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Simple Chef HF-898 Air Fryer review: Solid snacking from the cheapest air fryer we tested

For $70, this countertop cooker promises deep-fried indulgence without the oil. But does it deliver?

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Ry Crist
Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

5 min read

I try to keep an open mind towards all of the gadgets and gizmos I review, but I'll admit to some hard skepticism towards air fryers. It's a class of countertop unitaskers that promises to produce fried-like results without the oil, but that claim is mostly a gimmick -- they're really just runt-sized convection ovens that circulate hot air across your food.

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7.4

Simple Chef HF-898 Air Fryer

The Good

Simple Chef's air fryer was the most affordable cooker we tested, and one of the easiest to keep clean, too. It never undercooked our food.

The Bad

None of the food cooked in the Simple Chef air fryer blew us away, and none of it came anywhere close to deep-fried indulgence.

The Bottom Line

The Simple Chef HF-898 is a perfectly respectable air fryer, but like other air fryers, it doesn't offer much more than the common toaster oven.

In other words, there's pretty much nothing you can make in them that you can't also make in your oven.

Air fryers are a cool concept, but are they worth the price?

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That said, air fryers are an admittedly handy way to heat up a quick batch of frozen snacks, and among the models that we tested, the Simple Chef HF-898 seemed to provide the most bang for the buck. Currently available for $70 on Amazon -- significantly less than competitors like the $300 Philips Avance air fryer, and cheaper than any other air fryer we tested -- the HF-898 isn't anything special, but it never disappointed us, either. From homemade fries to barbecue chicken wings to a quick plate of pizza rolls, nothing ever came close to deep-fried indulgence, but it all tasted at least as good as if I had made it in the oven. In some cases, the Simple Chef was able to cut the cook times by as much as 50 percent, and it was also one of the easiest cookers to clean.

So sure, if you're shopping for an air fryer, give the Simple Chef some consideration. But keep in mind that decent convection toaster ovens can be had for less.

Design

The HF-898 is an egg-shaped cooker that eats up a little over a cubic foot of counterspace. With an all-plastic body and a pair of rotary knobs as the only controls, it won't do much to class up your kitchen, but it isn't inherently ugly, either.

To use it, you'll turn the top knob to the target temperature, then turn the timer knob to start heating things up. Like most other air fryers, your food goes in a basket drawer that pulls out of the bottom half of the appliance.

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Even greasy messes like the burger aftermath here were a cinch to clean up -- just wipe with a soapy sponge and rinse, or toss the basket into the dishwasher.

Ry Crist/CNET

The HF-898 uses a 1,400W heating element, which is right in the ballpark compared to other cookers, including ones we tested that cost considerably more.

The non-stick basket liner comes out of the basket itself, and both parts are safe to toss in the dishwasher. That said, I never found myself in need of the dishwasher during my tests. Other cookers, like the Krups Fry Delight, have a wire-mesh grate at the bottom of the basket liner that tends to trap food particles and grease. By comparison, the Simple Chef fryer's basket has a non-stick metal bottom filled with holes that's a lot easier to clean with a quick rinse and wipe. It made for one of the most low-maintenance air fryers we tested.

I also appreciated that the Simple Chef cooker has a handle on top, making it easy to lug the thing to and fro about your countertops. Less ideal: the temperature dial, which jumps from setting to setting in odd, uneven increments, making it difficult to feel confident that you've dialed into your target temp with any sort of precision.

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Air-fried barbecue chicken wings cooked with oil (right) and without oil (left). Both batches were tasty, but neither was as crispy as we wanted.

Ry Crist/CNET

Let's talk taste tests

To put these air fryers through their paces, our team subjected itself to two weeks of taste tests. There were, of course, many, many, many batches of fries, both homemade and frozen, as well as chicken wings, burgers and plenty of frozen snacks like mozzarella sticks and pizza rolls.

The latter of those -- the frozen goodies -- was where we saw the most consistent performance from all of the air fryers. That wasn't all that surprising, since just about any convection-based cooker is going to excel at reheating frozen foods, but it was still a nice point in the category's favor. Even better: the Simple Chef was often able to cut down on their cook times, heating our frozen mozzarella sticks to crispy, gooey perfection in just 6 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The same sticks took 11 minutes at 400 degrees F in a full-size convection oven.

Fresh foods like homemade fries and chicken wings tended to take longer, and we had a tougher time getting them crispy. My first batch of barbecue chicken wings -- cooked without any oil -- came out just like your average oven-baked wings. A second batch slathered in oil came out noticeably more charred, but they still lacked that fried crunch I was hoping for. My taste-testers were all happy to take a bite, but none of them came back for seconds.

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French fries are the signature recipe here, but the small size of the basket makes it tough to cook large batches evenly.

Ry Crist/CNET

As for the fries, I made homemade shoestring fries and thicker-cut potato wedges, plus a few batches of frozen, store-brand crinkle cuts. The ones at the bottom of the basket tend to crisp up more than ones above, so Simple Chef recommends giving them a good shake about halfway through the cooktime. Even so, I was disappointed with the number of limp fries at the end of the cook. Despite the larger-than-average 3.5-liter capacity, the bottom of the basket only has a sitting surface area of about 50 square inches -- roughly half the size of a standard 9 by 11-inch baking sheet. Those limp fries are an unavoidable problem if you're making more than a single, modest serving.

To that end, I tried cutting the size of the batch in half for my potato wedges, with every wedge able to sit flat at the bottom of the pan. They ended up a lot crispier as a result, with one of my taste testers describing them favorably as "potato hot pockets."

The only complaint? I hadn't cooked enough of them. Everyone's a critic around these parts.

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 The Simple Chef HF-898 is one of the cheaper air fryers we looked at.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

Do you need an air fryer? Probably not. It's really just a mini-oven with a marketing budget. Most folks would be better off with a decent toaster oven.

That said, out of all of the air fryers we tested, the Simple Chef HF-898 was the one I'd be most likely to buy. At $70, the price feels right for something that can essentially serve as a second convection oven, and the low-maintenance design was easier to keep clean than air fryers that cost more. If you're a regular fan of frozen appetizers, or just looking for a simple snack machine for a back room, an office, or anywhere else beyond the kitchen, then the Simple Chef air fryer is worth a look.

Are you curious about all the other air fryers we tested out? Check out our air fryer roundup here.

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7.4

Simple Chef HF-898 Air Fryer

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Usability 9Design 7Features 6
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