Why the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL Is the Best Air Fryer You Can Buy

·7 min read
Photo credit: amazon
Photo credit: amazon

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We test a lot of air fryers in the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, and the GH Test Kitchen uses them to develop air fryer recipes like spaghetti and air fryer meatballs and prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts.

In our most recent side-by-side test, the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL took the top spot for best overall air fryer, and it continues to stand out for being quick, powerful and easy to use. Here's an in-depth review of our experience testing it in the lab as well as using it to cook over the past couple of years; plus, how it compares to the Ninja Foodi Air Fry Oven.

Ninja Air Fryer Max XL specs

Photo credit: Ninja
Photo credit: Ninja
  • Capacity/basket sSize: 5.5 qts.

  • Dimensions: 14" x 11" x 14.75"

  • Weight: 11 lbs.

  • Temperature range: 105˚F to 450˚F

  • Time range: from 1 minute to 12 hours (on dehydrate function)

  • Dishwasher safe: Yes; basket and removable air broiling rack

Initial observations

The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL has a slimmer footprint than most mid-size air fryers we tested. The basket pulls out easily and is fairly deep: The diameter is roughly nine inches, and it can hold about 10 chicken wings in a single layer. The tray is removable, which we found easier to clean than removable air fryer baskets that sit inside a drawer. (When testing fries, we noticed that the tray did not fall out of the basket when we turned it upside down, which helps make the cooking and serving process easier.)

The control panel is easy to read and operate. It offers several built-in settings — Max Crisp, Air Fry, Air Roast, Bake, Reheat and Dehydrate — which differ in their minimum and maximum temperature and time ranges. For example, Max Crisp is set to 450˚F and ranges from one minute to 10 minutes, Bake can be set between 250˚F to 400˚F and ranges from one minute to four hours and Dehydrate can be set from 105˚F to 195˚F and ranges from one hour to 12 hours.

Test results

When evaluating air fryers in the lab, we test chicken wings, frozen French fries and homemade French fries. We assess cook time, how evenly foods are cooked and whether they're crisp and juicy/moist. The Ninja Air Fryer Max cooks wings and fries quickly and evenly without drying them out.

Chicken wings

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

Plain chicken wings, simply seasoned with kosher salt, got crispy and bubbly in 20 minutes and became a nice golden brown, perfect for eating on their own or tossing in sauce.

Frozen French fries

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

Frozen French fries cooked almost perfectly even in the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL. We air fried them at 350˚F for 20 minutes as suggested by the cooking chart in the user guide. They were crispy and moist on the inside, though they might have benefited from a few minutes less. The user guide suggested frequently checking on the food and shaking as necessary, but we chose not to disrupt the cooking process to help us better assess how evenly the air fryer cooked.

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

In addition to testing frozen fries on the Air Fry function, we tested them on the suggested Max Crisp setting to evaluate the difference. After just 10 1/2 minutes, the fries were cooked but also burnt in places. This did not make us think the air fryer was bad; it merely indicated that this setting is powerful. Going forward, we know to check foods often when using Max Crisp, which is designed to make food extra crispy, especially during the last few minutes of cooking.

Fresh French fries

Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

We also air fried fresh, hand-cut French fries that were tossed with olive oil and kosher salt and cooked at 350˚F for 20 minutes. They turned out mostly even and crispy on the outside but still soft and moist inside. We also did not shake these fries during cooking, but we noted that we probably should have since the oil caused them to stick and not fully brown.

Additional tests

Over the years, we've used the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL to cook all types of veggies as well as proteins from salmon to pork chops to meatballs. One-inch wide salmon fillets cook to tender and juicy medium-well with crispy skin in about seven minutes on 400˚F, while a bone-in pork chop takes about 10 minutes to be fully opaque and golden on both sides.

How does the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL compare to the Ninja Foodi Air Fry Oven and other Ninja air fryers?

The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL's basket size is average but seems smaller than some other air fryers of similar size, particularly those with square air fryer baskets. It cooks quickly and efficiently and is easy to use.

The main differences between the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL and the Ninja Foodi Air Fry Oven are size and cooking capabilities. The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL is mainly an air fryer, while the Ninja Foodi Air Fry Oven resembles a toaster oven and can also toast bread and bake foods, thanks to extra elements on the bottom of the unit. The Air Fry Oven also has a much larger surface area so you can cook more foods that benefit from being cooked in a single layer, like wings and other proteins, at once.

Should you buy the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL?

If you're looking for a good, basic air fryer, the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL is an excellent choice. It's easy to use, delivers great results and, thanks to its ceramic-coated basket, is dishwasher safe for simple cleanup. We also appreciate its small footprint, which helps save counter space.

If you're cooking for four or more people at a time, you may want to consider the 8-qt Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 2-Basket Air Fryer with Dual Zone Technology. Its larger footprint requires more space, but it offers more overall surface area while still allowing for smaller batches and less bulky cleanup. In our tests, it worked just as well as the Max XL but was a little trickier to program because it features more buttons. It even comes in a 10-qt option, though we haven't tested this model yet.

If you're looking for an air fryer that you can also use to toast bread and bake goodies, consider the Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven. It offers a slim design and a lot of cooking surface in a single layer; plus it stands up for storage. It air fried well in our tests and produced evenly toasted bread; however, it can't fit a whole chicken or roast like some other air fryer toaster ovens. The Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 XL Pro Air Fryer Oven offers the most cooking area, with four rack positions and a large assortment of trays so you can cook on at least two levels at once. We tested the Smart version, which includes a built-in thermometer. It took a little longer to air fry wings than the Max XL, likely because of its larger capacity, and it got a little smoky when we didn't use the roasting rack, but we liked that it was easy to operate — even with its advanced controls — and that we were able to cook a whole chicken in it.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

Nicole Papantoniou is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute's Kitchen Appliances Lab, where she oversees all the content and testing related to cooking appliances and kitchen gear. She's been cooking with air fryers since they hit the U.S. market, and she even helped develop the first air fryer toaster oven — and then led the testing of air fryer toaster ovens for GH. She air fries often, both at work and at home.

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