Air fryer fail: 6 common mistakes people make when buying an air fryer

Buying an air fryer? We take a look at what you need to consider before parting with your cash.

If you’re buying an air fryer in a Black Friday deal or perhaps getting one for a Christmas gift, it’s important to make sure you know what kind of air fryer you want to buy.

With sleek finishes and smart settings, the best air fryers have become a coveted piece of kitchen kit for cooking novices and experienced chefs alike. 

Before investing in an air fryer though, there are some important things you need to consider, such as what you want to cook or how much space you have for one in your kitchen. Not doing your research properly could lead to an expensive mistake.

Buying an air fryer like this Ninja AF400UK that is sat on a kitchen countertop is great for creating fast and healthy dinnersCredit: Ninja
Choose wisely with convenient designs such as the dual-basket Ninja AF400UK air fryer that can cook two separate dishes simultaneously

Why buy an air fryer?

Fast food that’s pretty healthy

Air frying can be a fast and efficient way to prepare meals as it can cut conventional oven cooking times in half and, in turn, save you time and money off your energy bills.

With an air fryer you can enjoy a host of new meal ideas and healthier fried food options, and the speed at which you can cook delicious suppers is great when you’re pressed for time, “hangry” or just want a decent meal asap. 

You’ll find a wide range of air fryers available online to suit both large and small households. Choosing a design that’s right for you can be a daunting prospect but we’re here to help as we run through six common mistakes people make when buying an air fryer.

If you’re after a particular model you may also want to read our in-depth air fryer buying guide.

1. Not considering how much worktop space you have

They can be quite bukly

Air fryers come in different shapes and sizes and some can be quite bulky in design, so measure up carefully before you buy.

Unlike a countertop appliance such as a blender or juicer, they won’t easily fit in a standard kitchen unit, so unless you’re buying an air fryer that is particularly small you’ll need to make sure you have the space to house it on display.

Storing your air fryer might seem like a good idea, but if it’s not out on your worktop then you probably won’t get the most use out of it.

2. Not thinking about what you want to cook

Avoid sauces and batters

Air frying can be an excellent solution if you’re bored of cooking the same old meals. They offer a healthy alternative to deep-fat frying with little to no oil needed to give you similarly crispy results.

Using one of the latest air fryers can also open you up to a new way of cooking and encourage you to experiment with new ingredients and flavours.

This includes a simple portion of home-made chips to a complete roast dinner with all the trimmings. 

But while air frying is versatile, it’s worth noting that you won’t be able to use it to cook everything.

Clare Andrews, author of The Ultimate Air Fryer Cookbook and The Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook, says she has a simple rule to see if something can be cooked in an air fryer.

“Whatever you can cook in an oven, you can most definitely cook in an air fryer,” she says.

Anything that can be baked, roasted or fried will do well in an air fryer, but anything with a sauce or battered food won’t be ideal as it’s likely to slip through the basket. 

Weighing up an air fryer or a slow cooker? If you prefer sauced-based dishes, you’ll be better off with the latter.

When buying an air fryer consider what you want to cook in it, such as Salmon and Asparagus that is seen cooking in a Ninja air fryerCredit: Ninja
Salmon and asparagus are just two of the delicious foods that can be cooked in the air fryer – as shown here in the Ninja AF400UK

3. Choosing the wrong style

From basket design to multi-cookers

Not all air fryers are made equal, so before buying an air fryer, make sure you do your research and buy the right style and model for your lifestyle.

Basket design

These have one or two basket-style drawers that you can pull out to reveal the cooking zone. They often have a mini grill at the base of the basket that drains away any excess oils from the food.

The drawers are convenient for pulling out to shake chips halfway through the cooking cycle to ensure they are evenly cooked.

Paddle air fryer

Air fryers from the likes of Tefal come with a circular interior tray and a stirring paddle that automatically stirs the food for you while it’s cooking to ensure even results.

This means you won’t need to stop the cooking cycle to open up the air fryer and shake the food yourself. 

Mini oven style

There are air fryer designs that look like a mini-microwave and come with extras such as a rotisserie feature, ideal for a whole chicken.

Air fryer and grill

You can also buy air fryers that double up as health grills and come with a convenient-to-lift lid and griddle plates inside. These work particularly well for fish suppers and steaks with chips on the side.

Multi-cooker with air fry setting

Some multi-cookers come with an air fryer setting so you can make use of multiple cooking functions in one compact design. 

Don't forget the design

Aesthetics are important too, so consider the colour and finish of your air fryer as well as the design. The most premium designs come with sleek, finger-print proof black finishes and rose-gold trims, for example, designed to enhance the style of your kitchen.

4. Opting for a complicated model

Choose an easy to navigate control panel

All good air fryers should come with an easy to understand control panel with variable heat and temperature settings so you can tailor the food to your taste.

Pre-sets for meat, fish, vegetables, desserts and more also come in useful, but take a look at the control panel before you buy to check how it illustrates its functions. You won’t want to be reaching for the instruction manual every time you use your air fryer to work out the controls, after all. 

When buying an air fryer, think about the size of your kitchen, to make room for one like this Ninja AF400UK that is sat on a countertopCredit: Ninja
The Ninja AF400UK not only looks stylish but comes with high-tech functionality too

Also consider how the control panel is built. Will touchscreen work for you or do you prefer standard control dials and push buttons? The more high-tech solution doesn’t necessarily mean the easiest to use.

That said, you can also consider smart control. The Philips Essential XL – that we’ve reviewed in detail here, for example – can be controlled manually and also remotely via an app on your smartphone.

5. Buying one that’s too small

Consider the number of portions you need to cook

If you have a large number of people to cook for or want a design that can handle more than a small portion of chips, you should ideally be buying an air fryer with ample capacity. 

“I would look at the size and capacity of the basket, and just make sure it is the right size for your family,” says Claire.

And while some multi-functional air fryers can match conventional ovens in terms of functionality, they fall short when it comes to cooking capacity.

If the quantity of food you need to cook doesn’t fit in the air fryer cooking basket, you may need to run more than one cooking cycle and that can defeat any time and energy-saving benefits of an air fryer.

What size is right for you?

Whether you live alone or don’t have much space on the worktop, a compact air fryer such as Lakeland’s 2 litre air fryer will do just fine. It can fit up to 450g (1lb) of chips or a dozen chicken wings at a time.

Choose an air fryer with a food capacity up to 5.2 litres (9 pints).

If you have a particularly large household, consider a design that has a food capacity up to 9.5 litres that works well for up to eight people.

The Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK can be a great compromise as it has two separate cooking baskets that can be used independently.  This means you can switch between cooking smaller meals to preparing meals for larger numbers.

6. Forgetting to check if it’s dishwasher-safe

Check the instructions

While convenience may trump cleaning when buying an air fryer, ease of maintenance is crucial for long-term satisfaction. Ensure parts and accessories are dishwasher-safe, minimising tedious hand scrubbing. Check the care instructions before buying to avoid cleaning headaches.

Examine the interior and exterior for potential dirt traps, hard-to-clean crevices, and susceptibility to fingerprint marks. Glossy surfaces often attract smears, so be prepared for regular cleaning to maintain your air fryer.

And once you’ve bought and used your machine, follow our step-by-step guide on how to clean an air fryer to keep it looking box fresh.

Do you want to do more than air fry?

There’s a machine for that…

Some air fryers work like mini-ovens and can do so much more than simply air fry. If you want a versatile air fryer, look for one with extra cooking modes for baking, reheating, toasting, dehydrating, roasting and more.

To find out what you can cook in an air fryer and help you decide how versatile a design you’d like, you can search online for air fryer recipes. Alternatively, join one of the many air fryer Facebook groups that feature avid fans posting and discussing air fryer recipe ideas, hints and tips online. 

Keen to get air frying?

For everything you need to know about the latest kitchen must-have, read our air fryer guide. Once you’ve made your choice, you can find out how to clean your air fryer to keep it well looked after. 

Emily Peck

Written by Emily Peck

Updated:

During her 20+ years as a lifestyle journalist, Emily has held inhouse positions as features editor at Ideal Home and a features writer at the BBC. A freelancer for Saga, she regularly writes for publications including Livingetc, GQ, Ideal Home, The Telegraph, Tom’s Guide, TechRadar and Wired to name a few. She covers everything from design and interiors, gardens and food, to fitness and health.