Consumer Reports: Putting air fryers to the test

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Consumer Reports keeps us in-the-know about new gadgets vying for space on your kitchen counter.

Air fryers are becoming more popular because they claim to cook your foods to a crackly crunch without the fat. Are air fryers more than just hot air? 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney and Consumer Reports checked out a batch.

Jillian Pacella makes chicken nuggets and french fries for her kids four times a week. And thanks to her Air Fryer, she is not giving them fried food. "It does not require a lot of oil to cook the food," she said. "And we're looking for ways to make things the kids like to eat, healthier. And the kids love it."

An air fryer works by circulating hot air around food that is suspended in a basket. It's essentially a countertop convection oven. Many recipes call for foods to be tossed with a little oil, rather than being fully immersed when you use a traditional fryer.

Consumer Reports tested seven appliances, and although they appear similar from the outside, Consumer Reports found some real differences. "One big difference you'll see is basket size," said Sara Morrow, Consumer Reports Home Editor. "Some are so small, they require you to cook in batches and that's not as good when you're cooking for a whole family."

The NuWave costs $140, and is the largest one tested, with a 5.8 quart capacity. It has easy-to use controls. But it is a little noisy, similar to a microwave.

Consumer Reports calls the Farberware model a best buy. It costs $70, and is one of the quietest air fryer they tested. The controls are fairly easy to see and use. It holds 3.2 quarts. But note that the nooks and crannies in the food basket make it a little tough to clean.

The fryer from Black-and-Decker has temperature settings printed so tiny, they are difficult to read. And the small basket holds just two quarts, fine if you're not cooking very much, but you will have to do multiple batches if the kids bring their friends for nuggets.

Those fries in the deep fryer do look tempting. But it's nice to know about the alternatives. Consumer Reports points out that since this is a little convection oven, these air fryers can also be used for cooking meats and even baking.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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Written and produced by Justin Mendoza
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