Jamie’s Air Fryer Meals review – the din of barrel-scraping is deafening

<span>Are we really here, still? … Jamie Oliver with a prosciutto baked fish dish cooked in his air fryer.</span><span>Photograph: Chris Terry</span>
Are we really here, still? … Jamie Oliver with a prosciutto baked fish dish cooked in his air fryer.Photograph: Chris Terry

I don’t really know what to tell you about Jamie Oliver’s new series Jamie’s Air Fryer Meals. It’s presented by Jamie Oliver, who first bounded on to our screens as The Naked Chef (no, he wasn’t) in 1999. He cooks meals in an air fryer. An air fryer is a little convection-type oven with a perforated basket that you put food in and the hot air circulates round it and makes things crispy without you having to dunk it in a panful of boiling oil. So, in essence, Jamie makes meals and puts them in a small oven to cook. Oh, and the programme is made in association with Tefal, who sell a line of pans endorsed by Jamie. The air fryer shown in the programme is a Tefal one. Jamie is very impressed with what air fryers can do. Maybe you will be prompted to buy one after watching his show.

There are only two episodes in Jamie’s latest venture and things are starting to feel stretched long before the end of the first. I mean, there is not much you can say about a little oven that is good at making things crispy and does so slightly faster than a normal oven would. “Two minutes!” shouts Jamie as he pushes another basket home. “Real cooking, with love and care!” If you say so, petal. “I love the way you can use this to bake and to roast and also to make beautiful sauces!” he says, as if pouring meat juices off a roasting joint was not the basis of most sauces and unique to the air fryer’s capabilities. “Wilt some spinach in 40 seconds! Happy days!” His cheddar and chive scones take 12 minutes, which is only a couple of minutes faster than the ordinary way of doing things. But no matter! Because while things are air frying, he explains, you can get on with boiling or steaming or cooking other things in ways that the air fryer cannot manage. I feel a fool to have stood by my ordinary oven for so long, watching a chicken roast when I could have been getting on with the potatoes. No wonder it takes me four days to make a family meal.

He uses the word “joyful” a lot. I cannot say it becomes more convincing as time goes on. For those who have always found Oliver a delight, he will remain so. For those historically more bewildered by his charms, you might find it even more exhausting than you remember. All the “sweating off”, “toasting up”, “chilling down”, “mega flavours”, “gnarly” pork crackling, “epic” desserts. Really? Are we here, still? Isn’t even he tired of the schtick by now?

It is also surely unfulfilling for him in every way (except, presumably, the financial). Since establishing himself in the late 90s and early 2000s, Oliver has always glommed on to trends – not particularly cannily, just doggedly – which, as the great British public has become more beleaguered over the last 20 years, has meant that his programmes have had to concentrate more and more on less and less. Less time – because people are busier with work and childcare and battling fatigue – resulting in the likes of Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals and Jamie’s One-Pot Wonders, Jamie’s Easy Christmas Countdown and Jamie’s Easy Meals for Everyday. Less money – the current cost of living crisis has given us Jamie Oliver: Cooking for Less and Jamie’s 5 Ingredient Meals, and so on. A noble cause, perhaps, but with the advent of the air fryer (apparently half the homes in Britain have one), the sound of barrel-scraping is becoming hard to ignore.

Perhaps all that matters is that the food looks great, the recipes seem doable, and – if Jamie’s encomia are to be believed (“The perfect mouthful!” “I love the idea of taking something everyday and making it extraordinary!”) – delicious. Maybe he does still find joy in the ever-smaller circle in which he must move. Perhaps the insistent exclamations only seem forced to jaded viewers. Perhaps he has not, like so many of us, tired with age. Or perhaps he too feels a slight cringe at the obvious bandwagon-jumping this time round. Perhaps he too is feeling the strain. And perhaps he too is thanking God there are only two parts to get through and we can all relax again.

• Jamie’s Air Fryer Meals is on Channel 4 now.