Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: a slick, mid-sized marvel

The second-generation Instant Vortex is a powerful countertop air fryer with a straightforward touchscreen and a wide range of uses, including dehydrating and reheating

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer review
(Image credit: Lizzy Briskin)
T3 Verdict

The Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer is a well-made basket-style air fryer with six useful cooking presets and an easy-to-use interface that makes incredibly crispy meals with minimal oil.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    6 cooking functions, including broiling, baking and dehydrating

  • +

    Text-based display is easy to understand

  • +

    Dishwasher safe basket and tray

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No see-through oven screen

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    Fewer customizable programs than other models

The Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer is the second generation of basket-style air fryers in the Vortex range. And like its predecessor, the Instant Vortex, the Plus lives up to expectations. The Instant brand is known for making long-lasting appliances with a wide range of uses, and the Vortex Plus one-ups the original Vortex with two new cooking features and an attractive stainless steel finish. 

To find out if this new model was as good or better than the competition, I put it to the test at home with a series of air-fried recipes. Here’s how the Instant Vortex Plus performed in the tests. 

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Price and Availability

The Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart model costs $79.99 in the US. You can also get the Vortex Plus in six and eight-quart models. In the UK and Australia, only the larger 5.7-liter (equivalent to the six-quart model) is available: the Instant Vortex Plus is £120 in the UK and the Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer XXL is AU$225 in Australia. 

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer

(Image credit: Instant)

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Design 

Unlike many air fryers, which have a staple all-black plastic exterior, the Instant Vortex Plus has a sleek stainless steel finish. The design is very similar to the original Instant Vortex air fryer, with a frying basket, digital touchscreen and temperature control dial. 

The touchscreen is text-based, which makes it easy to read and understand. It displays both time and temperature throughout the cooking process, so you can always check on the progress of your cook at a glance. Each of the six built-in presets and cooking functions is represented by a one-touch button on the air fryer display. After selecting a function (such as Air Fry or Broil), you can then adjust the time and temperature accordingly using the stainless steel dial. 

This air fryer has an extensive temperature range of 95°F to 400°F, which is great for everything from dehydrating to a quick broil. The basket and removable perforated air frying tray are both nonstick and dishwasher safe. 

The four-quart basket is a good size for households of four or fewer. If you’re looking to cook for more people or want the ability to fry a full 4lb chicken, you’ll need the larger six-quart model.

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer review

(Image credit: Lizzy Briskin)

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Functionality

The Instant Vortex Plus has two new cooking functions that didn’t feature on the original, these being Broil and Dehydrate. Each cooking function comes with a default time and temperature, though users can adjust these to make custom programs. For example, if you have a go-to fish finger recipe that you love, it’s easy to adjust the “Air Fry” setting to default to your preferred cooking time and temp for a one-touch experience. 

The Vortex Plus comes with the following functions:

Air frying, the core function, which circulates hot, dry air around food in the basket for super-crisp edges.  

Baking, which emits radiant heat around the food in the basket. This is a slower cooking process that cooks baked goods all the way through without browning too quickly or burning the edges.

Roasting, a feature that uses both radiant and convection heat to cook foods like meat and vegetables all the way through with a crispy exterior. This is great for chicken, fish and root vegetables.  

Reheating, a highly useful function for bringing once-crispy leftovers back to their golden glory. 

Broil, which is a high-temperature cooking feature perfect for quickly melting cheese or delivering a golden-brown crust on one side of your food. Broiling sends heat only from above.

Dehydrating, a low-temperature, long cooking process that removes moisture from food for homemade dried fruit, jerky, and veggie chips. 

 

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer review

(Image credit: Lizzy Briskin)

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Performance

I put the Instant Vortex Plus to the test by seeing how the appliance performed with a staple air fryer recipe, one that is always mentioned in the product description as a top-performing dish: chicken drumsticks. I was looking for a golden-brown finish with crispy skin and a fully-cooked, juicy interior. 

Because this air fryer needs to preheat, I set it up while I prepared the chicken. 

I found a recipe from the Instant Brands website which gave a recommended cook time of 25 minutes for two pounds of chicken drumsticks at a temperature of 400°F. I selected the Air Fry setting, then adjusted the time and temperature with the knob and touchscreen buttons. Then, the appliance let me know that it was preheating. The fan is not too noisy, but you can certainly hear it. 

Meanwhile, I seasoned the drumsticks with a slight drizzle of olive oil, salt and lemon pepper seasoning. Once the oven reached temperature, which took about four minutes, the display changed to “Add Food”. The basket has to be removed, then replaced at this stage so the machine knows that there’s something in there to cook. The first time using the appliance, you’ll want to do a test run without any food. 

I could fit all of the chicken wings in the air fryer, but it seemed a little crowded, so I decided to go for two batches. I spread half of the seasoned wings out in a single layer in the basket, then returned the basket to the housing. The display read “Cook” and I could hear the fan working again. 

After 12 minutes, the display changed to “Turn Food”. I followed directions, pulling out the basket and using tongs to rotate the chicken pieces. If you don’t want to rotate your food, however, the “Turn Food” stage will disappear after 10 seconds and continue uninterrupted. It’s important to note, though, that the air fryer does not start up again after you turn your food and close the basket. You have to press the Start button to continue cooking. 

Finally, the air fryer let me know when my timer was up. It beeps and displays “End” before turning off the fan, though the machine remains on until you press “Cancel”. A handy feature is that, if you’re out of the room, the air fryer will beep again after 5, 30 or 60 minutes to remind you to hit cancel and return it to standby. You can also just unplug the air fryer when you’re done. 

The air fryer lived up to promises of cooking juicy, moist and flavorful wings. They have a nice golden color to them on all sides, with a fully-cooked interior that was far from dry. I’m glad I didn’t load up the basket anymore for the sake of crispiness, though it did take a while to cook all of my wings. 

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer

(Image credit: Instant)

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Verdict

The Instant Vortex Plus is a highly versatile and reliable model. I appreciate the two additional cooking features (broil and dehydrate), which expand the versatility of the machine quite a bit. It’s also better looking than most air fryers and fits in nicely in kitchens with other stainless appliances. The basket and exterior are easy to keep clean, and the touchscreen is straightforward to use and read. 

Instant Vortex Plus 4-quart Air Fryer review: Also Consider

If you don’t need those extra cooking features and want something a little more pared-down, the original Instant Vortex 4-in-1 has the same power and a very similar design. It also comes with a larger 5.7-quart basket for the same price. 

On the other hand, if you’re feeding a large family and need something bigger, the Ninja Foodi XL Air Fryer is a feature-packed and extra-large appliance that can handle multiple meal components at once.