As I mentioned in my last post, we had a woman from Shanghai live with us for 8 years to help care for my aging in-laws. She was a great cook, and would help prepare dinner every once in a while. Whenever I asked her how she made a particular dish, she always said she used just a little bit of oil (“e de de you”), but the first year she lived with us, I gained weight despite her “healthy” cooking. After spending more time beside her, watching her cook, I saw what was going on – she was frying everything. So, we made some changes and asked her to do more steaming and roasting, and use less oil in her cooking.
It wasn’t until she left that I realized just how much oil she used in her cooking. Let’s just say that I haven’t bought a jug of oil since. Although I love crispy fried foods once in a while (I have a weakness for Chinese spring rolls and French fries), I don’t eat them often and I seldom deep fry food at home.
A few weeks ago, T-Fal sent me an ActiFry “Fryer” to test out and I accepted the challenge because I was curious if it was possible to achieve “fried” results without using buckets of oil (another reason I hate deep frying at home – dealing with the leftover oil).
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been “frying” everything from Chinese spring rolls to chicken wings to sweet potato fries to fresh cut potato fries to candied walnuts to crispy shredded brussels sprouts. I even tried making kale chips (these did not work very well because some pieces were bigger than others, so some leaves crisped up, others did not).
I’ve tried making “fried” chicken three different ways in an attempt to achieve crispy wings that taste deep fried, but only use one tablespoon of oil. On my third try, I finally got my chicken wings nice and crispy and served them at our Super Bowl party – they were a huge hit and people were intrigued with the Actifry – they couldn’t believe I used just a tablespoon of oil. The secret was in the coating I used.
Mind you, I’m not advocating that you should eat chicken wings or French fries every day just because you’re using just 1 tablespoon of oil to fry them – but if you have a hankering for crispy French fries or fried chicken wings, this method will satisfy your craving with a lot less fat than your typical fried foods.
So far, the best things I’ve made in my Actifry have been frozen mini Chinese spring rolls from the local Asian supermarket (nice and crispy on the outside and hot and moist inside),
sweet potato waffle fries, fresh cut potato fries (I used the directions that came with the Actifry, using Yukon Gold potatoes that had been rinsed and dried well), candied walnuts,
crispy roasted shredded brussels sprouts, and these chicken wings coated with egg and glutinous rice flour.
Simply “frying” chicken wings without any coating didn’t turn out crispy; rather the wings were on the drier side and tasted baked. So, I played around with a few different methods of coating the chicken wings, until I found a recipe/method that worked to my satisfaction. I tested it out this past weekend at our Super Bowl party and I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed. My only problem was making these crispy un-fried chicken wings fast enough for my guests. The only downside of the ActiFry is that it can only make about one pound of chicken wings at a time, and each batch takes about 25-30 minutes. Then, of course, that probably keeps portions sizes in check since chicken wings aren’t the healthiest food to begin with.
I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with the ActiFry, and have a few pointers for anyone who’s thinking of purchasing one:
- Foods that are dryer (not battered) work best; otherwise, you may end up with a gloppy mess or they may not get crispy/crunchy. So, if you’re making fries, make sure they are completely dry before cooking, and don’t attempt foods like tempura or other batter fried foods
- Cook sturdy foods, not delicate foods that could fall apart; there’s a paddle that rotates as the “fryer” is working, so delicate foods are likely to fall apart (I did not try fish, but I have a feeling it would probably fall apart)
- Cook in small batches to ensure proper browning and maximum crunchiness (I cooked 1 pound of chicken wings at a time)
- Make sure ingredients are all roughly the same size/shape to ensure even cooking time (see my note above on the kale chips)
And now for the fun part – the GIVEAWAY! I have one (1) T-Fal Actifry to giveaway. There are multiple ways to enter.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by T-Fal, all opinions are my own.