There are a few different types of air fryers and each one has advantages and disadvantages, so learning more about them helps you determine which one is best for you. Manufacturers continue to release new models and improve old models, so the field grows and changes all the time.
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer cooks food by using a fan to circulate hot air around it at a high speed. The food is lightly coated with cooking oil and the circulating hot air mimics the effect of submerging the food in hot oil. The result is delicious fried food with a fraction of the fat and effort of traditional deep fat frying.
When Was the Air Fryer Invented?
Home air fryers hit the market in 2007 when Tefal released Actifry. This paddle type model quickly become popular around the world and revolutionized the way people view frying. Philips debuted the basket type air fryer in 2010 and continues to dominate the field of basket air fryers. Increasing numbers of home cooks continue to turn to air fryers as an alternative to deep fat frying.
Types of Air Fryers
All air fryers have a heating unit and a fan to circulate the hot air around the food, but each type offers a unique approach.
The following list includes the main types of air fryers.
Basket type air fryers cook food in a basket. Simply place the food in the basket, put the basket in the air fryer, and turn on the machine. This easy-to-use appliance is a versatile favorite that works well with many dishes.
- Usually, have a handle for ease of use
- Gentle on battered and coated foods like onion rings
- Fewer moving parts means this type of air fryer often lasts longer
- Usually, require you to toss food at intervals during the cooking process
Basket type fryers are currently the most popular type of air fryer. They are commonly an egg shape with a removable basket and basket housing to catch grease. The basket and basket housing are often dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Models often come with a divider so you can cook two different foods at once. This makes them a great choice for small spaces like dorm rooms, RVs, and studio apartments.
Choose this type of air fryer if you’re looking for something easy to use that can fry a variety of foods. Just remember to keep on eye on the cooking process and turn the food occasionally.
For a kitchen appliance that does more than air fry, consider an oven type air fryer. Depending on the model, these units also broil, bake, grill, roast, dehydrate, and steam.
- Perform multiple cooking functions
- Don’t heat up the kitchen like a regular oven
- Can cook more than one food at a time
- Often heavy and cumbersome
- Glass cooking bowls get very hot during cooking
This new type of air fryer offers exciting possibilities for doing more than frying. In addition to the regular air fried favorites, people like to use oven type air fryers for things like roasting coffee, toasting bread, and roasting chicken. You can’t pile the food up and expect it to cook evenly though, so these work best for cooking small portions. The air fryer capability is similar to a basket type air fryer, so expect to turn food during the cooking process.
The paddle type air fryer was the first to reach the home market and is best known by its most popular model, Actifry. This type of air fryer is popular internationally and very easy to use. They include a paddle to turn the food for you, so you can put food in the fryer and let it do all the work.
- No need to turn food during cooking
- Can usually handle saucy dishes
- The paddle sometimes breaks up or smashes food, but it can be left out when cooking delicate items.
Paddle type air fryers are commonly a saucer shape with a detachable lid, bowl, and paddle. They work great with liquid so you can make saucy dishes like risotto and curry with ease. The unit works with or without the paddle; take advantage of the stirring action when you need it and leave it out when you don’t. A leader from the start, paddle type air fryers are a great choice for anyone looking for a versatile fryer.
In-fared Halogen Type
Harness the power of light with an in-fared halogen type air fryer. These units produce heat with a bright halogen light that cooks food quickly. A thermostat inside the fryer regulates the temperature by triggering the halogen light to turn on or off as needed. Like oven type air fryers, these appliances can often be used for purposes other than air frying.
- Extremely efficient cooking
- Handles a variety of foods and cooking methods
- Often have a short lifespan
- Many consumers rate the performance as only okay
Halogen type air fryers haven’t caught on like many of the other types. They are often unreliable and the halogen bulb burns out quickly. Most bulbs are difficult or impossible to remove and replace, and the replacement parts are expensive so even if you get the bulb out, buying a new machine is often easier and cheaper. If you do choose an air fryer like this, make sure to look for one with an extended warranty that covers replacement parts.
Multi cookers may or may not include an air fryer function. These units combine a variety of kitchen appliances into one machine, and the functions included vary depending on the model. Some common multi cooker functions include a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, pressure cooker, and warmer.
- One appliance performs multiple tasks; look for a model that includes the functions you use the most
- Usually, have adjustable temperature settings
- Many models have a steep learning curve and are confusing to use at first
Some people feel that multi cookers can do many things, but don’t do any of them well. If you are serious about air frying, you’ll likely get better results with a dedicated air fryer. However, many cooks enjoy the convenience of a multi cooker and feel the benefit of having one appliance for multiple tasks outweighs the potential drawback of slightly lower quality.
If you’re looking to downsize your kitchen, this type of appliance could be right for you. Just remember that multi cookers vary a lot; make sure you get a model that includes the functions you want.
Countertop Convection Ovens
Although not technically an air fryer, countertop convection ovens function in a similar way by using a fan to circulate heat throughout the oven. This allows them to cook food faster than a traditional oven. Improvements in technology are helping countertop convection ovens gain popularity. The price range varies, but high-end models sell for up to $400.
- Cooks food quickly and evenly
- Functions like a regular oven
- Can’t fry foods
A countertop convection oven functions like a regular oven but works more efficiently. They can usually perform a range of functions including roasting, broiling, baking, reheating, toasting, and slow cooking. They are great if you like to use your oven a lot, but are looking for a smaller, more efficient version. A countertop convection oven can produce great oven-fried foods, but won’t work the same way as a traditional air fryer to actually fry the food.