured features, the VonShef air fryer looks good. And simple to operate, it’s easy to use too. Unlike more expensive models, there’s no pre-set functions or digital displays here. Instead the fryer operates via two dials, one for time and one for temperature, while a cooking guide on the top of the unit and in the accompanying instruction booklet provides guidance for commonly cooked items.

We found this air fryer to be a lot quieter during cooking than many of the others we tested. And don’t be misled by its simplicity; this fryer cooked food just as well as more expensive models, though we did note that items took slightly longer to cook.

And, with an 800g-capacity basket, it’s perfect for family cooking. However, it feels a lot chunkier than some of the other, more simple fryers on our list, though the brand also offers a 1.5 and 3.5 litre machine.
BuyLakeland Touchscreen Air Fryer
£79.99, Lakeland
Best for: Space saving

Key specs – Dimensions: 27cm (d) x 32.5cm (w) x 34.5cm (h); Capacity: 2.6 litre; Power: 1300W; Max temp: 200°C; Settings: 0; Accessories: 0; Dishwasher safe: Some parts

This fryer gets points for its size and simple matt black appearance, which is a lot more attractive than a number of other air fryers we tested. Simple and no-frills, there’s no recipes provided, except a guide to making homemade chips. And the only real difference between this and other simple machines on our list was its digital screen over dial controls.

But the results during testing were impressive, with food cooked well and the unit not getting as hot as many of the other models we tried. We were also impressed with its slim appearance, which meant that it fits much more easily on a counter-top if you did wish to keep it out.

However, the drawback to the space-saving design is a smaller cooking basket. Whereas many machines can handle up to 700g of food, this fryer has a maximum capacity of 500g. But it’s perfectly fine for those cooking for just one or two people.
BuyWilko Air Fryer with Removable Basket
£40, Wilko
Best for: Size vs value

Key specs – Dimensions: 33.5cm (d) x 28.5cm (w) x 31.0cm (h); Capacity: 4 litres; Power: 1400W; Max temp: 200°C; Settings: 0; Accessories: 0; Dishwasher safe: 3-litre cooking basket, grill tray

With a four-litre capacity, this fryer is quite a bit bigger than many other fryers, especially with budget options. And yet the design is still compact enough to sit on your counter top. Made with versatility in mind, there’s a dual capacity non-stick four-litre pot, ideal when cooking for four, and a removable three-litre basket for when cooking for one to two people, and a little wire rack is included for grilling.

The main difference with this and other pricier models is the dial controls, rather than a digital screen. And whereas other fryers have a 60-minute cooking timer, this one extends just up to 30 minutes. We also found the unit got pretty hot while cooking, so you may want to keep some space around it if keeping it on the counter. But for the price, we really couldn’t fault it.
BuySalter EK2205 Healthy Digital Hot-Air Fryer
£65.99, Robert Dyas
Best for: Recipe inspiration

Key specs – Dimensions: 31.4cm (d) x 31.4cm (w) x 35.9cm (h); Capacity: 4.5 litres; Power: 1400W; Max temp: 200°C; Settings: 0; Accessories: Recipe book; Dishwasher safe: Some parts

If you’re looking for some meal ideas, as well as healthier ways to cook them, then this might be the choice for you. This Salter air fryer comes with a 22-page recipe book to help you decide what to have for dinner, including grilled prawns coated with butter and garlic, tandoori chicken and duck stir fry, among others.

We found the unit got pretty hot during use. And though the instructions recommended pre-heating the machine for three to five minutes during use, we found we didn’t need to. This air fryer actually seemed to cook items quicker than other machines we tested. And with a 4.5-litre non-stick cooking basket, it’s big enough to cook for the family.
BuyMorphy Richards 480004 Air Fryer
£79.98, Currys
Best for: Pre-set cooking

Key specs – Dimensions: 33.7 cm (d) x 27.9 cm (w) x 31.3cm (h); Capacity: 3 litres; Power: 1400W; Max temp: 200°C; Settings: 10; Accessories: 0; Dishwasher safe: No

Fry, bake, roast or grill with this great-value fryer. With 10 pre-set functions, the Morphy Richards unit is designed to do the work for you, with each setting set to the optimum temperature and time for everything from chips to chicken, vegetables, pizza and cupcakes.

And usefully, and unlike other machines, there’s also a defrost setting. With a large cooking pan, it’s also suitable for serving up to four people. However, the touch screen isn’t the most responsive and felt a little clunky to use. But overall, if you’re looking for something to do the work for you, this is the machine for you.
BuyCookworks Health Fryer
£66, Amazon
Best for: Small kitchens

Key specs – Dimensions: 34.5cm (d) x 27cm (w) x 34.5cm (h); Capacity: 0.7kg; Power: 1300W; Max temp: 200°C; Settings: 0; Accessories: 0; Dishwasher safe: No

While this certainly isn’t the prettiest fryer on our list, it’s certainly practical. The cylindrical design looks akin to a large kettle and there’s no digital display or pre-settings here. But though simple, the cooking results were great, with food crisped on the outside and moist in the middle.

It also comes with a recipe for home-cooked chips, but otherwise the instructions and cooking guide are a little sparse. And the machine only cooks for up to 30 minutes. It’s basic, sure, but it cooks food perfectly.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in December 2018.
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