How we tested
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.