If you like your fried food but want to make healthier choices, you might like to consider adding an air fryer to your collection of kitchen appliances.
However, with so many air fryers to choose from, how do you know which type of air fryer to buy? Compounding this confusion is the fact that not all air fryers are the same, in fact there are 3 distinctively different types of air fryer commonly available and, in this article, we’re going to look at these three different types and suggest some examples of good options to choose from each type of air fryer.
So many people report that using an air fryer has changed their life for the better. Being able to cook all your favorite “fried” foods with only a fraction of the oil and fat is a real game changer and so it makes sense that air fryers are such a popular piece of kitchen equipment these days.
What is an Air Fryer?
Technically speaking, an air fryer is really just like a small convection oven. While a traditional oven heats the air around your food to cook it, a convection oven moves the hot air around so that your food cooks even faster. Find out more about the difference between a traditional oven and a convection oven here.
An air fryer works the same way as a convection oven by blowing superheated air through and around your food. The “frying” aspect of “air frying” comes from the fact that you use a little bit of oil in every batch, which helps create a crispy layer and give that delicious crunch we all love and expect from our fried foods.
While the finished product isn’t identical to food that has been deep fried, you get a similar mouthfeel, all without the huge amounts of grease and fat.
Types of Air Fryers
There are essentially three different types of air fryer:
- The paddle - type air fryer
- The basket - type air fryer
- And the countertop convection oven type of air fryer
Let’s explore each type of air fryer in a little more detail.
Paddle-Type Air Fryers
When deep frying food, the food is fully submerged in oil or fat allowing the oil to fully cover and penetrate every surface of the food. This is what gives fried food that firm outer coating and crunch that we all love.
With air frying, it’s a little harder to make sure every surface of the food is subjected well enough to the hot air to get that satisfying crisp coating. It is for this reason that, when air frying, you will often be required to stop the air fryer midway through cooking and turn or stir your food.
If you think this practice of turning or stirring your air fried food would bother you, you might prefer to invest in a paddle-type air fryer. These clever air fryers save you the trouble of stopping and pulling your food out to shake it about and stir it.
Instead, a paddle inside the air fryer moves through the basket to essentially keep stirring your food and help to get the air through more easily.
Of course, if you’re cooking something large that doesn’t need to be tumbled about while cooking, most of these paddle-type air fryers allow you to remove the paddle while cooking, this adds to their functionality and versatility. These machines are able to cook a wide range of food from vegetables and french fries to risotto.
Best Paddle Type Air Fryer
Without doubt, when it comes to paddle-type air fryers, the T-Fal Actifry is the way to go. There are a few models available in this “Actifry” range and, frankly, you can’t really go wrong with any of them - they’re easy to use, high quality and built to last.
The Actifry uses the same ceramic nonstick technology T-Fal is known for in the main basket or cooking pan. This makes cleaning up super easy as nothing sticks to the pan.
Pros for the T-Fal Actifry
- Solid construction - it’s well made and built to last
- Intuitive controls make it easy to use
- Only need to use 1 Tablespoon of oil
- Easy to clean thanks to the nonstick ceramic
- Removable cooking components are dishwasher safe
- Air filter traps any strong or unpleasant cooking odors
Cons for the T-Fal Actifry
- A bit more expensive than other air fryer models
- Might not be big enough for some families
- Basket-Type Air Fryers
As the name implies, these air fryers cook your food in a metal “basket”. These specialised cooking baskets have holes all around them to make it easy for the hot air to get through and around all the food. Despite this, when using a basket type air fryer, you will still probably have to stop midway through cooking and stir or turn the food at least once.
Another thing to consider is that with this type of air fryer you cannot cook anything too saucy as it would drip out through the holes.
Also, depending on the types of foods you’re cooking, you’ll have more cleaning up to do with the drain catch at the bottom. Overall, basket-type air fryers are really good for cooking meats and vegetables but can be tricky to make anything else like a risotto that the paddle type air fryer can cook.
On the plus side, basket type air fryers tend to be less expensive than the paddle type.
Best Basket Type Air Fryer
Like T-Fal, Philips have made quite a name for themselves in the field of air fryers. They also have many different options and models available, these variations are mainly to do with the size of the unit and the controls/digital display.
Philips is apparently the number one seller of air fryers in the U.S.A., so you can rest assured that this company knows a thing or two about making a high-quality air fryer.
Despite being just a basket type air fryer, the Philips air fryer can be used for a wide variety of foods as it comes with preset cooking options enabling you to roast, toast, bake and even dehydrate your food, so this machine is good for more than just cooking up fries.
Philips also provides you with a recip booklet so you can really experiment and learn how to cook a wide array of different dishes and get the most out of your machine.
One of the biggest selling points of Philips AirFryers is that they reportedly remove fat better than other brands. So, if you’re looking to improve your diet by decreasing your fat intake, then this model is definitely worth considering. For reviews and suggestions on this and other models of basket type air fryers click here.
Pros for the Philips Air Fryer
- Easy to use
- Large capacity - good for families
- Removes fat better than other air fryers
- Fast cooking
- Multiple cooking options, including roasting, dehydrating and baking
- Easy to clean - interior parts are removable and dishwasher safe
Cons for the Philips Air Fryer
- More expensive than other models of air fryer
- No way to see food while it cooks
Countertop Convection Oven Type Of Air Fryer
OK, I know what you’re thinking - is that really a type of air fryer? Technically speaking, no, you’re right, these countertop convection ovens aren’t necessarily “air fryers.” However, they do work in a similar way to an air fryer because they heat food through convection cooking and the food that they produce can be similar to that made in an air fryer.
Some of these nifty little ovens even have an “air fryer” setting which will give you very similar results to a more traditional air fryer. The main reason you might choose to buy a countertop convection oven instead of one of the other types of air fryer is the versatility it can offer you.
Not only are these models larger, so you’ll be able to cook more food and cater for larger groups of people, but they also come with multiple cooking options giving you a wider range of dishes you’d be able to cook in it.
Also, because they have wire racks in the center, you’ll be able to cook multiple dishes at the same time - it really is like a small oven. Overall, if you don’t want to limit your cooking options and you’re usually cooking for a large crowd, a countertop convection oven might be a good choice for you.
Best Countertop Convection Oven Air Fryer
Cuisinart is a name synonymous with good quality kitchen appliances, especially when it comes to their mixers and blenders. So, it’s no surprise that this countertop convection oven is so highly rated and adored by users.
Remember, this machine is a bit like a small oven so make sure you have the space on your counter to keep it that will also allow for airflow around the whole unit. Make sure your countertop is deep enough or your machine could be subjected to overheating problems.
One of the main reasons you might purchase a device like this instead of a traditional air fryer is that the heating element is so much stronger. Mind you, the larger interior of these ovens compared with a standard air fryer means there is more surface area to cook, so it needs to have more power.
Although the control panel on this particular model is not as versatile as others available, it does offer multiple cooking options. You can not only air fry but also bake, broil, roast, and dehydrate in this machine, so it would make a very handy addition to most home kitchens.
Pros for the Cuisinart Convection Oven
- Large capacity oven space
- Fast cooking with an 1800-watt heating element
- Multiple cooking options including air frying
- Large glass window so you can view food while cooking
- Adjustable temperature settings
- Wireframe basket to assist air frying
Cons for the Cuisinart Convection Oven
- Uses a lot of electricity – may overload your power outlet
- Exterior can get hot while cooking
So, Which Type Of Air Fryer Should You Buy?
There’s no one answer to this question, it all depends on your needs. Are you cooking for one? For a couple? Or for a large family?
Do you plan to just use it to “fry” up some chicken nuggets and chips for the fussiest member of your family? Or do you want a machine that is versatile enough to cook lots of different foods?
Do you have a large free space on your countertop? Or are you looking for a compact machine?
Once you know the answers to some of these questions, you will probably be able to decide which machine to buy.
If you just want a simple air fryer to fry chips, go with a basket type air fryer.
If you’re likely to want to cook whole meals, like risotto, try a paddle type air fryer.
If you’ve got plenty of space and need to cook large quantities, you might be better to go for a countertop convection oven with an air fry cooking option instead of a traditional air fryer.
Hopefully we’ve helped to make the choice a little easier for you with our explanations and suggestions for different types of air fryers.