The Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer: Quality Cooking Made Simple

WriterDaniel Roberts

22 February 2024

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The Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer: Quality Cooking Made Simple

In 2024, it's hard to believe that anyone may not have an air fryer on their kitchen counter. The must-have appliance has been hugely popular for the last few years, with many spending hundreds of pounds on high-tech dual zones or even multi-cookers. If you've held off investing because you feel a bit daunted by all these fiddly 15-in-1 models, I think I've found the air fryer that could convert you.

The Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer

I've been reviewing air fryers since 2019, so I've tried all the major brands and models on the market, including some of the best Ninja air fryers. Despite this, the Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer is the one I find myself recommending to my friends and family, especially if they're not the most confident chefs. Instead of those busy control panels, all you need to worry about with the Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer is the timer dial, which goes up to 60 minutes, and the temperature dial, which goes up to 200°C.

Quality Cooking Made Simple

Does this simplicity impact the quality of cooking? The answer, resoundingly, is no. I tested the Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer in our test kitchen head-to-head with much more expensive models, and I was particularly wowed by how evenly it cooked my food, and the crispy finish I was able to achieve in just a few minutes.

Specifications

  • RRP: £59.99
  • Dimensions: ‎25.7 x 33.1 x 28 cm
  • Capacity: 3.8L
  • Dishwasher safe? Yes
  • Maximum temperature: 200°C
  • Maximum timer: 60 minutes

Compact and Lightweight

At 25cm wide and 33cm high, this is a neat little air fryer that will sit in just about any corner of the kitchen. The cable is a little on the short side though, so best to pop it near a plug socket. I was struck by how lightweight it was when I took the Instant Compact 3.8L out of the box - a plus if you plan on moving it around or would struggle to carry a heavier box, but it does indicate that the air fryer is made of cheaper, more lightweight materials.

Easy to Use

Sure enough, it's got quite a plasticky finish and I almost immediately noticed that my fingerprints started to show on the control panel to the top of the fryer. Fortunately though, unlike most of the air fryers on the market, this isn't a touch-controlled model and so you'll mainly be handling the control dials, which won't smudge.

There are two silver dials - one for temperature, which goes up in very fine increments to 200°C, with markings every 20 degrees between 100°C and 200°C. The second dial is for time, which goes up to 60 minutes in equally fine increments, but with markings for every 10 minutes up to the hour. I rarely air fryer for an hour at a time, so I'd get a lot more use out of the first 30 minutes of the timer, and if you wanted to be super precise you may struggle to confidently hit, let's say, 22 minutes.

Impressive Performance

Most of Instant's air fryers allocate some time to pre-heat before powering on, but the Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer works with a manual dial, so I'd recommend either adding a few extra minutes to your timer or letting it run for a minute or so before adding your food. I put the air fryer on max heat and let it run for a minute before adding in some french fries. I was keen to see how evenly they would cook in such a small basket.

The first thing I noticed was that the air fryer makes an audible ticking noise, incredibly similar to most kitchen timers or old-fashioned microwaves. This could be a little annoying if you're sensitive to noise, but it quickly faded to background noise for me as I went about prepping the rest of my meal. The finished chips were very crispy and well-browned. I only gave them 12 minutes when the packaging recommended 18, but if anything, they would've been better at the ten-minute mark.

I then put some Quorn nuggets in the air fryer to see if I could replicate these speedy results. The air fryer was still hot, so I was able to disregard the need for pre-heating. One thing I don't enjoy about the Instant Compact is that you can't switch it on and off, you have to force the timer back to make it finish early. While it feels a bit wrong, I don't think it negatively impacts the machine to do this.

The nuggets came out sizzling and more browned than I'd expect for just 12 minutes cooking time. I also forgot to shake these halfway through cooking, so considering they'd not been turned, I was impressed by how evenly cooked they were.

I'd usually make use of an air fryer's roast setting to cook some veggies, but because the Instant Compact doesn't have any settings, I just set the temperature a bit lower. If you're daunted by an air fryer that has special modes for vegetables, seafood, roast, bake, etc, I'd recommend opting for a manual model instead. It fundamentally uses the same tech, but without the pre-determined temperatures and timers you'll find with more complex (and expensive) models. I roasted the veggies as I would in an oven, at 160°C for 20 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through to make sure they cooked on both sides. I was happy with the char I achieved on the peppers and courgette, and my cherry tomatoes were blistered but not burnt.

Finally, I cooked some streaky bacon. Since I started cooking bacon in the air fryer, I've not gone back to my frying pan. The air fryer renders out the fat, which is easy to wipe away from under the basket insert, and leaves just crispy bacon in a matter of minutes. After all these tests I was struck at how much oil had dropped into the bottom of the basket. It was significantly more than the other air fryer I was testing, even though I'd done the same tests. Everything was noticeably crispier, even the vegetables which I'd cooked on a lower temperature, without being burnt.

Comparison to Other Models

When it comes to small air fryers, the Instant Compact 3.8L is one of the best value picks on the market. It has an RRP of £60, but can regularly be found for £50 at Amazon, and performs among the best of any of the air fryers I've tested in the past few years. However, if you would prefer a digital air fryer, I'd suggest taking a look at the Ninja AF100UK Air Fryer, which performed well in our tests and is relatively compact. It also goes up to 240°C as well, so could cook your food at record speeds.

I've also tried the Instant Vortex Slim air fryer, which is another compact choice that's well suited to small kitchens, but thanks to its slimmer and deeper design, it's got a much larger capacity. I'd recommend this option for families or those who want the option of cooking large cuts of meat in the air fryer, but it is more expensive than the Instant Compact.

Conclusion

The Instant Compact 3.8L is a great option for those who are new to air frying. Far from the myriad of confusing, and often useless, pre-sets available on some air fryers, the Instant offers simplicity with a single dial for temperature and another for time.

Despite the simplicity, it puts up a really strong cooking performance. The quality of the meals I cooked was excellent, and cleaning up was also easy thanks to the dishwasher-safe basket and insert. I did miss some of the convenience of a digital timer, such as the ability to get very precise timings and adjust this without having to force the dial to decrease. However, air frying is rarely about precision, because they usually cook your food much faster than an oven would. Once you've got used to the speed at which the Compact 3.8L cooks, you'll find it much easier to set accurate timings going forward.

If you're a beginner to air frying who wants to reap the crispy, speedy results without all the faff of higher-end models, the Instant Compact 3.8L will convert you. I'm sure of it.

About the author
Daniel Roberts
Daniel Roberts
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Daniel Roberts is a prominent Air Fryer Tech Expert and Reviewer, celebrated for his insightful and comprehensive reviews. With an eye for innovation and a taste for culinary excellence, Daniel's articles offer more than just reviews; they provide a guide to healthier, tastier, and more efficient cooking methods.

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