Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone technology review: competent, but not flawless

The Instant Vortex Air Fryer with VersaZone technology serves up a large single cooking basket that can be divided into two for fuss-free air frying.

Apr 23, 2024 - 18:30
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Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone technology review: competent, but not flawless

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: One-minute review

Instant has long been a leader in the air fryer space and its latest model, the Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology (also called Vortex Plus VersaZone Air Fyer 8.5L in the UK and Vortex Plus Versazone XXL Air Fryer 8.5L in Australia) aims to make air frying even more versatile, thanks to a large capacity basket that can be divided into two separate sections. 

A large 9-quart / 8.5L basket makes it an obvious choice for families, with plenty of capacity to comfortably feed four, but singles and couples will also appreciate the compartments – which are 4.5q / 4.25L each – to cook mains and sides in one go. Moreover, the intuitive cooking programs ensure everything finishes cooking at the same time. 

I found Instant’s latest air fryer a joy to use and it made me fall in love with cooking again. It does most of the grunt work for you with consistently good results… just as long as you know how to use some of the dedicated programs. I had to go through a bit of trial and error with my first few cooking sessions, but once I learnt them, there was no stopping me.  

The expansive cooking basket does mean it’s a physically imposing air fryer of course, so if you lack kitchen counter space or don’t have much in the way of storage, you may struggle to find a proper home for it. I do think it’s attractive though, as much as an air fryer can be, so I had no issue leaving it on my kitchen counter. If you do need to store it away, I found it to be relatively lightweight, so moving it in and out of cupboards shouldn’t prove too much of an issue. 

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Price & availability

  • List price: $199.95 / £199.99 / AU$399
  • Available directly from Instant Brands and third-party retailers
  • Regular sales and bundles

Considering its size and raft of features, the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology is competitively priced in my opinion, especially when compared to its closest rival in the Ninja Foodi FlexBasket 11qt / 10.4L dual air fryer. It’s available directly from Instant in the UK and Australia along with a host of third-party retailers. While it is listed on the US website, you’re not able to buy it directly. Instead you can find it from retailers such as Walmart. 

It was launched in July 2023 and, since then, has gotten some discounts – directly from Instant and at third-party retailers. The offers tend to change, but if this air fryer is of interest, I'd recommend waiting to pick it up during a big sale like Black Friday, which makes it even better value than it already is.

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Design

  • One 9qt / 8.5L basket that can be divided into two zones
  • Large enough for a family of four
  • Simple touchscreen and manual controls

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

The Instant Vortex VersaZone is a large machine, make no mistake, although with its dimensions coming in at 15.9 x 12.5 x 15.1in / 40.3 x 31.7 x 38.4cm, it is smaller than its Ninja competitor. However, the Ninja Foodi FlexBasket does have a larger capacity for the individual compartments to justify its size. The VersaZone is lighter too, tipping the scales at 7kg, meaning most people shouldn’t have too much of a problem manoeuvring it around their kitchen. 

You do of course need to factor in extra space for airflow at the rear, as well as in the front so you can actually open the basket to get your food in for cooking. I was able to find a perfect permanent spot for it in my kitchen, but those with smaller counters and who are limited on space may have to carefully consider if this is the best air fryer for you. 

I feel the Instant Vortex VersaZone to be quite an attractive air fryer – as attractive as air fryers can be anyway – employing just a single physical button in the form of a control dial on its front surface. All other controls are handled via a touch-sensitive panel on the front. When not in use, all you see is the shiny black top section, the basket handles and the silver control dial. This, coupled with the angled design of the top section, make it a slick-looking machine, and certainly helps to disguise its size compared to if it was a large black box. 

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

Do note that the shiny nature of the top section does mean the Instant Vortex VersaZone is a serious fingerprint magnet. When you’ve been handling food before putting it into the cooking basket and using the touch control panel, you’ll soon find it builds up a large fingerprint collection, so you’ll be spending a lot of time keeping it clean. 

The main basket has a removable tray and a divider, the latter fitting into the former to split the compartment into two equally sized cooking sections. There are some rubber grips on the cooking tray and divider that help them to stay in place during cooking, but they do provide a fair amount of friction, so be prepared to use a little more force than you may have initially assumed to get them into place.

The air frying basket, cooking tray and divider are all dishwasher safe, making clean-up relatively easy. However, if you don’t have a dishwasher, then you’ll need to factor in the sink space required to wash the whole basket. 

Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology: Performance

  • Large basket makes cooking a meal a breeze
  • Good results achievable once you learn the functions
  • Pre-heating times can be annoying

The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology can air fry (obviously), roast, bake, grill, dehydrate and reheat various foods. Each program has its own default settings, including the minimum and maximum temperatures they reach. The grill program reaches the highest maximum temperature of 450°F / 232°C for a maximum of one hour. Air fry, roast and bake can all reach a high of 401°F / 205°C for an hour also. 

Anytime you wish to use the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology, it needs to spend a few minutes preheating before it notifies you when to add food. While I can appreciate this is needed, it became increasingly annoying that the air fryer needed to preheat when I went to make a second dish immediately after a cooking program had finished. I found this a bit strange, since the cooking basket would surely have still been hot. I also noticed the preheating time for the second cooking session wasn’t that much quicker than the initial preheat from cold. 

The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology also has SyncCook and SyncFinish modes to help streamline your cooking and to ensure certain dishes don’t go cold while you wait for something else to cook. SyncCook allows you to use both cooking compartments and have them cook with the same time and temperature settings. SyncFinish is used when you have two separate dishes on either side of the divider that require different cooking times, but you want them to finish at the same time. 

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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

I used the SyncFinish mode the most, as I would cook a chicken breast or a piece of salmon, for example, on one side and some green beans or asparagus on the other. Setting up SyncFinish is simple: a quick double press of the control dial puts it into dual cooking mode and from here you can adjust the time and temperature individually for both sides. Once you’ve made your adjustments, just press the SyncFinish button, followed by Start, and you’re away. The side with the shortest time will remain on hold while the other preheats and begins cooking. The Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology will then begin preheating the second cooking section so that it’s ready to begin cooking when the time remaining aligns on both sides. 

Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

The aforementioned chicken breast came out juicy and tender, while the salmon was buttery soft and fell apart when I cut into it with a fork. I did have a few teething problems when cooking some hand-cut sweet potato wedges however. I hoped they would come out crispy but, upon my first try, they did seem a little raw still. I put this down to both shortening the cooking time I would normally use for an oven, and the wedges themselves being relatively thick in size. 

Throwing some chicken tenders into the basket also proved successful. What was especially handy (and as I've been noticing more and more with food packets lately) is that they had specific air frying instructions on the pack. I followed these to a tee and the results were sublime. They were hot, the breadcrumbs had a great crisp to them and they were juicy inside. 

It did take me a bit of time to adjust to cooking with an air fryer compared to a conventional oven or frying pan, predominantly with cooking times as opposed to temperatures. I had expected the Instant Vortex VersaZone to cook food slightly quicker than the old-school method but, in reality, it took the same amount of time or occasionally longer. I found this to be a fair compromise as the cooking results were superb. 

I also tried out the bake function to make some chocolate chip cookies. I loved the fact the basket was big enough to cook what most people would call a batch, but what I would call a single serving. I've made these cookies before, using a fan-forced oven to bake. I followed the same recipe, cooking time and temperature using the bake function on the Instant Vortex VersaZone air fryer but found they came out slightly under baked. If I were to bake them again, I would keep the temperature the same but leave them in for a few minutes longer. 

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Cookie dough before and after being baked in the Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)
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Cookie dough before and after being baked in the Instant Vortex VersaZone Air Fryer

My batch of cookies needed a bit longer to bake compared to a fan-forced oven (Image credit: Future)

The only niggle I found with the SyncFinish and SyncCook functions were that they won't allow you to change temperatures and cooking times midway through the program. During an instance when I was cooking a chicken breast on one side and broccoli in the other, I wanted to adjust the temperature of the meat, but with the SyncFinish function activated, this wasn’t possible. You first have to cancel the program, make your adjustments and then start it again – this also causes the air fryer to preheat again. 

My advice here would be to make sure you know the exact temperature and time you want before pressing the all-important start button.

Should I buy the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology?

Buy it if...

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How I tested the Instant Vortex 9-quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology

  • Used air fry, roast and bake presets
  • Cooked salmon, chicken, fries and vegetables
  • I used both the dual zone and the large single basket 

I used the Instant Vortex VersaZone air fryer to cook a variety of food. I would most often cook some meat or fish in one side of the basket and some accompanying vegetables or potatoes in the other. I also attempted to bake some cookies. This allowed me to test the various synchronised cooking functions of the air fryer, as well as determining how well it actually cooked food. 

I also used it for more basic cooking tasks, such as air frying hash browns or fries for a quick hot snack.