Boys do fry. We test the Philips AirFryer
by Nick Harman - Monday February 14, 2011 1:11 pm
The first two seem as far away as they ever were, but just maybe Non Fattening Chips are now within our reach. That’s what Philips are claiming anyway with their AirFryer. Eager to find out if our culinary lives were about to take a major turn for the better, FP took delivery of a loaner unit to discover more.
The force was with us
The first thing you notice about the AirFryer is that it doesn’t want to come through the door all that easily, the box is quite enormous. Inside though, under all the packaging, the unit is actually not so large.
Full marks to Philips for the packaging in fact. There may be a hell of a lot of it but it’s all cardboard and paper and so totally biodegradable. No squeaky Styrofoam, just a few thin plastic bags for the manuals and instructions.
Once we’d wrestled all that packing out the door and into the back yard, we gazed in wonder at the revealed AirFryer. As black as a Spinal Tap album cover it looks like Darth Vader’s helmet, absorbing all available light and coming over all mean and moody.
Fortunately what comes out of it doesn’t resemble Darth Vader’s head, which gave me nightmares when the film was first released, instead there’s a frying basket that slides out from the front.
The basket is contained within a drawer, which makes it rather heavy for anyone with weak wrists, but the basket separates away easily enough at the touch of a button. A bit too easily we found as we experimentally pressed the button and the drawer hit the floor with a loud bang. Lesson One - don’t press the release button while holding the drawer in the air.
The basket comes with a metal divider so that if you want you can cook two different things at the same time. Chips and, well possibly some more chips.
Controls- wise the AirFryer couldn’t be simpler. There’s a temperature dial and a timer dial and that’s it. It’s not rocket science.
In fact in some ways the The AirFryer is a very simple thing. It’s basically a compact, very powerful, fan oven. In the top is a large electric heating element; air is blasted down over the element and through the basket, the air hits a contoured base and returns up through the basket before leaving the unit. Anything in the basket gets a good seeing to. The science is in the way the unit is shaped inside to maximise the efficiency of the airflow and exhaust.
The taste tests
Oven chips vary in quality, much depends on what you spend, so we got some average cost chips from a well-known supermarket.
The AirFryer takes three minutes to get up to its chip temperature of 200C (compared to about 15 minutes for a normal oven) and you then take out the basket, fill it with chips and quickly slot it back in. The suggested cook time is 15 minutes with a shake around at the halfway point. We found that it was a good idea to shake it more than that, three times in 15 minutes, as there was otherwise a tendency for some chips not to receive their full cooking.
The timer gently whirred, there was a muted but quite acceptable noise from the fan and we stood around humming the excellent Cure song ‘Boys Don’t Fry’ as we waited for the ready ‘ping’, salt shaker standing by in our hands.
Well oven chips are oven chips, they aren’t gourmet. Apart from the lack of chip smell in the house, the main benefit was on the energy saved. No need to wait an age before cooking or to wastefully heat a whole oven up, which has to be a good thing these days both for our bills and, yeh our planet too man okay? Cool.
Now this was the true test of tests. Philips claim that with just a small spoonful of oil, great chips can be created. We used Maris Piper potatoes and cut them into average sized chips. The chips need to be washed to remove excess starch before, and this is important, being dried thoroughly. If they aren’t dried well then the next bit doesn’t work. You toss the dried chips in the spoonful of oil so that each gets a thin coating. It’s best to use as little oil as you can possibly get away with.
Again we found more than the recommended amount of shaking was best but the result was pretty impressive. ‘Real’ chips in fifteen minutes with no mess, no hassle, no washing up and no pans of red-hot oil to worry about and then dispose of when cold.
Of course they weren’t quite as good as proper deep-fried chips but the important thing is that they very nearly were. The gain in convenience and low fat was not offset by poor taste. We also tried using larger spuds for roast potatoes and smaller cubes of potatoes too. After a bit of trial and error on times, we were producing perfectly palatable results. Ideal for mid week dinners and, let’s all say it again, ‘no fat!’
Yes indeed, as Ben Elton used to say, this is where it gets very interesting. As it’s basically a fan oven, the AirFryer can do other things too, as the included 30 recipe book suggests.
We used the recipe to make a chocolate brownie mix, which was straightforward enough but then we hit a snag. The manual says to use a small cake tin and put it in the airfryer. We found that a cake tin that small doesn't exist and were about to give up entirely when we tried a tinfoil tin from a catering pack. This just about fitted.
In 15 minutes we had browny. The top was a little bit crunchy, owing to the proximity of the heating element, but nothing bad. Again, thanks to the 3 minute warm up time, this was an efficient use of energy to create a perfectly palatable cake.
We really rather liked the AirFryer. Being able to have good chips in 15 minutes is a bit of a life-enhancing feature we felt. The lack of oil and mess was very welcome and the fact that the AirFryer can do other things too - scampi, chicken nuggets, fish cakes, chops, steaks, anything basically that you would normally deep fry or oven-cook - is a real plus. The drawer and basket are dishwasher proof and the electric cord stores away neatly. Ideal for a student house or a busy family one, we reckon the AirFryer is a good addition to any cheat’s kitchen.