Fried food is, by design, delicious. The allure of salty, fatty french fries or chicken wings is undeniable, yet they’re not always the healthiest options when you’re trying to eat a well-balanced diet.
Being from Appalachia, I’m particularly drawn to these foods. They remind me of a less calorie-conscious time in my life, one of delicious plates of home-cooked food stacked high on my grandma’s table devoured without a shred of guilt. Since growing out of that particularly indulgent (though joyful) childhood diet, I’ve worked hard at finding ways to recreate those comforting tastes without excess grease that came with them.
Over the past year, I’ve watched as my friends one by one bought air fryers. We’re all in our thirties and having more fun cooking at home these days, so it seemed a natural choice for making mouthwatering treats without the heaviness of traditional fried food. I even interviewed food bloggers and chefs about their favorites for this piece, but still I held off on buying one for myself.
That’s where Proscenic, the brand behind this robot vacuum I love, came to the rescue and dropped one in my lap to test out. I was hesitant given the Brooklyn micro-kitchenette I’m working with at home, but life’s short, right?
The T21 Smart Air Fryer arrived promptly in a large box with only the bare minimum foam bumpers necessary to guard it. I appreciate companies who don’t waste excess non-recyclable materials on their packaging, and Proscenic always lives up to that standard. Nothing felt jostled or broken, and the fryer slid out easily in one solid piece–no pesky attachments or assembly required.
Now for the worry of anyone living with only a whisper of counter space: the size. The T21 is not small by any means, and it was actually larger than I expected. I worried we may not have the room to accommodate, but after a minute of artful rearranging, the fryer slid right into the 12-inch strip of workable space between my stove and sink. This place was renovated right before my husband and I moved in last July, so I was pleased to see the stainless/black plastic color combination matched my stove perfectly.
Setup was a breeze, and there’s the option to connect the fryer to your Proscenic Home app in case you’re a smart home kind of person. I’m generally not, but I wanted to connect anyway to see if it was simpler than my experience with the robot vacuum. Three minutes and a few clicks later, the T21 was added to my “devices” tab in the app and I could choose specific settings, times, temperatures, and everything else from my phone. Should you choose the old fashioned method of pressing the machine’s buttons, you’ll find basically the same setup and can get your snacks cooking by tapping the keypad on the front of the machine.
As for the cooking capabilities of this fryer, here’s the lawless and chaotic melange I’ve dropped in so far:
-pickles coated with flour
-pickles coated with a light batter
-frozen potato skins
-pickles coated with a slightly different light batter, plus a little oil
-one whole sweet potato
-frozen Brussels sprouts, straight from the package
Yes, that’s a lot of pickles, and each batch turned out better than the previous one. Fried pickles are my favorite food so I’m continuously experimenting to see how I can get the best recipe for a low calorie version at home rather than a deep fried delicacy that’s always, always overpriced in this city.
The potato skins, pizza, and Hot Pockets were all special purchases nabbed for the sole purpose of testing here, and my husband and I were highly impressed with the way the fryer cooked them in about half the time they’d spend in the oven, plus with a much crisper, fresher taste. Brussels sprouts were also a fantastic and fast-cooking option, and the fryer gave them a nice firm texture rather than the soggy one I used to get when microwaving. The whole sweet potato experiment wasn’t as fruitful, as I expected, but I am excited to boil one then slice it into fries for testing next. Frozen fries though? Perfection.
RELATED: An Emmy-nominated chef gave us the lowdown on which rice cooker you should buy. Read about it here.
Cleaning is another concern, but luckily the fryer’s basket slides out easily with the push of a button and lets you rinse any fallen food out from beneath the cooking grate. The nonstick surface allows foods like batter (such as that from the dozen pickle experiments) to slide out easily with a little soapy water and sponge. I haven’t quite owned it long enough to tell if eventually the outside will accumulate gunk, but I can confidently say it’s a cinch to wipe down the outside and streaks disappear instantly.
My final verdict and wrap-up: the Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer is a godsend for our household. It’s easy to use, fits neatly on the counter despite seeming big out of the box, cooks food quickly and healthfully, and is a breeze to keep clean. The Wifi connectivity and app are a convenient feature, but the outer buttons are incredibly simple to use. If you’re even a little curious about adding an air fryer to your kitchen, you can’t go wrong with this one.
THREE MONTH UPDATE:
I originally wrote this piece in late March 2021, and as of late June, the machine has only become more useful and versatile in my home. My current favorite recipe involves cubing and drying firm tofu before marinating the chunks in soy sauce and whichever flavors sound great that day before tossing in a light dusting of cornstarch and air frying on 400 degrees for six minutes. Try it for yourself and enjoy a healthy, flavorful, and meatless treat!