Small air fryers are great choices for anyone seeking a tool that can give the flavor of deep-fried food without the deep-frying and without taking up too much counter space. Of course, there is no way that these little cooking gadgets can compete with full-sized a air fryer in terms of power and capacity, but they are still large and efficient enough to handle almost every cooking task.
And since air fryers are multi-functional electrical appliances (no matter how large their cooking capacity is), they make it possible to enjoy different styles of cooking in a much more convenient way. From preparing fried food to creating more challenging dishes, having the best small air fryer will make all the difference. But how exactly do you pick the right one? Read on to find out!
How to Buy the Best Small Air Fryer
If you’re familiar with convection ovens, you’ll probably know how air fryers work. By circulating hot air around the food, these powerful workhorses bring you the perfect golden brown finish you’d expect from fried food without requiring too much cooking oil.
To do so, your small air fryer should have an efficient built-in fan to ensure even cooking and a powerful heating element to promote fast heat up. Since small air fryers also differ in terms of how easy they are to use and clean. You’ll also need to evaluate them based on style, price, and feature set.
Typically, you can get a quality small air fryer for under $90. But prices can go as high as $200 for units with more advanced features and included accessories. In most cases, the jump in price will not correspond with a better performance. However, it’s obvious that you’ll have much tighter control over how your food is cooked with a high-priced model compared to a basic one.
And because pricier units often come with more useful accessories, such as baking trays, pizza pans, and multi-purpose racks, you don’t need to buy any extra equipment for your cooking game, as you normally do with a cheap air fryer.
2. Cooking Capacity
Depending on the design and style, capacity will vary somewhat between 1.7 and 4 quarts. This is large enough to comfortably fit a 12-inch pizza, a 2-4-pound rotisserie chicken, or 2-4 slices of toast, but too small to prepare multiple dishes at once.
Plus, with this cooking capacity, small air fryers can only feed a family of 2-4 persons. If you have a larger family or regularly host dinner parties, you may prefer a machine with a capacity of 5 to 8 quarts.
This large-sized air fryer provides plenty of cooking space for preparing 6-9 slices of toast, a 13-inch pizza, a 12-cup muffin tray, or even a whole chicken of 5-6 pounds. Because they’re bigger, however, you will need to sacrifice a little more countertop space for the extra capacity.
3. Ease of Use
If convenience is your major consideration, you should buy a fryer featuring an LED display and a full touchscreen menu. With these properties, you can easily select a cooking function or set a cooking time/temperature with the touch of a button while still maintaining a high level of control over your cooking.
Before you dismiss air fryers with knob controls as being old fashioned, however, it’s worth remembering that they can be particularly handy for those who hate being overwhelmed by confusing and overly complicated buttons. While these units cannot take care of the calculations in terms of cooking time and temperature, they’re straightforward to use, especially in the dark.
4. Ease of Cleaning
Most air fryer baskets are detachable, nonstick, and free from harmful chemicals. They are also often safe to wash in the dishwasher. But it’s advised that you should check the manual instructions to make sure.
Reviews of the Best Small Air Fryers in 2021
- Ninja AF101 – Best to buy in 2021
- Instant Pot Vortex – Best Value Small Air Fryer
- Elite Gourmet LEAF-0201BG – Best Small Air Fryer for RVs
- Ninja SP101 – Best Small Air Fryer Toaster Oven
- Dash DMAF360GBAQ02 – Best Small Air Fryer for French Fries
Here is our list of the Best Small Air Fryers:
1. Ninja AF101 – Best to Buy in 2021
Compact size, great cooking ability, and stylish design are advantages that make the Ninja AF101 a no-brainer to buy. Compared with traditional fryers, it heats up faster, consumes 75% less fat, and provides you with more versatility.
- Compact yet powerful
- Stylish design
- Easy-to-clean basket, crisper plate, and multi-layer rack
- Wide temperature range
- Highly durable
- Can give off unpleasant smells
Still, air frying isn’t the same thing as deep frying. So, don’t expect that the flavor and texture of fried food produced by this unit will be exactly like those of traditionally deep-fried food.
With a 4 quart capacity basket, the Ninja AF101 offers enough cooking space for an entire 4-pound chicken or 1/2-pound of French fries. While it cannot cook for a crowd, it’s big enough to serve a family of 3-4 members well.
Featuring powerful built-in fans, the Ninja is among the few fryers on the market that conduct heat evenly. Instead of concentrating heat only on top of the food, this appliance can ensure even heat distribution, eliminating the risk of food ending up under- or overcooked. Just make sure you remember to flip your food halfway through to ensure it’s evenly cooked on both sides.
Its heating elements also work very impressively. On average, it takes just 2-5 minutes to reach the desired temperature. This allows you to start frying, baking, or even roasting food in no time at all.
Because the Ninja AF101 is a smart fryer, it’s controlled by a touchscreen instead of buttons. While there are four built-in cooking presets programmed for some specific food items, the intuitive control panel also allows you to manually set the cooking time and temperature. That way, you can flexibly customize your favorite food the way you like it.
Coated with a high quality ceramic layer, the nonstick basket of this fryer seems to be quite a bit more durable than its competitor. We noticed that even under heavy-duty use, it doesn’t easily get chipped or discolored. This is also the biggest advantage of the crisper plate and the included multi-layer rack.
The main drawbacks: A smell of burning plastic or electric malfunction may occur during the first few uses, even when you have washed your air fryer thoroughly before using it for the first time.
Also, after the second or third cooking cycles, the protective coating of the machine began to burn and give off unwanted smells when at high temperatures. This is not always the case with other air fryers. So, it’s advisable that you shouldn’t ignore it if it happens over time and gets worse.
At around $100, the Ninja AF101 is absolutely a great value for your money, especially given its efficient performance and impressive durability. And with a range of advanced features, the machine serves nearly all sorts of cooking tasks pretty well — without losing its functionality over time.
2. Instant Pot Vortex – Best Value Small Air Fryer
Since this fryer has a larger capacity than our top pick, it may occupy a bit more counter space. But overall, at 6-quart capacity, Instant Pot Vortex elegant and compact enough to fit nicely in even a tiny kitchen, yet still offers enough room for 2 pounds of fries, a dozen muffins, or a butterflied small chicken.
- LED Digital Touch Screen
- Fast cooking time
- Six-in-one cooking appliance
- Large capacity
- Fingerprint resistant stainless steel accents
- Quite bulky
- Cookbook is not included
- Can get hot
In terms of performance, the Instant Pot Vortex doesn’t perform any better than the Ninja. But having two more cooking presets does make it more practical for those who are new to air frying.
Whether the tasks at hand are frying chicken wings, roasting veggies, making beef jerky, or reheating the leftovers, they can all be done with just the touch of a button.
But if you don’t want to use the default setting, the cooking time and temperature can be customized manually at any time during cooking. While the manual controls for the 30-minute timer are simple to set, the temperature range from 105°F to 400°F ensures that almost every kind of food can be cooked properly.
Of course, the Instant Pot Vortex is not without drawbacks. We noticed that when the fryer is in a workplace that doesn’t have good ventilation, the heat coming from its back can worryingly heat up your kitchen.
We also noticed that this fryer doesn’t include a cookbook. Unless you download the official Instant Pot app to instantly access its nearly 1,000 recipes, there is no way that you can discover how to make the most of your fryer without trials and errors.
Particularly ideal for those who prefer simplicity and convenience, the Instant Pot Vortex ensures to get the job done without you monitoring its every move. For the price and the reputation of Instant Pot Brand, this is a very good medium-duty air fryer that you can entirely count on.
3. Elite Gourmet EAF-0201BG – Best Small Air Fryer for RVs
Specifically designed to make your RV living enjoyable, experimental, and adventurous, the Elite Gourmet EAF-0201BG allows you to cook along the way within the confines of your limited kitchen space.
- Stylish design
- Precise temperature and timing control
- Cool-touch handle
- Dishwasher safe pan and rack
- Cooking chart for commonly air-fried foods
- The cooking references can wipe off
And since it is a versatile appliance that cooks without producing flames, it provides you with a safer way to do all your normal kitchen activities while travelling.
At about 11 inches tall by 9 inches wide, the fryer should be a great tool to help you get the most out of your RV space. But with a tiny size comes restrictions on the total cooking capacity. Though the air fryer often heats up faster than its larger counterparts, at only 2.6 quarts capacity, it restricts your flexibility to make larger meals.
If you often cook for more than three people, you’ll need to make two or three batches to get a full-size meal for your family. In terms of smaller quantities, one dozen chicken wings or a pound of French fries should be perfectly cooked in record time using little to no oil.
Anyone who loves simple cooking can’t go wrong with the Elite Gourmet EAF-0201BG. With just a timer and the temperature control knobs, setting the machine up for preparing different foods is very simple.
There aren’t any cooking presets. But you can still confidently handle a wide array of cooking tasks with six quick references printed on the top. Giving suggestions in terms of cooking time and temperature for some common dishes like poultry, seafood, fish, meat, fries, and baked goods, these conveniences make your fryer much more practical to use, even if you’re a beginner.
Still, instructions, along with the number on the timing and temperature area, will gradually fade off use. Several users complain that after using their machine just a couple of times and wiping it down with a wet cloth, almost all the information provided on the control panel became unreadable. This prevented them from changing the settings or even rendered the machine useless.
The Elite Gourmet EAF-0201BG impresses us with its compact size, fast heat up, and even heat distribution. Though it doesn’t have a fancy digital display featuring smart cooking presets, its performance is comparable well to those of larger and pricer fryers. Of course, the device has its downside, but we think these are forgivable drawbacks considering the low price.
4. Ninja SP101– Best Small Air Fryer Toaster Oven
Despite the small size, the Ninja SP101 has all the qualities you look for in a good convection toaster oven. And because this appliance is just a standard oven featuring an air frying function, it bakes better than most solely dedicated air fryers while still being able to produce crispy, crunchy fries as well as its counterparts.
- Ultimate cooking versatility
- Takes up less storage space when in the flip-away mode
- Fast and efficient cooking
- Even baking
- Spacious capacity
- The pan is not anti-warp
Apart from baking and air frying functions, the Ninja SP101 also has other pre-programmable settings for some common cooking tasks such as roast, broil, toast, bagel, and dehydrate. It even has the ability to keep your food warm for up to 2 hours until you’re ready to serve. Though it’s expensive, it is entirely worth your investment, given its versatility and incredible performance.
If you only want to use your oven on rare occasions like 1-2 times a week, then you’ll be glad to know that this appliance will save you a considerable amount of space when you flip it up to store against your backsplash.
Not only this, the flip-away functionality will make it much easier to clean the surfaces beneath and around the oven. As a great bonus, the oven is compact and lightweight. It shouldn’t be a hassle to flip it up every time you clean or store it.
A wire rack, 13-inch sheet pan,removable crumb tray, and air-fry basket all come included. Only the sheet pan and air-fry basket are dishwasher safe. But handwashing is highly recommended for all the removable parts to prolong their lifespan.
Also be aware that the pan is not anti-warp. It will soon lose its flat surface when heated at high temperatures. While most of the time it will return to its normal shape when it cools down, warping is obviously a main cause of uneven baking.
The Ninja SP101 is the only oven on our list. But when it comes to air frying, it works better than most. Its larger usable cooking area makes it a great solution for those who want fat-free delicious meals but hesitate about the limited frying basket of small air fryers. With this device, enjoying your favorite fried food without guilt is no longer a hassle.
5. Dash DMAF360GBAQ02 – Best Small Air Fryer for French Fries
The Dash DMAF360GBAQ02 is exceptional in that it has a uniquely engineered removable drawer, which allows air to circulate around the food much more quickly and evenly.
- 8 customizable cooking programs
- Thoughtful design
- Auto-shut off function
- Deluxe digital display
- Compact and lightweight
- Useless recipe guide companion cookbook
Plus, the drawer is entirely nonstick and PFOA-free. You can prepare delicate foods like fish, without having to worry that they will stick to the cookware’s surface. This reduces the strain on the dishwasher and makes handwashing a breeze.
With 3 quarts of capacity, the drawer has a perfect size to cook one pound of French fries, a dozen buffalo wings, or a 3-pound chicken. It serves a family of 2-4 people in an instant with up to 8 one-touch cooking presets. By using the advanced digital display, you can simply take the guesswork out of your food prep at the push of a button.
You can also control your cooking and monitor results for a greater variety of recipes. All within minutes of setting the timer and adjustable temperature control.
The only drawback of the Dash DMAF360GBAQ02 is the recipe guide companion cookbook it comes with. To be more specific, while the temperature control is only adjustable in 10-degree increments, a few recipes included in the cookbook call for a setting of 375°F. That said, the cookbook is easy to follow, providing you with the easiest recipes to indulge in healthier fried favorites.
Beyonds the efficient performance, there are many other features that make the Dash DMAF360GBAQ02 a no-brainer to buy. They include the unique-designed basket, no-frill interface, and improved cooking technology. Indeed this is the best small air fryer for French fries that you can trust.
Top-rated Small Air Fryers Comparison Chart
|Cooking Functions||LCD Display||Warranty
|Instant Pot Vortex||6||6||Yes||1|
|Elite Gourmet EAF-0201BG||2.1||No||No||1|
The best small air fryers should deliver the convenience and functionality of multiple cooking appliances in one. Whatever the cooking task is, having a tool that offers ultimate versatility will bring you countless benefits.Not only this, the ideal air fryer should also heat and cook evenly. So, your food will come out golden brown and crunchy on the outside rather than soggy or pale all over.