Air fryers have taken the home cooking world by storm, with some home cooks neglecting their regular ovens in favour of this on-trend kitchen appliance. Some kitchens even boast two air fryers to manage the household's air-frying needs.
You can buy an air fryer for $599 – but should you? And will picking up the cheapest model on the market for $129 leave you disappointed? And with many people spruiking budget buys from the likes of Kmart and Aldi, how can you tell how much you need to spend?
We pored over our air-fryer data and spoke to our experts to help you decide how much to spring for when buying an air fryer.
What type of air fryer should you buy?
All households and budgets are different, so before you buy, do some research to find out what's going to work best for your particular needs and budget.
"Cheaper air fryers around the $100 mark are usually small, with a capacity of around three to four litres, suitable for up to two people," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair. "They have a manually controlled timer and temperature control."
When bigger may be better
If you're buying for a larger household, or you're planning to do more complex things with your air fryer, bigger might be better.
"More expensive models are usually larger in capacity so can accommodate two to four serves," says Fiona. "They may be more versatile and include added accessories such as rotisseries or multiple shelves with a viewing window.
"You'll generally pay more for models with digital controls and pre-programmed settings, but these tend to have better accuracy for temperature and cooking time than cheaper models."
If you're buying for a larger household, or you're planning to do more complex things with your air fryer, bigger might be better
Digital controls will make your air-frying experience easier. Although dial controls consist of just a temperature dial and a timer dial that dings when the timer ends, digital controls have a touch display with an accurate timer and temperature readings.
The most helpful feature, however, is having pre-programmed settings that can help you up your air-frying game. Some will even alert you when it's time to shake or turn the food.
Cheaper models generally don't come with these settings, so it can take a bit more trial and error to work out how to use it and get consistent results.
How much should you pay for an air fryer?
Now, we can't give away all our secrets here (they're available for CHOICE members though), but we can tell you that of the models our experts recommend, plenty of them cost less than $300. So it is possible to get great performance without frying your credit card.
Still not convinced? We crunched the numbers of the best- and worst-scoring air fryers in our tests. Here's what we found.
Number crunch: Best vs worst air fryers in our test
We also analysed the prices for the best and worst performers in our tests.
For air fryers our experts recommend:
- Lowest price: $149
- Highest price: $599
- Median price: $290
For the lowest scoring air fryers we tested:
- Lowest price: $129
- Highest price: $450
- Median price: $249
What does it all mean?
Although some of the top performers were also among the more expensive models, it's still quite possible to find a cheaper model that performs very well. Conversely, there are more expensive models that won't give you bang for your buck.
Plotting price versus performance shows that there's something of a correlation between price and performance.
But that doesn't mean you should go out and buy the most expensive air fryer on the market. As you can see on the chart, the two top scoring models sit around the middle of the price range for air fryers at $280 and $399. And there's actually not a great deal of difference in the median prices between the best and worst performers.
Whatever your budget, it's important to understand how you're going to use your air fryer so you don't spend more than you need to
Plus, in the top five scorers, several models cost less than $300. In fact, it's quite possible to pick up a great air fryer for even less: we've compiled a list of the best air fryers under $200.
Whatever your budget, it's important to understand how you're going to use your air fryer so you don't spend more than you need to. But remember that spending more money isn't a guarantee of better performance – some of the more expensive models in our test didn't perform as well as some of the cheaper models, so check our expert air fryer reviews before you buy.
So how do you choose?
What's best for you? Fiona breaks it down:
"If you want an air fryer for individual use to reheat foods or cook from frozen only, a $100 model will do the job," she says.
"If you're purchasing an air fryer for a large household to assist with cooking things such as roasts, vegetables, meats and fish, a larger model with pre-programmed settings would be a better choice."
Either way, Fiona recommends you keep things simple: "Look for an air fryer that doesn't have too many accessories," she says. "They add to the cost of the air fryer, require storing, and may not be necessary at all. The fewer parts the better."
Do your research
It's worth putting in the time to research an air fryer before you buy. You don't want to blow $500 on an air fryer only to find that it doesn't perform any better than a $200 model.
Our expert air fryer reviews assess how well each model cooks crumbed chicken and frozen chips (plus fresh-cut fries, marinated chicken wings and roasted pork belly – for newer models only). We also score air fryers on how easy they are to assemble, store, operate and clean, and how helpful their instructions are.
You can filter by brand, price, configuration and size to find the perfect air fryer for your needs.