Air fryers, I'll bet that's a type of kitchen cooker you've probably overlooked. They're not in vogue like the Instant Pot, but air fryers such as the $230 (converts to £163, $284 AU) DeLonghi MultiFry 1363 have compelling features all their own. Thanks to powerful convection fans and dual heating elements, the MultiFry doesn't use much oil, if any.
Despite DeLonghi's claims, the MultiFry is not a true multicooker. It can't steam or use pressure to shorten cooking times of tough proteins and grains. Nor is it designed to run all day long as slow cookers do. It's not a rice cooker either, something both Instant Pots and the Crockpot Express can tackle. If you love fried dishes but not tons of grease, then the MultiFry is worth checking out. The same goes for people who entertain often and would appreciate a steady supply of party snacks.
The MultiFry 1363 is not what I'd call a compact countertop appliance. It's about the size of a motorcycle helmet and roughly the same shape. Squat and round, the cooker splits in two like a clam shell to open and close. Inside its mouth you'll find a large bowl that's coated with ceramic. This surfacing helps keep food from sticking but is prone to scratches. Both the Crockpot Express' more traditional nonstick bowl and Instant Pot's steel chamber have greater durability.
With a 6-quart (192 fluid ounces) capacity, those multicookers can hold more as well. That's not to say the MultiFry can't cook a lot at once. DeLonghi says its basket can process 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg) of fresh potatoes or a little less if they are frozen (3.3 pounds, 1.5 kg).
At the center of the MultiFry's bowl is its paddle stirrer. It spins slowly while the MultiFry is cooking and acts as a mixing arm for contents inside the bowl. The paddle is specifically designed to churn chunks of potatoes and other large objects. You can remove the paddle if you'd like, and that comes in handy when you need extra space for searing bigger items or when you're cooking delicate ingredients.
The front face of the MultiFry houses most of its few controls. There's an on/off button to fire up the appliance. Next to it is a key to activate (or deactivate) the bottom heating element. The primary heater above the bowl is always active unless you open the lid or switch off main power.
One big problem I have with the MultiFry is that it doesn't turn off automatically. You can't set it to operate by a timer either. That seems like a serious hazard in a high-temperature cooker like this. DeLonghi does equip the fryer with a tiny, removable timer module nestled inside a receptacle on the front panel. You can set It to display a countdown (in minutes). The timer also sounds an alarm when it hits zero.
I do like the design for the fryer's bowl handle. The handle grip flips up from the front panel so you can both lift and lower the bowl easily. When you're ready to cook, the handle folds back down into the panel and out of the way.
The DeLonghi MultiFry is at heart an air fryer. It operates by pumping heat into its cooking chamber while circulating the hot air within at a high rate. It's the same way the convection mode on a regular kitchen oven works. The major difference with the MultiFry is its chamber is a lot smaller. That means it has to heat less air. Its heating elements are also much closer to the food inside. All this adds up to an efficient cooker with plenty of relative thermal power.
All that heat and airflow helped the MultiFry to convincingly "fry" standard deep-fryer fare. Items like frozen french fries and chicken nuggets came out of the machine golden brown, crispy and delicious. The paddle in the cooker kept everything inside moving and heated evenly. Larger pieces of food were pushed around better by the paddle, though. Waffle fries clumped together at times, while the paddle mixed longer cut fries just fine.
I didn't have to add any oil to the bowl either. Of course these snacks are pre-cooked at the factory so they already have a coating of grease in the bag. I cooked the same fries in a fancy Jenn-air oven (on convection) and the results were not as enjoyable. Their texture was drier and tasted, well, baked.
The MultiFry handled fresh chicken wings well, too. I didn't add any extra oil (as the manual advises). Even so, the skin was crispy and caramelized, while the meat inside remained juicy and tender.
There are definitely some aspects to the MultiFry that weren't as impressive. Despite what DeLonghi claims, the air fryer didn't cook anything noticably faster than the conventional method. French fries needed about 16 minutes in the MultiFry. It took about 17 minutes to finish in the oven.
Neither is the MultiFry a true multicooker, as DeLonghi describes. When it comes to dishes like stews, soups and rice, it's no Instant Pot. I tried to whip up some risotto just for kicks since the official product page says it's possible. The results were awful. Continuous stirring when cooking risotto is essential. Unfortunately, the MultiFry's paddle failed to grab a swath of rice grains around the bowl's outer edge. That caused them to sit on the sideline and then burn -- unacceptable.
The $230 DeLonghi MultiFry 1363 is a worthy purchase for those who enjoy fried dishes often but would like a healthier way to prepare them. The same is true if you entertain often and need a dedicated party snack machine. This cooker's ability to use less oil and its relatively easy clean up have you covered there.
That said, it's not a true multicooker that's able to function as multiple kitchen products. The MultiFry can't speed up cooking times of tough meats, steam, cook rice or make soups. Neither does it have any fancy cooking modes or preset programs to match your ingredients. So steer clear of the MultiFry if you crave lots of cooking flexibility and choose an instant Pot-style appliance instead. With these gadgets like the Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 V3 and CrockPot Express (both $80) you'll save a bundle, too.
Are you curious about all the other air fryers we tested out? Check out our air fryer roundup here.