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Recently I had the pleasure of testing out the Ninja air fryer AF101 with a 4-quart capacity. Not only did this product surprise me with how well it worked, but it also worked better than the company said it would… which basically never happens.

I was amazed at how seamless the process was from start to finish and how easy the machine was to operate. The machine worked like a dream and – as you’ll see in the review below – delivered more than satisfying results that were very hard to argue. If you are in the market for an affordable pod-style air fryer, then this should be on the top of your list for consideration.

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Ninja Air Fryer AF101 with 4 Quart Capacity
23,478 Reviews
Ninja Air Fryer AF101 with 4 Quart Capacity
In our tests, the Ninja AF101 cooked foods in almost half the recommended time. The wire rack lets you cook more at once, and the long timer allows for overnight dehydrating; Both features that similarly priced models lack.

What’s in the Box?

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The package was delivered to my front door sooner than I expected. The machine was well packaged in the box it came in with a secured Styrofoam base the held the machine in place. If the package were to be tossed around during the delivery process, then there is no doubt in my mind that the machine would have been safe in its packaging. Inside the box was the Ninja air fryer af101 machine, a crisper plate, a wire rack, an owner’s manual, and a quick start guide that included cooking charts and 20 irresistible recipes to use in the machine.

How Does It Look/Feel/Sit?

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air fryer mr coffee

The air fryer is very sleek looking and really does fit the decor and theme of my kitchen aesthetically. The machine has a color palette of dark gray and black that has a glossy finish to give it that pristine look.

The machine is actually very sturdy and seems to be well constructed when it comes to quality in mind. The base of the machine has small rubber feet as to not allow the machine to move about while in use and keep it in place. It is not too heavy but it is not all that light either. It has just the right amount of mass and weight to keep it well balanced and firmly in its place. The Ninja air fryer af101 is really not all that large either, even though it does have a 4-quart inner capacity. When I placed it next to my regular old Mr. Coffee machine, it was just about the same height and barely bigger than it as well.

How Easy is it to Set Up?

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When I took the machine out of the box and got it set up on my kitchen counter, I was more than ready to see what it could do. It didn’t take any kind of assembly whatsoever. as soon as a removed the plastic wrapping and packaging materials, all I had to do was plug it in and it was ready to rock! Even though the setup was pretty self-explanatory and there was no building of any kind, I still read through the owner’s manual and the quick start guide to make sure I had a handle on how to operate the machine and what to expect from the air fryer’s capabilities.

As you’ll see in my tests below, this air fryer totally out-performed itself in more ways than one. Ninja really did downplay not only the quality of the machine but also how powerful it actually was. The quick start guide has cooking charts included in the booklet that would let you know how long to cook certain things, at what temperature the machine needs to be set, and other little tips and hints to help make the air frying experience better for the user.

front fryer

But as I started to use the machine, I quickly found out that the cooking charts provided in the quick start guide were way off and I need to tone down the temperature and the amount of time needed to cook certain food items. Initially, this could be a bad thing for someone who lacks basic cooking skills, but in the long run, this is a huge bonus once you get the hang of things.

Test #1: Cooking Fries

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When it comes to using an air fryer, cooking french fries are always going to determine how well the machine operates. French fries are the most common food cooked in an air fryer, so if the machine doesn’t make perfect french fries the first time, it shouldn’t even be considered as an option.

This is not the first air fryer that I have reviewed, let alone used to cook french fries. What I have learned from using many different types of air fryers is that they are not all created equal in terms of how well they perform and operate. With that said, I wanted to make sure that I followed the instructions in the quick start guide that came with the Ninja air fryer af101.

There is a slot allotted to frozen french fries in the cooking charts but there is also a recipe on page one for frozen french fries. Next to that recipe is also another recipe for hand-cut fresh fries from scratch. Looking at the recipes side by side, they are not very different when it comes to the temperature setting and the amount of time needed to cook the french fries.

This started to worry me because frozen french fries are already cooked once before they are frozen, bagged, and sold in the store. Commonly I would suggest that when frozen french fries are cooked at the same temperature as hand-cut fries, the amount of time will differ immensely. Even though I was suspicious, I gave the recipe booklet the benefit of the doubt and decided to follow the directions. Boy, was I wrong!

The recipe states to start by preheating the Ninja air fryer af101 with the crisper plate in the basket for 3 minutes after setting the temperature, which I did. Surprisingly, it did reach the correct temperature of 350 degrees in that amount of time. Then it says to add the fries to the fryer basket and insert them back into the air fryer. The french fries are supposed to cook in the air fryer for 23 minutes total, which is what I set the timer for.

fries before

It also says to remove the basket after 10 minutes and shake the fries or toss them with a set of silicone tongs to ensure even cooking across all of the french fries and to acquire the desired crispiness. Well, after 10 minutes was up, I removed the fryer basket from the machine only to find out that the french fries were completely done and perfectly crisp. Thank goodness I did remove the basket to shake up the french fries otherwise they would have completely burned and turned to a crisp black.

So in summation, the recipe in this booklet for frozen french fries is way off on the amount of time needed or maybe even perhaps the temperature. But in retrospect, this machine is much more powerful than the company or the booklet states. In my mind, this is a good thing. They only took about 10 minutes to cook which is much faster than using a home conventional oven or even a commercial convection oven. They were also less greasy than if they were cooked in the oven on a sheet tray and most important of all… they were absolutely delicious!

fries after

My advice to you though is to play around with the Ninja air fryer af101 and constantly check the food you are cooking instead of following recipes in this quick start guide or even a recipe you might find online. Chances are, the recipe will not coincide with the sheer power that this machine provides.

Test #2: Cooking Chicken Wings

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When it came to trying chicken wings, I decided to still follow the instructions that were provided in the quick start guide, even after the high-speed french fries from Test #1. Cautious, however, I also was determined to make sure and check the chicken wings every 5 minutes, just to be safe.

There was no recipe in the booklet for chicken wings but there was a cooking chart that had some recommendations. 1lb of chicken wings (or drumsticks) was to be tossed in 1 tablespoon of oil and the air fryer set at 390 degrees for a total time amount of 26 minutes. This still seemed high to me give the previous experience but I followed along.

I began to cook the wings in the air fryer. I would check the wings every five minutes just to make sure they were cooking evenly and not overcooking as well. After 5 minutes, the wings were partially cooked and all was fine. After the next five minutes, the wings looked like they were almost cooked but not quite. At this point, I decided to flip all the wings over in the fryer basket just so they could get an even cook. After 15 minutes, the wings were completely cooked and the skin had crisped up to perfection.

uncooked wings

I was so glad that I decided to go with my gut and keep a close eye on the wings by checking them every five minutes. Had I just set the timer and let it do its thing, the wings would have shriveled up, dried out, and become burnt to a crisp. Once again, the Ninja air fryer af101 proved to be much more powerful than the guide suggested.

Once the wings were done, I thought I would take it a step further and go just a little bit off the beaten path. I like my wings to be covered in a sauce as most people do and I could have just tossed them in some sauce once they came out and been done with it. But I thought maybe if I coated them in some barbecue sauce and placed them back in the air fryer for a couple of minutes, it might dry some of the moisture out of the sauce and create a nice sticky glaze on the wings.

cooked sauced wings

Well, the verdict is in, and they turned out great! I only let them cook for an additional 2 minutes in the air fryer basket and they turned out awesome. This method of cooking wings far surpassed all of my expectations and is now going to be my preferred method. I highly recommend using the Ninja air fryer af101 to cook chicken wings, just make sure to keep your eye on them because this machine is a beast.

Test #3: Roasting Vegetables

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When it came to testing the air fryer for roasting vegetables, I decided to go with Brussel sprouts. I feel that Brussel sprouts are a very dense, hearty, and stringy vegetable that will hold up well in the Ninja air fryer af101. Usually, when I roast Brussel sprouts, I will quarter them if they are very large or just cut them in half if they are smaller. Then I will toss them in some oil with a little bit of salt and pepper and spread them out on a sheet pan which I bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until they are soft, tender, and golden brown around the edges.

The quick start guide booklet has them on the air fry cooking chart to be cut in half, tossed with 1 tablespoon of oil, and placed in the fryer basket with the crisper plate at 390 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Given my last two experiments with the air fryer, I decided to follow the directions, except I added a little bit of salt and pepper to them and decided to go ahead and check them every 5 minutes, just like I did with the chicken wings.

uncooked brussel sprouts

The Brussel sprouts that I used were very healthy-looking, still very dense with little to no separation in the leave columns. I was confident in thinking that they would take somewhere around 10- 15 minutes at 350 degrees. I decided to lower the temperature just a little bit because it seemed fairly high for a vegetable and since the Ninja air fryer af101 was proving itself to be quite the workhorse in overpowering.

After the first 5 minutes were up, I removed the basket from the air fryer only to find out that the Brussel sprouts were completely cooked and almost too roasted. I thought to myself, good golly this machine is powerful. Yet again, it ceases to amaze me. In all honesty, I think it may have been better to lower the temperature even more to about 300 degrees for about 5-8 minutes, then they would have been perfect. But even so, these roasted Brussel sprouts turned out great and were able to achieve in 5 minutes what takes my home oven almost 30 minutes to do.

cooked brussel sprouts

About the Dehydrate Function

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This was a new function that I was unaware of but did make sense in the long run of things. the Ninja air fryer af101 comes equipped with a dehydrating function so you can make your own jerky, dried fruits, and dried veggies. This is a great accommodation for the air fryer as some dehydrator machines can not only be very expensive but also very big and clunky which can be difficult to clean properly and store easily without taking up too much space.

However, when you dehydrate meat, fruit, and vegetables, you need to make sure you have a large window of time available because the process does take quite a long time. It can take anywhere from 4 hours at the very least up to 10 hours depending on the type of foods you are using and the amount you plan on dehydrating at one time.

The drawback to dehydrating foods in the Ninja air fryer af101 is the amount of space that is given to you. When you use a dehydrator, you need to make sure the food is spread out evenly and that it is not overlapping other foods or sometimes even touching. This helps the process to run smoothly, but the surface area in the Ninja air fryer is not very large so the juice may not be worth the squeeze when it comes to dehydrating certain foods.

However, the timer on the Ninja air fryer af101 will go all the way up to 12 hours if need be which is more than enough time needed to dehydrate any type of food.

timer

About the Wire Rack

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The Ninja air fryer af101 comes with a “multi-layered rack” which can be used as a second-tier within the air fryer for more food to be placed on. The main purpose of the wire rack is to be used during the dehydrating process to allow for more foods to be dehydrated at the same time.

wire rack

The reason for this is because when the wire rack sits on the crisper plate in the fryer basket, there is only about 1/2 inch clearance between the wire rack and the plate. This means that it is perfect for dehydrating foods because they need to be sliced thin for the process to work properly. But I guess it could be used in other ways as another tier of food to be placed in the fryer basket, but it most likely will be sitting directly on top of the food below it which could prove troublesome or problematic.

The wire rack itself is about 8 inches in diameter which could hold about two or three good-sized chicken breasts on it. If I were to use it to cook two foods at once, which I probably would not, I would lay the protein on the bottom crisper plate and then the veggies or starch on top on the wire rack. But, thinking about it logically, it just doesn’t seem feasible and seems like it would only work if the food is sliced very thin.

wire rack in basket

How Long Does It Take to Preheat?

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Since there is no function or operation that allows you to warm up or preheat the Ninja air fryer af101, you just have to do it manually. On the third page of the quick start guide booklet, it gives you some helpful hints and tips to operating your Ninja air fryer af101 which they call Air Fry 101. They say that the Ninja air fryer af101 takes only three minutes to preheat to the temperature that you set it at no matter how high the temperature range is.

Since you are able to set the temperature to anything you like within the temperature range of the air fryer, it doesn’t display what the temperature is currently at while preheating.

So I used an instant-read digital laser thermometer to see if the air fryer would indeed reach the desired temperature within the three-minute window. To my disbelief, the air fryer actually reached 350 degrees, which is what I set it at, at the 3-minute mark.

While all of this is fine and dandy, when you remove the fryer basket from the unit to place food on the crisper plate, you immediately lose all the heat build-up inside the air fryer. Even though you lose all the heat, it doesn’t seem to matter since the Ninja air fryer af101 was able to cook everything much faster than I anticipated.

So when it comes to preheating the Ninja air fryer af101, it seems to be a waste of time in this instance.

How Easy Is It To Clean?

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The Ninja air fryer af101 is actually very easy to clean and is pretty user-friendly in this department. You see, the inner lining of the fryer basket including the crisper plate has a non-stick coating on it which not only helps to provide the quick and easy release of foods but also makes it very easy to clean.

In all honesty, all you need to do is wait for the fryer basket to cool down then clean the inside of it with a soft scouring pad with a sponge, warm water and dish soap, and anything that may be crusted or caked on the inner lining of the plate or basket should come right off with ease. Dry it off with a clean towel and place the crisper plate and fryer basket back in the unit for storing purposes.

However, the Ninja air fryer af101 claims the fryer basket, crisper plate, and wire rack may all be placed in the dishwasher and cleaned this way safely. Yes, the basket is large but will fit in most modern-day dishwashers. Yes, this will get the basket, crisper plate, and wire rack clean.

But when it comes to cleaning a non-stick surface, you almost never want to put it in the dishwasher even if they say it is safe to run in the dishwasher. The reason for this is because, over time, you will ruin the non-stick coating of the basket which could cause it to peel, crack, warp or break. So if you want to take good care of your Ninja air fryer af101, just bite the bullet and wash it by hand. I mean come on, the machine is already cutting the cooking time in more than half and in a very healthy way. The least you could do is wash the TWO pieces by hand.

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Even though the Ninja air fryer af101 is worth every penny and is a very powerful piece of technology, it does have a couple of flaws. One minor is the seal around the fryer basket and the unit itself. When the fryer basket is inserted into the unit, there is a small gap around the lining of the basket that is not flush with the unit. This does not seem to hurt the operational value of the machine nor does it compromise the functionality but it would be nice if it fits snugly in the machine.

no tight seal

The other flaw I noticed with the Ninja air fryer af101 is a bigger concern when it comes to safety. I have two small children in my house, so safety is very important to me when I am making a new purchase of a kitchen appliance.

When the fryer basket is placed in the machine, it does not lock itself in place or attach itself securely to the machine. This means that anyone can come by a just pull the basket out of the machine while it is running. Just like when you pull the coffee pot from the coffee machine, the fryer basket does the same thing. If the fryer basket is pulled from the machine while it is running, the machine has no fail-safe or automatic shut-off when this happens. That means the machine will continue to run, even if the fryer basket has been removed.

no locking function

This is a huge safety concern in terms of a fire hazard and harm to yourself or others around the machine while operational. The fryer basket needs to lock in place when inserted into the machine and needs to have an automatic shutoff in case something either goes wrong from user error or if a child decided to come by a pull on it when in use.

The fryer basket is also operating at very high-temperature ranges which will, in turn, become a major safety hazard for all those included. They should have thought about this when designing the Ninja air fryer af101. Safety should always be the number one concern with kitchen appliances.

What’s the Warranty?

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The warranty is pretty standard when it comes to most kitchen appliances and the Ninja air fryer af101 comes with a 1-year limited warranty. For the full details on the warranty for the product go to this site: https://www.ninjakitchen.com/warranty/1-year-limited-warranty/.

This really only covers the product if it is deemed defective and can only be replaced or repaired up to one year from the original purchase date with proof of purchase. For all other queries or gain customer support and troubleshoot any problems you are having with your Ninja air fryer af101, please contact customer support at this site: https://www.ninjakitchen.com/support/contact-us/.

Verdict

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In my humble opinion, the Ninja air fryer af101 is a really sweet piece of technology that is sure to save you time and money in more ways than one. Given how many different foods it can cook, and how quickly, it will solve plenty of headaches around dinner time.

If you are looking to cook for a small family of 1 or 2 people, then this air fryer will be perfect for you. But if you are looking to cook for a larger family of 4 or more, then you may want to consider a larger capacity model. Either way, we know this machine will be able to handle just about anything you throw in it with ease.

How does it Compare?

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With so many different types of air fryers out there, it may be somewhat difficult to choose one when they can all seem so similar. Well, when you get down to brass tax, the price is not the only thing that distinguishes one model from another. Yes, they all can air fry your favorite foods, but at different speeds, different quantities, and with different add-ons that could totally change the value proposition for you. In this section, we chose a few models that are similar in price to the Ninja air fryer af101 and are available for purchase currently.

   
Ninja AF101 Air Fryer that Cooks, Crisps and Dehydrates, with 4 Quart Capacity, Black/gray
Ninja Air Fryer af101
$99.99
GoWISE USA 1700-Watt 5.8-QT 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer with Recipe Book, Black
Gowise 5.8qt
$73.06
Watts:1500w1700w
Capacity:4 quarts5.8 quarts
Basket:Round shapeRound shape
Presets:Air Fry, Roast, Dehydrate, ReheatAir Fry, Bake, Grill, Roast
Temperature range:105-400 degrees180-400 degrees
Timer Length:1 min- 12 hours10 minutes- 30 minutes
Accessories Included: Multi-layer roasting rackDetachable basket
Warranty:1-year limited warranty1-year Limited Warranty
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This air fryer may seem like a better buy, but in all honesty, I would still spring for the Ninja air fryer af101 for a couple of reasons. While the Gowise 5.8qt air fryer does have a larger capacity than the Ninja air fryer and a couple hundred more watts of power, you may run into some problems with getting all the food to cook evenly in the fryer basket at once. When the food is piled up in such a large capacity without separating racks (that are missing on this machine) it can be difficult to cook everything evenly.

The fryer basket on the Gowise is detachable which is a nice touch when you are trying to retrieve the food from the machine. But its timer will only go up to 30 minutes (in 10-minute increments) when the Ninja air fryer af101 can go all the way up to 12 hours in 1-minute increments. The Gowise may still be a viable option as a new air fryer for your kitchen but it still does not hold up to the Ninja air fryer af101.

   
Ninja AF101 Air Fryer that Cooks, Crisps and Dehydrates, with 4 Quart Capacity, Black/gray
Ninja Air Fryer af101
$99.99
COSORI Air Fryer (100 Free Recipes Book) 1500W Electric Hot Oven Oilless Cooker, 11 Presets, Preheat & Shake Reminder, LED Touch Screen, Nonstick Basket, 3.7 QT, Digital-Black
Cosori Air Fryer
$95.65
Watts:1500w1500w
Capacity:4 quarts3.7 quarts
Basket:Round shapesquare basket
Presets:Air Fry, Roast, Dehydrate, ReheatAir Fry, keep warm
Temperature range:105-400 degrees170- 400 degrees
Timer Length:1 min- 12 hours1 minute- 60 minutes
Accessories Included: Multi-layer roasting racknone
Warranty:1-year limited warranty1-year Limited Warranty
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The Cosori air fryer may be a better option for someone who has very little space in their home or for someone who likes to travel or go camping. The reason for this is because this unit is very lightweight and easy to transport. It is a much smaller unit and has a smaller capacity for air frying which makes it perfect for 1 or 2 people who are always on the go. But when it comes to performance and overall quality, the Ninja air fryer af101 still trumps this machine. They both share many similarities, but in the end, the Ninja air fryer af101 will produce a better product.

   
Ninja AF101 Air Fryer that Cooks, Crisps and Dehydrates, with 4 Quart Capacity, Black/gray
Ninja Air Fryer af101
$99.99
NuWave Brio 6-Quart Air Fryer with App Recipes (Black) includes basket divider, one-touch digital controls, 6 easy presets, wattage control, and advanced functions like SEAR, PREHEAT, DELAY, WARM and more (NEW UPDATED MODEL)
Nuwave Brio 6qt Air Fryer
$99.99
Watts:1500w1800w
Capacity:4 quarts6 quarts
Basket:Round shapesquare basket
Presets:Air Fry, Roast, Dehydrate, ReheatAir fry, Preheat, Warm
Temperature range:105-400 degrees100-400 degrees
Timer Length:1 min- 12 hours5 minutes- 60 minutes
Accessories Included: Multi-layer roasting rackDivider Insert
Warranty:1-year limited warranty1-year Limited Warranty
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The Nuwave Brio 6qt air fryer would be perfect for a larger family of 4 or more people depending on your appetite. It has a much larger capacity for food, and can even roast a whole 4-pound chicken if you wanted.

It is a much larger unit in size alone and does weigh quite a bit more so if you are concerned about storage or counter space, you may want to look in a different direction. While it may be a contender with the Ninja air fryer af101, it still does not have a crisper plate, extra presets like roasting or dehydrating, and only has a timer that can reach 60 minutes at one time.

But what it does have that the Ninja air fryer af101 does not have, is a safety feature that puts it above the rest. There is an automatic shutoff equipped with the machine in case the fryer basket is removed or if the machine malfunctions. If you have a larger family, plenty of counter space, and are not worried about spending a few extra bucks, then this air fryer may be for you.

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