Choosing Low Fat Fryers and Halogen Ovens
Since 2007 we have seen a dramtic increase in the manufacture, sales and use of devices known as Low Fat Fryers, AirFryers, Halo Fryers, Jet Fryers and Halogen Ovens. With so many names representing similar or the same devices, it is not surprising that many are confused between say low fat fryers and halogen ovens. People want to understand the differences and know what factors should be considered when making a purchase. Indeed, to some extent, suppliers have contributed to this problem by blurring the distinction. We now have products that are called fryers that are actually more like ovens and Halogen Ovens that are more like fryers. In this article I want to explain in simple terms what each term means and to help the reader understand what is what.
Given that the terminology is so confusing it is perhaps a good idea to explain what the different terms actually mean. Generally speaking, here are some rules of thumb:
If the appliance is made by Tefal, Breville or Philips it is certainly 100% a Fryer
If the appliance is ‘Actifry or ‘Halo Health Fryer’ it is certainly 100% a Fryer
Low Fat Fryers refer to the above two points
Any other appliance is probably a Halogen Oven
Differences between Low Fat Fryers and Halogen Ovens
Both low fat fryers and halogen ovens use the same technology to provide heat, which is usually a halogen bulb. The bulb acts as a powerful heat source which in conjunction with a fan, moves hot air around the bowl of the device where the food is located. Any food within the bowl is consequently cooked or fried.
In general, for the food to be ‘fried’ it has to be exposed to high temperature. Any less and the food is simply ‘cooked’. Therefore, fryers typically have a smaller capacity bowl than halogen ovens because the food needs to be both nearer the heat source and in a smaller bowl. This concentrates the heat and leads to the frying effect. Low Fat Fryers also provide a non-stick surface for the food to sit on. This also concentrates the heat and adds to browning. A little oil ensures the food does not burn or dry out. Low fat fryers such as the Tefal Actifry and the Breville Halo fryer have relatively small bowls of only a few litres and can only cook food from 0.8 to 1.5 Kg depending on the model. As a guide, it is usually said that a family of four would consume 1Kg of chips or fries. Both the Tefal Actifry and the Breville Halo fryers have a rotating paddle to move the food around during cooking. This ensures the food cooks evenly.
When we look at the Halogen Ovens we see a few differences. Firstly, Halogen Ovens are much larger in terms of internal capacity. Typically these start from 8 Litres but 12 Litres is not uncommon and some can even extend further to 17 Litres. This is an entirely different approach to the fryer. With these sizes, frying is not possible unless the food can be held higher up towards the top of the appliance where the heat is and even then would require a powerful heat source. Surprisingly, some Halogen Ovens can actually fry food fairly well through the use of Frying Shelves (sometimes purchased separately). However, when it comes to chips, the results tend to be mixed and if chips are what you are after, the purpose built low fat fryer is the only certain way to get good results every time. If that disappoints you then there are one or two Halogen Ovens that are genuinely good all-rounders and we shall be explaining which these are and why they work so well.
What features too for
Both low fat fryers and halogen ovens share the same list of properties that we can use to compare. These are listed below:
Capacity – Generally, anything over 5 Litres is a Halogen Oven. The additional space is needed to cook thinks like whole chickens and whole meals. This is not possible with a low fat fryer
- Power – Low fat fryers need a large amount of power and generally the more the better. This is the same for Halogen Ovens which have a larger volume to heat although cooking, as opposed to frying requires less direct heat.
Shelving – Most Halogen Ovens and more recently, some Low Fat Fryers provide shelving so that you can layer the food in the same way that you can with food steamers. Tefal were the first to provide shelving in their higher end Actifry range and Breville is likely to follow suite.
- Timer – All appliances come with a timer. These can be wither mechanical or digital. Most people prefer the accuracy of the digital timer although in practice, when we are dealing with minutes rather than seconds, a mechanical timer is quite sufficient
- Programs – Some halogen Ovens now come with a variety of programs for different types of meals. This makes them more easy to use although this does require quality instructions
- Instructions and Cookbooks – Some models have been found to be lacking in terms of both Instruction manuals and Cookbooks. This is a shame because the VonShef Turbo Airfryer for example is a good unit but let down by the quality of the instructions which means that there are people who are probably not using the appliance to its potential
- Lid – Most low fat fryers and halogen ovens have some sort of lid. There are exceptions such as the Duronic and Philips but most do. The issue here is that the lids house the heating mechanism and as such get extremely hot – up to 250C. Some appliances such as the Tower range have removable lids which means you have to lift off the lid and find somewhere same and secure to place the lid whilst you tend to the food. The Tower does provide a stand although some others don’t. This to me is a real problem because many people don’t have the space for extremely hot lids when they are cooking. However, many do provide a Hinged Lid which means that you just have to lift the lid rather than remove it.
- Rotating Paddles – These are found on the Tefal and Breville range of low fat fryers and some Halogen Ovens. They are removable to allow for different types of food. Chips for example benefit from having rotating paddles because they ensure the food is cooked evenly. The Philips Airfryer does not have rotating paddles since this has a completely different design. Instead it uses a draw mechanism which can be shaken just like you would with a seep fat fryer. Not all Halogen Ovens have rotating paddles and this is another reason why frying chips can be problematic
We have prepared a side by side comparison of both Low Fat Fryers and Halogen Ovens which we hope you will find both informative and help you make your buying decision. Simply click on the links above to go there.