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Best budget air fryer 2024: Our favourite cheap countertop cookers

Tower Vortx Digital Air Fryer in our test kitchen

Get in the air frying game for less with our selection of the best budget air fryers

Increasingly popular across the UK, air fryers offer a quick, healthy and convenient way to cook sides, proteins and even whole meals, right on your countertop. The best budget air fryers offer all of this at an affordable price. When they first hit British shelves, air fryers were consistently expensive, with most models retailing for close to £200 or more. However, as the technology has become more widespread, prices have started to settle to a more reasonable level. You can now find super simple models with prices to match, as well as some cheap options that still include a few extra bells and whistles.

To find out more about air fryers, including which features to look for and what prices to expect, check out our handy buying guide below. Scroll beyond that and you’ll find clear, concise mini-reviews of our favourite cheap air fryers.

Or, if you want to save yourself some reading time, you can see our top options in our at-a-glance list.

How to choose the best budget air fryer for you

What is an air fryer?

First, let’s have a little refresher on what this appliance actually does. An air fryer is a countertop cooker that heats food via convection. What this means in practice is that it rapidly circulates hot air around your food, much like a fan oven, ensuring the maximum amount of surface area comes into contact with heat. However, where it has an advantage over a traditional oven is its compact size. This, combined with a powerful heat source and fan, means they can cook food much faster than a traditional oven, and the appliance rarely needs preheating.

Air fryers generally operate between 150˚C and 200˚C, though there is some variation between different models and brands. At this temperature, a process called the Maillard reaction takes place – also known as the “browning reaction” – and this is what makes well-cooked food taste so appealing. Though you don’t necessarily need to use any oil at all, air fryers can produce great results in terms of browning and crispness with only a small spray.

Air fryers with dehydration settings can be set as low as 40˚C, while models with high-power settings can reach temperatures of up to 240˚C.

For a more thorough insight into how air fryers work, you can check out our full-length What is an air fryer? explainer.

What should I consider when buying a budget air fryer?

The features and qualities you’d look for in a budget air fryer will largely be the same as you would seek out in more expensive models. With that in mind, some of the things you should consider when looking for a budget air fryer include:

Format – If you’re looking for the most straightforward, budget-friendly option, then you’ll likely opt for a single-drawer air fryer as these models tend to be fairly cheap. They’re also usually relatively compact and easy to use. Other formats include larger dual-drawer air fryers, oven-style models, and multi-cookers with air frying functions. While consistently more expensive than single-drawer models, these dual-drawer and oven-style air fryers generally have greater capacity, more power, and more functionality. Budget versions of more expensive models and sales periods are good ways to get yourself a more well-rounded air fryer without having to shell out a lot of extra cash.

Capacity – An air fryer’s capacity is usually listed in litres and is the volume of its basket or interior. If you’re only cooking for one, or simply intend to use the air fryer for small side dishes, then a compact option around the two to three-litre mark will probably suffice. For couples, or for larger portions, an air fryer with a drawer size between about four and five litres would be a good fit. Finally, for larger households, or people looking to make whole meals in the air fryer, a dual drawer or oven-style model expands your cooking options considerably. These types of air fryers are often sized between seven and fifteen litres, and can fit sizable portions and even larger items, like whole chickens, hams or nut roasts.

Functionality – Budget air fryers won’t have as many readily available functions as more expensive ones. Still, if you can find a well-priced model with a few extra features or capabilities, it’s probably worth your while snapping it up. Extra features we like to see in an air fryer include the ability to operate over 200ºC; separate settings for roasting, dehydrating, reheating, baking and so on; clear viewing windows; interior lighting; sync and match settings for dual drawer models; rotisserie functionality for oven models; digital interfaces and app integration.

READ NEXT: The best small air fryers available

How much should I spend on a budget air fryer?

Fast, powerful multi-functional models – like some of the options highlighted on our more general best air fryer list – usually cost between £150 and £250. More straightforward, reasonably priced air fryers can be picked up for anywhere between £30 and £100.

At the lower end of this scale, you’ll still find models that are solidly built and effective, but they lack any extras. Move toward the £100 mark and you’ll find the build quality and performance have improved noticeably. It’s usually from around this price point that air fryers start to offer premium features like second drawers, extra cooking modes and more interesting or useful accessories.

How we test air fryers

We put all the air fryers we review through a rigorous series of tests to assess their strengths and weaknesses. To test manual performance, we use a given air fryer to cook a variety of common items, such as potatoes, vegetables, meats and fish, and we assess the air fryer’s performance in terms of cooking speed, the exterior crispiness of the food, and how well the heat has penetrated to the centre of the items.

To test an air fryer’s stated capacity, we cook at least once with the basket full to the brim, helping give us a clear idea of how much it can fit and how well it performs when full. If an air fryer has extra functionality, like settings for baking, dehydrating or roasting, we run separate tests to ensure these modes work as described.

READ NEXT: Best air fryer for two people

The best budget air fryers you can buy in 2024

1. Tower Vortx 5l Digital Air Fryer: Best budget air fryer

Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at Tower

Tower Vortx 5l Digital Air Fryer - turned on and set up on a kitchen counterTop of the budget pecking order, the Tower Vortx 5l Digital has one of the best bang-to-buck ratios we’ve seen in an air fryer. Our favourite thing about it is its capacity – its very spacious five-litre basket gives you enough room to cook up generous portions of sides for multiple people, or several main dishes. But, despite its capaciousness, the Vortx 5l is still surprisingly compact, as its tall, squared-off design helps reduce its countertop footprint.

While it doesn’t offer any extra features or functions aside from a handful of presets, the Vortx 5l punches above its weight when it comes to its primary task: air frying. In our testing, the Vortx 5l took on a range of items, including halloumi fries, glazed carrots and seasoned chicken breast, consistently producing foods with crispy exteriors and tender interiors.

The Vortx 5l is a cheap, practical and effective option for anyone looking to pick up a countertop cooker.

Read our full Tower Vortx 5l Digital Air Fryer review for details

Key specs – Capacity: 5l; Power: 1,400W-1,600W; Format: Single-drawer; Accessories: Removable crisper tray

2. Tower T17023 2.2l Manual Air Fryer: Best budget air fryer for small kitchens

Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Argos

Tower T17023 2.2L Air Fryer set up on a kitchen countertopLooking at the air fryers we’ve reviewed, you won’t find anything more straightforward, compact or budget-friendly than Tower’s T17023 air fryer. At a touch over two litres, the T17023’s basket is big enough to fit a single, generous portion of a side dish, like chips or hash browns, or a pair of chicken breasts. While a tad limited in terms of capacity, the air fryer’s smaller basket does make for a truly compact appliance. Measuring 24 x 18.5 x 26.5cm (WDH) and weighing just 3kg, the T17023 is the lightest, dinkiest air fryer we’ve tested, and will slot neatly into even the most boxy or overburdened of kitchens.

Settings-wise, the T17023 keeps things very simple with two physical dials: one for time and one for temperature – it can be set between 80ºC and 200ºC, for up to 30 minutes. In terms of performance, the T17023 did surprisingly well on oven classics like spring rolls and chicken nuggets in our testing, though it couldn’t match the results of the more expensive models when it came to steaks or chicken breasts. However, with such a reasonable price tag, the T17023’s few flaws and limitations remain eminently forgivable.

Read our full Tower T17023 Air Fryer review for details

Key specs – Capacity: 2.2l; Power: 1,000W; Format: Single-drawer; Accessories: Removable crisper tray

Check price at Tower

3. Ninja AF100UK: Best cheap Ninja air fryer

Price when reviewed: £150 | Check price at Ninja

The Ninja AF100UK air fryer set up on a kitchen countertop next a plate of cooked chicken wingsNinja’s air fryers have regularly received good marks from us as their models perform consistently well in our tests. They tend to be powerful, well-designed and packed with features, and while this entry-level air fryer is the cheapest option available from Ninja, it’s no exception.

The AF100UK has a lot in its favour: its basket is decently roomy at just a touch under four litres; it has responsive, easy-to-use digital controls; and it has a solid range of settings, including options for roasting, reheating and dehydrating. Of course, as in our original review, we have to praise its air-frying results: everything from crispy chips to bread pudding comes out very well when cooked in the AF100UK.

If you’re looking to cook bigger portions, for groups of more than two, or you just want some extra firepower, the larger Ninja AF160UK MAX is an upgrade worth considering.

Read our full Ninja AF100UK review for details

Key specs – Capacity: 3.8l; Power: 1,550W; Format: Single-drawer; Accessories: Removable crisper plate

Check price at Ninja

4. Tower T17039 Xpress Pro 5-in-1: Best cheap oven-style air fryer

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Amazon

The Tower T17039 5-in-1 air fryer set up on a wooden surfaceWhile a basket-based setup is the standard format for air fryers, many users prefer oven-style models for their viewing windows, multiple cooking shelves, and handy rotisserie accessories. A reasonably priced option in this mould, the Tower Xpress Pro 5-in-1 has a capacious 11-litre interior and a handy digital touchscreen, with presets for common items. It also comes with four oven trays, as well as a rotisserie spit.

The Xpress Pro 5-in-1’s large capacity has room enough for a whole chicken – albeit a small one – or two to three portions of chips. Cooked rotisserie style, a chicken took just 45 minutes and turned out beautifully, with perfectly crisped skin and a juicy centre. Oven classics like chips, nuggets and onion rings also turned out well, with the 5-in-1’s crisping trays allowing them to be heated and crisped evenly without needing to be flipped midway through.

Although it tends to be slightly pricier, the Tower Xpress Pro 10-in-1 is an even more versatile option worth your consideration, adding accessories that give you the ability to cook kebabs, steaks and pizzas.

Read our full Tower T17039 Xpress Pro 5-in-1 review for details

Key specs – Capacity: 11l; Power: 2,000W; Format: Oven-style; Accessories: Rotisseries spit, cross-hatch crispy tray (x3), solid oven tray

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