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Air Fryer

I was walking around the Noz yesterday, first time I've been in months. Picked up a few DVDs at €0,99 each.
Then I saw something. An air fryer. €24,99. Written in what looked like Norwegian and Finnish. Could be interesting, but Google Translate ought to help if I can't make sense of the pictures.

People have recommended an ActiFry, but then people have also recommended a Cookeo. I'm afraid I can't justify €150-250 on an appliance unless it's amazing. That's why I loved the idea of fresh pasta, but ditched the idea - just too expensive.

So, knowing full well that this device would not be as good as an ActiFry (no rotating paddle, likely poorer heat control and distribution), it would at least be able to give me a sense of what an air fryer is capable of.

To be honest, it's a heat element at the top, along with a fan. I'm not entirely sure what the difference is between an air fryer and the halogen oven... which works on much the same principle.

Anyway, here it is:

Prego air fryer
Prego air fryer.

It looks like a giant egg sitting on the countertop. Very usefully, it came with a printout (that you can see on the left) which was written in English and French.
Interestingly, the device is marked Prego, and the printout says Blaupunkt.

Looking inside the device, it's exactly what I expected. A coil heater element with a fan behind it. And, uh, that's about it.

Heater and fan
Heater and fan.

The device is really simple to operate. There's a thermostat which can go from 80°C to 200°C, and a mechanical timer that can go up to half an hour.

The thermostat doesn't seem particularly sensitive. Playing with it as the device was cooling down suggests to me that the target temperature may have a swing of 15-20 degrees in either direction. This isn't that unusual. The industrial ovens at work blast out heat until the desired temperature is reached, and then kick in the heating when it's fallen by 10°C. So 180 is actually 170-190(ish).

There are two indicators. An orange one means the appliance is on (just in case you fail to hear the fan), and a green one means the heater is currently on. To my mind this is completely back to front. I wonder how long I'll put up with it until it bugs me enough to open the thing up and swap the bulbs over?

The bowl is a two part thing. A solid outer bowl, and an inner bowl with holes and slits to let the air pass through. A little latch/button arrangement allows you to separate the two, with the handle remaining attached to the inner bowl.
It is worth noting that you'll need a heatproof table or mat to put the outer bowl down upon.

Given how small the active area is, the air fryer can reach temperature in 3-4 minutes.


Now you know I have one thing in mind.

Chips to cook
Chips to cook.

The booklet, and actually a pictograph on the top, says that frozen chips (these are oven-ready 'classic' (not chunky or stringfellow)) should go at 200°C for 12-20 minutes. I only wanted to cook a few, as a snack. At the point of taking these photos, I'd only just got up! (well, I was up at half six, fed kitty, had a tea, went back to sleep because weekend!)

I ran the unit empty for four minutes, to let it come up to temperature. Then, as the chips are to be shaken halfway through cooking, I set the timer for eight minutes and went to busy myself designing a little container to put the chips into.


Ping!. Time to shake the chips.



Okay, a small amount of chips as that was nearly ready. I shook the container and put it back in for two minutes, though honestly I think I slightly overcooked them.
It seems like the air fryer's cooking speed may depend a lot on quantity rather than what is actually being cooked.

And this shows a big difference between the air fryer, that cooked chips, and the halogen cooker that never quite seemed able to do anything other than make them hot and brittle, taking 40-50 minutes to do so.

But, for me, a handful of chips can be ready in under ten minutes. From frozen!


Rick's takeaway
Rick's takeaway ☺

Just like McDo! Actually, no, I lie. Far better than McDo. They were hot, not limp, not tasting of weird (old?) oil, and the container wasn't barely half full. In other words, just like McDo in an imaginary world were McDo offers a decent amount of decent chips.


I have never had a deep fat fryer. Mom was very much against the idea, and seeing one neighbour's daughter burn the kitchen down and another neighbour down her entire house down (both were stove-top fryers), I can't say I disagree. I would imagine that a proper contained-oil fryer would be safer, as I think the daughter, once she calmed down enough to be capable of coherent sentences, said that what happened was when she put the chips in, oil splashed all over the place. She leapt out of the way, and that was lucky as hot oil and the gas flame and... kaboom. Well, not exactly kaboom, but an instant pillar of fire that hit the ceiling.
Thank god she was too scared witless to try chucking water on it, that would have gone horrifically wrong. Oil fires and water do kaboom.

Here? No oil. So it's not going to go kaboom if it's in a bad mood. Actually, it only draws about 1400W (I'd imagine 1kW heater element and 400W fan motor) so it's fairly low power as well. A small enclosed space means it isn't wasteful, you aren't heating up a big amount of anything (space, oil, metal) just for a few chips. And it's quick. It really blasts the heat down into the chamber, so it's the fastest chip cooking method I've come across (I'm not counting microwave chips, they are awful!).

Also because there is no oil, it's a healthier way of cooking. Meaning I ought to be able to consume more chips and gain less fat. Sounds good to me!
There is, of course, the risk of acrylamides. This is a fairly modern discovery, basically that "the burnt bits" are believed to be somewhat carcinogenic. Given that I grew up in a country noted for stealing everybody else's cuisine and vastly overcooking it, I think I had massive doses of acrylamides through my childhood. Crispy bacon? Check. Endless blackened bits of meat done on a barbeque by people with zero talent? Check. Blackened steak because if it's in any way red in the middle it's "raw"? Check. Scaping black bits off burnt toast? Check, check, check, and mate.
More recently, my old George Foreman grill, I stopped using exactly because it was too damn hot and had a tendency to burn things. I like my meat cooked, not incinerated.


I would advise you that if you are interested in an air fryer, see if you can find one that has some sort of window. Then you can keep an eye on what you're cooking.
For me? I think my chips were a little overcooked here. So next time (cough, this evening, cough) I'll try five minutes, shake, and judge from that how much longer to give them.


This evening? Let's just say "toast", "cheese slice", "onion burger", and "chips". With the price of fuel hitting all time highs, why go to Big Town for a burger when I can roll my own?

Hmmm... I wonder if burgers can be air fried? Don't see why not...


Mower madness

Marte doesn't like to turn right. The steering column, which was always loose, is now loose to the point where it can fail to make proper contact. Turning left is okay, as that direction pushes the little cog against the big cog. Turning right? Not so good.

So in the blazing sunshine of the afternoon, I set apart seeing if it was fixable. With a lot of use of the 9/16ths socket, and some amount of damage to soft squishy bits of, well, me, I was able to strip things down to almost get at the part.
The problem is that there's a little tube that goes through the end of the steering column, and the column itself fits into the end and can turn freely. It's this that is loose, but the tube at the bottom doesn't want to move clear. It seems very firmly attached to the big cog, and I'm not sure how these parts separate - suffice to say, I'm not able to tighten up the column.

Some light mechanics
Some light mechanics.

It was back-breaking work getting the four bolts on the underside out, and back in again.

With everything reassembled, I went and mowed the parts that I hadn't done the other day. Which... was interesting given the "don't wanna turn right" behaviour.
I suspect I'm going to have to wait until it actually comes apart, then I can get the bits entirely out of the mower and, well, hit it with a hammer. A lot, I think.

However, for now it sort-of works. That'll have to do.

Oh, and the engine starts reasonably easily when it doesn't have the deck attached. ☺


Dinner (with an air fryer)

Mowing wasn't planned, so I only had the immersion heater on for about an hour and a half (hint - it takes about five hours).

I toasted two pieces of sliced bread. I then made two more pieces of toast.

Then, in the air fryer, I put two frozen beefburger patties in the bowl. This went on 180°C for eight minutes.

They aren't real burgers. They are about 50% minced beef, a lot of chopped onion, and... I guess the rest is wheat, expanded polystyrene, nettle stalks, and whatever else they pack out burgers with. It was, let's be honest, very similar to the average British burger. I'm so used to burgers that are about half meat and half filling that a real burger made of actual 100% meat seems somehow wrong.
I'm afraid all those years of growing up in Britain have broken me. For instance, to me custard is a powder in a box marked "Birds". Which, let's face it, is pretty much corn starch and colouring and only resembles actual custard in consistency and colour.

Aside: I believe it was created because the guy's wife was allergic to eggs or something, so she couldn't have real custard, so the guy came up with Birds. But it's main popularity came during the wartime. It was cheap, easy to make, and didn't require eggs (because rationing).

I quick ran into the bathroom and washed my hair to get all the grass bits out, while swearing in five languages at the fact that the water was so bloody not-even-remotely-warm.
You know the "warmth" where your hands are like "oh, this is nice" but the moment you point it at your head, you gasp as you can feel your scalp physically shrinking? It was that sort of "warmth".

The air fryer pinged, so I dashed into the kitchen and flipped the burgers, put them on for another eight minutes.

Back into the bathroom to finish rinsing the shampoo out of my hair, then wrap it in a towel.

Back in the kitchen now, eight minutes up. I removed the two burgers and put in two new ones. Eight minutes.

The burgers that I had - one was laid onto a piece of toast. The other was cut in half lengthwise and laid on to the toast in the empty spaces. The burger is rather smaller cooked than when frozen. And there's quite a lot of grease in the drip pan.
On top of the burgers, a piece and a half of sliced cheese. Like a Kraft slice, but supposed to be actual cheese. In this case, it's the orangey stuff trying to pass itself off as cheddar. It... isn't bad, but it hasn't been aged, like at all. So it comes across more like a young Red Leicester.

On top of that, a good squirt of ketchup and then the second piece of toast.


Rinse and repeat with the other two burgers.


At this point, I briefly interrupted cooking to blow dry my hair.


Then I wiped the inside of the inner bowl with a paper towel. The burgers had left it rather a mess.
A nice, but not excessive, measure of chips was placed into the inner bowl. This time, 200°C for five minutes.

At the five minute point, they were shaken and set aside. The plate with the burgers was put into the microwave for two and a half minutes to ensure everything would be hot at the same time.

Then, finally, a further four minutes for the chips. Have them a little less cooked than this morning.
Actually, the microwave is about 1200W flat out and the air fryer is 1400W. I could have run both at the same time at the end, but I didn't think...


Here's the result.


Actually, the burgers (the whole thing, not the meat) were a little dry. I guess that's why the burger bars tend to drown the things in mayo and ketchup. Asides from that, the meal was nice. Flavourful burgers, with just enough ketchup to add a tanginess without squirting all over the place. The chips? Perfect.


Cleaning the bowls, by the way, was not as hard as I expected. I let them cool down and scaped out the grease with paper towels (ewww! so glad that's in the bowl and not in me!), and then swished boiling water and washing up liquid around for a minute, tipped that, then more boiling water.
Finally, some gentle action with a sponge and tap water to finish up.
I quickly patted the pieces down with paper towel to remove excess water, and then I assembled the device and let it run for a minute to evaporate the rest of the water. The bowls are now completely dry.



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David Boddie, 26th February 2022, 22:03
Looks like you weren't the only person to blog about their new air fryer... 
David Boddie, 26th February 2022, 22:06
And you got it at half the price it would have been in Finland, too:  
VinceH, 27th February 2022, 00:38
My mother offered me her air fryer the other day because she no longer uses it. I declined because it looks quite large, and my kitchen is rather small. 
She did comment about making chips in it, though, saying they only need a spoonful of oil - but you seem to have done without. I guess because you're using frozen supermarket oven chips, whereas mum makes them fresh. I use the supermarket ones, so maybe it would be a good idea. Especially if the cooking time is shorter than the oven. 
(I mostly avoid using any kind of oil except when I fancy bacon and eggs etc.)
Rick, 27th February 2022, 13:43
Vince, it is quite big, like a giant egg. But... 
Here's a video for you:
David Boddie, 27th February 2022, 16:34
Now you just need a scoop for serving the chips without spilling them. ;-)
VinceH, 27th February 2022, 19:59
Yeah, that looks about the same size as mum's. To me it even looks too large for *her* kitchen, and mine's tiny by comparison - and I'm tempted to buy a steamer and/or a slow cooker, which would make space even more of a premium. 
On the plus side, though - much quicker to prepare those chips to what looks ideal than the oven (and less power). Although depending what I'm having with the chips, I may still need to use the oven - so I'd only use it when not. (I also double up sometimes - if I'm using the oven today, I'll think about tomorrow; do I have/fancy something I can cook today and eat cold or just warm up tomorrow). 
But it might be handy to cook in an air fryer in the living room if it blasts out heat from the back! My radiator isn't great! ;) 
I might have a little think before I pop down again later in the week to read their meters. (Although mum may have offered it to another sibling by then.) 
Incidentally; I meant to comment on the microwave chips. They aren't great, but I do buy them - they're edible enough and handy for a quick chip sarny if I don't have time for something else. 
Rick, 27th February 2022, 22:14
I censored myself in the video. I was going to mention, when talking about the speed, the following in connection with microwave chips: 
It's almost a shame that I don't believe in God, because if I did then I would by necessity have to believe in Satan, which would be good as I would then have a supernatural entity to blame for the creation of microwave chips. 
I think that clearly states my opinion on the abhorrent aberration that is microwavable chips. 

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