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Ninja Max XL Air Fryer review: a neat air fryer for small servings

Homes & Gardens logo Homes & Gardens 19/05/2022 Millie Fender
Ninja Max XL Air Fryer © Provided by Homes & Gardens Ninja Max XL Air Fryer

The Ninja Max XL Air Fryer is one of the brand's most popular models. It's got a circular insert with a 5.5 quart capacity that's capable of cooking for smaller households, or making sides for the whole family. 

While we found that the basket shape was not ideal for cooking specific types of food, the air fryer did do an impressive job of cooking bacon and even frozen food in truly record times. 

We tested it alongside some of the best air fryers to see how it held up, making fries, roasting vegetables, and trying out both its regular air frying mode and the Max Crisp setting. 

Ninja Max XL Air Fryer: specs

  • Capacity: 5.5 quarts
  • Cooking modes: Air Fry, Max Crisp, Air Roast, Air Broil (US only), Bake, Reheat, Dehydrate
  • Temperature: 105°F–450°F
  • Size: 14 x 11 x 14.75 inches
  • Weight: 11.7 pounds
  • Power: 1750 watts
  • Cleaning: Nonstick and dishwasher-safe baskets and inserts
  • Cord length: 2.6ft

Getting started

We tried the Ninja Max XL in the UK, so there are a couple of very slight differences worth noting. In the UK it's known as the Ninja Max AF160UK air fryer, and in the US it's called the Ninja AF161 Max XL Air Fryer. 

The only other difference is on the control panel. While the settings work in the exact same way, where the US air fryer has an air broil button, the UK has no alternative, and only features three cooking modes. We don't tend to broil things in the UK, so we were unable to test this setting, but we still tested against the four recipes we use in our air fryer reviews and simply adjusted the settings for timings and temperature. 

The product comes in a box with mostly cardboard packaging, which meant we didn't have to feel guilty when disposing of it in the recycling. It has a removable circular tray with an insert that elevates food to allow air to circulate around it for an even cook. This also lifts away, and both this and the interior of the basket are coated in a sturdy non-stick coating. 

We noted that the drawers felt secure, and slid into place without any difficulty. This felt very high quality, but the silver-coated handle and top of the machine did look and feel quite cheap, and while in our continued testing it's not flaked away, we preferred the handles on the Instant Vortex air fryer, and even the Ninja Dual Zone we also tested. 

Cooking fries

Our first standard test is making fries from scratch. We chopped potatoes into chunky wedges, soaked to remove starch, and then dried and tossed them in a little oil and some seasoning. It's true that making fries from scratch in an air fryer will significantly reduce the amount of fat in your finished meal. We only needed a few tablespoons, and this was split between three different air fryer tests. 

To see how well the air fryer can cook on a slightly lower temperature, we set it to 360°F for 18 minutes on air fry mode. Unlike models from Instant brands, the Ninja range of air fryers have no pre-heat time and no midway reminder to shake your fries when cooking. Despite this, we do recommend shaking your fries to get an even finish, but while it's nice to have a pre-heat time we do find that it is not always necessary when air frying. After all, it only takes a minute or so to pre-heat. 

After 18 minutes we were disappointed that our fries were not well cooked at all. Where in some air fryers we still manage to achieve a fluffy inside and crisped outside in this time, the Ninja Max XL needed an extra 10 minutes. 

After this, the fries still lacked a crisp coating but were cooked through. Some were a little more cooked than others, but for the most part our fries were even, which is impressive given the smaller basket size of this air fryer. They had a good taste, but we suspected that this is an air fryer that performs better at higher temperatures. 

Cooking frozen food

Air fryers are famously good at cooking food from frozen. This especially applies to breaded food, which can often take a long time in a conventional oven or even one of the best toaster ovens, and will need to be flipped halfway through cooking to prevent any sogginess. Air frying makes this a thing of the past, so we tried out the Max Crisp setting to see how well the Ninja Max XL could cook some frozen chicken goujons. 

We tested this air fryer alongside another Ninja model, the Ninja Foodi DZ401 6-in-1 XL 2-Basket Air Fryer. This air fryer allows you to adjust the Max Crisp temperature, whereas in the more basic Max XL you cannot change the temperature from a preset 450°F. That's hotter than we could even achieve in the Instant Vortex Plus 6-in 1 Air Fryer which is limited to 400°F, so it is no surprise that the Max XL cooked the chicken in by far the least time in our lineup. 

The chicken was done in just nine minutes, when the packaging suggested it would take 25 minutes in an oven. It was very hot all the way through, although the high temperature did overly brown the goujons in some areas. If anything, it was a little overcooked! 

Cooking bacon

Cooking bacon in air fryer takes minutes, and it often drains out a lot of the fat that renders away from the meat as it cooks, leaving you with crispy rashers and a little less oil. 

We noticed that the streaky bacon we used was a little long to fit into the air fryer basket. Other air fryers could happily fit 6 or more rashers in one go, but you would struggle to fit more than four in this air fryer without overlapping. 

We put the air fryer onto 400°F and set the cooking time to five minutes. This air fryer is not the quietest air fryer we tested, at 67dB, it's on par with other Ninja air fryers. Its fan is very powerful, as evidenced by the finished result. Our bacon had clearly been blown around the cooking basket as it cooked, meaning it had folded in places. Laying this on top of pancakes would have been a struggle!  

However, the bacon was cooked very easily, and we found that it would even have benefitted from a little less cooking time. This is potentially down to the small cooking area which means the air fryer pre-heats very quickly. 

Roasting vegetables 

Most air fryers come with roasting modes. Is this any different to the air frying mode? Fundamentally, no. Air fryers all work like a convection oven, so the main difference will be the preset cooking temperature. In this case it is lower than the air fry mode, which means food will be less crispy but will cook through in a way that is similar to traditional roasting. 

We were happy with the roasting in this air fryer. Not all of the food cooked at the same pace, but this is because we cut the vegetables into different sizes. After 15 minutes we were particularly impressed with the slight browning of the sweet potato, which had a lot of flavor. We didn't shake the tray around while cooking either, but due to the slats in the removable insert the vegetables were cooked quite evenly on all sides. 

Where other air fryers we tested struggled to get any browning on the zucchini, we found that the Ninja Max XL Air Fryer did a good job of this, meaning it was effective at removing the moisture from vegetables. This left them still with some crunch, but without any sogginess.

Cleaning the Ninja Max XL Air Fryer

One big advantage of Ninja air fryers is that the removable parts are dishwasher safe. This convenience factor is partly why you'll find the brand in our guides to the best blenders and best food processors, too. 

Even if you don't have a dishwasher to clean the removable insert and air fryer drawer, the non-stick coating is very easy to clean by hand. We have guidance on how to clean an air fryer if you wish to clean the heating element and control panel. 

Should you buy the Ninja Max XL Air Fryer? 

The Ninja Max XL Air Fryer gets a four star rating after our review process, and weeks of ongoing use. It's well-designed, easy to clean, and works especially well on high temperatures. However, it doesn't perform quite as well as other air fryers on lower temperatures, and the Max Crisp setting is not adjustable, meaning you will be somewhat limited if you want full control of the machine. 

This air fryer is one of the noisiest models on the market, but it's not so loud that you couldn't speak over it. It cooked frozen food and bacon in record time, but the circular shape of the cooking basket will be best suited to side dishes or smaller servings of meat, as it will struggle to fit in food of certain sizes. We also found that the look and feel of the air fryer is not our favorite, and it wouldn't be our first choice of air fryer to display in our kitchen. If looks are not your main concern, you'll love the Ninja Max XL Air Fryer for speedy cooking and its surprisingly expansive range of cooking modes, including Reheat, Dehydrate, and Bake. 

About this review, and our reviewer

Millie Fender is our Editor for all things small appliances at Homes & Gardens. She spends a lot of time testing everything from toasters to air fryers in her own apartment and recommending the very best ones to readers. 

Millie put this air fryer to the test for a number of weeks to make fries, bacon, and roasted vegetables. She will keep this review updated with any thoughts on how it compares to other models on the market.


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