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Best air fryer of 2020: Philips, Cuisinart, Black and Decker and more

Air fryers have become a popular kitchen gadget. Here are the models we think make the most sense.

Even though it tastes great, fried food isn't always a healthy choice for those who may be watching their cholesterol or calorie intake. Enter air fryers, which claim to sidestep these concerns by cooking French fries, chicken wings and more in a healthier and more convenient way to fry. 

The biggest claim that air fryer manufacturers make is that these countertop kitchen appliances create the same delicious deep-fried foods you crave by baking with almost no oil and the power of hot air. Some say their machines can air fry whole chickens complete with perfectly crisp skin and cook crispy fries in a matter of minutes and with a fraction of the fat and calories.  You can use air fryers to make healthier, lower-fat versions of your favorite bar snacks and guilty pleasures or to dehydrate fruits and vegetables. 

We haven't spent a lot of time testing this year's models. When we reviewed them all last year, we came away mostly unconvinced that they're worth the countertop real estate given that you can recreate most of their core functions with a simple oven or toaster.

Still, we put eight through their paces last year, all of which are still available, in some cases at lower prices. We covered units from Black & Decker, DeLonghi, KrupsPhilips Air Fryer, Simple Chef and T-Fal. To test them, we air-fried french fries, onion rings, frozen snacks, chicken wings and burgers. But are air fryers really as good as a traditional deep oil fryer? Is it time to throw out your cooking oil and sub in an air frying recipe book? Here's what we found. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

If you're looking for the best air fryer to make food in small workspaces, the $79 Purifry from Black and Decker is a solid choice. This air fryer is affordable, functions well with time and temperature, and doesn't take up a lot of counter space. But its small food capacity can be a drawback, and it's not a good air fryer for big recipes or entertaining. Read our Black & Decker Purifry review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The DeLonghi Multifry 1363 successfully uses high-temperature hot air to conjure up some of that oh-so-good deep-fried taste and crunch in the food that comes out of air frying, like a tray of air-fried chicken, fries or wings. It also comes with a motorized mixing paddle. Just don't try to use it to make your risotto recipes, which it claims it can do. Read our DeLonghi Multifry 1363 review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

This Krups air fryer is reasonably priced and makes decent fries, though not a whole lot better than a toaster oven. It's hard to clean its metal mesh air fryer basket, but you can toss it in the dishwasher and wash any food bits off. Be advised, its shape and size make it bulkier than most people will want for a kitchen countertop appliance. Read our Krups Fry Delight AJ1000US Air Fryer review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

When you need the best air fryer for making huge portions of food, Philips delivers with an air fryer that's simply massive (19 lbs.) and takes up lots of counter space. The Philips Airfryer XXL has a capacity of 4 quarts -- that's enough capacity for air frying the biggest batches of food of all machines we've looked at so far, but this Philips HD model is also one of the most expensive air fryers on the market and has somewhat confusing controls. Read our Philips Airfryer XXL review.

To air fry or not?

Countertop oilless air fryers, including the Ninja, NuWave Brio, Farberware and more, are gaining hype as a small appliance category, and many manufacturers now sell these products hoping to cash in on the air frying trend. Whether you should buy one depends on how much you enjoy foods like fried potatoes, fish sticks, onion rings and frozen snacks in all their varied forms. If the answer is a lot, then, by all means, choose a model that you can afford or keep an eye out for air fryer deals. Otherwise, we recommend relying on your trusty oven when the fried food craving strikes.

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