Deep-fried foods may be yummy, but they're generally unhealthy. Plus it's a huge waste of oil, stinks up the house and is a faff to dispose of. Step forward Tefal Actifry Express XL.
If you're not familiar with the Actifry concept, it works by circulating hot air, thereby vastly reducing the need for fat. Hurrah!
This new model's biggest selling points are speed and capacity. It can handle up to 1.5 kg of food and can cook 1kg of chips in less than 30 minutes - that's up to 30% faster than the original Actifry 1kg, and still with just 1 spoonful of oil for a big family batch.
That's pretty impressive, I think, and with the in-built paddle, you don't even have to be around to turn them - the Tefal Actifry Express XL does it all for you. And when you're finished, the lid, non-stick bowl and paddle are all removable and dishwasher safe.
So, it's quick, healthy and convenient. That's a lot of boxes ticked.
I rather like the retro / space age domed design too although it has a very large footprint. The design is necessary, of course, to accommodate the circulation of hot air, but at 49.2 x 37.8 x 29.8 cm, you may struggle to find a home for it in smaller kitchens and it's circular all the way round, so won't store away at the back of the cupboard.
The controls are simple. There are no temperature or mode controls, you simply set the time on the digital display using plus and minus buttons and it beeps when the cooking is done. It's fine to open the lid part way through to add extra ingredients, it just pauses the program, so as long as you close the lid again within three minutes, it will resume cooking. The clear lid is 'steam free', so it's also possible to keep an eye on things without opening the Actifry up.
The guide that comes in the box tells you the amount of oil and timings you should use with the most common dishes such as chips, chicken breast, frozen stews, fresh fruit and chopped vegetables.
Chips are probably the thing you'll be most keen to try, and they are delicious, you just need to make sure you prep the potatoes properly in the same way you would for deep frying ie wash the potatoes, chop them into evenly sized chips, wash the chips until the water runs clear, pat the chips dry well with kitchen roll, then cook. If you cut your chips at odd sizes and put them in the frier without rinsing or drying, you'll get soggy, starchy, pale chips that don't crisp up and are unevenly cooked. And it won't be the Actifry's fault!
After getting great results with chips, we tried making some of the eleven recipes that come in the included booklet. If that seems a bit meagre, there are loads more Actifry recipes on the Tefal website. After a bit of practice you get used to how the machine behaves and can get a bit more adventurous with your own recipes.
For camping and caravan travel, or perhaps someone living in student digs, I can imagine the Tefal Actifry Family Express XL being handy in place of a standard oven/hob combo as you can make curries, stir fries and casseroles etc, it's very quiet, and there's a very effective odour filter which, paired with the fact you're using so little oil, means you don't get that horrible stale chip shop smell afterwards.
An important point to note, though, is that the Tefal Actifry Express XL is not cheap. It has an RRP of £249, and with several multi-cookers out there able to offer multiple modes and functions at a lower price, it's probably best suited to families who eat a lot of chips and want to specifically reduce the fat they consume.
The healthy way to cook otherwise deep-fried chips is the key selling point, so if you're thinking of buying it for that reason, I think you'll be very happy, and the ability to make stir fries and stews will be an added bonus.
The Tefal Actifry Express XL is available from Ideal World TV, whose ‘Great Easter Giveaway’ launched today, 2nd April 2015, with loads of giveaways and special discounted deals.
Do check it out, and if you'd like to win an Tefal Actifry Express XL for yourself, hop over to Tinned Tomatoes and enter her giveaway now. You can also check out Fab Food 4 All's experience of preparing a beef and veg noodle stirfry in the Actifry and grab the recipe.
Ideal World TV sent us the Actifry for review.