Last Updated July 18, 2022 removing Total Chef as a recommendation
What’s an Air Fryer?
Chances are in the last 10 years you’ve heard rave reports from your friends about a new invention called an “air fryer”. For years, the only way to fry foods like french fries and fried chicken has been with the deep fryer, where you place your food into a big tub of oil and then that oil gets soaked into your food (and into your arteries). Air fryers come with the tantalizing promise that you’ll still be able too enjoy fried foods, but with a fraction of the oil.
While some may feel that the air fryer is a big innovation, ironically it’s not really innovative at all. It’s essentially a convection oven–an oven where hot air is circulated within a cooking chamber. Convection ovens have been around since 1945. But in 2010, Philips introduced their “airfryer” line of convection ovens and there was a perfect storm of a really clever brand name and a public that was becoming much more health-conscious. In the years since, air fryers have become a category of their own. They typically are more compact than traditional convection ovens and the placement of the fan blowing the hot air is typically on top of the oven vs. the back, resulting in more evenly cooked food. Air fryers will also come with accessories like basket trays that allow for more airflow to get the foods more crispy.
Can you get an Air Fryer Not Made in China?
It’s tough. The vast, vast majority of air fryers are manufactured in China. This is mainly due to the relative recency of air fryers’ popularity; unlike other appliances that have been around longer, air fryers were never widely manufactured in the United States or other countries before, and so there’s no legacy as far as plants or labor. Most US and European companies just jumped at China’s cheap labor since the history of air fryers began.
Sadly, as you scan Amazon, you’ll see first-hand that virtually all of the top-selling brands are manufactured in China, including Ninja, Cuisinart, Instant Pot, All-Clad, DeLonghi, Chefman, Yedi, and Philips. Some brands try to wiggle around it: Breville says that all their air fryers are “designed and engineered in Australia”, but of course they’re all made in China. Aggravatingly, even the brand named GoWISE USA is made in China, which is pretty sketchy. T-Fal for a while was made in France, but they’ve since outsourced to China. And perhaps not coincidentally, you start to see more and more “fake brand names” like MIMODAY, KITCHER, CROWNFUL, AICOOK and MOOSOO saturating the marketplace.
Out of the literally hundreds of air fryers, the one that had given me the most hope was the Total Chef Air Fryer from Koolatron. But sadly, while they had been made in Canada at one point, I’ve confirmed they’ve since moved all their manufacturing to China. Here’s the history of my research on this particular product over the last few months:
October 2021 Update:
I recently had a great chat with a customer service agent in Wayfair. Wayfair is listing the Total Chef TCAF03 as being made in China, so I sent a note to Koolatron asking about. For now, I’ll keep them as #1, but that’ll change if I get confirmation they’ve sold out.
November 2021 Update:
Koolatron customer service confirmed to me that their air fryers are assembled in Brantford, Ontario in Canada, although one of our readers reached out to me on Facebook to confirm that the parts themselves are manufactured in China (thank you Cézanne). This is one of those situations where it seems that the choices are limited. If I had to get an air fryer, I would still go for the Total Chef–at least SOME of the revenue will go to workers not in China. But clearly this is an industry that China has near total control over. Let’s hope the same fate doesn’t happen to others.
July 2022 Update:
Thanks to Deb who left a comment on this site informing me that the Total Chef is now made in China. Despite the assurance of Koolatron from just a few months ago, it was clear from the latest Amazon reviews that more and more users are receiving China-made units. So I reached out to Koolatron customer service, and to their credit they responded quickly with the following:
While I’m deleting Koolatron’s Total Chef as a recommendation from this site, I’m keeping the history here to make a point. For every product you buy that’s not made in China, you need to buy it AND tell the manufacturer (through Amazon reviews and emails to their executives) WHY you bought it. I suspect that Koolatron will see a MASSIVE drop in purchases of this unit because some executive felt they could save money by going all-in on China, not even realizing how many people specifically bought from them BECAUSE they didn’t manufacture in China.
A Message to Air Fryer Makers Not Made in China:
Want free publicity? Leave a comment with your contact information (don’t worry, since I manually approve all comments on this page it won’t be published) and I’ll be happy to give you all the FREE advertising you like. Tell your product managers to factor THAT into their cost-benefit analysis when deciding on whether to manufacture in China (as if the costs of arbitrary shutdowns, tariffs, and bad PR due to Uyghur concentration camps and imprisoned Hong Kong reporters aren’t enough).
Best Air Fryers Not Made in China
I’ve been checking Wayfair, Williams-Sonoma, and Amazon and seeing contradictory information about this one. Wayfair customer service clearly confirms on their pages that this is made in Indonesia, although they do it in their Q&A section and not their usual product information. Williams-Sonoma, on the other hand, clearly states “Made in Indonesia” on their product page.
Amazon provides contradicting information–the Country of Origin in the product listing says it’s made in China, but customer reviews and Q&A from as early as February 2020 to as recently as September 2021 confirm they’re getting units made in Indonesia.
I’m going to guess that all the supply chain and lockdown issues that happened during the pandemic are playing a part in the inconsistency here. Making matters worse, Wayfair country of origin information isn’t exactly the most reliable. My best advice is to try to find this in a store so you can check for yourself. If I had no choice but to buy it online, I’d choose WIlliams-Sonoma, only because if they send you a made in China model you can always send it back.
This Dash air fryer is half the weight of a standard fryer so it’s perfect for apartments or dorms. Its 2.6 quart capacity is perfect for serving 2-4 people at a time. It fries food with 75% less fat than traditional deep frying and couldn’t be simpler to operate: just fill the basket with the food you want to fry, set the timer, and let the frying begin. An automatic shut-off timer ensures that your food will always be perfectly done.
It has a rating of 4.6 on both sites.
2. Total Chef TCAF03 7-in-1 Air Fryer
As I said, I’m going to leave this here for now, even though it’s been confirmed that they’re making it in China, and therefore is NO LONGER recommended by this site. The reason? Read the last paragraph of my review, which was sadly but not surprisingly prophetic.
I had to do a double-take when I read the Manufacturer’s answer to the question “Where is this manufactured?” Like the fat free yogurt episode of Seinfeld, I thought that maybe this was too good to be true, but with further research on the Web I believe this to be accurate. The manufacturer’s name is Koolatron who is known for producing a number of “made in Canada” products. There aren’t a lot of Amazon reviews to go by, but looking at Costco Canada’s site where this has been on sale for a longer period of time there are lots of positive reviews (most of the negative reviews driving the overall rating down seem to focus on Costco sending out used units). Overall, people rave about the simplicity, the quality of food (crispy on the outside, tender on the inside), the very reasonable price, and of course the fact that it’s made in Canada. One can only imagine the pressure that Koolatron is to be the last to shut down their Canada manufacturing facilities and outsource to China. If you’re in the market for an air fryer that is NOT made in China, this may be your last chance to send a message to Koolatron and all their competitors that you will support any company that stands strong.
July 2022 update. It looks like this has been out of stock for a while now, but if you’re lucky you might find one from a third party seller. I’ll keep it on the list but don’t get your hopes up.
I was pretty bummed at seeing brand after brand of air fryer manufactured exclusively in China. But there was a glimmer of hope when I saw @Cezanne on Twitter report this find! (h/t to him and to Not Made in China Directory for this one!)
For those of you who don’t know, Tatung is a company that was started in Taiwan in 1918. This was 31 years before the Republic of China came onto the island. The company even pre-dates the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded three years later.
Not surprisingly, Tatung is a great source of pride for the people in Taiwan. When my wife and I got married, she explained to me that it’s traditional for every Taiwanese newlywed bride to get a Tatung steamer from her family as standard issue. And over the years, I can’t count how many dumplings, steamed eggs, steamed veggies, steamed buns, Zongzi, dim sum we’ve enjoyed from that thing. And after 10 years and counting, it’s still going strong (both the steamer and the marriage, in that order :P). In the meantime, the Breville toaster we got on our wedding day (made in China) is not heating evenly, the Keurig coffee maker (made in China) made brown colored water, and I lost count of how many small appliances ended up in the garbage. In the meantime, the only appliances that still work the same the day we got them is our Kitchenaid mixer (made in USA), our Zojirushi rice maker (made in Japan), and our Tatung.
Did they cost a little more when we bought them than an American brand that’s “sold out” like Hamilton Beach, Oster, Cuisinart, Ninja or worse, a fake China brand like COSORI or ZINGCOOK? Yeah. Does it feel good to be using them after 10 years when people who bought those brands have probably already gone through two or three of them, resulting in more plastic in landfills, local communities that relied on manufacturing getting abandoned, and increased money in the coffers of the People’s Liberation Army? Heck yeah.
But on to the Tatung. I’m still trying to find out more about this model. It seems that it was released in November 2017 and for a while was sold all over, including Macy’s and Walmart, but it looks like it’s been out of stock for a while. Worse, the product has completely disappeared from Tatung’s own site, which leads me to believe it’s been discontinued :(.
In my research, most Tatung air fryers made during this time were made in China, but Not Made in China Directory seems fairly confident that this model was made in Taiwan. Unfortunately, it appears that only third party sellers on Amazon carry this product anymore and as always, you need to be careful with third party sellers.
Most T-Fal air fryers appear to be made in China, but thanks to reports in the comments, I learned that years ago T-Fal made the ActiFry line out of France. While it was around it was definitely a popular and highly reviewed model. It’s anyone’s guess as to why T-Fal seems to have deprioritized it, but if they’re smart they’ll continue to make it out of France, even if they have to charge a premium for it. If they’re putting all their eggs in China, that’s a move beyond foolish.
T-Fal still lists the ActiFry on its Web site, but when you try to look for retailers who sell it you get no results. Your best bet is to look for a third party seller on Amazon or a gently used model on eBay.
Do you have any experience with these Air Fryers? Or have you found another manufacturer who has not sold out to China? Let us know in the comments below!