2023-02-16 16:06:50 By : Mr. Bo WU

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This small-capacity appliance packs a big punch, but it also has an outsized price and a few design flaws

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Small-kitchen-appliance brand PowerXL is a power player in the air-fryer market. And the Special Edition PowerXL Maxx 4 Quart is a good example of why its offerings of countertop cookers have become so popular. This small-capacity model (similar to the PowerXL Classic Fryer on the manufacturer’s site, but sold on Amazon and Walmart) earned solid scores in Consumer Reports’ tests because it’s relatively quiet and easy to clean. At home, it was terrific at reheating food, cooking meals, and turning out crispy fries. But it’s not the easiest air fryer to use, and, at more than $100, seems overpriced.

Our engineers scrutinized the PowerXL Maxx in the lab and we also tried it at home. Here’s what we found:

The PowerXL Maxx excels at delivering crispy, nicely cooked food in a fraction of the time it would take in your oven. And compared to other air fryers we’ve evaluated, it does a better job at cooking foods that aren’t in a single layer. This means you can save time and make more in one cooking cycle. The rapid-heat technology revived leftovers, no problem, and roasted broccoli with a nice char and crunchy bite. Boneless chicken breasts were tender, and french fries came out with a perfect pillowy texture.

Food performance aside, this model also aced CR’s lab tests. You’ll hear the internal fan of the air fryer while your food is cooking, but the sound is subtle enough that it quickly fades into the background. That’s why it earns a Very Good score on that test.

Though the grill plate does have nooks and crannies that can easily trap food, we found that most debris fell through to the bottom of the basket when we cooked with it at home. Hot, soapy water after use quickly gets both the basket and the plate clean, but the nonstick surfaces are also dishwasher-safe. 

The PowerXL Maxx’s design took some getting used to; it was difficult to know where to touch at first, and the relatively small icons were hard to decipher. Not having a one-touch digital display for its four presets is downright frustrating at times. When your puppy is begging for attention and you’re still trying to answer late work email, it’s better not to have to play round robin with your air fryer.

What’s more, the programmed settings overcompensated for the time needed to make the food. Testers noted in the lab that the temperature inside tends to run hotter than displayed, so as with most basket-style air fryers, you’ve got to check it from time to time.

Consumer Reports has full test results for the PowerXL Maxx and dozens of other air fryers.

The PowerXL Maxx air fryer is ideal for couples and singles looking to put dinner on the table a little quicker. The basket is simply not large enough to efficiently turn out meals for a crowd, but the measured 2.5-quart capacity can fit two chicken breasts, a filet of fish, and roughly two servings of vegetables. It’s also great for those with small kitchens, given its relatively small footprint, and its light weight makes it easy to move from cupboard to counter. Nevertheless, we didn’t find a feature that truly justifies the premium price, though it’s worth noting that the preheating phase on this model was a tad shorter than other air fryers we’ve evaluated.

Our engineers first judge the model based on how easy it is to use the buttons and/or dials and the size and clarity of the lettering on the unit. 

They also evaluate noise levels, a test that involves placing the air fryer on a butcher-block counter in the lab. A sound-level meter takes multiple measurements of how loud each air fryer gets during operation, noting the noise at its peak.

Finally, to test how easy cleanup might be, the engineers cook french fries and chicken nuggets, and then take notes on the cleaning process, paying close attention to cracks and crevices that can trap food or otherwise make for difficult cleaning.

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.

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