If you’re looking for a compact kitchen appliance to bridge that gap between a microwave and a conventional oven, a pod-shaped air fryer might do the trick.
An air fryer crisps food like an oven does, but it also functions quickly and conveniently, like a microwave.
We’ve tested dozens of models since 2017, and we believe the Philips Premium Airfryer HD9741/56 is the best model out there. It is easy to use, cooks food more evenly and consistently than other pod-shaped air fryers, and doesn’t take up too much counter space.
That said, the Philips Premium Airfryer is not our favorite appliance for air frying. If you have the space and budget, we recommend an air fryer toaster oven, which is more versatile and cooks more evenly than its pod-shaped counterparts. But we have learned over the years that many people prefer the pod-shaped style for a few reasons. Pods are typically more compact, which means they cook a bit faster, since there’s less oven space to heat. Some people also find that it’s easier (or just more fun) to use an air fryer basket with a handle, rather than pulling a hot pan from an oven. We get more into the pros and cons of each style below. But if you are short on time or space, cooking just a few servings, and favor crispy food, a pod-shaped air fryer might be right for you.
After years of testing, we think the 3-quart Philips Premium Airfryer HD9741/56 is the best pod-shaped air fryer out there. It’s easy to use, has a relatively small footprint, and cooks food evenly. When tested against similar models from other brands, the Philips performed better across the board: It cooked the crispiest french fries and the most evenly golden chicken nuggets. We also like that it only has four preprogrammed settings: frozen fries, chicken, fish, and meat, all of which you access through a single dial on the control panel that’s simple and intuitive. More settings on other machines felt like overkill, since we ended up just using the manual settings regardless. One downside to note: The basket is heavier than others we tested and has more pieces to clean (though you can choose not to use some of them).
The 5-quart Cosori Pro LE is big and beautiful, with a sleek design and easy-to-use interface. It’s no wonder many YouTubers and bloggers have proclaimed it their favorite pod-shaped air fryer. The Cosori Pro LE is the newest version of our previous budget pick, the Cosori Pro, and we think it offers a better user experience: The basket is easier to remove, and it fits more food than our other picks. The 11 preprogrammed settings are now clearly labeled with words rather than ambiguous food icons. The Pro LE also looks nicer. It has a chic matte finish, and the touch display screen has been moved to the top of the machine for a more streamlined appearance. In comparison to our other picks, the Cosori Pro LE cooked food the most unevenly; when we made french fries in this machine, for example, every fry was a little different. Some were crunchy on the ends and soft in the middle, and a few were wholly floppy. But most pod-shaped air fryers we’ve tested aren’t great at cooking evenly, and for the price we think the Cosori’s performance is good enough.
The Instant Mini Vortex 4-in-1 is proof that size isn’t everything. Despite its tiny, 2-quart capacity—it was the smallest air fryer we tested—it held its own against much larger machines. Though the Instant Mini’s square basket is a little more than half the capacity of the Cosori’s and a quart smaller than the Philips’s, it could fit a meal big enough for one hungry person (or two snacky people). Depending on the food, such as french fries (which can be stacked), brownies, or pizza, the Instant Mini can fit nearly as much as the Philips Premium or the Cosori Pro LE thanks to its wide, shallow shape. What’s more, this air fryer cooked food more evenly than most of the others we tested. Its streamlined interface has only four preprogrammed settings—air fry, roast, bake, and reheat—all operated by a single dial, which makes the Instant Mini easy to use right out of the box.
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