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I tried the Ninja Speedi 12-in-1 air fryer: If you've got the counter space, buy one

Still don't own an air fryer? You're missing out. A countertop convection oven affords all kinds of benefits, not the least of which is time: You can cook more quickly than in a conventional oven, thereby using less electricity and producing less heat (important during the summer months). The Ninja Speedi delivers even more convenience than that: It's not only an air fryer, but also a multi-function (12, to be exact) kitchen appliance that can steam, saute, proof bread, slow-cook, sous vide, dehydrate and more. It can even air-fry-and-steam or bake-and-steam at the same time. But is this jack-of-all-trades really a master of none? Here's my Ninja Speedi review.


Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker and Air Fryer

Assuming you've got the counter space to spare, the Speedi is an excellent air fryer that can also cook complete meals. Its 12 total functions help justify its fairly high price.
$160 at Amazon

I tested the Speedi with a variety of foods and meals and found it excellent overall, though there are a few design decisions I don't love.

Unlike a traditional drawer-style air fryer, the Speedi more closely resembles a pressure-cooker (though that's one thing it doesn't do), with a hinged lid and removable 6-quart inner basket. Much as I like the overall design of the appliance, a two-tone, industrial-looking thing, I do miss having a basket with a handle. You can't easily give this a shake during cooking — you have to open and stir instead — and you'll definitely need a pair of oven mitts to lift it out when the food is ready.

What's more, this thing is big; plan on surrendering a significant chunk of counter space. And because of the hinged lid, which needs a lot of overhead clearance, you'll most likely have to slide it out from under a cupboard before use.

The Ninja Speedi shown with various foods it cooked.
This countertop cooker is as versatile as they come, offering 12 functions -- and the option to prepare entire meals all at once. (Photo: Ninja)

Ninja supplies a clearly written owner's guide to help you get started, along with a colorful booklet that introduces the two modes of operation and includes a couple dozen recipes.

I like machines I can figure out without consulting the manual, at least for basic operation, and the Speedi's controls are clearly labeled and fairly intuitive — starting with a lever up top that switches it between Rapid Cooker and Air Fryer modes.

I won't focus too much on the latter, because in that respect the Speedi works like most: Toss in your food, set the temperature and time, then press a button and wait. My test potatoes came out evenly browned and perfectly crispy.

The "secret weapon" here, though, is the metal crisping tray that sits in the bottom of the basket. When you flip out the little legs at the four corners, it then sits in the middle, allowing you to put grains, pasta or veggies in the bottom and a protein on top.

For example, the included Burrito Bowl recipe calls for rice and beans below and seasoned chicken breasts above. Prep time for that was all of five minutes, after which the Speedi spent about 10 minutes steaming the basket contents and another 15 air-frying the chicken. The meal couldn't have been much simpler to make, and the end result was superb.

Got kids? You could put something like mac-and-cheese and broccoli in the basket and chicken nuggets on the tray. (Be prepared to do some fine-tuning, however: In my tests, noodles came out a bit undercooked. They needed more water.) The Speedi can also do desserts, first steaming a cake or pie and then baking it to completion. Once you dump everything in, there's no need for additional intervention.

The only real challenge to using the machine is extracting the tray, which requires a pair of silicone tongs (not included) to grasp the small handle in the center. It's surprisingly light, so this isn't as difficult as I expected, but you do have to remove your food first. Also, as mentioned above, if you want the basket out, you'll have to wait till it fully cools or use oven mitts.

The Ninja Speedi with its lid open, showing the crisping tray configured to sit halfway up the basket.
This crisping tray can sit in the middle or bottom, but either way it's a hassle to remove when hot. And speaking of hot, watch for that exposed heating element under the lid. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

The hinged-lid design does expose a very hot cooking element when opened, and the entire lid is quite heavy; it never toppled over on me, but felt like it could. (It opens only 90 degrees, so an accidental nudge would indeed send it crashing down.) You should also note that the crisping tray necessarily has holes in it (for air circulation), which can allow fat from proteins to drip into the food below. That can be a good thing or not, depending on your preferences.

Given its considerable size and the hassles of removing the tray and basket, I didn't expect to like the Ninja Speedi as much as I did. It's also a little on the pricey side compared with many traditional air fryers, but few can match the cooking versatility rolled into this one. Indeed, when you consider that it also supplants a rice cooker, slow cooker, sous vide, dehydrator and more, the price and required storage space don't seem that high at all.


Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker and Air Fryer

Assuming you've got the counter space to spare, the Speedi is an excellent air fryer that can also cook complete meals. Its 12 total functions help justify its fairly high price.
$160 at Amazon