The Tefal Actifry promises to fry your favourite foods using just 1 tbsp of oil. Being an avid fan of deep fried miracles including chicken wings, onion rings and french fries, I just had to try it out.
$350 RRP in Australia.
How It Works
I’ve described the Actifry to friends as an ice-cream maker combined with a convection oven. Basically, it’s a big nonstick pan equipped with a constantly rotating silicone stirrer. You load all the food into the pan, drizzle it with a relatively small amount of oil and then close the clear lid. The controls include just two buttons – one for on/off, one for a timer. Fired up, hot air blows around making it sound, as you might expect, like a weak hairdryer. The idea is that the air blows the oil around and cooks the food while the spatula keeps everything cooking evenly.
I put the Actifry through three crucial tests, constantly questioning whether it was better than a convection oven. The first, chicken wings (buffalo style), because you can’t generally duplicate the crunch of a fried wing in the oven. The second, sweet potato fries. (Battered food like onion rings will just gunk up the system, so I settled for something that’s also pretty difficult to oven fry.) And last, I made straight french fries – the device’s biggest selling point by far.
So I took a bit and… they were chewy, just as if I’d baked em. And actually, a bit overcooked as well, since I was going more for texture than taste.
Sweet Potato Fries
Traditionally, good sweet potato fries are considered difficult to make – even ordering them off a restaurant menu can be a crap shoot. I actually make great sweet potato fries in the oven, baking them for about 20 minutes before throwing the switch on convection to give each fry a bubbly, slightly crisp skin. Theoretically, the Actifry would cook the potatoes in a similar manner.
After cutting Idahos as equally as possible and rinsing away the extra starch, I fired up the Actifry, almost nervously, on behalf of T-fal.
Still, munching through the plate of potatoes with my wife, I realised two things. One, I’m not sure this is significantly better than what I could do in an oven (with an oil mister and a bit of flipping). And, two, I’m not sure this is significantly easier than what I could do with an oven. (After all, I still peeled and cut up a few fresh potatoes.)
Winner: Actifry… by a nose.
Mostly Just Hot Air
Or, you know, there’s always the option to actually cook foods by submerging them in hot fat. Deep frying is about as simple as cooking gets, if a bit messy and unhealthy.