I Replaced My Beloved Air Fryer With One That Uses Steam And I Get the Hype

published Sep 26, 2023
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Steak cooking in an air fryer
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I wasn’t an early adopter of the air fryer lifestyle, but once I jumped on the bandwagon and got an Instant Vortex, I was an instant convert. Despite living in a small New York City apartment that came with the expected cozy kitchen, I’ve dedicated a full precious square foot of kitchen counter space to my beloved air fryer since the day I moved in. 

Quick Overview

A Look at the Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer

  • An investment-worthy appliance that combines an air fryer with steam to prevent food from drying out.
  • Includes a temperature probe to ensure food is perfectly cooked-through.
  • Comes with a variety of presets, recipes, and videos.
  • Retails for $359.

I love using my air fryer to make golden, crispy toast (tip: Add the butter before you toast it!), and it’s my go-to for reheating leftovers, whether that’s fried rice or chicken thighs and veggies. I love how fast the mini convection oven works and that it makes crispiness accessible, even if I’m dealing with day-old fries. 

So when I tested out the Dreo ChefMaker, a new appliance that the brand calls a “combi fryer,” I expected to enjoy its usual air frying capabilities. Once I started using it, however, one of its unique features really wowed me: steam injection. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

What Is the Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer?

The Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer looks like your average countertop air fryer. It has a cube-like design with a slide-out drawer that houses your food. Inside, a rapid convection fan swirls hot air around your meal like a well-contained inferno to crisp up edges and thoroughly cook food. 

How Does the Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer Work?

The ChefMaker magic works via an internal temperature probe. You stick the probe into the center of your food (if you’re cooking meat or seafood) and dial in on a specific temperature or “desired doneness” level. Once you press play, the appliance manages its internal temperature and monitors the food temperature to cook things to your liking. 

The oven precisely controls its temperature, thanks to a smart feature you won’t find on many countertop convection ovens, or even built-ins, for that matter. The oven parses out an occasional spritz from its internal water tank to quickly lower the oven temp when necessary and prevent food from burning or overcooking on the outside before the interior is done. It uses the connected temperature probe and its own oven thermometer to monitor if the air inside is heating too quickly. This is especially handy for delicate cuts of meat and seafood that tend to dry out or get tough if cooked in a hot, dry environment. Finally, the oven finishes with a blast of heat to sear the exterior. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

What’s So Great About the Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer? 

I was impressed by how accurately the machine interpreted the words “desired doneness” — filets came out perfectly medium-rare and juicy with a crisp, browned exterior; quesadillas were perfectly gooey in the center; frozen dumplings were cooked through without burnt edges that’d cut your mouth.

I’ve been using the machine for about four months. I use it several times a week, usually to throw dinner together when I don’t have the time or patience to stand over the stove or dirty a baking sheet in the oven. I’m usually cooking for two people, and the ChefMaker is the perfect size to fit two salmon fillets or burgers, although there’s enough room for a whole four-pound chicken as well. I like that the ChefMaker keeps proteins tender and juicy in the center, and produces a reliable result every time, regardless of the size or cut I’m working with.

I also love using the machine for common air fryer tasks like quickly crisping up frozen dumplings, hash browns, or puff pastry appetizers. I’ve made several perfectly golden, melty-in-the-center quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches with the ChefMaker as well. 

The air fryer has a perforated basket that allows for optimal airflow on all sides of your food for maximum crispiness. The basket, as well as the entire drawer, are nonstick and dishwasher-safe, so cleaning isn’t a big deal. You can also wipe down the exterior with warm water when necessary. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

Is the Dreo ChefMaker Complicated to Use?

Even if you’re used to the most straightforward air fryer design, you’ll pick up the nuances of the ChefMaker quickly. To get you started, the machine has dozens of preset programs that take all the guesswork out of cooking common items like New York strip steak, chicken breast, and diced potatoes. 

If you’re following an air fryer recipe or just want more control, you can use the Classic Cook Mode to set your own time and temperature. Or let the probe do the work for you, and dial in an internal temperature. Otherwise, the probe and steam injection are optional, so you can use the machine like any other air fryer — you won’t find me steaming my toast in the morning, for example. 

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

The more you use the ChefMaker and play around with its features, the more fun it is. Whether you want your NY strip cooked rare with a “sous vide taste” or you’re roasting a leg of lamb for a holiday, the appliance guides you through every step with clear instructions on the control panel. 

Dreo also has a recipe-packed smartphone app with step-by-step cooking videos that is regularly updated. Many of the videos call on the ChefMaker’s preset programs, which are easy enough to follow using the prompts on the machine itself. 

It’s worth noting that if you’re using one of the preset programs, the ChefMaker doesn’t offer the same speed you might get in a typical air fryer. For example, a salmon steak for one can take up to 35 minutes to cook, compared to 10 to 12 minutes in a super-hot standard air fryer. But there’s no babysitting or waiting around for an oven to preheat, and you’ll know your salmon will come out consistently well-cooked every time.

Credit: Elizabeth Briskin

Is the Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer Worth It?

Yes, the Dreo Chefmaker is worth the investment. I feel more confident cooking pricier, larger, and more delicate proteins in the ChefMaker compared to my air fryer because of the presets and steam injection function. I hate sitting down to a dried-out piece of fish or a tough steak that’s been hammered by a too-hot oven. The added moisture from the ChefMaker prevents those situations, and you don’t have to constantly check on your food or worry about the oven getting too hot. 

At the end of the day (night?), the Dreo ChefMaker is much more reliable and versatile than my air fryer, holding court on my countertop where the air fryer used to be. 

Buy: Dreo ChefMaker Combi Fryer, $359