Review: Is this Smart Air Fryer the Future of Cooking?
- Nov 21, 2022
Air fryers are not new; they have been around for a long while and are now as common as rice cookers. Chances are, you probably have an air fryer lying around your kitchen.
Not me. Now, I’ve used air fryers before but decided not to get one for my current home as I wanted a built-in oven instead. I also didn’t want yet another appliance taking up space in my already small kitchen. So I was a bit apprehensive to test out the latest Philips Airfryer Essential XL, which, with a 1.2kg capacity, feels huge. Will I see the benefits of it? Also, is there really anything new with air fryer technology since I last used it a couple of years ago?
Turns out, I was in for quite the surprise.
I made dinners with the appliance for about two weeks and mealtimes have never been easier. I mostly relied on the recipes I found on the NutriU app (available for iOS and Android), which is a recipe app developed for Philips’ cooking appliances and comes with all sorts of recipes created specifically for this air fryer. The air fryer can also be controlled directly through the app, so it made things even more convenient.
For those yawning already and wondering why I haven't gotten to the point, you can watch our quick video review of the Philips appliance instead:
Basic specs of the Philips Air Fryer
|Dimensions||403x315x307 mm (LXWXH)|
|Cord length||0.8 m|
|Basket capacity||1.2 kg|
Design and user-friendliness
On the outside, the Philips Airfryer Essential XL looks just like any other basket-style air fryer. It has a utilitarian, boxy design with rounded edges and a glossy black exterior that is easy to wipe down.
It’s pretty hefty though and takes up quite a bit of space on our countertop. At 5.5 kg, it’s definitely the type of appliance that stays on your counter rather than the type that you lug in and out of your cabinets.
The touchscreen panel lights up when you switch the appliance on. It displays the various pre-set buttons (Frozen Potato-based Snacks, Fresh Fries, Chicken Drumsticks, Whole Fish, Cake, Meat Chops and Mixed Vegetables) as well as the controls for temperatures and time. Buttons blink to show that it’s active. While you can control the appliance directly on the touchscreen panel, we found it easier to operate it using the app on our phone.
The air fryer basket comes in two parts, one that holds the food and comes with holes at the bottom for even frying and another that collects all the oils and grease drips. Both of these can be completely detached from the main body and washed in the sink or the dishwasher. The non-stick coating makes it really easy to clean by hand, although you will have to be careful to avoid using metal utensils to pick food out from the basket. A release button separates the top and bottom layers.
For those with larger households, you’ll be glad to know that the basket is large enough to fit a whole 1.2kg chicken. It was also able to hold around 1kg of frozen fries up to the max level as indicated in the basket, although for more even air frying results, it’s still best to place your food in a single layer.
When cooking, some heat is emitted from the appliance so take note that the area surrounding the appliance will feel a bit warm. The handle doesn’t feel hot to touch after cooking, so no burnt fingers or scrambling to get your oven mitts. The air fryer doesn’t emit much sound during the cooking process. We recommend not leaving your food in the basket too long after cooking, since the residual heat can overcook your food. Crispy foods can also lose their crispiness if they are left for too long.
Detaching the top basket from the bottom basket did require a bit of effort if you don’t let the basket cool down a bit, which I think may be due to the heat expansion during cooking.
Using the air fryer with the NutriU app
The Philips air fryer is a smart appliance. From the onset, you are asked to link it with your Wi-Fi and with the NutriU app. Once you download the app, it’s just a matter of following the instructions on your phone screen to set things up. The setup was pretty straightforward.
Recipes on NutriU give you step-by-step instructions so you can follow along easily. The settings needed are within each recipe so there’s no need to separately adjust the temperature or time whenever you need to cook something on the air fryer.
All you have to do is place the ingredients in the air fryer, swipe the setting button from your phone, and the air fryer starts cooking based on the settings in the recipe.
For instance, the recipe for Teriyaki Salmon with Green Vegetables provides the settings for cooking the salmon and the vegetables. As you follow along with the recipe, it tells you when to place the salmon in the air fryer. Then a swipe of a button on your phone sends the needed settings for cooking the salmon straight to your air fryer.
Then it tells you later when to include the vegetables in the basket. Another swipe of the button sends the needed settings to the air fryer to cook the vegetables and to continue cooking the salmon.
It’s really quite foolproof, especially if you follow along with the recipes on the app. There were quite a large number of recipes available on the app as well, categorised by various cuisines, special diets, difficulty level and even time needed to make them. If you are on a dinner rut, this app comes in really handy. There are also dessert recipes in there, so you can fully rely on the app for a full-course meal.
I like the fact that the app counts down the time needed. It informs you on your phone when the food is almost ready and again when the food is done cooking in the air fryer. So even if I’m busy prepping other food or doing other things, the app reminds me when I can get my food out.
The downside is that the app does lag a bit from time to time and the search results don’t always come up right.
Besides controlling the appliance with your phone, Philips says the appliance can also be voice-controlled by linking it up with Amazon Alexa.
For most of the recipes I tried on the NutriU app, the food was cooked perfectly. The salmon was moist, the chicken was juicy and the beef patties felt just like they were seared on the stove. The vegetables too were better than the ones we roasted in the oven since they were able to retain some moisture.
Teriyaki salmon with vegetables, all cooked in the air fryer.
We also tried baking with the air fryer using the NutriU recipes. And while we wouldn't be giving up our oven for baking any time soon, the banana bread we made in the air fryer wasn't too shabby. (Exterior was too crusty for our liking, although we liked the texture of the banana bread.)
The air fryer also bakes!
There are dedicated baking accessories you can purchase separately and will work perfectly with the recipes indicated on the app. However, we used our own baking pans and it worked OK. Just make sure the pans you decide to use can fit into the basket!
We also tried the pre-sets. While they provide a good starting point if you are completely clueless as to what temperature or timing to set for your foods, you will still need to adjust accordingly depending on the ingredients you use and the amount of food you have in the basket. So use them as a rough gauge, but don’t rely on them completely.
There’s also a Keep Warm setting that helps you keep your food warm in the air fryer at a temperature of 80 deg C while you prepare the rest of your meal. You can hold it for up to 30 mins before you’ll need to activate the setting again if you want to keep food in there for longer. Food quality does drop a bit if you keep it in there for too long, as we’ve mentioned earlier, but it does mean you won’t have to eat cold food.
The Philips Airfryer Essential XL is retailing at a recommended retail price of $279, and is available on the Philips e-store.
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