Fried food is the bête noire of ripped abs. Oil and fat add flavor – and flab. But you don’t have to give up fried foods entirely, just cook them differently.
The Oilless Fryer from Hammacher Schlemmer is designed to do it without using oil – or at least just using a very small amount. The countertop gadget contains an electrical element and a high-speed fan to circulate the air like a convection oven. Food sits in a slotted basket inside so that the hot air can move above and below. The Oilless Fryer has a one-hour timer with a temperature dial (up to 400 degrees).
For our first test, we popped open a box of frozen Bell & Evans Chicken Breast Tenders. The pieces were cooked in 15 minutes and turned out moist and, yes, tender, compared to taking nearly twice as long in an oven and usually ending up dry and chewy. The unanimous judgment from our taste testers was that the fryer did a better job than the standard oven or microwave options.
Other breaded provender also worked well in the Oilless Fryer. Zucchini sticks and fish fillets were crisp yet moist inside. We also found it to be a great way to make healthy choices even healthier, such as using it to quickly fry tofu (less than 10 minutes) rather than using oil in a wok.
French fries are the sine qua non of fried foods, and the fryer handles them well, albeit with a little extra prep. The frozen variety can be tossed straight in and be ready in about 20 minutes, but the homemade version takes a little more planning. Rather than just oiling and tossing your hand-cut slices into the oven, the fries have to be soaked in water for 30 minutes beforehand. And you still need to toss them with about a tablespoon of oil (we recommend peanut oil), otherwise they will be bland and tasteless. It took about 22 minutes to get the fries just right (about half the time it takes doing them in the oven). The results were tasty with a light patina of oil for taste.
Not all cooking with the Oilless Fryer is carefree. You often have to toss or flip items in the basket halfway through to ensure even cooking. The four-cup basket size is limiting as well, although it’s ideal for bachelors. If you’ve got a partner or family to feed, it’s only big enough to handle one course, such as spring rolls or fried veggies, at a time.