Although Tefal now makes drawer style air fryers too, the brand is known for the Actifry, and its bulbous shape is instantly recognisable as one of the original air fryers in the UK. There have been several generations of this air fryer, but what has always made the Actifry unique is its rotating paddle that constantly stirs foods during the air fry process. The Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 combines the main cooking pot and paddle of the forebearer, with an upper-level tray for dual zone cooking.
With plenty of auto programmes and two cooking levels, as well as the ability to make meals like curry or stew, the Actifry promises to be more versatile than many of the best air fryers you’ll find on the market today. Furthermore, with an accompanying app full of recipe suggestions, even air fryer newbies won’t have to look far for inspiration on how to get the best out of this new kitchen gadget.
I’ve reviewed lots of air fryers, but more often than not these days, they’re the drawer-style ones and I must admit, I was keen to try out this model to see if it could tempt me into switching.
Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 specs
- Capacity: 1.7kg
- Size: 47.6 x 32.8 x 26.3cm
- Settings: nine auto programmes or manual air frying
- Comes with: pan, tray, paddle, spoon
- Power: 1,500 watts
- RRP: £284.99
Unboxing the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1
My heart always sinks a little when I open a box to discover huge chunks of polystyrene, which is exactly what I was faced with when I opened up this Tefal Actifry. Hopefully Tefal will soon catch up with other appliance manufacturers who now use easy-to-recycle protective cardboard inserts instead.
The air fryer itself is big and bulky and although not as tall as drawer style air fryers, it’s deep, so you can’t push it very far back on your worktop.
It comes with a pan that has a stirring paddle, plus a tray that sits above it so you can cook in both simultaneously, or choose either level depending on what you’re cooking. The lower pan has an in-built handle for easy lifting, but it folds down for a more streamlined look when not in use. Whereas the upper tray has a removable handle that clips onto the middle as needed. There’s also an anti-spill ring and a measuring spoon included in the box.
All the parts slot together relatively simply, but the same can’t be said for using the control panel. I spent quite a lot of time scouring the annoyingly small print in the instruction manual to figure out how to use it. And while it’s useful to be able to cook in either the bottom pan, top tray, or both in combination, it took me a fair while to figure out how to programme it to cook in each of these modes.
There are nine auto programmes, and the instruction manual gives suggested uses for each one, but doesn’t provide any detail on cooking temperatures nor can you adjust the temperature, so you just have to go with it, fortunately you can adjust the time though.
Air frying on the lower level
I started things off with an easy air fried veg combination of asparagus and broccoli. Unlike some air fryers there’s no preheat mode so I popped the broccoli florets and asparagus spears straight into the main pan and poured over a tablespoon of oil.
There’s no need to coat the vegetables in the oil first as the stirring paddle will ensure this happens during cooking. I used the manual settings, opting for 15 minutes at 200°C. And because this time and temperature combo was a bit of a guess, I was thankful for the viewing window which meant I could keep an eye on progress.
During cooking I noticed a lot of steam was escaping out of the gap around the bottom of the lid and the plastic part of the lid itself became quite warm to touch, reaching 65°C. It was also loud in comparison to other air fryers I’ve used and hit 66dB on my sound meter.
After 12 minutes some of the broccoli pieces were looking well browned so I stopped the cooking. The asparagus was nicely cooked with a great texture, but if I’m being really picky, the broccoli was a little too crisp in places and some of the stalks were slightly undercooked. So perhaps next time, I‘d reduce the temperature a little and increase the cooking time, overall though I’d say it was pretty successful for my first attempt.
Air frying on the top tray
The top tray is the best place to air fry foods that you wouldn’t want stirring, so this is where I cooked bacon. The tray is shaped a bit like a donut which is slightly limiting in terms of what you can fit in. To air fry just four slices of bacon I had to overlap them a little, but knowing that they’d shrink during cooking, I was sure this wouldn’t cause any issues.
The cooking table in the instructions doesn’t give suggestions for cooking bacon, so I was winging it again. I opted for eight minutes at 200°C, but it took me a while to figure out how to programme it to cook in the upper tray only. I have to say I’ve never referred to the instruction manual so much when using any other air fryer.
After cooking for four minutes I opened it up to separate out the bacon since it had shrunk sufficiently. When you close the lid though, it doesn’t automatically carry on cooking (a feature I am used to on some competitors), so you have to remember to press start again. The bacon was cooked with nicely crisp rendered fat after just seven minutes and again the viewing window proved useful in determining this.
Dual-zone cooking in the Tefal Actifry 2-in-1
It felt to me like the true test of this air fryer would be in its ability to successfully air fry on both levels at once. So I opted for the ultimate Friday night treat, scampi and chips, but to really put this machine through its paces, I was combining home-made chips with frozen scampi.
Further lengthy scouring of the instruction manual led me to the conclusion that I should combine auto programme 1 for the chips in the pan with auto programme 2 for the scampi in the upper tray. And once again it took me a little while to figure out how to set it to cook in both simultaneously.
The instructions just advised rinsing the chips rather than soaking them as suggested by other air fryer manufacturers. So I did just that and loaded them into the pan with one tablespoon of oil, hitting start for the 29 minute auto programme. I later realised that I’d added more oil than suggested for the quantity of chips I was cooking and this was when I also realised that in this air fryer, unlike others, excess oil doesn’t drain away, it remains in the cooking pan with your food, so it’s worth paying particular attention to oil quantities if you’re looking for the healthiest results.
I assumed that 21 minutes into the chip cooking programme, the timer would alert me to add the scampi for its eight minute cook and they would then both be cooked within the 29 minutes. But that was not the case, the first programme runs through the full time and only then do you add the food to the top tray and press start again which activates the second programme. This meant a total cook time of 37 minutes, which actually ended up being 40 minutes because the scampi needed a little extra time.
The finished meal was nice – crisp juicy scampi and flavoursome chips, although they weren’t quite as crisp as I’d hoped. But the cooking time was much longer than other dual zone air fryers that can be programmed to cook both foods simultaneously.
Making chilli in the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 air fryer
Initially I wanted to make spaghetti bolognese, but the only recipe I could find in the app didn’t fit the bill. It was split into several steps of frying ingredients, adding more and frying some more, and to me this doesn’t really offer any benefits over cooking in a pan on the hob, it’s just as labour intensive.
So I found a recipe for chilli that allowed me to put all the ingredients in the pan and leave it to do its thing. I slightly adapted the recipe to my taste, but otherwise followed the directions. The recipe instructs you to add the ingredients to the pan in a particular order, which I diligently did. But upon switching on the 23 minute auto programme for world food, I noticed that the paddle wasn’t turning.
I left it for five minutes but was worried that my ingredients would be ruined if not stirred, so ended up tipping everything out to check the paddle was correctly set up. However, it still didn’t work, so I switched it over to manual mode and set the timer for 15 minutes. And it was during this time that I eventually read in the instructions that the paddle doesn’t turn at the beginning of this particular programme.
The whole thing was very frustrating. I’d been using the app for the recipe, not scouring the instruction manual. And by tipping all the ingredients out and re-loading them, I’d scuppered the whole process and the point of adding everything in a particular order. But I carried on, because I decided that had I not been using a recipe in the app, I’d have probably added it all in a random order anyway, so I figured it was still a real-life scenario.
After the manual cooking time elapsed, the chilli wasn’t cooked properly so I switched the world food programme back on and let it cook for a further 12 minutes, giving a total cook time of just under 35 minutes. After this, the chilli looked appealing and I thought I’d rescued the meal. Sadly though, on tasting it, the meat was tough and the onions were still crunchy, it was a disappointing result.
I think if you want to make meals like chilli, curry and stew in this air fryer, you’ll need to be prepared for some trial and error. Yes, there are lots of recipes in the app, but many of them are a tad unusual – curry risotto or spicy rabbit anyone? Anyway, I think you’ll be able to create successful meals if you’re willing to persist, but as to whether you’ll get much benefit over cooking on the hob or in a slow cooker, I’m yet to be convinced.
Cleaning the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 air fryer
There are quite a few separate parts to wash, but they can go in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. If you don’t have a dishwasher though, everything is non-stick so neither the tray nor the pan is tricky to wash by hand. That said, there are a few areas you have to pay particular attention to, to make sure they don’t become encrusted with food residues. Especially around the handles and inside the central part of the tray. The paddle can be a bit fiddly too if you allow food to become dried on.
How does the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 air fryer compare to other air fryers?
Although this model has a flip-up lid instead of the more common pull-out drawer, the main cooking pan with an attached handle means that in use, it doesn’t feel too different. Not many other air fryers have a viewing window, but even compared to the ones that do, this window on top of the lid gives the perfect view inside so you can check on the browning of your food without opening it up. That is unless you’re cooking on both levels of course, in which case you’ll need to open it up and remove the tray to see the lower level.
The unique stirring paddle means you can pop your chips in and forget about them until the timer goes off, making it a convenient hands-off air fryer. Whereas for best results and even browning in other air fryers you’ll need to give the pan a shake once, if not several times during cooking. The final feature that sets this apart from the rest is the option to cook other dishes such as curries, chilli, stew or stir fry, which is also made possible by the stirring paddle design.
Should you buy the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1
Personally, I don’t think I’ll be giving up my drawer style air fryer for this one. But, if you’re the type of person who’ll forget to shake your chips mid-cook and want an air fryer that will cook and stir foods while you forget about it and do other things, this one is definitely worth considering.
It does take a while to figure out all the settings, but if you’re willing to put the time in initially, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll enjoy making the most of dual level air frying to produce complete meals with minimal effort. It’s worth noting though, that you won’t be able to fit large pieces of fish or steak in the top tray, it’s better suited to smaller foods like nuggets, despite being described as XL in the product name.
If you’ve got a particularly rubbish hob, then the ability to cook curries and stews will come in handy, just be prepared to have a little patience and put the time in to perfect cooking this type of recipe.
As an alternative to this air fryer, I'd recommend looking at the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill, which is even more versatile and much more user-friendly.
About this review, and our reviewer
Helen McCue is a freelance contributor who trained as a home economist. After starting her career in the food industry, she moved into home appliance reviews, utilising her cooking skills and experience to put all kinds of products to the test, and over the years has reviewed hundreds of home and kitchen appliances for a variety of publications.
Having completely renovated her current house, Helen reviews kitchen appliances from her open-plan kitchen at home in a beautiful Berkshire village. When she’s not working, Helen can be found enjoying the local countryside or dreaming about her next house renovation project.