Eat more, heat less.
The post-pandemic parallel stresses of a cost-of-living crisis compounded by soaring energy bills has been a positive boon for the air fryer industry. People have still got to eat, so the idea of being able to prepare hot meals in half the time has proved a deliciously attractive proposition.
The Chefree AFW20 air fryer is the latest iteration on the air fryer concept, building on the well-established form and function, yet still managing to add a few new appealing features.
Promising to empower the user to save up to 80 per cent on their energy bill, via the “cook faster, save energy” model, the Chefree has two large 4L cooking drawers (the company’s tagline for this is, “Double taste, double enjoyment”), each with a visible window and internal light so you can check on the food during cooking (or, as the company puts it, “watch amazing happen”).
The windows do serve a useful purpose, in that you can keep an eye on what’s cooking without having to open the basket and let heat escape. There are some recipes (more of which later) which require you to pause the cooking and shake the baskets in order to agitate the food, or to turn the food over, but this is accounted for in the recipe timings.
Having two completely independent cooking drawers means you can easily prepare two different foods at once, also using different programmes, times and temperatures for each drawer (e.g. roast in one; air fry in the other), yet also instruct the Chefree to have everything ready to serve at the same time. This ‘Sync Finish Function’ is actually reasonably amazing, to be fair, and it takes a lot of hassle out of cooking large meals to feed a family or even just something for yourself of an evening. No need to cook elements of the menu sequentially: everything can be ready at once (provided your planned meal fits into two drawers, obvs).
As well as the ubiquitous air-frying, the Chefree also grills, roasts, toasts, bakes, dehydrates and even carefully reheats leftovers. Eight one-touch cooking presets from the large display make entering one’s choices effortless; the same goes for making any other selections and settings.
Cooking is achieved by Chefree’s 360° evenly distributed rapid air circulation technology, which sends super-hot air around the food up to four times faster than a traditional oven. This is where the energy savings are made: things are simply done much faster with an air fryer.
The Chefree’s flexible crisper tray has been designed to encourage food to cook quicker, enhancing the overall browning results of the grill setting, while the high 200℃ searing heat should help lock in meat juices and flavours. We haven’t had any complaints, issues or woefully undercooked or horribly burned results during our early weeks of use.
Baking enthusiasts will be pleased to know that this Chefree has got their baking back, acting as a mini oven to whip up cakes, muffins and such like in double-quick time. You can also use the Chefree to dehydrate foods, removing the moisture from ingredients whilst preserving the flavour, so you can create your own healthy, homemade dried fruit, vegetable chips, beef jerky and so on.
Both of the crisper trays and baskets are non-stick, fully removable and dishwasher safe, although Chefree advises that hand-washing these elements will help extend their quality, appearance and lifespan. The company offers a 24-month warranty on the unit and parts.
If the idea of an air-fryer, and perhaps this Chefree model in particular, has whet your appetite but you have no idea what kind of meals you can make with one, don’t worry – this reviewer was much the same. It’s capable of much more than the steak or chicken and chips that are typically shown in promotional photos, like it’s the 1970s again (although the Chefree will do you a roast chicken up to 2kg in weight and 2kg chips, just saying). The Chefree can help with every meal, from breakfast to supper and from first course to dessert.
There is a Chefree App featuring over 100 recipes “by our chef” (the company says), organised into useful categories, e.g. ‘Breakfast Food’ and a ’21-day Food Plan’. There’s a traditonal Recipe Book format, where you can search/define by keyword (e.g. Simple, Western, French, Japanese, Difficulty etc) and also save your own recipes.
You can also search recipes by your specific Chefree model (Chefree makes more than one air fryer, as you can imagine), so the app will tell you exactly which buttons to press. It’s the ultimate idiot’s guide to air frying, but genuinely useful to get you up and running. Once you get the hang of things, new ideas and ingredients should start to pop into your head unbidden, as the potential of the device gradually dawns on you.
You do have to create an account to use the app – to even see any of the recipes, in fact – which is mildly annoying, although ‘Shenzhen Ultenic Technology Co. Ltd.’ claims not to collect any data beyond diagnostics. If you don’t fancy creating an account, the single page ‘Cooking in your 2-basket air fryer’ in the online user manual (a free PDF download) does provide a simplified yet useful guide as to what foods you can cook, on which setting, and for how long. It even includes some quite specific tips, e.g. the Broil option is apparently “perfect for melting cheese on French onion soup, and nachos”. Cool, soup and nachos for tea tonight. Yummers.
The Chefree AFW20 is a great air fryer, a properly useful and beneficial kitchen companion. It solves a lot of cooking headaches in a single unit and with a reasonably small footprint (approximately the same size as a regular modern microwave, by way of illustration). You won’t be using it for every single meal, or every single cooking need, but you will almost certainly find yourself using it more than you expected to, as you learn to unlock and appreciate its broad capabilities. You might even find yourself eating different foods and breaking out of your mealtime rut. All this, and you’ll be saving money on your energy bill, too. That’s a welcome double whammy from this double-drawer Chefree.
Chefree AFW20 Air Fryer
£159.99, available direct or from Amazon UK
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