Published September 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.
Frying without cups and cups of oil? Impossible. That was our first response to this product.
Frying without cups and cups of oil? Impossible. That was our first response to the T-Fal ActiFry ($299.95), a machine that promises to use only 1 tablespoon of oil to “fry” 2 pounds of food. It uses a rotating paddle to slowly push food and oil around a heated nonstick-coated chamber while you watch through a clear lid that stays moisture-free for easy viewing. It all sounds too good to be true—and it is. On the plus side, the machine did produce french fries with a hands-off approach (set it for 30 minutes and walk away), was easy to program, and boasts a dishwasher-safe insert. However, the fries were less crisp and flavorful than those cooked in a pot of bubbling oil: The exteriors of thicker batons were soggy and the interiors parched, while thinner-cut spuds had a texture reminiscent of frozen fries. Meanwhile, chicken nuggets needed nearly half an hour in the fryer—twice as long as in the oven—and a batch of sweet potato chips ranged from floppy to burned. We appreciate the concept of more healthful, less messy frying, but for now we’ll stick with occasionally indulging the old-fashioned way.