They are the must-have kitchen gadget, hailed as an essential for quick and healthy bites.
But rather than being just an over-hyped fad, leading experts insist trendy air fryers really are better for you than ovens.
Chicken thighs, chips and banana bread contain half the calories that they usually do when air fried, compared to when cooked using traditional methods.
This is solely because air fryers, which can cost up to £400, require less fat, such as oil and butter, to cook food — giving them the crisp and crunch of a deep fat fryer without the unnecessary grease.
Using an air fryer also leaves more nutrients in food compared to boiling or frying.
But air fryers may not be a total saviour for your waistline.
Some dietitians fear that Britons may use the devices to eat more fried food than they would otherwise.
Although healthier, the food is still technically classed as fried — and can contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer that are still produced during the heating process.
Revealed: The 10 BEST air fryers on the market according to customers – with prices starting from £89.99
Air fryers are becoming a kitchen must-have after it emerged they are more energy efficient and less costly to run than ovens and microwaves.
The devices — counter-top machines that cook by rapidly circulating hot air — mimic the effect of deep-fried food with far fewer calories and a fraction of the fat.
Latest machines reduce fat by as much as 80 per cent with the effect that calories are almost halved.
Better still research by energy firm Utilita found that ditching an electric cooker in favour of options such as air fryers and slow cookers could help families save money during the cost of living crisis.
Although the gadgets have been around for years, they’ve soared in popularity in the past 12 months. In their annual consumer report published last year, John Lewis revealed that sales of air fryers have increased by 400 per cent.
Here, FEMAIL reveals the 10 best air fryers on the market according to customer reviews on Amazon UK…
COSORI XXL 5.5L Air Fryer £109.99. It has 11 presets, a preheat and shake reminder, LED one touch screen as well as timer and temperature control and a nonstick basket,1700W
COSORI 5.5L Smart Air Fryer Oven for £119.99 with APP control which means you can remotely control your fryer through free VeSync app. 13 different cooking functions including roast, bake, reheat
COSORI Air Fryer Oven with Rapid Air Circulation,3.5L for £89.99. Includes one-touch digital screen and 100 free recipes included
Ninja AF161 Max XL Air Fryer for £130 that cooks, crisps, roasts, bakes, reheats and dehydrates, with 5.5 Quart Capacity
COSORI Air Fryer 4.7L, 9-in-1 Compact Air Fryer at £109.99. Max 230℃ setting, 30 recipes cookbook and cooks for four people or for cooking 1.5-1.8kg chicken
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer for £368.98 two drawers, different foods, different programs, both ready at the same time, six cooking functions, 7.6L
Ninja Air Fryer 3.8 Litres, Grey and Black four options from £199. Four cooking functions – air fry, roast, reheat and dehydrate
Ninja Foodi MAX Health Grill and Air Fryer [AG551UK], 3.8 L, for £199. Includes cooking pot, crisper basket, 740cm2 grill plate, cleaning brush, chef-created recipe guide. Dishwasher-safe parts
Secura Air Fryer 5 Liter 1700-Watt Electric Hot for £149.99. Temperature settings from 80℃ to 200℃ for a wide variety of recipes | 60-minute timer with auto-shut off
COSORI Smart Air Fryer Oven Dual Blaze 6.4L for £169.99. Double heating elements, cookbook, no shaking, APP control and 12 cooking functions
Others say the lack of olive oil is a downside because small amounts of the Mediterranean staple can boost heart, brain and mental health.
Air fryers work by circulating heat at high temperatures — 200C (390F) — around food to fry, grill or bake it.
For comparison, warmer ovens and fryers usually get to 160 or 180C (320 or 360F) for the same effect.
Experts estimate most people can reduce the calories in a typical meal by 70 to 80 per cent when using an air fryer.
But MailOnline analysis, which compared the average calories in recipes made with and without an air fryer, suggests you can save even more.
The countertop contraption cooks chicken thighs for just 175 calories, compared to 440 in the oven.
That gap — which is just shy of being the same as a McDonald’s cheeseburger (300 calories) — is according to recipes published by the BBC and websites Cooking Light and Delish.
Meanwhile, a portion of chips can be made for 140 calories, compared to 340 using traditional cooking methods.
Cooking up banana bread in an air fryer saves 165 calories (135 vs 300), which is equivalent to a small bar of Dairy Milk.
Meanwhile, making churros in the device saves 90 calories (170 vs 260) — around two Jaffa Cakes’ worth.
And pork chops (390 vs 420) in an air fryer can save 30 calories — equivalent to a small bag of popcorn.
Dr Duane Mellor, a dietitian from Aston Medical School in Birmingham, told MailOnline that this is down to air fryers requiring less fat to cook food.
Food can be cooked in an air fryer using just a few drops of oil or none at all. In contrast, food is submerged in oil during deep fat frying or coated in oil before roasting.
This means a portion of chips needs 10 to 12g less in an air fryer, which would save 100 calories per portion, he said.
The device also doesn’t require water, which leaves more minerals and vitamins such as potassium and vitamin C in the cooked food, Dr Mellor said.
All foods lose some nutrients, such as vitamin A and D, during the cooking process.
But the rate is increased in moist environments, such as if the food is cooked in water or oil. This is because nutrients can leach out of food into liquid, especially water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C.
But Dr Mellor noted that air fryers ‘are not perfect’ as some people may use them as a ‘way of eating more chips’ rather than to make healthier food.
And food made in an air fryer still produces a chemical that appears in conventionally fried food, called acrylamide, which has been linked with cancer, Dr Mellor added.
The chemical forms from a reaction between sugars when food is cooked at high temperatures, such as frying, roasting and baking.
Animal studies found acrylamide caused cancer and is thought to pose a risk to humans as well when consumed in high quantities, according to regulators.
Experts also warned that air fryers may encourage some people to eat fried food every day, rather than an occasional treat.
Dr Carmen Piernas, a researcher and nutrition scientist at the University of Oxford, told MailOnline that avoiding deep fried food would reduce the calories and fat in a person’s diet.
She said: ‘A good option would be a home-made breaded/battered fish or chicken.
‘However, my guess is that a lot of the times people use highly processed frozen/ready to cook items (chips, fish/chicken) in the air fryer, which usually have fat added (plus many other things in the in the ingredients list).
‘This would not have any benefit for health, as we are talking about a highly processed item with just a bit less fat, and these types of foods should be eaten only occasionally.’
She added: ‘For people who rely too much on these types of foods, the calorie saving would be greater but their diet would not be good anyways.’
Experts also warn that relying too much on an air fryer means people could lose out on plant-based fats, such as those in olive oil.
Studies suggest plant fats boost heart health, lower levels of bad cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory.
Meanwhile, because air fryers cook food more quickly than ovens, people are more likely to unwittingly burn their food — and be left eating a charred dinner.
Some studies have shown that eating burnt food increases the risk of cancers — especially kidney, endometrial and ovarian.
Sales of the cooking appliance shot up 53 per cent year-on-year in October, according to data analytics company Kantar, prompted by the cost of living crisis.
While it costs 17p to cook two chicken breasts in an oven, an air fryer would cost around half that.
This is because it costs less kilowatts for an air fryer to heat up and it cooks food quicker than an oven.
Are air fryers actually more energy efficient than ovens? As hard-up shoppers turn to the kitchen gadget, MailOnline reveals whether it can really help to slash bills amid the cost-of-living crisis
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen gadget similar to an oven, in the sense that it bakes and roasts food.
It runs on electricity and its heating elements are located on the top of the appliance, accompanied by a large, powerful fan.
As the name suggests, air fryers use hot air and a small amount of oil to cook food, and are typically faster than ovens.
How much do they cost?
Air fryers start from around £60, with more expensive models having a larger capacity and more advanced functions.
‘Models with extra features – such as control via an app on your phone or multiple compartments that let you cook two foods at once – will set you back well over £200,’ Which? explains on its website.
Are they actually healthier than ovens?
This depends on what you’re cooking.
If we’re talking about foods you’d usually deep-fry, such as frozen chips, then the answer is yes.
‘Despite both having ‘fryer’ in their name, air fryers and deep fat fryers work quite differently,’ Which? explains.
‘Air fryers are often referred to by manufacturers as healthy or low-fat fryers, as they use hot air and a small amount of oil to cook the chips by convection.
‘The results are more akin to oven chips than traditional chip-shop chips.
‘Deep fat fryers submerge chips in hot oil to cook them, giving a crispier but fattier result.’
However, if you’re cooking something that would usually go in the oven, such as chicken breasts or sausages, an air fryer won’t change how healthy it is.
On the plus side, it will speed up the cooking time!
How energy efficient are they?
Last month, Hometree released the results of its tests to see just how energy efficient your kitchen appliances are.
Its findings show that using an oven, whether it’s gas or electric, is the most costly option.
The average oven uses around 3kW, meaning it costs around 34p to run for 20 minutes.
This works out at around £1.02/hour, according to Hometree.
An electric hob was the second most expensive option, coming in at around 17p per 15-minute use, with an average wattage of 2kW, or 68p/hour.
The air fryer came in third place, largely due to the fact that it can cook food much faster than an oven.
Hometree’s tests showed that the average wattage of an air fryer is 1kW, so using it for 10 minutes would cost around 5p. This works out at 30p/hour.
However, microwaves and slow cookers were found to be the most energy-efficient kitchen appliances.
An average 700w microwave costs 1.98p when used for five minutes, or 23.8p/hour, while slow cookers use around 1.2kW over the course of eight hours, working out at just 5p/hour.
So, will an air fryer help to slash your bills?
While the upfront cost of an air fryer (£60-£200) is fairly high, the gadget could be a smart choice if you tend to cook most of your meals in the oven.
Research by Utilita earlier this year found that, on average, air fryers run at £55.91/year – significantly cheaper than both gas cookers (£121.06/year) and electric cookers (£335.57/year).
This suggests that your annual savings by switching to an air fryer could be up to a whopping £279.66.
Speaking to MailOnline, Emily Seymour, Which? Energy and Sustainability Editor, said: ‘With the cost of living soaring, it’s understandable that many consumers are turning to cash-saving alternative home appliances – and air fryers could lead to significant savings.
‘Even some of the smaller air fryers Which? experts tested can hold up to 800g of food – roughly equivalent to two full baking trays in a conventional oven.
‘Air fryers are generally cheaper to run than ovens because the cooking chamber is a lot smaller which reduces time to preheat and then time to cook, but this will also depend on what you’re cooking.
‘Those looking to cook bigger meals should probably consider sticking to an oven because you’re cooking more food in the space you’ve heated.’
What other changes can you make in the kitchen to save money?
Small changes to your kitchen habits can have a big effect.
For example, if you batch-cook meals and reheat them in a microwave throughout the week you can save £112 a year, claims Utilita Energy.
And simmering vegetables rather than boiling them can slash your annual bills by £48.
Can you REALLY feed a family using an air fryer? FEMAIL puts the new energy-saving kitchen must-have to the test on everything from a roast to a crumble… with very surprising results
Air fryers ARE more energy efficient than ovens and microwaves, expert says
Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch.com, told FEMAIL: ‘Cooking in a conventional oven is one of the most common ways to prepare dinner, but it is often more expensive to run than other kitchen appliances.
‘Ovens are usually large enough to cook multiple dishes at the same time, so there’s a lot of energy being wasted if you’re only cooking on one shelf.
‘Air fryers are much more efficient as they tend to be smaller than ovens, and their quicker cooking time means they use less energy overall.
As a general rule, when cooking a meal in an air fryer, you can halve the time you would typically use in an oven. Similarly, microwaves cook much faster than an oven and so use far less energy and will save you money.’
A plunging pound, soaring energy bills and food inflation – with shoppers now paying 10.6 per cent more than they were a year ago – have all conspired to make millions of families fear for the winter ahead.
As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, sales of air fryers, which use less energy than both a conventional oven and a microwave oven, have soared as families try and trim the fat in the kitchen.
The compact kitchen appliance, which retails at anywhere between around £40 and £400 – for models which include additional features such as steamers and mini-grills – works by baking food place into its basket at a high temperature – usually 200 degrees – with a high-powered fan circulating the heat.
Air fryers have been growing in popularity in recent years, largely driven by health-conscious cooks who want all the crisp and crunch of a deep fat fryer without the grease – food cooked in them requires a minimal amount of oil.
However, since concerns over growing energy prices first began at February’s end, when the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia began, sending energy prices spiralling, air fryers are now being snapped up by the cost conscious.
They’re also time efficient – a chicken breast takes around 15 mins to cook, where in a conventional oven it might take 20 to 25 minutes.
A minute steak? Two minutes on each side…while a baked sweet potato can be ready in less than 20 minutes.
FEMAIL put a Tefal EasyFry 3-in-1 air fryer, which retails with AO.com at £180 – and comes with a grill and steamer – through its paces, ditching the oven for a week to see how recipes including a roast dinner with rhubarb crumble, jacket potatoes and falafel tasted in comparison to conventional cooking.
DISH: A FULL ROAST AND RHUBARB CRUMBLE
COOKING TIME: One hour (roast), 15 minutes (crumble)
The air fryer’s basket is roomy enough for a medium sized chicken and while the skin looked a little bronzed after 60 minutes at 200 degrees, it was moist on the inside
The roast potatoes, herbs and other veg were put in with 30 minutes’ cooking time left…and looked well done by the time the timer beeped to say the cooking had finished
Easy peasy: A rhubarb crumble took just 15 minutes to cook and looked perfectly browned – with the seasonal dish proving a hit
Forget easing in gently to the world of air frying, this novice decided to go for a full Sunday roast – bar the gravy (cooked up on a hob) – as the first meal cooked in our fancy new appliance.
The basket, which holds up to 1.6kg of food, comfortably held a medium-sized bird. Fearing the high temperatures and lack of oil, I added a knob of butter to the chicken, plus plenty of seasoning and put it on 200 degrees for 60 minutes. Around 30 minutes in, I added potatoes, carrots, courgettes and onions, plus a couple of rosemary sprigs and more seasoning. Worried the onions and courgettes might be cremated, I kept a careful eye…and it’s fair to say that the roast looked suitably well done by the time the 60 minutes was up.
FEMAIL’s Jo Tweedy put a Tefal EasyFry 3-in-1 air fryer, which retails with AO.com at £180 – and comes with a grill and steamer – through its paces, ditching the oven for a week
8/10 A pleasant surprise; I’d expected the worst because the chicken looked a little too bronzed, but it was juicy and well-cooked on the inside and tasted just as if it had been made in a conventional oven. The veg – equally delicious. Did we miss cauliflower cheese? We did…but it was a small price to pay. Serving four, with leftovers the next day, it was deemed a success, the only downside being the kitchen didn’t smell as divine as it would ordinarily with a roast – the aromas were clearly well contained.
9/10 A rhubarb revelation; this pud was cooked in just 15 minutes and we loved the slightly crunch top the air fryer gave it.
DISH: FALAFEL WRAP
COOKING TIME: 15 minutes
This felt like a super healthy Monday night dinner; with around 10 minutes prep to the recipe – which used a small onion, a garlic clove, a 400g can of chickpeas and coriander, cumin and parsley – with an egg to bind it all together.
7/10 Served in a wrap with salad and some chilli harissa, these chickpea bundles were indeed tasty – but didn’t quite have the flavour of the falafel that I know and love. They were a little dry, and I’d probably add an additional glug of olive oil into the mixture next time.
A little too crunchy…but packed with flavour. Falafels in the air fryer felt easy and healthy…but a little dry without a harissa and yoghurt to moisten them
DISH: SAUSAGE AND CHIPS
COOKING TIME: 15 minutes (sausages), 25 minutes (chips)
Sausage, chips and salad was on the table in 25 minutes, with minimal fuss. The sausages produced a decent amount of fat, none of which ended up on our plates – draining through the grill into the bottom of the basket. I added just a little oil to the chips.
A packet of sausages was cooked up in just 15 minutes, and chips turned out particularly well – healthier than your average fried chip…but really crispy
9/10 Sausages: These looked and tasted like proper sausages, browned all over and again moist on the inside.
9/10 Chips: The one dish that most people agree an air fryer cooks superbly…these were a total hit, a spot-on homecooked chip – with less fat than if they’d been cooked in a deep fat fryer.
DISH: SALMON STEAKS
COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 minutes
Salmon – no fishy aroma because the air fryer hides cooking smells well, and a decent colour of the omega 3-packed fish
Two salmon steaks, served up with broccoli and brown rice – both cooked in the steamer that comes with this air fryer – felt like a virtuous Wednesday dinner.
9/10: Possibly the biggest win was that the kitchen didn’t smell of salmon – the air fryer hides cooking smells well. The steaks weren’t dry at all but did have a really appetising colour. Marinated salmon, tried a few nights later, worked just as well.
DISH: MINUTE STEAKS AND ROAST VEG
COOKING TIME: 3 minutes each side (steak) 20 minutes (roast veg)
We could have cooked these two thinly sliced cuts of steak on a hob in a hot pan but opted to try it in the air fryer…they’d been marinated with chimichurri sauce, which held well even after turning. The roast veg were simply chopped, seasoned and throw in the basket for 15 minutes.
A flash in the air fryer…but these minute steaks didn’t quite hold the flavours in the way they would if they’d been cooked in a pan
7/10: Minute steak: This didn’t quite keep the flavours in the way that a pan-fried steak manages to – it doesn’t have the same ‘char’ in the air fryer – but was definitely still tasty.
9/10: Roast veg: Healthy and quick, simply put them in the basket with oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper and you’re away – gently charred for added flavour.
DISH: A HEALTHY FRY UP
COOKING TIME: 4 minutes each side (bacon), 5 minutes (mushrooms and tomatoes), 2 minutes (egg)
The rashers went in first, followed by the tomatoes and mushrooms and finally the egg…and it was the quickest fry up ever, although not all the elements worked – I think it takes practise!
An air fryer could be God’s gift to bacon – it emerges crispy and tasty…while the egg on the other hand, was a little disastrous
7/10: The egg didn’t go to plan…and came out looking exactly like an egg shouldn’t – but lots of people have had successes with frying eggs so the cook was almost certainly at fault. The bacon was brilliant – so crispy and without off-putting excess grease. Ditto the tomatoes and mushrooms.