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Revealed: the surprising secret to making perfect chips in your air fryer

Why your air fryer probably isn't making the best chips possible, and how to fix it

Want the secret to perfect chips that are crispy on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside? You’ll need to ignore the air fryer’s cooking instructions, for a start.

That’s not something we suggest lightly, but insight from our air fryer testing suggests that you’ll be rewarded with better cooking results if you do.

Air fryers use hot air and a small amount of oil to cook food with less fat than a traditional deep-fat fryer. Most are intended to be set and forgotten about: simply chuck in your chips, and dish them out once cooking is complete.

However, we found that you’ll get a much tastier meal if you take the time to pop back and stir or shake your chips regularly – and stop cooking when they reach golden brown, rather than when the timer says so.

The best air fryers will make tasty golden chips with little to no stirring required, so you can relax and leave them to it. But if you’re a stickler for perfection (or stuck with a sub-standard air fryer) we found that stirring partway through cooking improved results in almost all cases.


Best air fryers – discover which models make perfect chips with minimal effort


Shaken and stirred: the secret to fluffy fries

Air fryers have all manner of impressive-sounding features designed to optimise air flow and heat distribution for even cooking results.

From ‘Turbostar’ technology to rotating chip baskets and giant stirring paddles, brands such as Philips, Tefal Actifry and Russell Hobbs all claim to have uncovered the secret to stress-free countertop cooking.

Some of these solutions work better than others, though. Our expert chef, who rates every batch for taste, has had to endure the full spectrum of chips, from a barely edible mix of raw and burnt chips, to delicious evenly fried treats described as indistinguishable taste-wise from the deep-fried version.

The good news is that you don’t need pay a premium for consistent cooking results. We’ve found one brilliant cheap air fryer that makes top chips despite being half the price of big-brand rivals.

You’ll need to choose with care, though, as some budget air fryers are so poor at cooking we’ve named them Don’t Buy air fryers to avoid.

Good vs bad air fryers

With every air fryer, we cook a batch of chips according to the instructions, and then another in which we disregard the instructions and stir the chips regularly, cooking until they turn golden brown. Each batch of chips is inspected and given a rating from one (poorly cooked chips) to five (perfectly cooked chips).

The chart below shows the differences in how a handful of air fryers performed in our tests – and how a bit of extra effort can improve the outcome.

Graph showing how stirring improves chip quality in air fryers

One air fryer failed to cook chips properly, no matter how much stirring we did, producing an unappetising mixture of burnt and raw chips.

Two models made terrible chips when we cooked them according to the instructions, but results improved dramatically when we tried again with regular stirring. Another made tasty, well-cooked chips with minimal stirring or other intervention needed.

While it’s good to know that some air fryers can be salvaged with a change in cooking approach, it’s annoying to have to hover near your air fryer to keep your chips well-turned. If you want hassle-free cooking, make sure you opt for one of our recommended Best Buy air fryers.


Air fryer reviews – compare all the latest models to find the best for your budget


Choosing the best air fryer

The key things to take into account when buying an air fryer are:

  • Capacity – consider how many people you want to cook for in one go, and if you want to cook two things at once, eg fish and chips.
  • Size – some models can take up quite a lot of space. If you want to store it in a cupboard, look at models with detachable handles.
  • Ease of cleaning – if there’s a wire food basket, you’ll want it to be easy to clean or dishwasher safe.

For more on choosing the best air fryer, see our full air fryers buying guide.

Crucially, an air fryer should cook food evenly, for a quick and guilt-free meal. We test every air fryer by cooking chips and chicken breasts to see whether they can whip up a feast on the fly, crisping up chips and keeping meat tender and juicy.

We also rate how quick they are to cook, how noisy they are and how easy it is to clean up afterwards, so you know that a Best Buy will lend a helping hand without weighing you down.

Find out more about how we test air fryers.

*While it’s worth experimenting with stirring more frequently and finding the optimal cooking time for your fryer to get the best results, you should of course still pay attention to important safety and usage instructions that come with your air fryer.

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