Full disclosure: Was provided with a free tester from T-Fal
You know I wasn't always interested in nutrition. In fact I once couldn't have cared less about nutrition which might help to explain why I literally buried two deep fryers consequent to using them so often that they died and it was only at the insistence of my now-wife, then girlfriend, that I didn't replace the second one.
That is not until my parents bought me a T-Fal Actifry (which I reviewed way back when) for a birthday gift.
The premise is simple. It heats up real hot, has a rotating stirring arm, and consequently allows you to "fry" using just a small amount of cooking oil and in so doing, keep calories lower. Think of it like a self stirring wok of sorts.
Well T-Fal's been active and they've made a few newer units. One has dual cooking levels allowing you to cook multiple dishes at once and then there's the one I've been test driving which is a newer and much larger version of mine named the T-Fal Actifry Family (a good thing as my family is newer and larger than when I was gifted that first unit).
This time around I was determined to try to cook more than simply fries as while the unit truly puts baked oven fries to shame (just don't expect them to be as sinfully delicious as genuinely deep fried versions), at $250 a unit, that's an expensive french fry maker.
So I tried a bunch of dishes. I made my girls fried bananas, made some sloppy joes, fried up some chicken wings and drumsticks, and made homemade chicken shawarma.
From that batch I had 3 misses and one home run.
The bananas simply squished too much and the girls didn't find them particularly flavourful. The sloppy joes were a disaster. The turning arm isn't capable of breaking up ground meat so I ended up breaking it up by hand. It also wasn't able to stir together the various liquid ingredients as I added them. It also cooked unevenly with the meat nearest the centre burning some. The chicken was alright, but don't expect to leave the skin on as even if you do, the machine will strip it off during cooking - that said the meat was cooked evenly and was moist - but I'll stick with oven broiling.
The home run was the shawarma. The recipe is here but instead of the cumin, nutmeg and cardamom I followed the recipe for the Ras el Hanout from Epicurious for the spicing (the cookbook that came with the fryer called for Ras el Hanout which is how/why I looked it up). We coupled the recipe with homemade hummus and homemade pita and Israeli salad and the result was a unanimous keeper - from my visiting grandmother-in-law to my tiny kids, we all loved it.
At the end of the day I can wholeheartedly recommend the T-Fal Actifry as an awesome gift, and the family unit is really quite large - more than large enough to handle fries for everyone or a dinner stir fry.
I just wish the price were low enough that I could recommend it as a personal purchase - as it is, it's simply too expensive.