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