Been on TikTok lately? How about food TikTok, where one-minute recipes reign supreme? If so, you've probably seen meals getting the air fry treatment, from jammy air fried eggs to loaded cheese ‘air’ fries; air fried cosmic brownies to air fried banana snacks. The collective videos under the #airfryer hashtag have over two billion views, and the most viral range from simple, health-oriented recipes and keto snacks like air fried green beans, with over 21 million views, to more ingredient-heavy recipes for meals like chicken parmesan and French toast. A single, 57 second video for tacos el pastor received over one million views. Hell, you can even watch someone air fry an ice cream sandwich. The videos are so addicting, because the meals—even when they take a lot of preparation—feel like a spontaneous, science-defying fever dream. Just place whatever you want in the magic air fryer drawer, and boom. There’s a kind of playful, one-up mentality to it all: If you can see it, you can probably air fry it. So why not try?
Consider Air Fryer Guy, a TikTok creator whose recipes are soundtracked by his own air fryer-themed ballads, and who has amassed a whopping 1.4 million followers. That’s almost three times the amount of people who tune into Pope Francis’ daily mass. (Of course it’s a competition.)
When one drawer closes, another (air fryer) drawer opens. Peep this viral recipe for garlic butter steak bites, which intrigues us because it looks like it’s going to melt in our mouth, and also makes us feel like a rich person’s dog:
On the sweeter side of things, people are out here giving cookies a little extra crunch in their air fryers:
And using air fryers to transform their home into a literal Cheesecake Factory—massive menus not included.
Kmart has even issued a “9 Piece Air Fryer Toy” complete with plastic nuggies and fries for kids, which is when you know a trending item has transcended into the One Throbbing Cultural Brain.
Air fryers are the David Copperfield of kitchenware, so it’s no wonder they’re going viral on TikTok. They can replace your need to own individual toaster ovens, slow cookers, pizza ovens, and even dehydrators by combining them all in one kitchen appliance. At their core, air fryers are multi-purpose convection ovens, often no more than a foot wide, capable of circulating hot air around your food with the power of a Marvel superhero. It sounds futuristic and fancy, because it is, but air fryers have only been becoming more and more affordable, with some of our favorite models costing less than $100.
But aside from offering an alternative to frying that’s magically sans oil—which can be helpful for folks with certain dietary restrictions or needs—air fryers are just fun. Remember when we used to go feral for those Easy Bake Oven commercials in the 90s? This is like that, only no one can shame you for doing it as an adult. Once upon a yum, we tested the Ninja 6-in-1 Foodi—the Cadillac of air fryers, as it were—and whipped up everything from mouth-watering DIY carnival food, such as air fried New York-style Italian cookies, to treats all the way from the ninth level of Midwestern hell. Have you ever deep fried mayonnaise? It goes great with black coffee.
If you’ve never given an air fryer a try, this is kind of the best time to jump on the bandwagon. It’s freezing outside, we’re bored, and COVID-19 is still capricious enough for us to go back into semi-hermit mode. Whether you’re looking for a colorful air fryer or one under $50; hunting for a compact sizzler or one from Jurassic Park, here are our favorite air-frying picks.
The best air fryer under $50
This 3.7-quart air fryer by Crux normally sells for about $60, but it’s 28% off right now on Amazon, where it has a 4.7-star rating. “MORE THAN AN AIR FRYER!” writes one reviewer. “As an air fryer novice, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised [...] To say that I am excited to experiment with new ways to prepare meals, that do not include heating up the kitchen in the heat of summer, may be quite the understatement!!”
The best air fryer under $100
The Instant Vortex Plus has received a coveted Amazon #1 Best-Seller sticker, because it’s easy to clean and comes with dehydration, roast, broil, and reheat features. “If you're looking for an air fryer with the versatility of an oven but without the hassle or increase to your gas bill,” writes one reviewer, “then this air fryer is definitely going to be a perfect fit for you.”
The best ~*personality*~ air fryer
Most air fryers may not have the sex appeal of a Smeg toaster or the De'Longhi La Specialista Maestro, and that’s OK! We love them because they treat us well; because they work fast, spoil us with crispy chicken, and are super easy to clean. But if you do want an air fryer with a little more personality, the red Crownful air fryer and rotisserie oven combo looks like something you’d find in Ina Garten’s kitchen.
There are also cow-patterned wraps for air fryers. Will someone tell Doja Cat about this one?
The best space-saving air fryer
Coming in at a modest 1.7-quart capacity, this is the smol air fryer of our dreams, because it won’t take up precious counter space in our apartments, and can still fit a whole Cornish game hen in there. Also, it’s called the “Kalorik,” so you know it’s partied in Berlin.
The best air fryers for feeding the whole commune
You did not come here to play, and we respect that. You came to fry the entire herd, roast all the Truffula trees, and make sure all 12 of your dinner guests leave satisfied. Once again, we must sing you the praises of the Ninja Foodi 8-quart beast. It’s also a dehydrator, and can broil and reheat whatever you need with ease, thanks to its two separate compartments.
We’re also into the top-rated Breville air fryer, because it looks sexy, has an entire cubic foot of interior room for your dinner, comes with 13 preset functions for every bagel and slice of salmon, and will bully your neighbor’s Tesla while you sleep. Yum!
Fry on, angels.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.