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I got this Russell Hobbs Essentials Deep Fat Fryer as a housewarming gift when we moved home. I normally buy good quality products, especially when it comes to things that cook my meals, or retain the potential to burn my house down. However, this being a gift I thought I better preserve with it for a while before buying my own all singing all dancing one. Although I have a family of five, I don't generally like giving the kids deep fried foods, which is just as well as this one wouldn't have the capacity to feed us. Useless for this purpose, I normally use it for a quick portion of sausage and frozen chips when I get home too late for lunch. On filling this thing I emptied the two litre bottle of cooking oil, before reading the instructions. No big drama there I thought. Switched in on and waited for it to heat, as indicated by the little green light. Takes longer than you would expect by the way, and for proper cooking you need it on full blast. Anyhow, once I dropped the chips in, there was an almighty roar of crackling fat, and it instantaneously started to bubble over the sides of the unit, even though the lid was supposedly securely fastened! Bottom line, read the instructions and stick to the 1.5litres recommended. I was also pretty afraid that the plastic would melt when exposed to the hot cooking oil. It certainly isn't very substantial to the touch and the whole unit is extremely lightweight and flimsy. Knocking the side produces this hollow sound that lets you know just how thin the construction is. As one of the other reviewers pointed out, looking down the top window to see how your food is brewing really is a waste of time too. I find it is always steamed up and I can see drops of water dropping off it back into the cooking oil. Surely can't be a good thing. I preserved with the Russell Hobbs for a while, and we still have it to be honest, but it wasn't long before I splashed out for a better more expensive unit that I'll review one of these days and show you what a Deep Fat Fryer should be!
For quick food with a good taste, deep fat frying is still, despite the health concerns, remains a popular method of preparing food. The dangers of a pan can be averted by purchasing, as I did, a device such as the Morphy Richrds Essentials Deep Fat Fryer. A fairly simple machine, it is constructed from a durable plastic outshell coloured in glossy white. Access to the fryer section is through the top, which opens front to back on a single hinge. To the front is a handle which allows you to lock the top, thereby avoiding injury or burns. The lid has a clear viewing window. The fryer is operated through the front mounted controls, an on/off switch and a dial for cooking options. There are also temperature lights to give you an indication of the internal cooking conditions. The internal cooking bay has a wire basket for food removal. It is mains operated using a cable connection delivering 1.6Kw. The frying bay has capacity for 0.5kg of food or 1.5l of cooking oil. The device is mounted on non slip feet and operates with a safety cut off feature. As with most electrical devices it comes with one year manufacturers warranty and instrution book. My opinion of the device is a good one. I paid in the region of £20 a couple of years ago, and at the time it did what it should do with a minimum of fuss. However, the whole process is not the most pleasant. The fatty smell that came off the fryer was unpleasant and took hours to fade, the machine itself was constantly filthy and required a thorough, time consuming cleaning after each usage. If you absolutely must have one of these devices and you can still pick one of these up, then yes it would be a good buy. However, for what the end result is, there are better ways of cooking your food. The unhealthy nature of cooking, even with omega 3 oils is still a big issue with this type of cooking. Mine now resides in a cupboard and has not been used in 12 months.
BASICS: And basic it is.... but retailing at £12 (at Argos) I felt I couldn't go wrong. Oven based deep far fryers are constantly posed as dangerous and a cause of house fires - so whilst I don't often use a deep fat fryer I thought this would be a worthwhile investment for the safety of my family. THE LOOK: Compact and designed from your standard white plastic the main body of the fryer is suspended on four 'legs'. A large catch ensures that the lid is fastened down securely during cooking and can only be released (in theory anyway - see below) by pressing the adjacent button. A dial enables you to control the temperature (although the highest setting is necessary to achieve any kind of cooking temperature. Red and green lights to the left indicate that the temperature desired has/hasn't been achieved. Inside is your standard cooking basket which you lift out using the catch (which doubles as a handle). A viewing window supposedly enables you to watch your food cooking without opening the fryer and splattering yourself with oil but in practise this is nigh on useless (it's too small) so you have to expose yourself to the crackling oil. Altogether it looks and feels very light and insubstantial. FUNCTIONALITY: What can I say. It only cooks 500g of food at once (chips for two maybe) despite requiring a litre and a half of oil so it's not particularly great for family cooking (maybe the food standards agency have been onto them about reducing portion sizes of unhealthy food?!). The weight of the product is rather disturbing - even a small child could easily knock it over and end up covered in boiling hot oil. And then there's the basket handle, which broke after three uses for me turning a slightly dangerous product into a very dangerous one. Maybe I'll stick with deep frying things on my hob in future....
I have been dithering for years about buying a deep-fat fryer for several reasons. Firstly, nobody really needs to eat deep-fried food on a regular basis. Secondly, I'm from Scotland, home of the fatty-diet-induced-heart-attack and thirdly, we have a family history of fried-food-related ill heath: one relative who ate nothing but black, sugary tea and home-made fish and chips (without even the saving grace of mushy peas to recommend the dish) for several months at a stretch was then admitted to hospital with a mystery case of oesophageal bleeding. The exact cause was never quite worked out, but if you ask me, I'd say scurvy can take many forms. So the 'cons' of deep fat frying always outweighed the pros to my mind - the 'pros' being mainly, the possibility of generating home-made pakoras. Then one day I was in Argos and saw that there was a fiver off the Russell Hobbs Essential Deep Fat Fryer - bringing the price down to £19.99. I 'needed' to spend a few extra quid to get one of those 'spend £50 get a £5 gift voucher' fake offers that Argos sometimes runs (apparently the £5 voucher I got was limited use, and only applied if you used it when you were spending ANOTHER £50 or something like that) so - failing to cut the long story short, I bought the thing. The deep fat fryer is a bottom of the range model. It's basically a metal vat for fat surrounded by a plastic housing. There's a chip-basket that can be raised and lowered into the hot oil by means of a fold-down plastic handle. The lid shuts and locks over the oil during cooking, and unlocks / opens when you push a button on the side. There are vents in the top to allow steam to escape during cooking. The 'controls' are simplicity itself; there's a gauge for adjusting the oil temperature (you have to turn it all the way to the Russel Hobbs equivalent of 'evil 11' or it won't fry anything at all) and red / green lights on the side that tell you when the oil's hot enough to put the food in / take it out again. Allegedly it can cook 500g of food at a time. If you get it cooking that much successfully you'll be lucky. It doesn't fry food well in quantity at all; to me the vents in the top of the fryer seem insufficient to let enough water vapour out to let food deep fry properly; what you get out is stuff that seems weirdly part-steamed - which is counterintuitive because of course it's just come out of a great big vat of fat (the fryer part takes up to 1.5 litres of cooking oil at a time). What you do get is a great blast of steam in the face when you open it up after it's tried to fry something, which takes out of the equation very little of the fear of deep-frying that prompted me to buy a deep-fat fryer (rather than playing what Billy Connolly calls 'Parkhead Roulette' - with a shaky open chip-pan of grease over the gas hob) in the first place. Save to say that we do use this, we shut the sprogs well out of harm's way in another room, and whoever's using the deep-fat fryer has to have another (sober) adult standing by like a 'second' in an old-fashioned duel - to take over just in case the first person is incapacitated (or perishes entirely) during the course of their deep-fat-frying attempt. Health and safety requiring two grown-up people to use one deep fat fryer is a bit ridiculous, really. Anyhow, either because the capacity for food is too small or because there isn't enough oil to keep it all at a high temperature for a long enough period, or because the heating element isn't up to the job, somehow it doesn't seem to reach a high enough temperature to deep-fry properly. That's my opinion anyway. The machine is also woefully plasticky. By which I mean it feels shoogly - the very last thing you want when dealing with super-hot oil - both as a unit (while it sits on a unit firmly enough, it's so lightweight that it seems dead flimsy) and in terms of the limited 'mechanisms' it has got: the wire basket that goes in the hot oil seems only tenuously attached to the heat-proof white plastic handle that attaches to it and waggles alarmingly when you try to take it out of the hot oil. The whole fryer also reeks of hot plastic during frying. I am not a fan of the model at all, which I suppose in some ways is 'a good thing' as it means our deep-fat-fried-food-consumption hasn't increased exponentially since we got it. As a final note, in completing this review I see I'm prompted to comment on the appliance with regard to the property of 'noise'. Now, while you wouldn't expect a deep-fat-frier to make much noise at all, the drops of condensation falling from the inside of the 'viewing window' in the top (please see accompanying illustration) into hot fat sputter and crack alarmingly; it's even worse when the unit is being opened. So no, in terms of noise quality, I wouldn't rate this piece of kit highly at all, thanks.