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 our 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 our 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
Capacity/basket size: 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)
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 ten 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 helped 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 fields from one minute to 10 minutes, Bake can be set between 250@F to 400@F and domains from one minute to four hours, and Dehydrate can be set from 105@F to 195@F and parts from one hour to 12 hours.
When evaluating air fryers in our Lab, we test chicken wings, frozen French fries, and homemade French fries. We assess cooking time, how evenly foods are cooked, and whether they’re crisp and juicy. We found that the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL cooks both wings and fries quickly and evenly without drying them out.
Plain chicken wings, 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 the sauce.
Frozen French fries
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 it as necessary, but we chose not to disrupt the cooking process to help us better assess how evenly the air fryer cooked.
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 was powerful. In the future, 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
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.
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 at 400@F, while a bone-in pork chop takes about 10 minutes to be fully opaque and golden on both sides.
Ninja Air Fryer Max XL vs. Ninja Foodi Air Fry Oven
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.
Suppose 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 surfaces 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. 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.