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Splurge vs save: The cheaper air fryers that rival expensive ones

Our tests show some budget buys can outperform models more than twice their price. 

splurge and save airfryers lead
Last updated: 02 December 2020

Need to know

  • Our testers reviewed more than 20 popular models for ease of use and cooking performance of various foods
  • We highlight two cheaper air fryers that perform similarly or better than pricier products
  • Become a CHOICE member to see our full reviews and compare key scores side by side

There's no doubt that air fryers are trending right now, but they aren't actually a new invention. 

Our kitchen experts have been testing air fryers for almost a decade and they've noticed that as airfryer popularity has grown, so has the range of models available, with low-cost brands like Kogan and Heller and even Kmart and Aldi now competing with the original air fryer brands like Phillips and DeLonghi.

"There used to be only a couple of basic air fryers available," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair.

"Now you can spend almost $600 on a large capacity air fryer with all the bells and whistles, but really when it comes down to it, they all have the same basic design."

And while many of the new models on the market are expensive, our latest round of testing has shown that there are also plenty of high performing air fryers that are as cheap as the chips they cook. 

We've compared two basic air fryers and two fancy fryers with extra features and functions and found that you don't always get what you pay for.

Check our air fryer reviews to see a full score breakdown on all our tested models.

Or maybe you're unsure whether or not you need one at all?

splurge and save airfryers delonghi easy cook

If you're keen to try out some of the more adventurous air fryer recipes circulating online, you might be interested in a model with some extra features and accessories. Both these air fryers are big enough to cook a small chicken and can also be used as a grill or an oven.

Although the DeLonghi costs more than twice as much as the EasyCook, they performed comparably when Fiona put them to the test. They are both very good at cooking frozen chips and the cheaper EasyCook model is actually better at cooking both homemade chips and crumbed chicken.

Although the DeLonghi costs more than twice as much as the EasyCook, they performed comparably when Fiona put them to the test.

The Delonghi is slightly easier to use and it also has an automatic stirring blade that moves the food constantly throughout the cooking process. The EasyCook has a rotating basket which is good for evenly cooking chips, but if you're making crumbed food you'll need to place it in the main unit and turn the food manually to ensure even browning.

Some shoppers might be tempted by the Delonghi's extra auto-cook functions like cake, casserole and potato, but Fiona says the EasyCook can also be used to make these dishes.

"The DeLonghi's special 'auto-cook' functions are really just preset temperatures. The EasyCook has the same cooking capabilities, you'll just need to set the correct temperature manually," she says.

The two models are neck and neck for functions, accessories, CHOICE Expert Rating and even the length of their warranty, but the DeLonghi does offer a few more handy features. Whether or not these are worth an extra few hundred dollars will depend on whether you prioritise cost or convenience.

splurge and save airfryers phillip hellar

Phillips unveiled the very first air fryer in 2010, and while the brand continues to dominate the market, our testing has shown that the original isn't always the best when it comes to certain models. In this case, the Heller unit costs less than half the price of the near-identical Phillips and scores very similarly overall.

Both models are fairly no-frills, with a classic drawer design and no extra features. They both require manual shaking throughout the cooking process and have no viewing window to watch the progress of your food.

The Heller unit costs less than half the price of the near-identical Phillips and scores very similarly overall

If you're mainly cooking frozen chips, you'll find the Heller produces slightly crunchier, more evenly browned chips, but if you prefer making your own, you're better off shelling out extra for the Phillips (the Heller only scored 50% for homemade chips). Both models performed well for crumbed chicken.

Neither model is particularly easy to use, with no grip on the cooking basket and dial timers that may be inaccurate. They also both have some design issues which can make them tricky to clean.

The main benefit of the Phillips (other than its superior homemade chip performance) is that it comes with a two-year warranty, as opposed to the 12 months offered by Heller. But considering you could buy the Heller twice (with money to spare) for the cost of the Phillips, this may not be a strong selling point.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.