Are you shopping for an air fryer but need help deciding which type to buy?
This comprehensive guide breaks down the pros and cons of the five most common types of air fryers.
I also provide a comparison chart, so you can quickly review the options side-by-side.
Use the links below to navigate the guide:
- Types of Air Fryers: Comparison Chart
- Basket Air Fryers
- Oven Air Fryers
- Paddle Air Fryers
- Rotisserie Air Fryers
- Pressure Cooker Air Fryers
- Bottom Line: Which Type of Air Fryer Is Best For You?
If you’re in a hurry, this comparison chart provides a quick overview of each type of air fryer.
|Basket Air Fryers||Heats fast, small footprint||Limited capacity; you have to remove and shake basket|
|Oven Air Fryers||Large capacity; multifunctional (toast, roast, bake, dehydrate)||Requires more space; expensive|
|Paddle Air Fryers||Cooks food evenly without shaking or flipping||Remove the breading from foods, limited capacity|
|Rotisserie Air Fryers||Cook food evenly (self basting); ideal for roasts and whole chickens||Requires more space; expensive|
|Pressure Cooker Air Fryers||Dual-purpose; if you already own a pressure cooker, you can buy an air fryer lid||Heat slow; bulky design; limited options|
Basket air fryers are the most common type on the market. They consist of a removable basket within a cylindrical (pod-shaped) unit. Their capacities range from 2 to 10 quarts but are typically relatively small, with an average of 4 quarts.
Because basket fryers are the most common type, more brands and models are available. Some of the most popular basket fryer brands are Ninja, Cosori, T-Fal, and PowerXL.
Prices begin at $30 and can climb up to $400 for models with dual baskets, cooking zones, and multiple pre-set cooking programs.
Because the basket is removable, you can shake it intermittently during the frying process to ensure even cooking.
Most basket air fryers can reach 400°F in three to five minutes. A typical gas-powered oven takes up to 13 minutes to preheat to that temperature, and electric ovens take between 17 and 19 minutes.
Relative to larger, more robust fryers like oven air fryers, basket air fryers cool down quickly, so you don’t have to wait too long to store the appliance after use.
Thanks to their cylindrical shape, basket fryers take up less counter space than other options like the toaster oven style.
To give you a better idea, the table below shows the dimensions of top-rated basket air fryers and a few oven-style models for comparison.
|Air Fryer||Dimensions||Counter Space Needed (Square Inches)|
|COSORI 5.8-Quart (Basket)||11.8″D x 14.3″W x 12.7″H||169|
|Ninja 4-Quart (Basket)||8.5″D x 12.1″W x 11″H||103|
|CHEFMAN 8-Quart (Basket)||12.75″D x 13.5″W x 10″H||172|
|T-fal 5.9-Quart (Basket)||10.94″D x 13.31″W x 13.11″H||146|
|Instant 19-Quart (Oven)||15.55″D x 14″W x 13.89″H||217|
|COSORI 26-Quart (Oven)||16.3″D x 16.9″W x 15.5″H||275|
|Breville 30-Quart (Oven)||17.5″D x 21.5″W x 12.7″H||376|
The most notable downside of basket air fryers is their limited capacity.
Popular basket air fryers like the NINJA 4-quart and the CHEFMAN 2-quart offer limited cooking space compared to the Nuwave air fryer toaster (with a capacity of 30 quarts) or the Cuisinart Digital Air Fryer Toaster (with 18 quarts of space).
Overall capacity isn’t the only metric to consider. The diameter of the basket is also important.
For example, this PowerXL basket air fryer has a capacity of 5 quarts, but the basket diameter is only 9 inches. That’s about the size of a 10-inch frying pan (the cooking surface is smaller than the pan’s advertised size).
You can stack foods like french fries or chicken fingers, but meats and vegetables won’t cook evenly if stacked.
Because there is no viewing window on basket air fryers, you can’t monitor your food throughout the cooking process. Pulling out the basket is the only way to check progress, but doing so allows heat to escape.
Similarly, you need to pull the basket out periodically to shake the food, so it cooks evenly, but this action also allows heat to escape and slows the cooking process.
Oven air fryers are also called toaster oven air fryers or convection toasters. They look like small ovens, with a rectangular shape, cooking racks, and a large front-facing viewing window to monitor the cooking process.
Most models are multifunctional, allowing you to toast, bake, roast, dehydrate, and, of course, air fry.
The most notable advantage of oven air fryers is that most models are multifunctional. Besides air frying, you can use them to toast, bake, roast, and dehydrate. An oven air fryer is a great way to consolidate if you don’t have the counter or storage space for multiple appliances.
Another advantage is their size. Compared to pod-shaped basket air fryers, oven air fryers have a larger capacity, ranging from 5 quarts to 30 quarts, with an average of around 18. These appliances allow you to cook big meals for many guests. For example, this Breville oven air fryer can cook a 14-pound turkey or 12 muffins.
Similarly, the larger cooking surface lets you spread the food out, so it cooks more evenly. And most models come with racks so you can separate food types and cook more than one thing at a time.
With an oven air fryer, you can view your food as you cook to ensure it doesn’t burn without opening the door and allowing the heat to escape.
Cons of Oven Air Fryers
I recently tested basket air fryers vs. oven air fryers by cooking chicken wings, french fries, and Brussels sprouts in both appliances.
The basket air fryer cooked the food much faster, and the results were significantly more crispy.
Also, the oven air fryer was more challenging to clean because rendered fat from the wings dripped and splattered all over the walls and door.
Besides the longer cook time and inferior results, oven air fryers are pricey and tend to be more expensive on average than other types of air fryers. Cost varies drastically by brand and model but expect to pay between $150-$320.
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With their rectangular shape, oven air fryers take up more counter/storage space than other air fryers.
For example, the Cosori basket air fryer is 14.3 inches wide and 11.8 inches deep, but the Cosori oven air fryer is exceptionally larger at 16.9 inches wide and 16.3 inches deep. On average, oven air fryers take up 50% more counter space than pod-shaped basket air fryers.
Paddle air fryers differ in that they possess a center agitator paddle inside the bowl that constantly moves the food to ensure consistent cooking on all sides. Paddle fryers typically have a top viewing window so you can watch as your food cooks.
The main advantage of paddle air fryers is that they require less attention.
The center agitator paddle keeps the food moving throughout the cooking process so that it cooks evenly without you needing to pull out a basket and shake it.
With paddle air fryers, you don’t need to monitor the food as closely as you would with a basket air fryer.
Most paddle air fryers have a removable paddle, which allows you to increase the capacity for cooking dishes that don’t need stirring.
There are a few downsides to paddle air fryers.
First, they’re more expensive than basket air fryers. While basket air fryers start at $30, the most affordable paddle air fryers are usually over $200.
Second, they have limited capacity. While most paddle fryers are similar in size to the average basket air fryer (4 quarts), they’re smaller than other air fryer types. As mentioned above, rotisserie air fryers can cook 10 quarts of food, and some oven air fryers can fit up to 30 quarts.
Lastly, the paddle can over-agitate food and break it up. One of the most common complaints is that the paddle mashes fries and removes breading from fish sticks and chicken nuggets. You need to be extra careful not to overload the basket so the paddle can operate freely.
As the name suggests, rotisserie air fryers are ideal for meats or sides that can be skewered on a spear and rotated while they cook.
Many rotisserie air fryers also offer a rotisserie basket that rotates food that can’t easily be skewered, like chicken wings or cut vegetables. They usually have a large viewing window to monitor progress.
The main advantage of rotisserie air fryers is that air circulation is consistent. With no barriers blocking the hot air, each side is exposed to the same level of heat.
Rotisserie air fryers are a great option for cooking meats as the constant suspended rotation allows the meat to self-baste, keeping the inside moist and the outside crispy.
With a rotisserie air fryer, you don’t need to flip, stir, or shake your food during the cooking process.
You also have the added benefit of a viewing window with most rotisserie air fryers, meaning you won’t compromise the quality of the food by taking a peek inside.
Lastly, most models are multifunctional. For example, this Instant Vortex air fryer comes with a rotisserie spit and basket and two cooking trays.
Since these models are designed to fit whole chickens, hams, and other large meats, they occupy much more counter space.
If you don’t have a large kitchen, keeping a rotisserie air fryer on the counter is not an option, and storing it is even more difficult.
Similarly, these larger units are also more expensive. Expect to pay at least $100, but the top-rated models cost around $200.
Before you splurge on a rotisserie air fryer, consider how often you’ll actually use the rotisserie feature. Setting up the spit is more complicated than putting food on a tray and sliding it in. You need to truss (tie the wings and legs) chicken and other large meats to ensure even cooking.
Pressure cooker air fryers integrate two systems into one appliance: a pressure cooker and an air fryer.
The main advantage of pressure cooker air fryers is that they’re dual-purpose. You can use the pressure cooking function for stews, pulled pork, and other liquid-based meals, and the air fryer function for anything you want crispy.
Similar to oven air fryers, these models save space in the kitchen.
The lid has a built-in heating element and fan to blow hot air down onto the food. It also comes with a fryer basket, broil tray, and protective storage cover.
Pressure cooker air fryers require a large, bulky lid, so they take up more vertical space than other options on the market.
Compared to the other types, pressure cooker air fryers don’t perform as well. Sole-purpose air fryers heat up quicker and cook food faster.
There are limited options when purchasing a pressure cooker air fryer.
Bottom Line: Which Type of Air Fryer Is Best For You?
Ultimately, all air fryers function the same way, with a heating element and fan to circulate the hot air. The differences between each type are size, shape, cost, and additional features and functions.
Some things you’ll want to consider when making your selection are:
Types of Meals: Basket air fryers are ideal for fries, wings, and other crispy food, paddle air fryers are best for veggies, rotisserie air fryers are great for roasts and whole chickens, and oven air fryers are the go-to choice if you want to cook a variety of items at the same time.
Capacity: Avoid basket and paddle air fryers if you want to cook larger meals. Instead, look for an oven or rotisserie air fryer.
Counter Space: The oven, rotisserie, and pressure cooker air fryer take up the most space on your countertops. Basket air fryers can be taller but occupy less surface area.
Single- vs. Multi-Purpose: While basket air fryers can cook various foods, pressure cooker, rotisserie, and oven air fryers are more versatile.
Budget: Basket air fryers are the most affordable option, and oven air fryers tend to be the most expensive. But prices vary by brand and model.
Bottom line — the right type of air fryer depends on your lifestyle, intended use, budget, and counter space. I believe oven air fryers are the best investment because they can replace multiple appliances, allow you to cook more at once, and the extra capacity results in better airflow and more even cooking.
Still not sure if an air fryer is right for you? Check out this guide, where I break down the pros and cons of air fryers.
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