How Do Air Fryers Work? Plus 5 Great Choices.

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Fried foods or eat healthy? Choose one. But wait, there’s finally a loophole, the air fryer. An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that uses hot air to cook food. They’ve become incredibly popular for their convenience, speed, and ability to produce healthier versions of traditionally fried foods. Not to mention they also roast, bake, grill, and more. In case you don’t have time to read the entire article, I’ll let you know that my choice for the best overall air fryer is the Ninja SP101 Digital Air Fry Countertop Oven.

How Do Air Fryers Work?

They work by circulating hot air around the food at high speed, creating a crispy and golden-brown exterior without the need for large amounts of oil or fat. Here’s how it works:

  1. The air fryer has a heating element and a fan that work together to create hot air.
  2. The hot air is then circulated around the food by the fan.
  3. As the hot air circulates around the food, it cooks the exterior, creating a crispy and golden-brown texture.
  4. The food is cooked evenly due to the circulating hot air.
  5. Some models also have a basket or tray that can be used to separate the food from the heating element, allowing for even cooking without the need for flipping the food.

Overall, the air fryer is a convenient and healthier alternative to traditional frying methods that require large amounts of oil. It allows you to enjoy crispy and delicious foods without the added fat and calories, making it a popular choice for health-conscious individuals. Thick-cut fries, onion rings, and crispy, barbecued tofu are a couple of personal faves.

Related: Cookware For Healthy Living: 7 Things To Look For

Benefits Of An Air Fryer

There are several benefits of using an air fryer over deep fryers:

Healthier Cooking

One of the main benefits of using an air fryer is that it requires little to no oil to cook food, which means that it can significantly reduce the amount of fat and calories in your meals. This is particularly beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy fried foods but that usually comes with a side order guilt. This is as close to a “get out of jail free” card as you’re going to get.

Salmon Steak

Convenient And Time-saving 

Air fryers are very convenient to use and can save a lot of time in the kitchen. They can cook food quickly and don’t require any preheating, which means that you can have your meals ready in no time.


Air fryers can be used to cook a wide variety of foods, from crispy chicken wings and French fries to roasted vegetables and baked goods. Some even come with additional accessories like baking pans and grilling racks that allow for even more versatility.

Easy To Clean

Air fryers are easy to clean, as most models have non-stick surfaces that can be easily wiped down with a damp cloth. Some models even have dishwasher-safe parts, making cleaning up a breeze. Not to mention, no oil spatter to clean up.

Safe To Use

They are generally safe to use, as they don’t use hot oil like traditional fryers, which can be dangerous. Additionally, most models have built-in safety features like automatic shut-off and overheat protection to prevent accidents.

Downsides Of Air Fryers

While there are many benefits to using an air fryer, there are also some potential downsides to consider:

Limited Capacity

Air fryers are generally designed for smaller batches of food, so if you’re cooking for a large family or entertaining guests, you may need to cook multiple batches.

Chicken Thighs In Air Fryer

Texture May Differ 

While air fryers can produce crispy and golden-brown exteriors, the texture may differ from that of traditional frying methods, which may be disappointing for some people.

Can Be Noisy

They use a fan to circulate the hot air, which can create some noise during operation. This may be a concern for those who prefer a quieter kitchen environment but really it’s not a big problem.

Requires Counter Space

They are typically countertop appliances, which means they take up valuable counter space. If you have a small kitchen or limited on counter space, this may be a downside. I solved this problem by buying the Ninja SP101 (see below) which simply replaced my old toaster oven.

Types Of Air Fryers

There are several types of air fryers available on the market, each with its own unique features and benefits. Here are some of the most common types:


This is the most popular type of air fryer, which features a basket that sits inside the appliance and is used to hold the food. Food usually cooks faster because of the smaller space of most basket-style fryers, but they can also burn easier too if the food is too close to the top heating element.

Man Emptying An Air Fryer Basket


These are larger and have a more traditional oven shape. They often come with multiple racks and can be used to cook larger batches of food. In addition, oven-style versions usually have more features such as pre-set cooking programs, which makes cooking easier and more convenient. Also, because they have a larger cooking space, it can be tougher to get the same level of crispiness.

Toaster Oven Combo

These appliances are a combination of a toaster oven and an air fryer. They can be used to toast bread, bake, and air fry, making them a versatile option for the kitchen. Since they can replace your existing toaster oven, they won’t take up any of your precious counter space.

Convection Oven

These use convection technology to circulate hot air around the food. They can be used to bake, roast, and broil in addition to air frying. You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a convection oven and an air fryer? Basically, while both appliances use hot air for cooking, air fryers are better suited for smaller quantities of food and specifically for frying, while convection ovens are better suited for larger quantities of food and a wider range of cooking tasks.


These models come with a rotisserie feature that allows you to cook whole chickens or other meats evenly and with a crispy skin.

Smart Air Fryers

These models come with an app that allows you to control the cooking process remotely. Do I really need to adjust the setting while driving home? YMMV. They often come with pre-programmed settings for specific foods and can adjust cooking times and temperatures automatically.

What models are our favorites?

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer


The Ninja AF101 Air Fryer features a 4-quart ceramic-coated basket, allowing for even heat distribution and easy cleanup, and has a temperature range of 105°F to 400°F, which allows for versatile cooking options, including air frying, roasting, reheating, and dehydrating. It also comes with a timer and automatic shut-off feature, making it convenient to use. Overall, the Ninja AF101 Air Fryer is a reasonably priced unit with plenty of features. It’s also available in a 5.5-quart size.


  • 4-quart ceramic-coated basket for even heat distribution and easy cleanup
  • Temperature range of 105°F to 400°F, allowing for versatile cooking options
  • Rapid Air Circulation technology for even and quick cooking
  • Timer and automatic shut-off feature for convenience and safety
  • Multi-layer rack for dehydrating and cooking multiple items at once
  • Dishwasher-safe parts for easy cleaning
  • Comes with a recipe book


  • The temperature range and multi-layer rack allow for a variety of cooking options
  • Rapid Air Circulation technology ensures that food cooks quickly and evenly.
  • Automatic timer
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Compact design with a relatively small footprint


  • The 4-quart basket may not be large enough for larger families or for cooking larger items.

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven, 6 Quart

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The Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven features a 6-quart capacity, allowing for cooking larger items, and has multiple cooking functions, including air frying, roasting, baking, broiling, dehydrating, and reheating. The Instant Vortex Plus has a temperature range of 105°F to 400°F, and comes with a digital touch screen and 10 pre-set functions, making it easy to use. The model also comes with several accessories, including a drip tray, cooking tray, rotisserie spit and forks, and a basket, making it even more versatile. The parts are also dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.


  • 6-quart capacity
  • Multiple cooking functions, including air frying, roasting, baking, broiling, dehydrating, and reheating
  • Temperature range of 105°F to 400°F
  • EvenCrisp technology for even and quick cooking
  • Digital touch screen with 10 pre-set functions, making it easy to use
  • Several accessories are included, such as a drip tray, cooking tray, rotisserie spit and forks, and a basket, making it even more versatile
  • Dishwasher-safe parts for easy cleaning


  • Large capacity: The 6-quart capacity makes it suitable for cooking larger items or for families.
  • Multiple cooking functions
  • Digital touch screen
  • Lots of included accessories
  • The dishwasher-safe parts make it easy to clean.


  • Larger footprint than other models

Ninja SP101 Digital Air Fry Countertop Oven with 8-in-1 Functionality

The Ninja SP101 Digital Air Fry Countertop Oven combines the functions of an air fryer, convection oven, and toaster oven in one compact unit. It has a digital display and intuitive controls that make it easy to use, and it comes with several accessories to help you cook a variety of foods. As I mentioned earlier, this is the model I own and I couldn’t be happier with it. 

The convection feature of the oven ensures that food is cooked evenly and quickly, while the toaster oven function allows you to toast bread or heat up small dishes. The oven has a capacity of 4 quarts, which is enough to cook a meal for a small family, and it also has a compact design that flips up when not in use.

Other features of the Ninja SP101 include a timer, temperature control, and multiple cooking presets for popular dishes. It also has a keep-warm function that allows you to keep your food at the perfect temperature until you’re ready to eat.


  • Toaster function for toasting bread or bagels
  • 4-quart capacity
  • Digital display and intuitive controls
  • Crumb/drip tray
  • Keep-warm function
  • Timer and temperature control
  • Multiple cooking presets
  • Compact design


  • Versatile design that combines the functions of an air fryer, convection oven, and toaster oven in one compact unit
  • Multiple cooking presets for popular dishes
  • Easy to operate
  • Minimal footprint when not in use
  • Keep-warm function


  • May be too small for larger families or cooking larger meals
  • Relatively high price point compared to standalone air fryers or toaster ovens.
  • Some users report it’s difficult to clean

COSORI Air Fryer Pro LE 5-Quart

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One of the key features of the Cosori Air Fryer Pro LE is its 13 preset cooking functions, which include options for cooking popular dishes such as fries, chicken, seafood, steak, vegetables, and more. It also has a great digital touchscreen display that shows cooking time and temperature, making it really easy to operate.

The air frying basket is non-stick and dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning up a breeze. The appliance also comes with a removable crisper plate that can be used to cook foods with a crispy texture, such as French fries or chicken wings. In addition to air frying, the Cosori Air Fryer Pro LE can also be used to bake, roast, grill, and dehydrate food, which adds to its versatility in the kitchen. This model also has a preheat function, a shake reminder, which reminds users to shake the basket for even cooking, and an automatic shut-off function.


  • 5-quart capacity
  • 13 preset cooking functions for popular dishes
  • Digital touchscreen display
  • Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
  • Removable crisper plate
  • Can also be used to bake, roast, grill, and dehydrate food
  • Preheat function
  • Shake reminder
  • Automatic shut-off function for safety


  • Versatility
  • Digital touchscreen display
  • Easy cleaning
  • Preheat function
  • Shake reminder


  • Some users have reported issues with the durability of the product, particularly the non-stick coating on the basket.

Philips Essential Connected XL Digital Airfryer 

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The Philips Essential Connected XL Airfryer is a high-end model with a capacity of 3.5 quarts, which seems on the smaller side but should be fine for most uses. If you like to cook in large batches this model isn’t for you.

This air fryer is Wi-Fi enabled, which means you can control it using your smartphone or tablet. The Philips Airfryer app allows you to adjust the temperature and cooking time, as well as access a range of recipes and cooking tips. It uses Rapid Air technology to circulate hot air around the food and also has a unique Twin TurboStar technology that removes excess fat.

This unit has five pre-set cooking programs that make it easy to cook a variety of foods, and a “Keep Warm” function for up to 30 minutes after cooking. The non-stick cooking basket is easy to clean and has dishwasher-safe removable parts.


  • 3.5-quart cooking basket
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Rapid Air technology for even cooking
  • Twin TurboStar technology for removing excess fat
  • Five pre-set cooking programs
  • Keep Warm function
  • Dishwasher-safe removable parts
  • Large digital display
  • Intuitive touch controls


  • Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control operation
  • Pre-set cooking programs
  • Keep Warm function
  • Dishwasher-safe removable parts
  • Large digital display and intuitive touch controls make it easy to use


  • Expensive
  • Some users may prefer more cooking programs or manual controls
  • Cooking basket may be difficult to remove for some users


Overall, I highly recommend the Ninja SP101 Digital Air Fry Countertop Oven for anyone looking for a versatile and affordable air fryer that can handle a variety of cooking tasks. Its large cooking capacity, multiple cooking functions, and advanced digital controls make it a great addition to any kitchen, while its air fry function ensures healthy and delicious results. Whip up some crispy chicken wings for game night, sit back, and enjoy.

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Josh Green

Josh is a freelance food writer and certified kitchen gearhead. He has a background in engineering with extensive product testing experience and enjoys helping his readers find their inner Wolfgang Puck. When not writing, he can be found spending time with his family, hiking the local trails, and continuing his quest to find the perfect cheesesteak. He lives in the Philadelphia ‘burbs with his wife and two children.