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The five must

Jun 21, 2024Jun 21, 2024

If you thought the air fryer was a flash-in-the-pan fad that would go the way of the electric can opener, think again – it looks like this appliance is here to stay.

Before you take the leap out of the frying pan and into the air fryer, it's worth doing your research to choose the machine that's right for you.

While you don't necessarily need to have every single feature under the sun, there are some that will help take you from ho-hum to "oh, yum" every time you fry.

Here are our experts' top picks for must-have air fryer features.

We've tested to find you the best.

Benchtop oven-type air fryers like this Air Roaster Pro sometimes have rotating baskets which ensure the air fryer's heat is evenly distributed.

The key to perfect air-fried food is evenly-distributed heat – it can mean the difference between hot chip heaven and half-crisp, half-soggy potato disappointment.

For most air fryers, pulling out the basket and shaking it is the best method, but each time you do this, it releases heat, which means cooking will take longer. And if your air fryer doesn't have a timer or alert to remind you, you'll have to remember to do it yourself. (Tricky to do when you're juggling multiple things at dinner time.)

If you want to level up your air fryer game, go for a model that has a rotating basket. They're ideal if you're a forgetful cook or if you want to ensure your chicken nuggets and chips come out perfectly crisp every time.

Air fryers with rotating baskets are ideal if you're a forgetful cook or if you want to ensure your food comes out perfectly crisp every time

Some of these models also have attachments that enable you to cook a whole chicken or use other methods like baking, grilling and roasting.

You'll only find rotating baskets in benchtop oven air fryers – the type that look like miniature square ovens. They may have an opening door at the front or they open from the top. These can sometimes be more expensive than drawer types and take up more space on your counter, so bear that in mind if you're looking for a rotating basket model.

We've tested to find you the best.

A double basket allows you to prepare foods with different cooking times and temperatures at the same time, like chicken nuggets and chips. This can be a handy feature if you want to use your air fryer for preparing a whole meal.

If you're going to buy a twin air fryer, though, make sure it has a sync function. This takes care of the timing so both baskets finish cooking at the same time, meaning you're not stuck with cold chips and scalding-hot nuggets.

Without this function you'll have to do the calculations yourself, which can be tricky when you have a table full of kids screaming that they're hungry.

But keep in mind that a twin model won't necessarily give you a larger capacity – some single-basket air fryers can take more food than twin-basket models. So if you think you'll be cooking larger quantities of food more often, then a larger single-basket model is probably the best option for you.

Read more: The Sunbeam, Kitchen Couture and Kmart air fryers to avoid buying

If your air fryer needs a shake halfway through cooking, a little beep to remind you is invaluable.

While pretty much all air fryers will ping when the timer ends, many models won't remind you to shake the basket or turn the food over as it's cooking – a vital part of getting evenly-cooked air fryer food.

An alert that beeps when it's time to shake the basket ensure you don't forget while you're busy making the rest of dinner. If you haven't got a model with an automatically rotating basket, this feature is definitely worth having as it'll help you get the best results from your air fryer.

Read more: I used an air fryer for a week and this is what I learned

Each time you open your air fryer to check the food, heat escapes and the unit needs to heat up again. This slows down the cooking process, meaning you'll have to wait longer to get your hands on your hot chips.

But if you can see what's going on inside without having to open the door, you'll be able to keep an eye on things without slowing down the cooking process.

That's why we suggest looking for an air fryer that has a window. But a window isn't much help if it's too dark inside to see what's going on. Pair it with an internal light and you're sorted.

Read more: Best air fryers under $250

This Nutribullet air fryer has pre-programmed settings for poultry, fish, steak, dried fruit, shellfish and more.

Some of us only ever set our ovens to 180°C and hope for the best (guilty as charged), but every food has different cooking temperature and time requirements. It can be hard to remember what's what – do the chips need 20 minutes on high, or is that the chicken wings?

An air fryer that can take care of the hard work of remembering every cooking time and heat setting is worth its weight in gold – just press a button and it'll take care of dinner.

All you'll need to remember is to shake it occasionally. (And which child has tomato sauce with everything and which doesn't like their food to touch.)

Different models have pre-programmed settings such as fresh or frozen chips, nuggets, fish, chicken drumsticks, steak, dry fruit, and more.

Look for models that have easy-to-understand icons and buttons so you'll choose the right program every time.

Read more: 5 things we learned in our air fryer testing

This one is contentious, but it's worth considering whether you need an air fryer at all! If you have an oven you're happy with, you don't necessarily need an air fryer as well – an air fryer is basically a small fan-forced oven, after all.

But air fryers do have some benefits over regular ovens. They're good for cooking quickly (whereas an oven takes a while to heat up), cooking small amounts of food (using your oven for small quantities isn't energy-efficient), or if you're trying to keep the heat down in the kitchen.

But if you're planning to cook large batches, you're better off using your oven so you can do it in one hit.

Read this before you hit the shops or sites: Should you buy an air fryer?

Air fryers are handy for cooking small batches of frozen foods like chips, but you can also just use your oven.

This Kmart air fryer with two baskets scored poorly in our testing.

We know, we know: we've just told you it's a good thing! But before you accuse us of contradicting ourselves, hear us out.

Yes, a dual air fryer can be great if you want to cook two different types of foods, but what you gain in flexibility you lose in capacity – these twin air fryers can often only make enough food for two people. And they can't accommodate larger foods like a piece of pork or a chicken, so you're limited to smaller cuts.

Plus, they're generally bigger than single-basket air fryers so you'll be giving up more bench space.

If you're cooking large batches of the same food, you're better off going for a larger air fryer with a single basket.

If you're specifically looking for a double air fryer, you can filter our detailed air fryer reviews to find the best ones.

Read more: 10 common air fryer mistakes you might be making

As the popularity of air fryers has increased, so too has the number of accessories available. Now you can get things like pizza trays, double-tiered cooking trays, air fryer liners, silicone cookware and bread racks.

Some of these may elevate your air frying, but before you hit 'add to cart', ask yourself if you'll really use them – don't forget you'll have to find somewhere to store them all!

A model we recently tested, the Instant Pot Airfryer Pressure Cooker, has a filter that soaks up oils and odours to stop smells permeating your kitchen. This might be handy, but bear in mind that you'll have to buy extra filters so that'll add to the cost of your machine.

Read more: How to make air fryer choc chip cookies

Recently, some air fryers that have come through our test kitchen have new cooking modes and functions like keep warm, dehydrate, grill, bake, and more.

If you're considering a multifunctional air fryer, just remember that each extra function will push the price up, so before you buy one that has 45 different functions, ask yourself whether you'll really use them.

We've tested to find you the best.

Yes, tech can be great (who doesn't love on-demand TV and calendar reminders?), but how much is too much?

Some air fryers now come with Bluetooth and can connect to voice-recognition software and recipe apps so you can monitor your food from your device.

But our kitchen experts aren't convinced that this kind of tech is necessary on an air fryer, especially models that require you to shake or physically manipulate the food – it kind of defeats the purpose of having your device keep an eye on dinner!

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