Deep-fried food tastes so good, but involves way more oil than is likely to be good for you, not to mention the always-looming possibility of a major fat fire. The much-promoted-recently Philips Airfryer claims to offer "great tasting food with 80% less fat". But what does food from an airfyer actually taste like? Over the past week, Lifehacker has been testing it to find out.
Pictures by Ben White
When the test Airfryer arrived, several of my colleagues from the Sugar Network were immediately sceptical. "How on earth can you fry something without oil?" they asked. The answer, of course, is that you can't. The device uses a combination of fan-forced hot air and a grill plate to heat food through. In effect, it's like a very small fan-forced oven that resides on your bench, with a pull-out basket with a handle for the food.
While the Airfryer comes with a recipe book, there's little doubt that cooking fries is its main target. Frozen readymade fries are recommended, mostly because these already have a light application of oil which means they crisp more effectively than plainly sliced potatoes. You throw them in the basket, switch on the timer to fire up the fryer, give them a quick shake halfway through, and 12 minutes or so you've got fries. You can deal with up to 750 grams of food at a time, though the results are better if you don't totally fill the device. Because of the fan, it's also seriously noisy.
The first batch of thick-cut fries we tried came out OK, but I honestly can't say they were any different to the results you'd get if you put the same product in an oven. A couple didn't actually heat through properly, and there was no sense of them being anything other than reheated. It wasn't a terrible outcome, but it didn't seem anything like frying.
The outcome with a smaller portion of thin-cut and pre-seasoned curly fries was a lot better. The results were substantially crisper, and the collected Allure office staff demolished them within a couple of minutes. The lesson is clear: this device suits thin fry fanatics much better.
I also ran a couple of other foodstuffs through the airfryer for testing purposes. Chicken nuggets were another big office hit, and actually cooked quicker than they would have in a conventional oven (8 or so minutes versus the package recommendation of 15), and with much better crispness than the traditionally lazy microwave alternative. A veal steak turned out OK too, though I prefer the output of my George Foreman Grill for that kind of cooking -- it retains the juices better. At the insistence of Kotaku editor Mark, we also tried some haloumi; this came out OK, but was slower than doing it on a BBQ or in a frypan.
The unit is large enough to dominate the space in our office kitchen, looking a bit like a rogue ice cream maker. Cleaning after making chips was pretty straightforward, though you need to wait for the device to cool quite a bit before attempting to wipe it out. Cooking the veal steak resulted in a lot more mess.
The bottom line? For $329, I don't personally eat enough fried food to have this make sense as a purchase. If your kitchen already has a fan-forced oven, it would also be highly questionable.
However, if you live in a small unit without a built-in oven and want something that can move house when you do, or you really do eat a lot of oven fries, it would make a lot more sense. Students ahoy!