Making your favorite fried foods is a snap with the Emerilware Deep Fryer—or go healthy with the Steamer. Photo by Christina Ng.
New Appliances By T-Fal With Emeril’s Imprimatur
CAPSULE REPORT: If you do a lot of frying in a frying pan, or steam a lot in a collapsible metal steamer, you might be a happier cook with a deep fryer and an electric vegetable steamer. We took these new items, as well as a panini press—from T-Fal’s new Emerilware line—out for a test drive. The result: products that do their job, though not always kicked up a notch from others at their price level. For Father’s Day, if Dad needs more stimulation than his Weber grill, you can go two ways: the fryer, if he loves his fried foods, or the steamer, if he (or you) want to keep things on the healthy side.
For people who just don't have the big bucks to buy themselves a brand new, fully-automated, stainless steel professional kitchen, there are new appliances constantly springing up on the market to make culinary chores more of a dream. T-Fal, a well-respected French cookware company, recently launched three of them, endorsed by celebrity chef Emeril LaGasse (who, like Cher and Bono, needs neither a last name nor an introduction). The Fall River, Masacchusetts-born Cajun-style restaurateur did not design these appliances, but presumably has tried them before licensing his name. Emeril is a highly-regarded chef who has licensed his name to some food products that we think provide excellent value for the money (his pasta sauces, for example). Surely, we said to ourselves, he would never give his name casually to a kitchen product.
We were mostly right; Emerilware is a good mid-level line for people who like a satisfying-tasting meal made with an aesthetically satisfying appliance. Mr. LaGasse’s contribution is a box cover photograph, a signature stamped on the machine and five recipes; the products are much the same as the regular fryer and grill in the T-Fal line that preceded them (i.e., he did not give input to making these appliances and, we’re guessing, uses much higher-end professional appliances in his own home). Given the line of premium knives he has endorsed for Wüsthof and the Emerilware cookware made by premium manufacturer All-Clad—products we've used before, to great satisfaction—the new line seems to take the Emeril endorsement down a notch from top-of-the-line. Still, these appliances do their job; and we critique while Emeril collects licensing fees. Bam!
Emerilware Product Line
The three products we tried—a Deep Fryer, a Grill & Panini Maker and a Steamer—produced the dishes we attempted quickly, evenly and successfully—if, admittedly, at the cost of a lot of counter space that may make people who have little of it to spare continue to use their stove tops and ovens to fry, steam and grill.
Our chief concern with the line—which is mitigated given the cost—is the plastic construction. Perhaps all of America is going plastic these days, but when spending $100 or more for an appliance, one would like to buy metal. The line makes a big point of being dishwasher-safe. It is true that the pieces dissemble, but they do not fit efficiently into the dishwasher; our 10-year-old Kitchen Aid has prongs spaced so tightly for plates that the large, chunky Emerilware pieces pretty much commandeer the entire first tier in an awkward splay, leaving room for only a few other things to be wedged in around it. On the other hand, the units are pretty easy to clean by hand, we found it easier to wash them in the sink.
The fryer is a well-contained, extremely efficient machine, heating oil to temperature (four choices from 325°F to 400°F) in about six minutes. When dealing with boiling oil, a sturdier-appearing construction (i.e., metal rather than plastic) would be more assuring; however, in our weeks of trial, the fryer did the trick. Like its sister products in the line, it has certain bonuses unmatched by its competitors:
- With the exception of the Fryer's electric heating coil, all parts are easily washed in a dishwasher (provided you have the space, as noted above).
- The machine even takes out some of the pre-washing legwork by filtering, draining, and storing its oil as a built-in feature. The filtration itself is not always the speediest process—in our case, about two hours—but every hands-off touch is appreciated when deep frying. It even tells you when it’s time to change the oil.
- Easy temperature settings, indicator lights, and the handy cooking chart provided with all of the Emerilware T-Fal line allow even the most amateur of fryers to make a good first showing.
We tried cooking a number of our favorite guilty pleasures, from battered shrimp to doughnuts to seasoned chicken, and all cooked cleanly, evenly and to tender perfection. The oil filter does an excellent job cleaning the oil from one job to the next: We fried donuts in the same oil we had previously fried shrimp in, and no one was the wiser. While we did have a little trouble with the oil storage pan (difficult alignment due to less than premium-quality construction can lead to a little unwanted grease around the edges,) we couldn't help but notice what is perhaps the fryer’s greatest perk: The house was not, in any way, filled with the familiar smell of frying grease that so often accompanies some other fryers (and deep-fat frying in general). The self-contained pan and sturdy lid on the fryer contained both the oil and the smell; no one would know anything was being fried until the lid was removed, allowing the aromas to escape.
In sum: While many of the fryer’s features are fairly standard, its large countertop footprint and tall asking price of $149.99 are easily justified. While its oil needs can be fairly heavy (about eight cups), at this price range the built-in oil filter is both unusual and excellent, allowing for repeated use of what would normally be wasted oil. We made a wide variety of dishes re-using the deodorized oil, which never retained any flavors from dinners past. While the product has many notable competitors, we can’t help but think that this is an extremely admirable new showing for those who don’t want to spend more on a top-of-the-line machine, and we recommend it.
- 1700-watt deep fryer
- Holds 3.3 liters of oil and 2.65 lbs. of food
- Adjustable thermostat, removable stainless-steel pot, extra-large frying basket
- Brushed stainless steel exterior
- Viewing window and cool touch handles for added safety.
- Digital adjustable thermostat, ready light lets you know when oil is hot
- Permanent anti-grease filter, cool-touch handles; digital timer
- Detachable, magnetic safety plug
- Measures 18" x 12" x 14"; 1-year limited warranty
Perhaps if steaming were more fun, more people would steam and eat healthier. This steamer does make steaming more fun—even the kids and the spouse may learn to enjoy steamed food because of the entertainment factor. No longer is the food hidden in a pot: You can watch it steam. With three separate steaming compartments—two metal baskets and a flat cooking tray on top of them—you can cook three different foods at the same time (albeit, unlike other steamers like Richard Simmons’, they all cook at the same time and temperature, so it’s up to you to figure out when to add or remove items that cook faster than others).
Thus, you can steam shrimp, rice and broccoli—effortlessly and quickly. High-speed steaming locks in flavor and nutrition, clean-up is easy—and it sure beats trying to steam three different things in pots on the stovetop. A great machine to jump-start a diet, for a friend or for the family.
- 1500-watt steamer with large 40-cup capacity
- Can steam 3 different foods separately
- 2 high quality stainless steel baskets and rice bowl included
- Center steaming compartment
- Exterior water refill to add more water, if needed, while cooking
- Visible water reservoir ensures a proper water level
- 60-minute timer with signal
- Keep-warm function with indicator light
- Measures 16" x 8 " x 13"; 1-year limited warranty
There are photos of the steamer in action, below.
This was the one product in the line we felt offered no major benefit. Like the George Foreman grill and others that have followed, it has a non-stick grilling surface. The Foreman model at the same price range has five plates that allow for waffles, a flat-surface griddle and other uses—and in fact, the plates fit into the dishwasher much more easily than the entire upper and lower plate units of the Emerilware unit (those grilling plates you see at the right do not detach from the “shelf” portion).
The company says that a differentiator is professional-grade heating elements that heat up enough to “masterfully sear in flavors,” but we did not notice any difference when cooking steak and chicken. When you’re done cooking, you simply remove the electrical heating element and throw all other parts in the dishwasher or sink for fast and easy cleanup. Other grills at this price range also have adjustable temperature controls, cool-touch handles, floating hinges, etc.
- 3 grilling positions
- T-Fal quality non-stick grilling surface
- 2 drip trays collect unwanted fat
- Floating hinges for grilling versatility
- Measures 13" x 10"; 1-year limited warranty
At the end of the day, we’ve gone back to our other grill but we love keeping the large steamer on our counter. It encourages us to steam daily and eat more healthy vegetables. We’re so happy it’s asparagus season!
EMERILWARE by T-Fal
Deep Fryer, Panini Press
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Shipping is additional. Prices and availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.
Views of steamer: above, without flat tray; below, without metal baskets, using large well plus flat tray to cook.