Disclosure: I received a unit for review purposes.
Tl;dr: Apparently I’m not an air fryer person. But if you are, this air fryer might be a good option for you. It has plenty of great features, plus one or two features you might have to overlook.
We aren’t early adopters to technology. We don’t have the latest iPhones. We don’t have an Instant Pot. And, until recently, we didn’t have an air fryer.
We recently got the chance to try one out, though, to see how easy it is to use and how useful it might be to a family that is used to using just regular ovens and toaster ovens, with no air fryer experience.
The Midea 11-Quart Two Zone Air Fryer Oven seemed packed full of features and we were excited to try it out. But how did it fare, to people with zero air fryer experience?
Air frying isn’t exactly baking, and it isn’t exactly frying. So, what would it do to our food? How well could it replicate deep frying? What dishes would it be good for? I felt like I needed to be convinced, because I just didn’t see the appeal of an air fryer.
What Can the Midea Two-Zone Air Fryer Oven Do?
Some two-zone air fryers have side-by-side baskets, but this one has a top six-quart air frying basket with crisping tray, and a bottom five-quart “traditional toaster oven” removable tray. Despite the air fryer having a “toast” option, there was no wire rack on which to put, say, bread for toasting. The bottom part just has a tray that slides into grooves on the sides, so it’s really better for baking.
The air fryer has settings for air fry, grill, dehydrate, bake, roast, broil, reheat, toast, bagel, and keep warm. All setting options are available for both top and bottom zones. Strangely, it doesn’t have a preheat option.
One useful feature is Sync Finish, which aligns the end cook times so your food will all be done at the same time, assuming you knew exactly how long to cook it in the first place.
Some of the Food We Tried
One of the first things we tried was potatoes. We cut the potatoes up into bite-size pieces, tossed with oil and some spices, and cooked in the top/basket portion. Though we had to figure out the exact time needed, these worked great. Nice texture, nice flavor… This is probably our favorite thing to cook in the air fryer. The potatoes turned out really well. No turn/flip, just shake the basket!
Chicken tenders cooked much faster than we were used to, and were appropriately crispy in the top basket. They also retained more moisture than in our conventional oven.
Frozen stir fry veg air fried in the top and bottom came out similarly to each other. But they didn’t turn out ideally. We did find that cooking some things from frozen didn’t produce an appetizing result.
Our donuts came out okay. We made a yeast donut recipe, along with a glaze we applied afterward. They came out soft, warm and tasting like cooked dough. Maybe closer to a dinner roll until you glazed them, and then they tasted like a sweetened dinner roll. Not quite donut-y, definitely not deep-fried-ish. Rory was happy with how they turned out, though, and we might do them again.
The fresh flautas from Costco, cooked in the bottom compartment on the air fryer setting for 12 minutes, Rory said was the easiest hot meal he’s made in weeks. The flautas cooked very well on the non-stick grill pan, as the food gets crispy all over without extra oil, and no need to use aluminum foil either!
We also tried toasted ravioli in the top basket on the air fryer setting, which turned out well, too.
What It Does Well
This air fryer has some areas where it shines, and some where it doesn’t shine so much. Here are some things it does well.
The manual is very detailed and gives a handy chart for a lot of types of food and how long/what temp to cook them at for each cavity (they aren’t the same). Despite the detailed manual, it’s quite easy to figure out how to set it up. Buttons appear when/where you need them to, and it’s easy to get up and running with cooking, even if you are the type to ignore the manual.
The air fryer basket includes a crisper tray that allows air to circulate under the food, and keeps food from sitting in the oil.
The Sync Finish feature is really helpful for making it so that two dishes are done at the same time. This is assuming, however, that no preheating is needed for either dish, and that the faster food is fine waiting in the machine until its turn to start cooking.
The air fryer beeps about halfway through the cook time to prompt you to flip or shake your food, if you’re making food that needs that. This is helpful (only) if you’re within earshot.
There is also apparently an app that you can use to program and operate the machine, but we prefer disconnected products, so we haven’t tried it. The air fryer is entirely functional without the app.
Rory thought its biggest win was this: It’s perfect for small meals that need an oven. No heating up the house for a single dish—which is great especially in the summer—just use the air fryer, which is significantly smaller and more energy efficient, presumably. It’s great for small family meal dishes, or when making food for one. I could see how it would also be a benefit when you’re making a large meal for a holiday, and you need more room to cook more dishes.
I think its biggest win is perfectly done potatoes.
What It Could Do Better
Safety concern: My biggest complaint about this air fryer is how they designed the bottom cavity. It’s very short, top to bottom, which means you can only put pretty flat or small food in there. The door doesn’t open up quite all the way, making it very easy to burn yourself on the door as it springs back up (which it does, somewhat). It’s also very difficult to pull out the bottom tray because of the weird door, and you really have to fully remove the tray to turn or remove the food; you can’t pull it out halfway, as it’ll just fall on the floor. The tray is also very small and thin, so it’s difficult to grip with a hot pad. The top cavity’s handle also somewhat blocks access to the lower cavity.
Biggest lack: A preheat option. The oven doesn’t have a setting for this, and it also doesn’t indicate when the fryer compartments are up to temperature. Plus, if you turn the air fryer on to preheat it, you’ll need to turn it off and on again to use all the cooking cycle features for your actual cooking time.
This would probably be a complaint with any air fryer, but you cannot cook a lot of anything at once. Even two potatoes fill the “single layer” limit. It is not designed for cooking large dishes.
Cooking from frozen, especially chicken and vegetables, has been time consuming, even when preheating the fryer. And the quality for the vegetables especially isn’t as good as some other cooking methods.
As with ovens, toaster ovens, and the like, even though there are lights to illuminate your food and windows to look through, you can’t really get a good idea of how the food is cooking without actually opening it up and looking.
We never quite got the hang of timing our two dishes to be done at the same time, since cook time will vary slightly each time you make a dish.
The upper and lower zones heat differently, and the upper fan is considerably more powerful than the lower one. So cooking in this air fryer takes a lot of guesswork until you do a lot of experimentation. It’s kind of like having a stove where some of the burners work better than others, so you need to devise how to cook certain things in a specific pan, on a specific burner, at a specific heat setting. It’s the same with this air fryer. Figure out the zone/preheat/temperature/time combination that works for that specific food, and then you’re golden (as is your food, if you’re lucky).
This air fryer really isn’t a replacement for our toaster oven, though, especially in that there is no metal wire rack to put food on for toasting on both sides, and you can’t use your own baking dishes like you can in a toaster oven. They call the bottom half a “traditional toaster oven” on their website, but it isn’t really. I think it’s just a tiny oven. Technically you can set the bottom cavity to Air Fryer mode, but if you’re looking to air fry, I recommend the top basket cavity.
Though there are cleaning instructions, it would be pretty hard to clean the inside of the air fryer completely, especially the lower cavity.
With the smooth, shiny touch buttons, you’ll end up with a lot of fingerprints on the surface. But I suppose those are easy to clean off.
I encourage you to check out Midea’s website for more information about the air fryer, as they have a lot of images (that I can’t replicate at home) that illustrate just how it works.
Basically, you either want an air fryer or you don’t. If you do, the Midea is a good option. It’s got a lot of options and will do or attempt to do so many different cooking styles. The Sync Finish option and the two-zone cooking, with each zone acting a bit differently from the other, can be a real plus, and expand what you might cook in it. Its footprint is small enough to fit on the counter, but you can also easily move it out of the way when not in use. (I might have preferred one with side-by-side air fryer baskets, though, since the bottom area is so hard to access.)
After spending some time with the air fryer, would I spend the money on one (if we didn’t already have one now)? Probably not. It definitely simplifies a few dishes, and does several things well. But I’m not sure it’s worth the counter space or expense, especially since we have a really great toaster oven, and it seems just like a small-but-fancy convection oven.
That being said, this device can do a lot of different things, so it’d be a great option for someone who wants a single device with a wide range of functions.