We brought in the Ninja Foodi MAX Grill to test because so many people recommend Ninjas and they make all kinds of air fryer combos. We had to test one multicooker, and the grill seemed like a great choice.
- Very versatile; includes a grill
- Best cooking results; crisps food very well
- Large capacity
- Meat thermometer included
- Exterior gets uncomfortably warm
- Hard to clean
- Not as easy to use as basket fryers
Time and time again, we found that the best food came from this countertop grill/air fryer, and we were only tapping into its potential as a kitchen device.
The Ninja Grill has both an air fryer function with an insertable basket, and a grill function with a nonstick grill pan insert. We only tested it as an air fryer so we could compare it to the others in our test, but we are excited to try out the grill function.
It is a top-loader, which means you open a lid and the heating unit is contained in the lid whereas most traditional air fryers have baskets that you can remove like drawers. This lowered its scores in other categories, but we want to stress that it cooked better than any other device in our test.
The high-powered heating unit and large ceramic-coated air fryer tray combine to cook fast and evenly. This was the only air fryer that gave us truly crispy chicken wings and french fries that compared most closely to using an actual fryer with oil. It was at the top or near the top of all of our cooking tests.
With 6 cooking modes (Air Fry, Roast, Grill, Bake, Reheat, and Dehydrate) and a preheat setting, it allows you to cook a variety of foods to perfection. It also comes with a built-in meat thermometer that measures the internal temperature of meats and stops cooking once it reaches your desired level of doneness. Using the bake setting we made a beautiful sponge cake with a sugary, dark crust and moist center.
The Ninja Grill has a large basket that is 3.8l which is equal to the Philips XXL. It could hold 16 chicken nuggets and 3 full corn cobs, and we fit an entire kilogram of fries in during our tests.
The ceramic coated nonstick pan and basket of the Ninja Grill are extremely easy to clean. No foods stuck to them, and the shapes of the pans made them easy to scrub, but they are a bit larger than the baskets of traditional air fryers.
It did lose some points because when we cooked anything with crumbs, they blew around the inside and it was hard to get them all out. It also has a grease screen protecting the heating unit, which is great, but it will need to be cleaned now and again, and it is difficult to remove and clean.
The good news is that this filter will protect the heating element, while in most other air fryers, the heating coils are exposed and do get dirty over time.
Ease of use
Because it is a top-loading air fryer, it is harder to access food and to turn it while cooking. With a basket air fryer, you just pull the drawer out and shake to get the food to cook more evenly. But with the Ninja Grill, you have to turn the food in the air fryer pan, and you cannot just shake it. It takes more time and exposes you to the heat of the air fryer which is uncomfortable.
We did like the controls of both of the Ninjas. The buttons are easy to understand and intuitive. The screen is large and easy to read. We felt like we always knew what we were doing when cooking with the Grill. This Ninja, however, has the control panel on the bottom, so you may have to bend a bit to set it.
This was one of the faster cookers in our test. Ninja recommends that you preheat it before adding food, but in our head-to-head bacon test, after just 7 minute with no preheating, the Ninja Grill made crispier bacon than any other fryer in our test. It gets hot fast, and will get your food crispy in a hurry.
It comes equipped with its own meat thermometer that you can use to have the Ninja Grill shut off when whatever you are cooking reaches a preset internal temperature. So instead of setting a burger to cook for 10 minutes, you set the temperature for 50°C for a nice rare burger, or 65° for one more well-done. Imagine never having to worry about overcooking a steak?!
It was in the middle of the air fryers in our loudness test at 66 dB. It isn’t extremely loud, but it is noticeably louder than the quietest air fryers—equivalent to a normal conversation.
The instruction manual was very nicely done. It is easy to read and follow, and it includes a number of recipes for people new to air frying.
Build quality and design
While this was one of the best-built air fryers that we tested, we had to take points off for safety. As a grill, it is not safe for everyone to use because it gets hot, and the heavy lid means exposing yourself to a blast of heat each time you need to access your food. The exterior got pretty warm at 37°C, which will not burn you right away, but it is uncomfortable. In order to turn food, you will need to use an oven mitt as you hold the pan with one hand and turn food with the other.
The ceramic coating on the pans is excellent. We were able to chip it with a knife and the tip of our meat thermometer, but it did not scratch at all when we rubbed it with steel wool.
The fit and finish of the Ninja is excellent. It looks and feels like a premium device with a stainless steel surface. The handle is made of steel and gives you a sure grip. The hinges on the lid are spring loaded, so it closes and opens smoothly and silently with no sticking points. Even the meat thermometer is magnetic, so it clips and in and out of its storage spot with ease.
However, this is a big, heavy device and therefore, it is not very portable. It weighs 9.2kg, and does not have handles for carrying. You will also need a bit of extra room (40 cm with the open lid) on your countertop to accommodate for the lid opening and closing.
Power consumption was one of the highest in our test at 2460 watts, and it used power in standby mode as well.
What we didn’t like
As we said, the operation of the machine is just not as convenient as basket loading air fryers. We didn’t like opening the lid and turning food manually when compared to the ease of shaking baskets.
Another thing to be careful of is that if you try to lift it the wrong way, the lid will open and can pinch your fingers. This happened to us at least twice. We realize this air fryer is not meant to be moved that often, but it would be nice if the lid had a lock for moving and storage.
If you are looking for something a bit more versatile than a typical air fryer, and you are a big fan of grilling, but maybe don’t have access to a real grill, then The Ninja Foodi MAX Grill is a great option for your kitchen. We can see this replacing both your oven and stove top for most meals.
|Air Fryer||OVERALL SCORE||Cooking performance (40%)||Basket size (20%)||Cleaning (20%)||Ease of use (10%)||Build quality and design (10%)|
|Ninja Foodi Dual Zone (AF300EU)||4.3||4.2||5.0||4.0||4.3||4.1|
|Philips XXL (HD9860/90)||4.2||4.7||4.0||3.0||4.7||4.3|
|Ninja Foodi MAX Grill (AG551EU)||4.0||4.8||4.0||3.0||3.6||3.7|
|Uten 5.5L (1700)||3.9||3.8||4.5||4.0||3.1||3.9|
|COSORI 5.5L Smart||3.8||3.4||4.5||4.0||3.9||4.2|
|Philips Essential (HD9252/90)||3.3||2.8||2.0||5.0||3.6||4.1|
|Severin Hot Air Fryer (FR 2430)||3.2||2.9||2.0||4.5||3.7||3.3|
|Sage Smart Oven Air Fryer (SOV860)||2.7||2.2||3.5||2.0||2.8||4.0|
|Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 (YV970800)||2.5||2.5||3.0||1.5||2.7||3.3|
Ninja Foodi Max Grill & Air Fryer Features & Specs
|Air Fryer Type||Top loader|
|Capacity (to Max line)||3.8l (no max line)|
|Surface capacity||548 cm²|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||28 x 55 x 42.5 cm|
|Presets/Cooking Settings||6 cooking settings|
|Temperature Range||40 - 240°C|
|Timer||1 - 60 min|
|Loudness during operation (Max as tested)||66 dB|