The idea behind air fryers is healthier, lower-fat cooking. Combining hot air, rather like a fan oven, and a very small amount of oil the way they cook is a world away from deep-fat fryers which submerge the food in the fat and pile on the calories. But it’s important to get the right air fryer as poor ones can leave you with soggy, bland food at the bottom of the machine – and sometimes throughout – and you can also wind up with a machine that is difficult to work or clean.

First off, consider the capacity – you don’t want to wind up with a machine that’s too small (or big) for your family. Check the space the machine takes up – they come in all shapes and sizes and can take up a lot of room on your worktop. Do you want it to be able to do more than fry? Some machines multitask and are able to grill, roast and reheat – sometimes even more besides.

Does it allow you to cook two different types of food at once, such as steak and chips? Is it easy to set up? How simple are the controls to use? And finally, are the parts dishwasher-safe – and do you need them to be? 

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Tefal Actifry Genius XL: £166, Amazon

Chips don’t get better than this, with cloud-like fluffiness inside and a golden brown crispy casing. And, unlike with other air fryers, you don’t have to stir them or even check up on them (although you can have as many sneaky peeks as you like through the viewing window). Even the chicken we tried was good, albeit a bit dry on the outside (not unusual with air fryers). It’s big, cooking enough chips for eight people, and it has a wide temperature range and timer up to an hour. Plus, it’s a doddle to use and clean. Be warned this machine gets hot, though, and it’s on the loud side, as well as being slower than some.

Buy now

Lakeland Touch Screen Air Fryer: £79.99, Lakeland

This energy efficient, contemporary looking and surprisingly compact machine heats up quickly and is easy to use, thanks to the digital LED touchscreen. The chips come out golden brown and nice and crisp on the outside, while remaining super soft within, provided you stir them from time to time, and there’s enough capacity for four to six people. The meat we cooked was a little on the dry side, however. We like the cool-touch handle and the fact that you can pop everything in the dishwasher afterwards.

Buy now

Swan 5 Litre Manual Air Fryer: £69.99, Amazon

The predecessor to this machine was 3.2 litre – a bit on the small side for some, so it’s great to see this new larger model added to their repertoire. The chips will go down a treat at dinner time, provided you stir them frequently, and they cook consistently too – no underdone chips lurking in the middle. It uses less oil than most air fryers, making it one of the healthiest we tried, and we also like the fact that the pan itself can go in the dishwasher. It’s also quiet. But it’s another machine where meat is disappointing and it’s not the easiest to store.

Buy now

Breville VDF122 Halo+: £164.99, Amazon

Here’s another one where you need to stir regularly to get good results but if you’re happy to do this, it’s an excellent choice, which can air-fry and grill up to 1.25kg of food with half a tablespoon of oil. It’s noticeably quieter than most other machines we tested and all the parts are easy to both operate and clean (it’s dishwasher proof). But the controls could be more user-friendly.

Buy now

Morphy Richards Health Fryer 480003: £69.99, Amazon

In terms of taste and texture, these chips would do a good fish and chip shop proud but, again, you do need to stir them regularly. And, happily the chicken and beef we tried didn’t dry out. It’s easy to set up and get going, whether you fry, bake, roast or grill, and it will feed a large family. It’s compact enough to store away and it’s quieter than any other machine we tried with not even a trace of the low level hum that will be familiar to air fryer users. You’ll need to be patient while it heats up and it can get a bit fiddly to clean after use, not helped by the fact that none of the parts can go in the dishwasher – but neither are deal breakers.

Buy now

Power Air Fryer XL: £99.99, John Lewis

We’re a bit confused why this is called ‘XL’ when it is 3.2-litre capacity but it does tick all the right boxes – quick, easy to work, simple to clean and it’s also versatile as it air fries, grills, bakes, sautés and roasts, with seven pre-programmed cooking functions and automatic shut-off. Available in black or red.

Buy now

Russell Hobbs CycloFry Plus 22102: £149.99, Amazon

Ten out of 10 for these chips, which are also low maintenance to cook as you don’t have to stir them. And that’s only part of the story with this versatile machine, which can also cook anything from a whole roast chicken rotisserie-style to succulent kebabs. Available in black or white, we were impressed with all its capabilities – roasting, frying, grilling and baking – and the capacity is big enough for a family. The long timer of one hour can come in handy too. But it’s slower than other machines, is a bit fiddly to use and it takes time and elbow grease to clean.

Buy now

Philips Viva Collection HD9621: £148.94, Amazon

Another multitasker, this can fry, bake, roast and grill and is 20 per cent smaller than its predecessor (yet still with 800g capacity – enough for four), with dishwasher-safe parts that we found came out looking like new every time. The food comes out just as you’d hope, including chips that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – and it’s a good size for a small family. We have some minor niggles, including the fact that the instructions aren’t great and the recipe book could be more comprehensive, but none of them are deal-breakers. 

Buy now

VonShef Air Fryer 3.5L: £49.99, Amazon​

This comes with a bargain basement price tag that makes it a great option for students or anyone on a budget. It has a fresh, modern design with digital display and is one of the easiest air fryers to clean after use. Best of all, it cooks tasty, non-greasy chips provided you keep stirring during cooking. They weren’t quite as consistently cooked or crispy as more expensive models in our test, but they weren’t half bad for a mere £40.

Buy now

Salter EK2205 Healthy Digital Hot: £65.99, Amazon

We found this smart-looking machine easy to use, thanks to the intuitive LCD display, and the automatic switch-off makes it relatively low-maintenance too, while the 4.5-litre capacity is enough for a large family. Food cooks well, although the chips don’t come up quite as crispy on the outside as with more expensive machines. It’s quite quiet and easy to clean but it is heavy, so not something to invest in if you intend to store it away when not in use.

Buy now

The Verdict: Best air fryers 

The Tefal Actifry Genius XL makes the best chips ever and there’s enough to feed the masses, although if you want something smaller, the Philips Viva Collection Airfryer HD9621 is another fantastic buy. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Black Friday 2019 is nearly here. Find out how to get the best deals here