As I unpacked the Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer my thoughts wandered to the secret labs at Amazon and Google years ago as they developed Alexa and Google Assistant. Did their engineers imagine me being able to call out to an air fryer on my kitchen counter to make it perform basic tasks? Were countless years spent training machines to understand speech for this smart home future? And even if the engineers did imagine this, is this connected kitchen even worth bothering with?
This might be a little jaded take on a $129, 5.8 quart air fryer that can make some decent chicken wings. But in the end, there are a lot of choices for this type of kitchen appliance—and does turning it into a tech gadget really make it any more appealing?
Rather than whether this is the best cooking appliance, I’m more interested in the question, Will people actually want to use its smarts? Do the additional, tech-focused, features make me want to use it more? I think figuring out if you’ll actually use the voice commands or mobile app will help answer all the other questions, including whether it works well.
Setup and Design
The T21 air fryer comes fully assembled. You’ll need to remove some strategically placed foam and cardboard from the inside, but other than that you can go from box to counter within a few minutes.
I have a countertop oven from Breville that can air fry. It’s fairly large but justifiable in that it can accommodate a full-size frozen pizza. The T21 is pretty big—and tall and bulky—but it can fit the same 12-inch round pizza. But it also uses a basket design that’s better suited to dumping in a bag of fries, tater tots or wings.
Glossy black plastic graces a majority of the appliance’s exterior with brushed metal making up the rest. I read through the instructions for the basics as I got started, and they warned about not leaving it plugged in. (Maybe this is for extra safety precautions? I’m not quite sure.) If it’s a smart device connected to the internet, then it needs to be powered up to get any of those benefits. A mobile app and voice support won’t work if the device is not powered on.
As of March 2021, Proscenic has advertised Google Assistant voice support, but I couldn’t find it. There’s no mention of it in the app and, again, no mention in the instruction booklet. The app was up-to-date and the air fryer’s firmware was the latest version, so I’m not sure what to say about it.
Be warned: Alexa voice support is an afterthought here. It’s evident that it’s tacked on from the moment you try to set it up. First, there’s no mention of it in the instruction booklet that comes in the box. You’ll need to dig into the deepest setting menu in the app to connect it to your Amazon app and have the device added into Alexa’s list of controllable items. After that was accomplished, if you were to immediately start calling commands into the air, expecting your air fryer to hear them, you would soon feel foolish—trust me.
There are no microphones on the T21, so you do need an Echo device with Alexa somewhere in your home for this connected functionality to work. In a pinch, you can use the Alexa app on your phone to speak commands to the air fryer.
Once all this is set up and the T21 shows up as a device Alexa knows about, the final, boss level in this video-game-like challenge is figuring out what you can say to it and what it will do. Again, I couldn’t find any instructions or clues and had to start trying voice commands. After 20 minutes of speaking commands to Alexa, I only got the air fryer to turn on and turn off. I couldn’t get it to set the temperature, timer or presets, despite every variation imaginable. In my experience, spending nearly a decade testing products, this is not a good sign for their long-term enjoyment.
Features, Specs and Price
Proscenic’s advertised features, specs and price:
- Price: $129.00
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Alexa support
- Nonstick and dishwasher-safe basket
- 12 inches by 12 inches by 12.7 inches
- Dozens of multilingual recipes in the app
- 5.8 quart capacity
Let’s set aside the reality that an air fryer requires you to put food into it and by doing so, you’re close enough to press all the buttons with almost no extra effort. Maybe it’s really easier for someone to say, “Alexa, cook bacon” than trying to figure out the timer, temperature or preset button. Even in this case, I couldn’t get Alexa to do any of these functions. From extensive testing, it seems that it will only turn the air fryer on and off.
I tried to get the preheating function to work via voice for a while because that’s one command that seems semivaluable. Perhaps dinner time is approaching and you want to turn on the appliance to get it ready before you head downstairs in a few minutes. Still, no preheating from using voice.
While voice commands were a huge letdown, the other tech aspect of the T21 is its mobile app. Part of the app is a recipe section, and it’s a great idea. It makes perfect sense to be able to get recipes and ideas for what to cook and then be able to press one button that starts the air fryer cooking at the right time and temperature.
I jumped into these recipes relatively quickly without much research. I purposely wanted to see how robust this app feature was when it comes to handling a cooking novice. I balanced this inexperience with a simple recipe: homemade tortilla chips.
I cut some white corn tortillas into quarters, added a little olive oil and salt and then dumped them into the air fryer basket. I pressed the button in the app, the air fryer started, and then after 8 minutes at 300 degrees, they were ready. The ones that weren’t stuck to others cooked thoroughly and were crispy—just like a regular chip. Others were slightly soggy in parts but still tasted fine.
The app functionality is a great idea executed in a passable way, at best. Most apparent is the lack of native language localization, which can make the app, and especially the recipe section, hard to understand. Terminology on some app buttons throughout can also be confusing. The directions are fragmented, split across multiple lines, likely because of how they’re pulled into the app at a technical level. All around, it’s disappointing because it’s close to being a really useful feature.
Back to cooking, curly fries were next up for testing. In wanting to get a sense of the full breadth of this air fryer’s capabilities, I threw caution to the wind. After preheating, I poured a frozen bag of Arby’s seasoned curly fries into the basket and touched the french fries icon on the machine’s screen. It started the timer for 18 minutes at 400 degrees. Luckily, the result was good. Some of the fries on the bottom were a tad crispy, but all of them were fully cooked and most were spot-on. Bacon cooked in the T21 got a little overdone after pressing the icon preset. The presets will probably get you close, but you’ll still want to adjust accordingly.
Compared with my Breville’s oven-style air fryer, the Proscenic T21 seemed to perform just as well. No noticeable issues on the cooking front.
The durability is a little questionable. The basket around the handle was a little wobbly on the unit I tested. The way the basket and drawer connect together also felt fragile. The plastic thumb cover on the drawer handle moves enough to feel like it might pop loose at any point, even though it didn’t come off during my first few weeks.
Should You Buy a Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer?
If you’re going to buy the Proscenic T21, it shouldn’t be because it has Alexa support built-in. Blending in connected conveniences to standalone appliances is a given. The key is that they are well executed. That is not the case here. This air fryer completely falls down on its advertised tech capabilities.
The T21 seems to be a competent air fryer, and the food it made tasted good, but I’m also no chef. My recommendation for Proscenic here is that it doubles down on its mobile development expanding its capabilities and, importantly, polishing its interface. That will give it a real advantage in the kitchen.
Buy at Amazon.
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