So, some of you may have heard of this new thing called an air fryer – my dad prefers the term small oven and puts the fresh new moniker down to some genius-level marketing. It’s almost as if someone somewhere decided it was time to sell a new oven to the entire world and we all went for it. Anyway, Tefal sent us their posh fryer to try out and we have to say right now, it may take some getting used to, but we can see the value. As for the technology involved, this really is a small steel box with some fans and elements inside and there is nothing wrong with that. This one is a Tefal FW6054 Multifunction Air Fryer Oven and costs around £200 in the UK at the start of 2024.
A big selling point for these fryers is the speed at which food is cooked and the reduced use of electricity, and they are right but this advantage is double-edged. A conventional oven is around 60 litres or so. Our Tefal is 20 litres. So the volume to be heated in this small fan-assisted oven is a third of the size of a normal oven. But, that also means you are restricted on what you can get inside, obviously. If you can live with a smaller cook then an air fryer is for you – that probably means you are single or a couple. However, if you have a bigger family that demands lots of cooked food at mealtimes, then perhaps think again. You may not be able to fit it all in. Being a third of the size of a normal oven also means roughly using a third of the power to get things done. That is a major bonus, especially as it seems utility companies around the world are determined to financially ruin us all by hiking their prices exponentially making huge profits to really rub it in, but that’s for another video.
Many will argue an air fryer is greener and better for the planet and it is; but remember how much you want to cook at once and use that as a major decision maker on whether you get one or not. Let’s take a look at this Tefal. It is dead smart to look at, but is not without its faults so let’s deal with the biggest one right now, although even this is nowhere near a deal killer. It’s the door handle – when you open the single door which pivots downwards towards the kitchen top. But that handle protrudes so far, the door does not open to its full 90 degrees as a conventional oven door does. Instead, it hits the kitchen worktop at about 80 degrees. While this doesn’t stop you from putting things in and taking them out, it could possibly lead to a user maybe spilling any liquids in a low-rimmed dish because it has to be tilted at an angle. An answer is to have the unit close to the front edge of the kitchen top so the door can fully open. Or design the handle better.
My parents also tried a third-party paper sheet designed for the floor of air fryers to catch drips. That then caught fire, so no more of those to be used. What it did do was help explain the shape of the airflow inside the Tefal. The ashes of the burned paper rotated rapidly in a vertical tornado shape, even with the door open. They found that fascinating once they knew their kitchen wasn’t going to burn down.
So how does this Tefal operate? On the front are two nice large rotary dials, and two ‘invisible’ switches. The left switch illuminates a hitherto hidden menu that allows users to select one of several programs – these are air fry, roast, grill, bake, pizza, toast and dehydrate. As each cooking style is selected by the left dial, a time and temperature is shown to the right. These can then be customised using the right switch and dial. So, if you find your pizza takes a little longer or shorter and requires a higher or lower temperature than the one Tefal offers, the user can make adjustments. Of course, these can be customised on each of the programmes to suit your taste and we have now done several chicken dinners, some sausages, burgers, a pizza, fish and even toast – and one of them was a whole chicken which needed to be flattened down a bit so it stayed away from the top heating element.
Putting it into an actual dish is also advisable to limit drips hitting the fryer’s removable drip tray. That is helpful, but we found it extra helpful to limit that happening and reduce all the possible mess. One experiment that didn’t work well was a cake, but we think that could be down to the style of cake chosen, which was all but a liquid in a tray. We are set to try a more conventional recipe. The whole chicken, followed by some roasties, has been our most challenging meal so far and it came out well – actually really well. We started it at 50 minutes but felt another 15 was needed just to be safe. No food poisoning so far so we must be doing something right. Smaller chicken breasts are a doddle as are sausages and burgers, with the occasional rotating during cook times.
Many air fryers appear to have a single heating element in the roof, this Tefal also has two bars on the floor so there is a good all-round spread of heat. And cook times are nicely speeded up by that tornado-style agitation of the air inside. As you select a cook-style program, you can see a little icon that shows which heating elements will be used for that programme so you can decide on which of the three shelf positions you use. With this Tefal FW605 oven, you get that drip tray, a basket, a cooking tray and a grill-style shelf – all in steel. They feel pretty substantial, too, which reflects the quality of the parts being used by the company. Finishing off, I would like to just hark back to my earlier mention of doing toast – you can choose the bread darkness and after four minutes, we had the most delicious toast – the most even spread of toastiness we have ever experienced. Four minutes may be a little long, but some might think this sort of quality toast is worth the wait.