Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: Trim the fat, not the flavour, with this heavenly healthy fryer – Expert Reviews
Air fryers might have become a popular kitchen gadget thanks to their ability to make low-fat chips, but Ninja’s Air Fryer AF100UK proves that they can do so much more. Because unless you’re eating fries on a regular basis, an air fryer can start to feel like it takes up a lot of space for one type of food.
However, the AF100UK goes beyond hot air “frying”, with a roasting setting for meat, poultry, fish and baking, a reheat setting for crispy, not soggy, leftovers, and a low-heat dehydrate option for drying out everything from healthy fruit and veg snacks to making your own marinated jerky. This means low-fat fries are just one reason, rather than the main aim, to have this multifunctional marvel constantly in action in your kitchen.
Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: What you need to know
There are a few things that can make an air fryer purchase a pass or a fail, and typically, it’s capacity (too small and hot air can’t circulate properly), ease of cleaning (dishwasher safe is ideal for getting rid of all the grease) and range of functions.
The Ninja model does well on all of those points, with a 3.8-litre non-stick basket that can accommodate 900g of fries (equating to six servings for restrained people but more like four for a good portion of chips), an entirely dishwasher-safe drawer and four settings that can be toggled by time and temperature.Its dehydrate function is really what sets it apart from most, though, which are usually geared towards frying at temperatures between 160-200˚C, so lack the low temperature range to gently dry.
Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: Price and competition
The price tag puts the Ninja Air Fryer in the mid-range of the market, and, considering it’s just over £100, you get plenty for your money. It’s at least £20 less than the cheapest Philips Airfryer, which has only 800g capacity. There are more affordable models with a similar capacity, costing from £50, such as Tower’s T17021, however, this has a mechanical timer rather than a digital one, is single function, plus only the basket, not the drawer, is dishwasher-safe.
For those wanting to spend a bit more on an air fryer to max out capacity, there’s the Philips Airfryer XXL between £250-£300 and Sage’s the Smart Oven Air Fryer, which is more of a convection oven and costs £329.95. However, for most households, the Ninja’s pan should be able to fulfil regular frying needs.
Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: Features and design
While the design is pretty comparable to most, features is where the Air Fryer excels. Like other Ninja small appliances it comes with clearly named buttons for functions – air fry, roast, reheat and dehydrate – with up and down buttons for changing the temperature (up to 210˚C, except for dehydrating where the max is 90˚C) and time (maximum one hour for air frying and reheating, four hours for roasting and 12 hours for dehydrating). There’s also a clear display showing the time and temperature selected, which can be altered mid-way through cooking if a setting proves too hot for example.
Inside, a removable ceramic-coated crisper plate elevates food so excess fat can drip away as it fries. By using this method, Ninja estimates that the Air Fryer can cook chips using up to 75% less fat than traditional frying methods for deep-fried, hand-cut French fries. However, we found that to get the best results you’re going to have to up the oil on the fries from the recipe booklet’s bare minimum of half a tablespoon to at least double that.
Our optimum – where oil run-off was minimal but the fries still came out super-crispy – was one and a half tablespoons. This created golden chips with a bubbly crisp exterior, soft, fluffy interior and excellent consistency through the batch. There were no burnt pieces of potato or undercooked chunks despite them not being a uniform size.
The AF100UK cooks well once it gets going, but one thing that lets it down is the need for a three-minute preheat before cooking. Given that some pricier models heat up instantly, this impacts on cooking times, making them slightly longer, as well as needing to heat it, then remember to put in food straight away and reset the clock. So, for example, our fries took 25 minutes to cook, with a three-minute preheat time on top of that.
For cooking bread pudding from the supplied recipes, the preheat was five minutes on top of the 20-minute roasting time. The pudding emerged looking perfect – crispy on top and moist underneath – plus it came out of the ceramic-coated pan fairly easily, with only a little residue left behind. However, the need to preheat feels limiting – it’s a shame there isn’t a one-button preheat setting if it’s a requirement for the best results.
Dehydrating had mixed results at first. Our initial batch of apple slices started to disintegrate after being soaked in lemon water to stop the flesh turning brown and didn’t dry that well. However, a batch not soaked beforehand became beautifully crisp after eight hours. Another handy feature of the Air Fryer is that as well as being able to dehydrate meat and fish into jerky, the option of a higher heat after drying means it can be pasturised using the same appliance.
Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: Cleaning and maintenance
The Air Fryer needs cleaning after every use but given that the pan and crisper plate are both dishwasher-safe, this can take seconds. Even hand-washing is relatively effortless – the removable parts are ceramic-coated, so food just slides off. Over time, you’ll probably need to wipe away any debris from the vents (the intake on the top can be a magnet for dust) and clean off residue from the heating element (as the fan can blow lightweight food and crumbs around).
Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK review: Verdict
With a capacity that’s ideal for couples, small families and solo households, and a range of features that make it more flexible than the average design, this is definitely one to consider if you’re thinking about buying a health fryer. Its flaws are few, plus it delivers plenty for the price.
That’s because it offers low-fat frying, but in an appliance that lends itself to being part of your everyday cooking routine, rather than one that gets occasional use. Cheaper air fryers may do the job just fine, but the AF100UK’s features make it worth the extra cost – more control over temperature and time, more than just off and super-hot and easy peasy cleaning. It’s full of hot air – and that’s just the way we like it.