I spent all my youth a few kilometers from the Belgian border. Every Saturday evening, my parents and their friends met in Veurne (Veurne in Flemish) to taste beers and fries. The ritual was immutable: while the children went to order fries at the fries hut, the parents settled in the cafe to keep the place and take the drinks. There you could bring the fries from the fries hut to the cafe, it was great. If I tell you about this slice of life, it's because you understand how I have a special relationship with French fries. It would be my Proust madeleine, plus the oil. Being a big fan of fries, I have always refused to have a fryer at home because the fries, if it is made in the rules of the art, it is not an easy task. In Belgium, beef fat is used in frying oil. There are two oil baths to respect, with two different temperatures, one to cook and the other to have the crisp. All of these rules make making fries quite complex, not to mention the unpleasant odor and having to handle dangerous items. For me, it has always been very simple to bring my salad bowl back to the fries hut so that it can be filled. Obviously that's what I did when I was up there. Nowadays in Lyon, the fries hut is a distant memory. However, I did not give in to the call from the fryer, for the reasons mentioned above. I still prefer to do without fries than to taste disappointing ones at home. And if I really want it then I will eat it outside, so that at least the frying problems are not mine. It has now been a few years since oil-free fryers have appeared with two models: the Seb Actifry and the Philips 735265 Airfryer. I was given the opportunity to test the latter and I was really curious to see what could be the result because we read everything and its opposite on this method of cooking fries.
Frozen fries versus fresh fries
I started with the simplest test with frozen fries and I made a first observation while going to do my shopping. It seems to me that frozen french fries for deep fryers are disappearing. I made several supermarkets before falling back on a brand specializing in frozen foods to be able to get them. At the same time, oven fries are gaining ground. It is true that among my friends, I do not know any that is equipped with a fryer whereas before any home had its fryer, and not even necessarily electric. The frozen fries on hand, so I started my first test and the result was… oven fries! I found them too dry, a little floury and above all they cooled down too quickly. For homemade fries, I tested two formats: the classics and the matches. The most satisfactory result was obtained with match fries because they were the ones that turned out to be the most crisp. Classic homemade fries also beat frozen fries hands down, but they also tended to cool too quickly.
Put some oil but which one?
When these fryers advertise oil-free fries, you really have to understand "with almost no oil". As the frozen fries are already precooked, they are already soaked in oil, which is why there is no need to add more. For homemade fries, however, you will still need to mix your potatoes with a little oil. In the Airfryer instructions, the recipe for homemade fries indicates to mix your raw fries with 1/2 a spoonful of olive oil. Oh ! Heresy! It would be like making a ratatouille only with butter! So I opted for grape seed oil, which is still not a panacea but it is an oil that I find more neutral than olive. After delving on the net, I realized that frying oils posed a sacred case of conscience: for grapeseed oil for example, some believe that beyond 180 ° C it becomes harmful while for others it is the perfect frying oil. For olive oil, it's a bit of the same hassle. Result: we are a bit lost!
French fries but not only ...
Besides fries, you can also prepare all kinds of fried products. So I tested the frozen fish sticks: the result was inconclusive because the sticks soften and it was even very difficult for me to get them out of the tank without breaking them. I then tried to reproduce shrimp croquettes as in Belgium: it is a mixture of very thick béchamel and gray shrimp which is then breaded with flour, egg white and breadcrumbs. I found the taste but alas, not the crisp. Even more surprising, you can also use the Airfryer to make dishes such as gratin dauphinois or desserts such as a brownie. As I had already updated: 735265 explained before when it was launched, the Airfryer uses a hot air circulation system. It is therefore quite possible to use it as a mini-oven. During my tests with the gratin dauphinois and the brownie, the results were rather positive but it should be known that the tank is rather narrow and that it accepts only a mold of 15 cm in diameter is proportions for 1 or 2 persons.
Quite confusing at the start, the Airfryer does not have an on / off button because it starts with the timer. Once the time selected, it lights up but be careful not to make a mistake on time because the timer does not allow to reverse. So if you've selected ten minutes when you want five, the only way to stop the machine is to unplug it. When switching on, two LEDs light up, one green and the other red. When the device has reached the right temperature, the red light goes out. The temperatures are adjusted using a dial located above the appliance from 120 to 200 ° C. During operation, the appliance emits a continuous blower. This is not unacceptable, but you have to know it. The removable part containing the tank is in the lower part of the device. To reach it, just pull on the handle. I would have appreciated additional security because the removable part is very easy to remove and the child is therefore able to pull it without problem with the risk of getting burned when the fryer is running. To separate the tank from the removable part, you must press a button as you can see in the photos. This time, the operation is more complex especially as the contours of the removable part are hot. I sometimes had some difficulty extracting the bowl from the removable part and I even burned the plastic part of the fryer a little. On the maintenance side, oil-free fryers easily win the medal for ease. Firstly because we don't have to worry about the oil baths which (de) make all the charm of the fryer but also because the removable part and the tank pass in the dishwasher.
Finally the AirFryer is a strange device, a hybrid between fryer and mini-oven. As much as I am not convinced that it will one day be able to dethrone the traditional fryer in terms of taste, as much are foreseen possibilities for its further development (it remains to be seen which one). Another drawback is that it takes up a lot of space while the tank itself is small. Given the success of this type of device, I am sure that the coming years will hold many surprises for us. And I still haven't found an answer to this question: but why do you want to make oil-free fries?