Have you ever wondered why fried chicken tastes so good? Well, according to science, it's not just how it hits your taste buds, it's also how it hits your ears. The sound of biting into something that is crunchy actually plays a big role in the way we perceive the taste of the food. Which brings me to air fryers — an easy way to get crunchy, crispy (aka delicious) food at home without the hassle of deep-frying your food. And they don't have to cost you a fortune — the best budget air fryers on Amazon start at just $45.
Air fryers work by circulating hot air around your food, which results in a crunchy, delicious exterior without needing a lot of oil. The circulation of hot air also causes the Maillard reaction, an interaction between amino acids and sugar that gives food a flavorful browning (think: what happens when you roast or grill foods). When choosing the best one for you, keep in mind how much food you want to be able to make at a time and if you want to be able to quickly toss the cooking parts into the dishwasher.
Different models also excel at different cooking tasks. The air fryer and toaster oven combo below is well-shaped to toast bread and can even make a pizza, while another of the picks below lets you dehydrate foods. But for all that functionality, none of these is more than $100. For the best budget air fryers, scroll on and take your pick.
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1. The Overall Best Budget Air Fryer
The versatile Ninja Air Fryer has four functions: air fry, roast, reheat, and dehydrate. And it features a large 4-quart nonstick basket and a crisper plate which can hold up to 2 pounds of French fries. This air fryer also has a wide temperature range of 105 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can make everything from fruit snacks to heating up chicken nuggets. The fryer basket, crisper plate, and rack are all dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup, too. With a 4.8-star rating after more than 4,000 reviews on Amazon, it's a best-seller that has customers raving, "Don't know how I managed without one for so long."
2. The Best For Small Spaces
The Dash compact air fryer has a smaller footprint so it's a great pick if you're low on counter space. This air fryer is great for one or two people and can quickly cook about six chicken wings or a pound of fries. It's the cheapest pick on the list but also has the most limited features: It's only going to air fry and nothing else. You'll get a 1.6-quart nonstick fryer basket (which is dishwasher-safe) and a temperature range of 170 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, there are five colors to choose from. "Crisp & lightly browned outside, moist & tasty inside. So much faster & energy efficient than in the oven!" one reviewer raved. However, some found the analog dials to take a little getting used to.
3. The Best Air Fryer & Toaster Oven Combo
With seven functions — air fryer, toaster, convection bake, convection broil, bake, broil, and warm — the Cuisinart AFR-25 air fryer and toaster oven is the most versatile option on this list. Quart capacity is not offered, but it has enough room for a 4-pound chicken, 12-inch pizza, or six slices of bread. The temperature ranges from "warm" to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and thanks to the clear window in front, you don't have to open it up to see how your food is coming along. The drawback here is that the air fryer comes with a fryer basket and baking pan, which should both be hand-washed and aren't dishwasher safe. "It's perfect for making small batch meals or reheating leftovers [...] So far I've made fried chicken, roasted chicken, roasted vegetables (asparagus and brussels sprouts), simple pastries, and numerous reheated meals (with little embellishments). For reheating meals, I bought little pastry pans and put a serving of each item (meat, vegetable, etc) in each pan. It fits perfectly under my cabinet when not in use," one fan wrote.
4. The Best Budget Air Fryer For 4 & More
To feed the entire family or a gathering of friends, the Instant Vortex 4-in-1 air fryer has a big 6-quart capacity, the largest on this list. There are four built-in programs with easy-to-use touch controls for air fry, roast, bake, and reheat, similar to the first pick. The temperature range with this one is 180 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air fryer basket and nonstick cooking tray should be hand-washed. However, unlike the air fryer and toaster oven combo, this one won't fit most pizzas. "The whole family uses this. [...] I cook eggs sunny side up, hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon, pork chops, fish, grilled chicken, etc.," one reviewer noted.