Swan Retro Air Fryer review: an easy-to-use, affordable air fryer

The Swan Retro Air Fryer is best suited to large families who value a retro look. It's not the most high-tech air fryer we're tried, but it does make air frying more approachable for first-timers
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  • The Swan Retro Air Fryer is a mighty 6 litre air fryer that comes in a range of colours. Its controls are uncomplicated, just a temperature dial and timer, and it’s large enough to fit an army-sized portion of chips or chicken wings.

    For all its faults (and we’ll be getting onto those) the Swan Retro Air Fryer does offer an alternative to the intimidating (and often meaninglessly) smart-enbled air fryers on the market today. If you’re used to cooking in an oven, the transition will be easy.

    Take a look at more top options with our guide to the best air fryers

    Before you get into the complete Swan Retro Air Fryer review though, here’s a bit about me, the reviewer. I’m the small appliances editor at Ideal Homes, meaning I spend my days testing out the very best kitchen gadgets and recommending the ones that make the cut into our buying guides.

    The Swan Retro Air Fryer review isn’t my first, and won’t be my last. I use an air fryer on an almost daily basis anyway, so testing the Swan Retro Air Fryer took place over a few weeks in my own kitchen, using standardized recipes I’ve tried in other air fryers I’ve reviewed.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    Reasons to buy: 

    • Makes air frying easy
    • Controls are foolproof to use
    • Large capacity
    • A budget-friendly option
    • An endearing retro style
    • Dishwasher cleaning

    Reasons to avoid: 

    • Only one mode
    • Doesn’t speed up cooking times
    • Maximum temperature of 200 degrees

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Swan Retro air fryer

    Image credit: Swan

    The Swan Retro Air Fryer is a good choice for those who want an alternative to their oven, but without the complex controls. It’s easy to clean and has a generous capacity, but in testing it took a lot longer than the average air fryer to cook chips, chicken and other food. It’s also a large model, so if you want something for a smaller kitchen, look elsewhere.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer: specs

    • Material: Plastic
    • Colour: Blue, cream, grey, green
    • Capacity: 6 litres
    • Modes: One mode
    • Temperature: Up to 200 degrees
    • Weight: 8kg
    • Size: 33.2 x 41.8 x 38.8 cm

    First impressions of the Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    As one reviewer on the Swan site described it, the Swan Retro Air Fryer has a nostalgic feel. It harkens back to a time before air fryers, so the retro feel is a bit anachronistic, but it’s a sweet addition to a pastel lover’s kitchen. The sage green one is particularly pretty. My partner (who loves things sleek and modern) took instant issue with the somewhat kitsch design, but I enjoyed the simplicity of the controls and the timer dial, which works exactly as an oven timer would work.

    Many air fryers have touch screens, with modes for fish, veggies, chicken and other recipes. I take issue with this, because more often than not these modes are made for a very specific type of food. Air frying a chicken breast is different from air frying chicken wings, so as far as I’m concerned the chicken button is void. I prefer air fryers that either have modes for types of cooking (frozen, reheat, bake, extra crispy, etc) which is why Ninja sits right at the top of the air fryers guide. So, Swan was off to a good start with the Swan Retro Air Fryer. It doesn’t have multiple modes but what it does have is one simple temperature dial. Simply slide this along from “Off” to “200” (or of course, anywhere in between) to set your temperature, and then turn the dial on the top of the air fryer to set a time. This can be adjusted easily so if you set it to an hour and decide it needs less time, just twist it back to the correct timing. When it’s done cooking, it will give a microwave-esque bell noise.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    The exterior of the Swan Retro Air Fryer is plastic-y to touch. Even the handle, which is designed to look metal, is in fact made of plastic, The machine is heavy but does come with grooves to lift in and out of the cupboard if you wish to store away from the counter.

    The first complaint I had with the Swan Retro Air Fryer is its controls, which top out the temperature at 200 degrees. Sure, this will fit the bill for most dishes but if you want to bump it up higher for something specific (maybe a crispier skin on your chicken wing) you simply can’t. We stuck to around the 180-mark for most dishes, so the distance between 0 and 180 was essentially empty space. I can’t imagine why you’d want to air fry something at at 50 degrees, but the option is there.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    One thing you can’t quite appreciate with front-facing photos of the Swan Retro Air Fryer is that the machine leans back slightly, and this is reflected in the basket dimensions. They taper out towards the top and resemble a deep fat fryer in shape and depth. The Swan Retro Air Fryer has a removable wire cooking grate that simply pops out and can be placed in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. While the basket can go in the dishwasher, it’s so awkwardly shaped that it certainly wouldn’t fit in mine. Luckily the texture wipes clean very easily, so hand-washing is straightforward.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Cooking in the Swan Retro Air Fryer

    I cooked a multitude of recipes in the Swan Retro Air Fryer, including some sweet potato fries, fishcakes, chicken tenders, buffalo cauliflower wings, and potato wedges. I cook my potato wedges recipe in every air fryer review, and also make sure it’s evenly put to the test on both fresh and frozen food.

    Frozen food

    When it comes to frozen food, the Swan Retro Air Fryer is as good as any air fryer I’ve tested. It gave me chicken tenders in under 20 minutes which, from frozen, is pretty good. It also was able to cook a large fishcake (also frozen) in under 25 minutes. Given that I usually put these in the oven for 40 minutes that was encouraging. I did find that I had to turn fresh and frozen food halfway through to make sure everything cooked evenly. This is something I’ve had to do in every air fryer I’ve ever tried.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Fries

    After many air fryer reviews it’s safe to say that my chip recipe is perfected. Just give me a good air fryer and they’re typically cooked in about 25 minutes. This is where the Swan Retro Air Fryer let me down a little, because it took far longer to cook my chips than other air fryers I’ve tried. I ended up putting them in for an extra 15 minutes, so it took a total of 40 minutes to crisp up the whole batch (by which point some had burnt, and others were less crispy than I’d have liked).

    The large capacity made me optimistic that it would cook large quantities of chips fast, but I found that the Swan Retro Air Fryer actually looked my fries (cut from two jacket-sized potatoes) slower than a smaller air fryer. I also had to turn them three times as opposed to only once, as I’ve done with other air fryers. Halfway through cooking the chips at the top were crispy, but the ones at the bottom felt almost raw.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    The chips weren’t bad whatsoever, and still better than oven-cooked chips, but I did prefer the chips I cooked in the Philips Essential Air Fryer, as well as the chips I made in the trusty Cosori. As a bonus round, I also cooked some sweet potato fries in the Swan Retro Air Fryer. They took a while to crisp up, too, and had an uneven finish even after shaking mid-way.

    Another thing to note when taking out food and turning it over is that the Swan Retro Air Fryer doesn’t pause the cooking cycle to accommodate this. With every other air fryer I’ve tested the machine detected when you took the drawer out and paused the cooking process to allow this, but the Swan Retro Air Fryer just kept on cooking.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Meat

    I cook bacon in every air fryer I test, and the Swan Retro Air Fryer did impress me with how it cooked my bacon. It came out crispy and sizzling after eight minutes. The fat had rendered out but it didn’t taste burnt or tough. The metal grate allows fat to drip out of the tray far more easily than in similar air fryers with slots in the base. This meant my bacon wasn’t swimming in grease, but (as you’ll see in the picture) things did get stuck onto these grates very easily in testing. While the surrounding tray is non-stick, the grates aren’t.

    Swan Retro Air Fryer

    Noise-wise, the Swan Retro Air Fryer is about average. You can tell when it’s on because it gives off a mechanical whirring, comparable to the background noise of a microwave, but it won’t distract you.

    Cleaning the Swan Retro Air Fryer

    It’s a doddle. Pop the cooking grate out of the base of the machine and into the dishwasher. You can put the basket in too, but I preferred washing it by hand as it took up some serious dishwasher real estate that was best spared for plates and glasses. The non-stick surface means it’s easy to clean, too.

    Should you buy the Swan Retro Air Fryer?

    Swan Retro air fryer

    Image credit: Swan

    Should you buy it? If you like the retro design and are intimidated or nonplussed by the idea of smart functions and fancy cooking modes, the Swan Retro Air Fryer does a decent job. It’s got a generous capacity, so families will enjoy cooking up large portions of chips and other goodies in its deep basket. Cleaning is straightforward, too.

    I can’t say this is my favourite air fryer I’ve tested. One of the things I value most in an air fryer is how it speeds up the cooking process, so the fact that it took me a long time to cook chips that would crisp up in just 25 minutes was off-putting. I also wasn’t so impressed by how it handled handmade chips, although it did a decent job with frozen food and didn’t experience the same timing limitations with other foods.

    The price is about right for the quality though, and the Swan Retro Air Fryer is one of the cheapest on the market. Given the sweet exterior and range of fun colours, it’s got a lot to offer a kitchen visually, without breaking the bank.

    About this review, and the reviewer

    Millie Fender heads up all things small appliances at Future. There’s nothing she loves more than testing out the latest and greatest cooking gadgets, for indoor and outdoor use, from toasters to air fryers. She reviewed the Swan Retro Air Fryer from her own kitchen, testing it rigorously for a month before writing this review.

    Millie lives in South London and is constantly squeezing more appliances into her modest kitchen. If it makes it onto the kitchen counters full time, you know an appliance is worth the hype.

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