When the Actifry was first conceived three years ago, I marveled at the concept of making perfect French fries with nothing more than a spoonful of oil. Now that the French invention's finally hit the American market, T-Fal, the company behind the appliance, sent me one to try out. According to T-Fal, home cooks can save over 200 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving in comparison to fast food fries when using the Actifry ($300). Was it really possible that delicious fries could be made with just a tablespoon of oil, compared to a couple liters of it? Find out when you keep reading.
- The gadget, which blows hot air while stirring food with a large paddle, produces nearly perfect fries. Russet potato and sweet potato French fries were crispy on the outside, yielding to a soft, fluffy center. Unlike a baked fry, Acti-fries are evenly crispy on all sides. They don't have quite the light and flaky exterior of authentic fries, but they come pretty darn close.
- It's incredibly easy to clean. The gizmo's pan, lid, and filter are all removable and thus quick to clean. Nothing sticks to the dishwasher-safe nonstick ceramic lid, making it a cinch to wipe down.
- The lidded contraption is much safer than a regular deep fryer. It gets hot enough to achieve results, but not so hot I worried about getting near it as I might a spattering fryer.
- Loose ingredients that mix easily, such granola and fried rice, blend evenly in this machine.
- Other foods take longer to cook in an Actifry than on a traditional stove, with less satisfactory results. I tried a few stir-fries from the accompanying recipe packet, but the meat turned out tough and overcooked, since there was no way of monitoring the cooking without turning the machine off and opening it to check up on the dish.
- Nugget-sized pieces of classic fried snacks, such as frozen egg rolls, actually achieve better texture when baked than when reheated in the machine.
- The Actifry takes up more counter space than a large slow cooker and is louder than a microwave when in use. Since the timer only sounds twice, if you don't hear it go off, you risk the chance of burning your food.
In summary: This appliance may be able to perform multiple functions, but it really only shines with one: creating a (nearly) perfect French fry for a fraction of the calories and fat. Skip the $300 unless you're a frites fanatic, in which case this machine is perfect for you.