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Fried food tastes great but is not always the healthiest choice if you're watching your calorie or cholesterol intake. Makers of air fryers claim to sidestep these concerns by cooking chicken wings, french fries and more in a healthier and more convenient way to fry. The biggest claim is that these countertop kitchen appliances create the same delicious deep-fried foods you crave by baking with hot air and almost no oil for healthier, lower-fat versions of your favorite bar snacks and guilty pleasures. Some air fryer manufacturers 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. 

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. 

Read more on Chowhound: 15 unexpected things to make in your air fryer | Is getting an air fryer really worth it?

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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.

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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 air fried chicken, fries and 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. 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

Here's 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.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Frozen foods like pizza rolls are this air fryer's sweet spot. During cooking tests, the Philips Avance heated these items evenly, cooked them faster than a full-sized oven and created a crispy exterior that you can't get in the microwave. The removable drawer with non-stick coating makes cleanup easy. Read our Philips Airfryer Avance Collection review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Philips Viva Collection Airfryer is compact, cooks frozen snacks in minutes, and is a snap to clean. The controls are easy to use, its drawer is removable and it has a nonstick coating for easy cleaning. On the downside, the low-powered heating system couldn't make food with quite the same flavor and texture as a deep fryer and this Philips air fryer is also more expensive than it probably should be. Read our Philips Viva Collection Airfryer HD9621 review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Simple Chef HF-898 Air Fryer is the budget best air fryer we tested. It's easy to set the timer and keep clean, though we weren't entirely blown away by its baking performance on our air fryer recipes. Overall though, we still enthusiastically recommend this air fryer. Read our Simple Chef HF-898 Air Fryer review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you crave truly outstanding fries at home, the T-Fal Actifry FZ7002 is the best air fryer to buy but it's not great for other recipes. Most shoppers shouldn't spend this much on an appliance that doesn't have many other functions. Read our T-Fal Actifry FZ7002 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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