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T-Fal ActiFry Review

Low-fat fries from a machine

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T-Fal® ActiFry®

© 2011 T-Fal®, licensed to About.com, Inc.
The T-Fal® ActiFry® is a counter-top appliance whose major target is those who wish to cook traditionally greasy foods in a low-fat manner. Its biggest selling point is the ability to make low-fat homemade French fries using only 1 tablespoon of oil. It has a 2.2 pound capacity, with a non-stick interior. It is basically a table-top oven that uses a rotating paddle to constantly stir the food as it bakes. Imagine it as a convection stir-fry wok that doesn't require hands-on stirring and flipping of the food. You may have seen this appliance on the popular "Dr. Oz" television show.

Pros:

• Although they won't taste exactly like your beloved fast food fries, it actually does make pretty good crispy fries with a minimum of oil. Be sure the raw potatoes have been rinsed and completely patted dry (as specified in the product brochure) or you will end up with a mushy result.

• Obviously other foods will work well with its contained stir-fry motion, such as vegetables, shrimp, pork, chicken, and meats. They must be cut into cubes or strips, just as you would for a traditional stir-fry.

• No need to preheat. Keeps the kitchen cool and uses less power than the oven.

• The pieces easily come apart for cleaning and are dishwasher-safe. The included measuring spoon stores inside the machine.

• The lid is clear so you can watch your food as it cooks.

• Stop at any time to add foods that need less cooking time or to add seasonings.

• It has a 99-minute timer, although most foods will cook in less than 30 minutes.

• The exterior of the machine stays cool to the touch when running, a nice safety feature. However, the lid can get uncomfortably hot.

• The frypan base is coated with a ceramic non-stick finish. No PTFEs or PFOAs.

• A limited recipe booklet includes 35 recipes as well as basic cooking guidelines for creating your own concoctions.

• Frozen fries need no additional oil, since they have been pre-cooked. Most chicken nugget products and the like may also be cooked in the machine.

Cons:

• It's pricey. At the suggested retail price of $249, you would definitely want to use it for more than fries!

• Versatility is limited to foods that would generally work well in a stir-fry. Softer foods can bend and get smashed by the rotating paddle.

• There is a bit of a learning curve on the cooking times of different foods. If the timing is not right, you will end up with some foods overcooked, some just right, and some undercooked. Timing is everything.

• Except for fries, most meals will require a careful eye, planning, and attention. It's not like a slow cooker that you can set and forget.

• Everything cleans up easily as promised, except for the paddle, which will take some elbow grease. If you use any sauces with sugar in them, you can pretty much forget about getting it completely clean. (This does not affect functionality.)

• The machine has a timer that counts down and beeps when time is up. However, it does not turn off the machine. The beep is not very loud, so pay close attention.

• Only a minimal amount of liquid may be used. Again, this is not a slow cooker or soup-pot.

• The product measures 16.7 by 13.6 by 9.4 inches and weighs 8.9 pounds. Plan ahead for counter-top use space as well as storage space.

• Unless you are making a side dish in the machine, plan on 2 adult servings per use. It just won't hold enough make a main dish to feed a family of 4.

• The machine has only 1 temperature setting: 338 F. It's either on or off.

• Smaller batches of food do not work well. The food just gets pushed around by the paddle instead of rotating to cook all sides.

• Some foods have a tendency to get stuck, which can cause burning and smoking. Do not leave the machine unattended.

• Do not use with freshly breaded or battered foods. The coating will come off.

• The risotto recipe in the booklet was a resounding failure during my tests.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for a machine to make low-fat fries and stir-frys, the ActiFry delivers as promised, albeit at a hefty price. The fries are tasty, but not much different from traditional oven fries. The paddle eliminates the need to flip the food, but you should still keep a close eye on the machine while it is running. One of the biggest drawbacks is the timer, which will not turn off the machine when it counts down. I can see this as being a safety hazard.

All in all, the ActiFry does perform as advertised for fries and stir-frys. It is not a fryer. It's more of a convection oven. In my opinion, it is over-priced for its functionality.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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