Like to experiment in the kitchen but hate reading instruction booklets? Gourmia’s GTA2500 Turbo Cook Center Air Fryer may be for you. It promises to serve up meals — from chicken kebabs to pizza to fries and egg rolls — more conveniently and quickly than your oven, and lets you make the kind of food that normally requires a vat of hot, spitting oil work just a tablespoon of olive oil.
How does the unusual-looking kitchen appliance fare? We tested it out.
My husband saw the Gourmia Turbo Cook Air Fryer and said the only thing that was appropriate: “Is that a spaceship for the cat?” The 17- by 17- by 14-inch, 20-pound pod definitely dominated my counter — and cupboards. Not all of its 2,000 parts (okay, 11 accessories) pack up neatly inside, unless you’re some sort of Tetris wizard. (If so, please come and organize my closet.) But you can fit a 3.5-to-4-pound chicken inside, so there’s that.
The white plastic exterior, domed top, LED display, and 13 buttons all contribute to the spaceship appearance. Unless you have ginormous cupboards, it’s probably going to live on your counter and probably won’t match the decor if you went with the stainless steel look for the majority of your kitchen appliances. The interior has a removable, nonstick basket that holds about 2.6 gallons (10 liters). The top flips up and snaps into place at a 90-degree angle, so you can pull out your food without worrying about it snapping closed on your oven-mitted hands.
Some of the accessories look a little like instruments you might find at a dentist’s office that operates in the mind of RL Stine. There’s a bake pan, fry basket, skewer rack, baking cage, tongs, and lots of other metallic pieces. Figuring out what they do takes a little detective work, because they aren’t all mentioned in the manual. Sure, Gourmia has a list on its website, but it feels like you’re doing a matching quiz. (“If this is the rotisserie basket, then this must be the crisp ‘n’ fry basket?”)
More paper, please
The Air Fryer comes with an 11-page manual. That’s 11 pages, including the front cover. The actual instructions really make up four pages, dominated by giant graphics. Five of the 11 accessories come with Ikea-style directions: all pictures and no words. The most complicated, the kabob rack, gets no love in the manual, so figuring out how to attach the skewers was a time-intensive process. My brother had to take it apart and put it back together three times before he got it right.
The oversized pod definitely dominated my counter — and cupboards.
When I was making fries, I put the baking cage in the wrong way and had to wrench it back out. There are a lot of moving parts (literally: the cage and fork rotate), so the manual definitely needs work.
Cooking instructions are pretty scant, too. There’s a single graph that shows you the temperature and default time of the six modes. Of course, knowing that the “bake” mode is 180 degrees and its default time is 20 minutes doesn’t really help if you’re trying to make cookies in the thing. I know how long my recipe says for the oven, but how does that translate to the Gourmia? Luckily, the company recently put out an online booklet with 15 recipes. It’s not comprehensive, but it at least gives you a jumping-off point and an idea of what the Air Fryer can do: roast potatoes, make a chocolate cake, fry chips, cook kabobs, and so on.
The air fryer uses a halogen bulb to do its cooking. It also blows hot air around the food, so Gourmia claims it’s 60 percent faster than your oven and doesn’t require preheating. The box says it can make the following: grilled fish, pizza, grilled steak, stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice, oil-free french fries, focaccia rolls, grilled vegetables, roast chicken, roast rib-eye steak, beef kabobs, fish kabobs, and rotisserie sausage. However, the recipe book doesn’t explain how to grill your fish or the difference between grilling and stir-frying your vegetables. You might not mind experimenting with steaming some vegetables or cooking rice, but you probably want to get your expensive piece of fish right the first time. And while the list of foods the Air Fryer can make is long, the appliance is not completely standalone. The vegetable spring rolls recipe still requires the use of a wok or frying pan, for example.
You can get a view into what’s going on inside the Air Fryer, thanks to the smoky-colored top. The light does turn off, often when there are only a few minutes left, i.e., exactly when you most want to keep an eye on your food. Also, the yellowish tint of the bulb and that on the top make your food appear different than when you lift the lid. The light does seem to flick back on after a minute or so and you do get used to the color change, but this is all part of the learning experience.
Even when following one of Gourmia’s recipes, the results could be hit or miss.
Even when following one of Gourmia’s recipes, the results could be hit or miss. Tandoori chicken, kabobs, and fries all turned out very well, but pizza and cookies didn’t work as well. The machine itself is very straightforward. You can either hit one of the mode buttons (pizza, defrost, roast) or manually adjust the time and temperature yourself. If you think your pizza needs more time, you can also tweak the preprogrammed settings. The “fry” setting will automatically turn on the rotisserie feature, but there’s a button that will turn it on or off as well.
The rotisserie feature is definitely unique and makes sure your fries get crispy all over; it turns your kabobs, too. The other attractive feature of the fryer is that fries require a tablespoon of oil and come out better than baking in the oven. And while the scents weren’t 100-percent contained, the smell of french fries didn’t hang around all night in my apartment.
But try as I might, I couldn’t get a decent pizza crust with the Air Fryer. The recipe recommends cooking the crust first before adding the toppings (otherwise, you’ll end up with very brown cheese), but the center’s bottom stayed pretty chewy. And with cookies, I couldn’t find the magic moment when they weren’t too chewy and hadn’t browned on the top. Sadly, cookie limbo eluded me.
The DT Accessory Pack
The Gourmia Turbo Cook Air Fryer definitely pulls off some tricks your ordinary oven can’t. The rotisserie setting worked very well for things like kabobs and fries, and it is versatile, especially considering it costs $209 on Amazon. It doesn’t deliver on every food group it promises, however.
Some of the quibbles I have with the machine can easily be fixed with a better instruction manual and more robust trove of recipes. Even though it doesn’t make tandoori chicken any faster than my oven, it can cook it without preheating and doesn’t raise the temperature of my kitchen by several degrees.
The Gourmia might be perfect for summer cooking — but leave the cookies in the oven.