Prime Day is upon us, which means there are sales everywhere you look (or click). Small appliances are no exception. One of the most popular small appliances to add to the household on such an occasion? The air fryer.
I’m an air fryer fan. I got mine about two years ago and it’s become a surprisingly valuable part of my cooking picture. I admittedly mostly use it to crisp up frozen stuff, but it has plenty of other uses, too: cooking vegetables, cooking meats—some of them are even big enough to air fry an entire chicken.
The thing about air fryers is that they’re not one-size-fits-all. They come in different categories of models, each suitable for different needs. In case you’re hoping to add an air fryer to your kitchen toolkit and are thinking about using Prime Day as a way to do it, here’s a breakdown of the four most common types of air fryers, to help you navigate the crowded landscape.
The basket air fryer is usually cylindrical and has a basket that you push into the air fryer unit like a drawer. Your food goes into the basket and cooks in it. Basket air fryers come in both compact and large-capacity models. If you’re cooking for a family and want to be able to, for example, cook an entire bag of fries, you probably need one with more capacity. Compact models are purposefully made smaller so they take up less counter space, and because of the smaller size of their basket, may be more suitable for someone who is cooking smaller portions of food just for themselves.
A subcategory of basket air fryers is the dual zone air fryer, which has two separate baskets for frying. This means you could do something like make chicken wings on one side while roasting vegetables on the other. This is a great option for someone who plans to use the air fryer for bigger meals or who wants to use cooking time as efficiently as possible, since it allows you to cook two distinct foods at one time.
Depending on what you’re cooking, basket air fryers require you to stir or shake the food around every few minutes during the cooking process. For example, fries will stick to the basket and not cook evenly if they aren’t stirred (or shaken) intermittently throughout the cooking time. A paddle-type air fryer, meanwhile, has a paddle that rotates inside the cooking chamber, stirring up the food as it cooks so you don’t have to. These models tend to be a little more expensive, but if you prefer a “set it and forget it” mentality with cooking, they may be the best option for you.
There are a number of air fryer toaster oven models on the market, which combine their two eponymous kitchen appliances into one. These can be a real space saver, since they’re two for the price of one on how much counter space they occupy. That said, some of these can be quite large—large enough to roast an entire chicken!—so they aren’t necessarily a compact option. But if you have lots of counter real estate or you cook things that require minimal prep space, that might not matter to you.