Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ninja Air Fryer Max XL Review: Is It Worth It?

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I purchased my first air fryer in 2020 as a way to alleviate the stress of making every single meal at home during the early months of the pandemic. Though it would later get recalled for literally catching fire, the Cosori Air Fryer Max XL was all the rage in my feed, and the Instagram girlies swore it was the key to making easy, nutritious meals. I hopped on the air fryer trend fast. I even got an air fryer cookbook. But the novelty of making “healthier” versions of fried food wore off, and, more importantly, my air fryer stopped working about six months in.

I had no plans to bring another air fryer into my life until I got assigned to test three of them for Bon Appétit. The trio included the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL, and I’m glad it was in the bunch. Two years later I still use it almost every day. I reach for it to reheat frozen lumpia and chicken nuggets, to make crispy-skinned salmon, and to roast vegetables. After my earlier failed interlude, I credit this machine with morphing me into a full-blown, loud-and-proud Air Fryer Person.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL after using it to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dozens and dozens of times.

How the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL works

The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL is a 5.5-qt. basket-style air fryer, which means you slide a tub for whatever you’re cooking into an opening in the machine, as opposed to an oven-style air fryer which looks like a giant toaster oven. Like all air fryers, it uses convection heating, a little built-in fan that circulates hot air around your food to cook it more quickly and evenly. This particular air fryer has seven cooking functions, which change the balance of top and bottom heating elements. Broil uses the top element, roast uses the bottom, for example. But it also has a very useful temperature boost Ninja calls Max Crisp that most air fryers don’t. Most basket-style air fryers top out at 400°F, but Max Crisp jacks the Ninja’s temperature up 450°F, allowing your food to get even crispier, faster. Do note that you shouldn’t confuse the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL with the plain old Ninja Air Fryer XL, which lacks this Max Crisp option.

What I like about the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL

The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL produces stellar results for typically fried dishes, like chicken tenders, crab cakes, and spiced potato wedges. I’ve used a number of basket-style air fryers, including the test kitchen favorite from Philips, and none of them turned out better results for chicken wings or fish milanese, which came out so crisp and golden brown from the Max XL that they looked like they were fried in a pan of piping hot oil.

This air fryer is versatile too. I use it to cook burger patties, breakfast sausage, dinner sausage (they are different!), as well as roasted veggies galore. Honey-butter brussels sprouts, blistered asparagus, and garlicky green beans are among my faves. I also turn to my air fryer for easy, weeknight pollo asado and make-ahead shrimp and steak for tacos, stir-fries, and rice bowls throughout the week.

Essentially, I turn to this air fryer to cook anything I used to cook in the oven or on the stove. It makes every task less messy, especially when I’m cooking meat and fish. I don’t have to worry about oil splatters, fuss with flipping salmon fillets, or stress over whether my food cooked evenly. I like that it only takes a couple minutes to preheat, and that air-frying really does speed up the cooking process. Meals in the Ninja never take me more than 20 minutes to cook.

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