If you're feeling the squeeze in the kitchen, an appliance that replaces multiple other machines sounds like the perfect way to free up space.
While air fryers used to have just one job – air frying your food – some now have a whole host of features, allowing you to roast, grill, slow cook, pressure cook, steam and cook rice. (Oh, and they also air fry.) Sounds a bit like one of those TV infomercials, right?
By contrast, you can pick up a simple one-function air fryer like the Kmart Anko 5.3L air fryer for as little as $89.
So is it worth paying the extra for one of these multifunction marvels? Or are you better off just buying an affordable air fryer and sticking with your existing appliances?
We'll tell you everything you need to know to decide if a multifunction air fryer is right for you.
What does a multifunction air fryer do?
Perhaps a better question would be: what doesn't a multifunction air fryer do?
Some boast as many as 12 functions, from air frying and baking through to more niche functions like yoghurt making and sous vide cooking.
But do you really need that many functions? Or will you end up only switching on your whizz-bang new appliance when you need to air fry?
Depending on exactly what you want to do with it and how much you want to pay, you could opt for a model with fewer functions – after all, just how often do you think you'll be making yoghurt from scratch or dehydrating your own jerky?
How often do you think you'll be making yoghurt from scratch or dehydrating your own jerky?
But the flipside is that a multifunction machine can replace multiple appliances, giving you your cupboard space back and streamlining your kitchen.
"They can replace appliances such as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sous vide, air fryer, and oven for roasting meats and vegetables. Some can also grill and sear and be used instead of a cooktop," says CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair.
"The type of functions available will vary between models, so choose one that has functions that suit your style of cooking."
The multicooker-style Ninja Foodi has 11 different functions.
The two types of multifunction air fryer
Some of these contraptions are probably more accurately categorised as multi-cookers that happen to have an air fryer function.
They tend to have that typical multi-cooker shape, similar to a slow cooker but with more settings and more accessories.
Then there are the benchtop oven varieties that are more boxy and can look more like – you guessed it – a mini oven.
This Breville combines the functions of a benchtop oven and an air fryer.
You may need to buy extra accessories to use them as an air fryer or for other cooking functions, although some do come with a range of add-ons for all of their functions.
Which type is best?
Which of these styles best suits your needs depends on a number of factors, including:
- how many people you're cooking for
- which functions are important to you
- how much space you have
- your budget.
Do you have the space?
Although people may buy these appliances to save on space that's being taken up by multiple other appliances, the flipside is that some of these machines have reasonably large footprints. You'll need enough room to fit it on your bench, and you'll also need room to store any accessories.
Do multifunction air fryers work as well as standalone appliances?
Some product mash-ups have been wildly successful – think phones and cameras, and touchscreen laptops that double as tablets. Others are more questionable: ever heard of the Evian water bra? There's a reason for that.
And the jury is still out on the Dyson Zone Absolute+, which is an unusual combination of a headphone set and an air purifier. (Rumour has it that the company had to clarify that the product was not, in fact, an April Fool's joke.)
So is combining air frying with yoghurt making a good idea, or will you just end up with an appliance that does both poorly?
Fortunately these multifunction machines are one of the good mash-ups.
We've found the results to be very good to excellent. They tend to perform just as well as any standalone applianceFiona Mair, CHOICE home economist
"We've found the results to be very good to excellent," says Fiona. "They tend to perform just as well as any standalone appliance."
And while they might cost more upfront than single-function appliances, it could actually save you, too.
"When you consider the cost of these appliances separately, you could be paying a lot more," says Fiona. "And you'd have to find room to store all the standalone appliances if you buy them separately."
What to consider when buying a multifunction air fryer
Just as every household is different, so is every home cook. Make sure you're clear on what you want from a kitchen appliance before you start looking for something that does everything under the sun.
Here's what Fiona suggests you ask yourself before you buy.
1. How many people are you cooking for?
Air fryers can be great for singles and small households, but may not have the capacity for cooking for crowds.
2. How do you like to cook?
You can only cook one meal or one type of food at a time in an air fryer, so think about whether that suits how you tend to cook. For instance, if you're slow cooking a meal for eight hours, you won't be able to whip up a batch of chicken nuggets to feed the kids until it's done.
3. How big is your kitchen?
Remember that you'll need somewhere to store the accessories, some of which can be quite bulky.
4. Where will you put it?
Multi-function air fryers can be large, especially the benchtop oven styles, so they're not the kind of appliance you'll pack away into a cupboard when you're done.
5. What kind of foods do you want to cook?
If you just want crispy food, then you only need an air fryer – and there's not much point paying for all those extra functions if you're not going to use them.
"This is not the type of appliance you want to be hiding away in a cupboard," says Fiona. "You want it to be an appliance that is used regularly."
Is a multifunction air fryer worth buying?
It can be, depending on how you like to cook and what's important to you in a kitchen appliance.
"I think a multifunction air fryer can be a good option for someone who has limited bench space, or a small kitchen with very few appliances," says Fiona.
"If you don't have any of these appliances but are interested in using these cooking methods, then I would definitely consider a multifunctional air fryer.
"But if you just want crispy food, then you'll only need a standalone air fryer."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.