As I mentioned in my article on how to choose an air fryer, the first step is deciding if you would prefer a basket style air fryer, or an air fryer oven. If you’re reading this page, you’ve already decided that the original air fryer design, with a drawer that pulls out is the right air fryer for you.
Because this was the original configuration for air fryers, there are currently many different brands of air fryers out there on the market. I am not recommending any brand in particular, but I can speak to the different features in air fryers that you may or may not want in your own kitchen and what I like in mine.
Looks DO Matter
First of all, let’s talk about the obvious features of this style of air fryer. These little space-ship-like, egg-shaped appliances are pretty cool-looking. That’s a good thing because they are probably going to sit out on your countertop. With that said, it is important that you like the look of the appliance. If you don’t like how it looks, you’ll probably hide it away in a cabinet and be less likely to use it. The appliances that we keep out on the counter are the ones we use. So, make sure you do like the look of the air fryer first of all.
There are advantages to their compact appearance and design:
- They take up as little space as possible.
- The exterior doesn’t really get dirty and it is easy to wipe down and keep clean.
- You are never looking inside a dirty appliance because there is no viewing window.
- They make a great conversation starter to anyone who comes into your kitchen and doesn’t have an air fryer!
Size Matters Too!
Size, or capacity, is probably the most important feature to consider with this style of air fryer. You can find air fryers as small as 2 quarts in capacity and as large as 9 or 10 quarts, with the most popular sizes being right in the middle – 3 to 5 quarts. Obviously, the larger the capacity of the air fryer, the larger the footprint of the appliance and the more room it will take on your countertop, so make this decision wisely.
Here are the questions you should ask yourself:
- How many people do you usually cook for?
- It’s just you – 3-quart or smaller air fryer
- Family of 2 – at least a 3-quart air fryer or larger
- Family of 4 or more – at least a 5-quart air fryer
- Do you want to cook large cut of meat or whole chickens?
- Yes – go for the 5-quart or larger
- Do you mind cooking food in batches?
- If you don’t mind cooking in batches, 3-quart air fryers will suit you fine.
- If you want to minimize how many batches of food you cook, look for at least 5-quarts in size.
Digital or Dials?
The next feature to consider, which differs on different brands of air fryers, is whether the controls are digital or manual. Some air fryers have a digital read out, while others control the temperature and the time using dials that you have to manually turn. How accurate the actual air fryer is to the true temperature and time depends more on the actual brand of air fryer and unit, but I find that digital controls allow me to be as accurate as possible. Setting a manual dial for an “in between time” like 6 or 8 minutes is not always easy and you can’t count on the user being that precise.
Of course, there is a price increase with digital controls, so you decide if the convenience of a digital read out is important to you.
The last point to consider when choosing your air fryer is the basket style. There are three different styles that I have seen on the market. The first (pictured here) is a mesh style basket. The bottom of the basket is made of a wire mesh that removes for cleaning. The mesh allows for more air to circulate around the food, giving you a better crisping ability. The down side to the mesh is that it can be a challenge to cook foods that require some support underneath them, like a personal pizza or these apple cranberry brie bites. The mesh base can also be a challenge to clean, but because it is not non-stick, you can really scrub at it without concern.
The second style of air fryer basket has a perforated base. This base has holes punched through the base. Not as much air circulates around the food this way, but it does provide the food inside more support.
Finally, the last style of basket is not a basket at all, but a rack in the bottom of the air fryer drawer instead. This rack elevates the food from the base of the drawer, but you can’t remove the food from the drawer by lifting the basket out. This is how many air fryer brands increase capacity of the air fryer without increasing the exterior dimensions of the appliance. I’m not a fan of this style because the air does not circulate around the food as easily and you have to remove all the food by hand (think one chicken wing at a time…). You can’t just dump the food out because you’ll also be dumping out all the grease that lies in the drawer below.
So, in summary, here is what you need to think about:
- Appearance – make sure you like the look of it.
- Size – pick a size that suits your family size and cooking style.
- Digital or Dials – decide if digital control is worth the extra cost (it is to me).
- Basket style – mesh or perforated basket (because a basket is better than a rack).
Once you’ve decided what matters to you, then you can start to explore brand and price tag.
So, you have your beautiful new air fryer sitting on your counter! Congratulations! Now you need to know what foods are really suited to air frying. Browse through the air frying recipes section of the website to find all sorts of meals and snacks designed just for your new toy.
If you’d like to figure out how to convert your favorite traditional recipes to the air fryer, click here for a lesson on converting recipes. If you like to cook without a recipe, you’ll find the cooking time charts super helpful. Or, if you’re looking for some tips to get the most out of your new kitchen helper, click here!