Despite the name, you won't be frying your food in a digital soup. The Russell Hobbs 24580 is a compact deep-fat fryer from an established household name. The fryer comes with a built-in digital timer to keep things cooking in a crispy fashion, as well as a specially designed basket to keep yourself from burning your food or yourself.
The deep-fat fryer looks more like a toaster than the typical open bubbling vat. Russell Hobbs have added a fold-down lid to their fat fryer for safety purposes. Should you spark a fire, the lid should be closed quickly, and of course you should absolutely never throw water on a chip pan fire.
But back to the design features not flaws- you can peek through the viewing window to keep an eye on the cooking process, without having to open the lid. Be careful when doing so as hot vapours will burst out at you- one reason I prefer to leave it open.
I'm not sure, having worked with many deep-fat fryers, what this lid adds to the cooking quality, it does seem to be much more of a safety feature and one to improve the longevity of your oil. Because, if you didn't know, it is fine to re-use cooking oil multiple times in a fryer. Restaurants will typically change it once per day, and that's a full-on cooking spree. So don't be afraid of what's in there. Another top tip is to use the basket to clean out, strain away, any charred remnants of chip or chicken wing.
The 24580 Digital Fryer has quite a few ridges and body panelling, while aesthetically 'pleasing' I found this slightly awkward to clean. A couple of spatters of fat can turn into a gungy build-up if you're not careful and attentive with cleaning this thing. A bit more metal would have been nice in the oil pan and the body, although taking it apart is relatively simple and the plastic is dishwasher safe.
The fryer has filters, which need to be replaced every month or so, although these are designed to stop steam and fatty vapours it is still best used in a well-ventilated area, by a window or under an extraction fan.
The element sits inside the bowl and is removable for washing separately. The lid panel can be unscrewed, but this might void any warranty in place - cleanliness has a cost, no?
The fryer can take 3 litres of oil and holds 1.2kg of food in the basket. The basket measures 19cm in length, 17cm in width and 8cm deep. This isn't incredibly deep, and possibly squeezes the Russell Hobs into the mini-fryer category. For its overall size, the basket feels small. If you're looking for a fryer for family-sized portions, or to cook a few select items in a catering sense, a 5-litre deep-fat fryer will probably give you greater capacity.
If you're new to using a deep-fat fryer the Russell Hobbs guide provided isn't really the best introduction to cooking. I've found following their recipes and suggested temperatures to be inaccurate and results in overdone chips.
Instead of following the basic instructions of Russell Hobbs, check out BBC Good Food for better advice and safety tips.
The 24580 fryer has a green and red light on the left-hand side. When the red light is illuminated the oil is either too hot or too cold, green indicates you're good to fry. I tested the temperature using a thermometer and found it to be accurate, although it is slow to cool down. Nothing beats the tried and tested methods of checking your oil temperature though.
Another thing to look out for is that the basket stand doesn't completely raise it out of the oil. So if you're doing a double-dip fry, as I like to do with chips, the bottom can overcook.
Given the numerous number of air-fryers on the market, the single function of the Russell Hobbs looks tame and could be considered a flaw.
The deep fat fryer isn't especially good at what it does, and it doesn't have the multi-purpose features of an air-fryer. While it's got a filtered lid to let the oil escape safely from the fryer I find using it is more hassle than it is worth. Its function is to mostly store the oil safely until it is time to recycle, and helps keep your kitchen tidy and complete.
I'm not really convinced by the digital aspect of the name either, the only digital component is the timer, unlike some models which include shake alerts and other smart-cooking devices.
The Russell Hobbs fryer doesn't look too bad as a piece of kitchen equipment, but the feature set and size means that there are some worthy competitors out there from other established brands like Morphy Richards, Phillips and De'Longhi.