While some of us may find an evening standing at the stovetop therapeutic, or even inspiring, there are just as many folks who would willingly ditch the hours of prep, stirring, and constant pan and oven checks in exchange for the time spent. That’s where high-performance small kitchen appliances come into play. Let’s look at two types: Multicookers and air fryers.
A multicooker is a compact kitchen appliance that’s easy enough to stow away but just as simple to break out and quickly set up when it’s needed. Built for speed and convenience, the average cooker allows you to boil, simmer, sauté, grill, and roast a myriad of breakfast, dinner, and dessert recipes using significantly fewer ingredients, with finished meals ready for eating in record time.
An air fryer is another type of small appliance that uses fan-driven convection technology to create a crisp outer shell for a number of deep-fried favorites. Everything from mozzarella sticks to onion rings can be whipped together quickly, and best of all, air fryers require little to no cooking oils to achieve that perfect crisp exterior and melt-in-your-mouth interior.
Ninja, a small appliance brand renowned for its blenders, grills, and other kitchen pals, also happens to be a prolific multicooker and air fryer manufacturer. If you’ve been considering a small cooker, Ninja is one of the better brands to buy from. To help you choose which Ninja product is right for you, we’ve compiled this buying guide that breaks down each cooker and fryer in the current Ninja Foodi lineup.
Ninja Foodi 5 Quart 7-in-1 Compact Pressure Cooker & Air Fryer
Looking for that golden, crisp finish for your next batch of fish fingers or chicken wings? Meet the Ninja Foodi OP101BRN, a compact multi cooker with a few tricks up its sleeve. For starters, this is one of several Foodi cookers with Ninja’s proprietary TenderCrisp technology. After pressure cooking your meal for the required recipe time, you can then switch to TenderCrisp to add a crunchy outer shell, all while preserving the juices inside the meat.
Don’t let the “Compact” label fool you. While the OP101BRN is small enough for easy storage, the internal pot is big enough to hold a 4-pound rotisserie chicken. Have you wanted to try a nice sauté but feared the disappointment of overcooking? No worries there, for the OP101BRN has seven built-in cook functions, including pressure cook, air fry/air crisp, steam, bake/roast, slow cook, and sear/sauté. All you have to do is place your ingredients in, choose a setting, and the cooker will take care of the rest.
Stumped for meal ideas? The in-box Foodi recipe book is packed with 15 different recipes to get your stomach growling. We also love that the 3-quart Cook & Crisp basket (used for most air-frying applications) is both nonstick and dishwasher safe. If you’re looking for the perfect starter multicooker, we can’t think of a better first buy than the Ninja Foodi OP101BRN.
Ninja Foodi 8 Quart 9-in-1 Deluxe XL Pressure Cooker & Air Fryer
Moving on up, our next multicooker of note is the Ninja Foodi FD402, a cooker that ups the ante in several ways. For starters, you’ll be getting a number of the same core features found on the aforementioned OP101BRN model. That’s everything from TenderCrisp tech to the previously touted cook settings, and even the recipe book (with an additional 30 recipes compared to the OP101BRN). So what makes it different? Size, for one.
Touting a “Deluxe” label, the FD402 comes with an 8-quart pot and a 5-quart Cook & Crisp basket, along with a deluxe-sized reversible rack and skewer stand for serving all your cooker meals to friends and family. For fans of homemade yogurt blends, the FD402 adds both a yogurt and a dehydrate cook setting, in addition to pressure cook, air fry/air crisp, steam, slow cook, sear/sauté, bake/roast, and broil.
If you think you’ll be cooking a lot for holidays and special gatherings but don’t want the worries of stovetop guardianship, the Ninja Foodi FD402 is the perfect party planner and time saver for your next occasion.
Ninja Foodi 6.5 Quart 11-in-1 Pro Pressure Cooker & Air Fryer
Want the option to keep your meals heated if you can’t get to them right away? How about a vacuum-sealed steak dinner? While the Ninja Foodi FD403 may not have the deluxe pot and crisper of the FD402, this multicooker adds another two cooking presets to the FD402’s nine: sous vide and warming.
Don’t let the loss of the “Deluxe” label fool you, as this cooker can still handle a ton. The 6.5 quart pot is large enough to cook a 5-pound chicken or a 6-pound roast for your next major get-together. There’s also a 4.6-quart Cook & Crisp chamber for your next deep-fry kick. The stainless steel nesting broil rack is another great addition, giving you a dedicated compartment for steaming, broiling, and food storage.
TenderCrisp tech and the 45-page recipe book are here too, along with the ability to throw your pot and crisper in the dishwasher if you’re not up for hand-washing. Think of the Ninja Foodi FD403 as a perfect middle option between the OP101BRN and FD402.
Ninja Air Fryer
For those looking to ditch the cooker in favor of something more daring and delectable, the Ninja AF101 is a dedicated air fryer with plenty to love about it. The fryer’s cooking range lives between 105 and 400 degrees, an ideal variance for keeping moisture baked into the foods that need it while allowing for a golden-crisp outer shell for grub like fries and onion rings.
Whether you’re frying a lot or a little, the 4-quart ceramic basket is plenty big for any meal size. If you’re into dehydrated foods like vegetables and potatoes, there’s a setting for that, too. Best of all, the major internal components of the fryer are all dishwasher safe.
We understand if you want a little more out of your air fryer, whether that’s available cooking space or features. If that’s the case, Ninja’s next two air fryers may be a better fit. That being said, the Ninja AF101 is a perfect starter fryer and easy-stow-away kitchen appliance.
Ninja Air Fryer Max XL
Want to cook a little more? The Ninja AF161 takes the fundamentals of the AF101 but cranks up the size. Instead of a 4-quart ceramic basket, the AF101 sports a 5.5 quart version. That’s enough cooking space for 3 whole pounds of French fries.
The temperature range of the AF161 also gets an upgrade. We’re talking 105 to 450 degrees, but that’s not all. The 450-degree blast is technically classed as Ninja’s Max Crisp Technology, a cooking function that ensures a hot, finished meal up to 30% faster (compared to the AF101). In addition to Max Crisp, you’re also getting air roast, air broil, bake, reheat, and dehydrate settings.
The included broil rack is perfect for cooking your foods closer to the heating element for crisp finishes, and let’s not forget that all internal components are nonstick and easy to clean after any cooked meal. All in all, the Ninja AF161 more than gets it done for all your air fryer needs. But what if you want just a little bit more from your fryer? Check out the final entry below.
Ninja Foodi 8 Quart 6-in-1 Two-Basket Air Fryer
Here be the king of all Ninja air fryers, the exquisite Ninja DZ201. Clean and simple, what we love the most is likely evident from product images right off the bat: Two dedicated fryer baskets. Each of the onboard baskets is 4 quarts deep, making it ideal for firing up big batches of deep-fried favorites simultaneously.
Speaking of simultaneous, Ninja’s patented DualZone Technology allows you fry two foods at once, but there’s more. The Smart Finish feature ensures that foods cooked at the same settings are finished at the same time, while the Match Cook function transposes the cook settings of one bay to another. Like the AF161, the DZ201 has six cooking functions: air fry, air broil, roast, bake, reheat, and dehydrate.
Also similar to the AF161, the cooking temperature range lives between 105 and 450 degrees, and the baskets themselves are nonstick and simple to scrub, while the crisping plates are dishwasher safe. When there’s no other option for air frying but “go big or go home,” the Ninja DZ201 takes home the gold every day of the week.