Air fryers don’t have anything to do with frying. Really, they’re just mini-versions of convection ovens. So, if you use a fan-assisted oven at home, you’re cooking in exactly the same way.
But they’ve taken off as they’re so easy to use: put your food in, press a button and come back 15-20 minutes later to eat. As they’re much smaller than a regular oven, they work much more quickly. And, if you just want to cook up some chicken or fries, they’re more energy efficient – it takes much less power to cook in one than heat up a cavernous oven.
However, what you gain in efficiency and energy savings, you lose in counter space. An air fryer is a chunky box that needs a dedicated spot and, if you wind up having to store it in a distant cupboard, you might find you can’t be bothered to retrieve it and switch on the oven instead.
Xiaomi is best known for its phones and fitness bands but also has a range of smart home products, including sensors, cameras, bulbs and routers. And, of course, this 3.5 litre, smart air fryer.
Mi air fryer design
3.5 litre capacity
33.5 x 25.2 x 30.4cm
Single dial operation
This must be one of the most attractive air fryers around. These don’t tend to be the best-looking appliances – they’re just big, square, featureless countertop boxes.
Xiaomi has rolled with that, turning the lack of features into a feature in itself. The Mi Smart Air Fryer is white, glossy and minimalistic, with an almost invisible on/off key and a single, central dial, instead of a series of buttons.
The dial houses a digital display that shows a top menu of cooking options, including the expected french fries, chicken wings and fish. But there are also options for dried fruit and cake.
Can you really bake a cake in an air fryer? Of course: it’s just a mini convection oven. However, you’ll have to experiment with settings as I pretty much guarantee your first attempt will turn out less than perfect. Still, once you’ve got it down, you’ll be able to bake a small cake in about half the time it would take in the oven.
There’s also a setting for steak, which I wouldn’t recommend using, unless you’re the sort of maniac who likes to oven-cook a steak.
As well as pre-sets, there’s an option for manual cooking. If you select it, you can then set your cooking temperature and time, so once you’ve destroyed your first cake or steak, you can tweak the timings and try again.
The air fryer measures 33.5 x 25.2 x 30.4cm and has an internal capacity of 3.5 litres, which is enough space to cook two portions of food: a couple of chicken breasts or quarter pounders, fries for two or a pair of jacket potatoes.
The obvious limitation of an air fryer of this size is the fact that it just doesn’t have the capacity for an entire dinner for two. Still, it’s useful if you’re looking for a quick way to cook one part of the meal (chips, chicken fillet) while you prepare the rest on the hob (steak, stir fry, steamed veg).
But bear in mind that this is an appliance best suited for solo cooking, or perhaps for a couple. Families will need something much larger.
While I rate the Mi air fryer’s design, I’m not as convinced by the build quality. The drawer had a propensity to stick when opened and closed. After a few uses, I was wrestling with it. This has left me with some doubts about the longevity of the appliance.
Using the Mi air fryer
Cooking range of 40°C- 200°C
8 pre-set programmes
The Mi air fryer is basically idiot-proof. If you use one of the cooking pre-sets, it’ll even remind you half-way through to turn your food over – or in the case of fries, to give them a shake.
It comes with a removable grill insert. I found that, if I placed a fillet or a burger on it, I didn’t need to turn the food over halfway through the cooking programme, which allowed for even greater laziness.
Still, this is a smart air fryer, so to make the most of it, you’ll want to download the free to use Xiaomi Home app, which is available for both Apple and Android. (You’ll still be able to use the air fryer manually, by the way.)
Set up is a doddle: just follow the instructions to connect the air fryer to your Wi-Fi and you’re ready to go. In my case, it connected instantly.
The app’s air fryer functions are very simple and straightforward – you might even say, limited. There are the same cooking pre-sets that you’ll find on the appliance itself, as well as a defrost function and an option to create and name custom recipes.
The most useful smart option is probably the ability to monitor cooking from the app, with an option to turn off or pause the programme remotely. That’s a genuinely handy feature.
You can also schedule cooking and start a cooking programme using voice control via Google Home Assistant, although in my experience it’s complicated to set up and not entirely worth it.
However, Xiaomi envisions that you might also: “put your food in the Mi Smart Air Fryer in advance, and enjoy the hot delicious meal waiting for you when you come back from work at night.”
This seems like a terrible idea. Do you really want to leave food at room temperature all day, just to save yourself half an hour of cooking time? It feels as though they’re trying to crowbar in a use for the smart functions. But that’s just characteristic of smart cooking appliances in general.
Like the Proscenic T21, another smart air fryer we reviewed, the Mi app features recipes, each of which comes complete with a cooking programme. These range from the basic (burgers, roasted broccoli) to adventurous (cheesecake, dried fruit).
They’re also more complicated, involving stages of pre-heating, layering foil into the basket and, in the case of cake, finding a suitably sized baking tin to fit inside the air fryer.
At the end of the day, an air fryer is a bit like a microwave. And there are two types of microwave cooks: those who know all the settings and research recipes to produce perfectly poached salmon and those who nuke leftovers until they explode or the box goes ding.
If you’re in the latter group (like me), you’re never going to use all of those recipes, so you really need to consider what use you’d get from the smart features.
Price & availability
The Mi Smart Air Fryer has an RRP of £79.99 and is being sold by most retailers for that price. As well as buying directly from Xiaomi, you can get it from Maplin. But the best price we found at the time of writing is on Amazon, where it’s available for £74.99.
This is a bit more expensive than similar sized air fryers without the smart functionality. However, it’s cheaper than the Proscenic T21 smart air fryer, which currently costs £98. Still, that is a much larger appliance (5.5 litres) with a notably more robust build.
The Mi air fryer really does look good, although it feels somewhat flimsy and I don’t think it’ll last a lifetime. On top of this, there’s the question of whether you want to pay over the odds for a small air fryer to get the additional smart features. These are limited, unless you want to experiment with more complicated air fryer recipes.
For another option, check out our review of the Proscenic T21 smart air fryer.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Air Fryer: Specs
Model number: BHR4857HK
Capacity: 3.5 litre
Dimensions: 33.5 x 25.2 x 30.4 cm
Wattage: 1500 Watts
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