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Using lockdown to eat healthier: Cosori Smart Air Fryer review
As a desk-bound work-from-home slob, diet and exercise are my two greatest enemies. If you read my recent standing desk review, it’s probably obvious that I’m trying to use my time in lockdown to form better habits. While the standing desk helps me be less sedentary throughout the day, the Cosori Smart Air Fryer is helping improve my diet. This is my review of the number one best-selling air fryer on Amazon.
What is an air fryer?
A good question. An air fryer is basically a small countertop convection oven. While an air fryer is certainly a healthier alternative to a deep fryer, it can also cook regular stuff. This includes foods you’d never put in a deep fryer like steaks, roast chicken, salmon, vegetables, muffins, and more.
Air frying is faster than roasting and is more energy-efficient too. The Cosori Air Fryer’s temperature range is from 170-400 degrees Fahrenheit (77-205 degrees Celsius). Runtime is up to an hour (double the duration of some air fryers). As a bonus, the Cosori Smart Air Fryer is internet-connected so it can be controlled via Amazon Alexa or the VeSync app on Android or iOS.
How does an air fryer work?
A heating element sits in front of a fan so hot air circulates around your food, cooking it via the Maillard effect. The Maillard effect is the chemical reaction that gives browned foods “that” amazing flavor. In normal frying, this happens via boiling oil, a lot of which can be absorbed by the food.
An air fryer cooks food with 85% less fat than traditionally fried foods.
An air fryer only uses a thin coating of oil — either from a can of cooking spray or applied with a brush — producing the same awesome flavor without excessive fat. Cosori says an air fryer cooks food with 85% less fat than traditionally fried foods. This sounds just fine to me. As with any other cooking style, some foods are better suited to air frying than others, but you might be surprised by just how much you can cook in one.
What functions does it have?
Cooking in an air fryer is a straightforward process. Load the basket up and either choose from one of the 11 presets or set a desired heat and duration using the LED touchscreen. Depending on what you’re cooking you might need to turn your food at at some point, which is why the Cosori Air Fryer has a convenient shake alert.
The shake alert comes in particularly handy for foods like french fries, which only take 20 minutes to cook. You can also receive shake alerts on your phone and get a push notification when your food is ready. The Cosori Smart Air Fryer shuts off automatically so you don’t ever have to worry about “leaving the oven on” if that’s something that keeps you awake at night.
I love getting a push notification when dinner is ready.
The Cosori Smart Air Fryer has a preheat function and only takes about five minutes to heat up. This is handy, as not all air fryers offer preheating and many don’t maintain a consistent cooking heat. There’s also a keep warm function if you’re waiting on someone to join you.
A cooking delay option lets you preload the air fryer for cooking at a scheduled time up to four hours in the future. This can be very convenient if you’ve got something else cooking and you don’t want to get up later to put the veggies on. You can also schedule dessert to start cooking while you’re in the middle of eating dinner.
How big is it?
The Cosori Smart Air Fryer comes in two sizes, 3.7 and 5.8 quarts (3.5-5.5 liters). I went for the bigger one because I like a big roast chicken. The footprint difference between the two is not huge. To me, the larger one made more sense because it provides more flexibility. The basket is big enough for a meal for two, but any more than that and you’ll need to cook in batches.
The larger air fryer I got takes up a square foot of countertop (30 x 30cms). It’s 13 inches (33cms) high, so measure your cupboards first if you plan to keep it out of sight when you’re not using it. It comprises a non-stick basket that sits inside a container for catching any drippings. The two are separated with a button and are dishwasher safe.
Setup is a breeze: unpack everything; remove some labels; give the trays a quick wash; slot them in; pair the app; and you’re good to go.
What does the app do?
The VeSync app for Android and iOS provides several bonus features, including remote cooking. If I was an Amazon Alexa user I’d also be able to voice control my smart air fryer. If that was a thing I needed (or wanted) to do.
The app has four main areas, including a recipe section with 100+ step-by-step recipes (you also get a paperback recipe book in the box). The app lets you save your favorite recipes, create your own, and see a log of your cooking history. The settings area lets you control notifications, switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius, share the device, and even rename it or swap out its icon. You can even preheat the air fryer from the app and let a recipe set the cooking time and temperature for you.
I wouldn't have guessed I could make french toast, soufflé, fish tacos, macaroons, or a scotch egg in an air fryer.
My initial forays into cooking with the air fryer were classics like fish, chicken, fries, roast vegetables, and the like. The recipe book, however, really opened my eyes to the kinds of meals that are possible with an air fryer. For example, I wouldn’t have guessed I could make french toast, soufflé, fish tacos, macaroons, or a scotch egg in an air fryer.
What’s the food like?
Pretty much the same as normal roasting, frying, baking, or grilling. Some foods do end up a little bit drier than their pan-fried counterparts. Once I reminded myself that most of that missing “moisture” was actually just fat and oil, I got over it.
This might be cheating, but because I’m eating less fat and oil I just add a little sauce if I want more juiciness. Most foods, however, come out just the same but crispier. You really notice just how much oil there is in most foods you eat when it’s suddenly taken out of your diet.
You really notice how much oil there is in most foods you eat when it's suddenly taken out of your diet.
There’s a little bit of a learning curve to cooking temperatures and times. This is true of adapting to any new oven though, especially if you’re not used to fan-forced cooking. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to get used to and the recipe book and presets help a lot.
I won’t pretend I’ve made soufflé or macaroons yet but I didn’t get an air fryer for that anyway. The main dishes I use it for are still those basics I started with: fish, chicken, vegetables, and fries. The convenience is great but it’s primarily the health benefits I’m impressed by. 85% less fat but 95% of the same flavor? I’m in.
The bottle of oil on my counter disappears a lot slower now than it did a few months ago. Considering how much cooking I’ve been doing at home since lockdown began, that’s a very good thing. Like the standing desk, there’s also the positive aspect of simply knowing I’m doing something better for my health. I now see french fries as crispy potatoes rather than some oily death trap.
Should I buy an air fryer?
If you want to cut down on the amount of fat and oil in your diet, then it’s pretty much either an air fryer or a George Foreman grill. A George Foreman is great but has nowhere near the flexibility of an air fryer. There are literally hundreds of things you can cook in an air fryer, from breakfast and mains to desserts and sides.
An air fryer's flexibility of grilling, frying, baking, and roasting is a winner in my books.
An air fryer’s flexibility of grilling, frying, baking, and roasting is a winner in my books. Even though I can’t say I’ve worked my way through all the possible recipes yet, I’m glad to know they’re possible. An air fryer isn’t exactly an essential kitchen appliance, but it does produce healthier food and save time. For me it’s worth a hundred bucks, but it kind of depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re committed to the idea of eating healthier, you’ll be well-served by the Cosori Smart Air Fryer.
The connected aspect of the Smart Air Fryer is a nice extra to have, but given how infrequently I’m out of the house right now I didn’t use it as much as I could. If you don’t see the point, Cosori also has a regular air fryer without the Wi-Fi connection and Alexa control, so I’ve linked that below as well. Both are on sale until the end of April if you wanted to save a few bucks via Cosori’s site or you can keep an eye on Amazon.
Check out the non-connected Cosori 5.8-quart Air Fryer (use coupon code AIRFRYB at checkout to apply the discount).