Learning to love cooking — with the help of an air fryer

I’m not much of a cook, less Gordon Ramsay and more Gordon Travesty. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t made a proper meal in over five years — though I still cook a mean bowl of Shin Ramyun. I’ve lost any initiative to prepare any sort of feast owing to the fear and embarrassment of cleaning up a failed dish. However, one kitchen tool has got me interested in starting back up, an air fryer.

The Air fryer isn’t some new invention; they’ve been around the block for years. But I have been ignoring them, thinking that they were just another typical kitchen appliance — that is, until recently. A colleague of mine has been eulogising to me about air fryers, how easy they are to use, how flexible they are for cooking, and how sexy they look (he may not have said this). So, naturally, I became intrigued.

And as luck would have it, I received an invitation to try out the Philips Airfryer Essential XL Connected. Was this a coincidence? Or is my colleague a double agent for Philips? The verdict is up in the air. But what is for sure is that it was an excellent opportunity to see what the hype was all about.

Part of the appeal of the Philips Airfryer Essential XL Connected was that it offered smart connectivity. You can pair it with the accompanying Airfyrer NutriU app to track, monitor and control the cooking process from your phone. That’s all well and good, but I wanted to go manual for my first run at it; I wanted to go back to basics.

What were the basics? Well, it was ready-made food. Obviously, it would have been nice to make an intricate dish, but let’s face it, air fryers are mainly for convenience with the pre-prepped food you can get at any supermarket.

In this case, Farmpride’s freshest bags of chicken nuggets and buffalo wings were on the menu. The great thing I’ve learned about air fryers is that you don’t need to wait for the meat to defrost before you can cook — that’s one point awarded for convenience.

Starting with the nuggets, I followed the instructions listed on the package; 180°C for 9 minutes. Since this was my first time with an air fryer, I’m glad that Phillips’ version was easy enough to comprehend and operate while adjusting the temperature and timer. Unfortunately, the first batch was a dud. Though the nuggets were seemingly edible, the colour was not right; they still looked uncooked.

Philips Airffryer: Nuggets
The first go was a no go

I loaded in the second batch of nuggets and, on this occasion, utilised the app to help prepare the cooking, opting for a slightly higher temperature and longer cooking time on screen. Again, the results were better, but only by a little. Some portions of the nuggets had that enticing golden brown colour, while others still had a sickly-looking pale hue. 

At this point, I was left a little unimpressed. Even adjusting the cooking of the nuggets yielded less than favourable results. So I moved on to the second item, the buffalo wings, praying that this would not be a recurring situation with air fryers.

Again, I followed the instructions on the packaging — this time 200°C for 10 minutes. As each minute ticked away, the emanating smell gave some glimmer of hope, but I was also cognizant that the same happened with the nuggets. When the timer was done, I slowly took out the basket, half expecting disappointment. 

I was greeted instead with gorgeous imagery. The drumlets featured a nice charred brown colour, glistening with a nice coat of fat that sweated out while being air fried. A delectable scent wafts in the air as I go in for a bite; it tastes as it looked, perfect.

Philips Airffryer: Chicken
The beautifully cooked wings proved to be fuel for both my stomach and mind

The beautifully cooked wings proved to be fuel for both my stomach and mind

I was brimming with encouragement; this time, I wanted to do away with the pre-packaged stuff and try something from scratch. I likewise wished to keep things simple, and what better way to do so than making Singapore’s much-loved breakfast item — soft-boiled eggs.

And simple it seemed. All I had to do was place an egg inside and cook it at a specific temperature and time. There were several variations on this, but I decided on a temperature of 100°C where it will last for 11 minutes. This time, there was no indication of whether things were going well. No smell, nothing I could glean visually to know if I was on the right track.

When the timer ticked up, I was certainly encouraged. The egg had the same scorching feel of heat when I picked it up from the basket, just like what you would get when you order one from a coffee shop. Cracking the bad boy open, I can’t help but be left a little wanting. It was correctly cooked, unlike the nuggets, but a bit too much. The yolk was cooked slightly too well, which meant it lacked the ‘runniness’ that I liked.

Philips Airffryer: Egg
While by definition it was cooked, the egg didn’t measure to my personal preference

My second go wasn’t too much better. Unfortunately, despite lowering the temperature and time, it still was a little too overcooked for my personal preference. I was stumped, but strangely enough, I was not disheartened. If anything, I was fired up (no pun intended). Though disappointed with some of the results, I was still eager to continue and tinker with the cooking process.

Which is what cooking is all about. That hunger to venture forward even if the end product did not turn out as expected. My experience with the Philips Airfryer Essential XL Connected has shown me that it requires a lot of trial and error, but despite that, I want to try out new things, given how easy it was to do so. As cliche as it might sound, this air fryer has renewed my interest in cooking.

I could not try out the abundance of recipes available on the Airfryer NutriU app, but I hope to start another cooking session soon, this time with the help of an air fryer. Nonetheless, I had a great experience with the Philips Airfryer Essential XL Connected.

Finally, if you are interested in getting one for yourself, it’s as easy as visiting the Phillips Official e-Store!

Photos by Russell Loh of the DANAMIC Team.

Russell Matthew Loh

Watcher of films and player of games. Dabble with writing in between.

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