A near-perfect air fryer with some special capabilities
- Two baskets for simultaneous cooking
- Easy to use
- Quick cook function for frozen foods
- Very big
- No stirring paddle
- Chips aren’t as good as some competitors
There are plenty of air fryers around that do the basic job of cooking food with hot air and little oil. The Ninja Foodi Dual Zone, however, does a bit more than the bare essentials.
The feature that separates Ninja’s latest model from the rest is that it has two separate cooking baskets that can cook different foods simultaneously, even at different temperatures. It’s a surprisingly simple addition that makes this one of the very best air fryers you can buy right now.
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK review: What do you get for the money?
This is anything but a classic air fryer. The dual compartments mean it has an unusually wide design, so you’ll need quite a bit of space to store it. If you want to keep it out on show, though, it won’t disgrace your boutique kitchen. The digital screen, matte finish and chromed highlights look great and, although it does feel a touch plasticky in places (and looks a bit like a giant bread bin), it does come across as a premium product.
At £180, it has the price tag of a premium product, too, and while this might seem like a lot for a machine that circulates hot air, in comparison to other models on the market, it’s good value for money. Any decent air fryer will set you back £100 or more and almost none of these come with an additional cooking basket or the same breadth of features as the Ninja.
All functions are controlled via a large control panel at the front. There aren’t any one-touch buttons, surprisingly, but there are plenty of preset programmes such as baking, roasting and dehydrating available. Beneath the panel are two chromed handles and pulling these toward you give access to the air fryer’s cooking baskets. Each one can hold up to 3.8-litres of ingredients, adding up to a total capacity of 7.6 litres.
Unlike the Tefal Actifry range, there’s no stirring paddle inside so you’ll have to shake or stir food from time to time to promote even browning. Otherwise, the Ninja works pretty much like most other air fryers: it circulates hot air around your food, that creates a similar effect to deep frying, except you normally only need to add a tablespoon or so of cooking oil.
The Ninja’s dual cooking capability isn’t just about chucking food in each basket and setting the time and temperature manually, either. It has a couple of smart features that are aimed at helping you make the most out of its twin baskets, called “sync” and “match”.
If you’re cooking two types of food at different temperatures and/or times, sync works out the difference for you, ensuring both baskets finish simultaneously. Alternatively, if you just want to cook a big batch of the same food, the match button automatically adjusts the second basket to match the first.
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Meanwhile, the Ninja’s Max Crisp setting, which also features on the previous AF160UK MAX model, is designed to cook frozen foods in a fraction of the time. As with its predecessors, this air fryer can also bake, roast and dehydrate.
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK review: Ninja Foodi Dual Zone vs Tefal Genius XL 2in1
Dual cooking isn’t a totally new concept to air fryers. Tefal’s ActiFry range has been doing it for a while but these models will set you back a fair bit more. The latest model, the Actifry Genius XL 2in1 comes with both a stirring paddle and automated cooking functions but will set you back an eye watering £269.
Unlike the Ninja Dual Zone, however, the Tefal can’t cook products simultaneously. Instead, you cook one element first, which is then kept warm while the other is cooking on top. This makes it more fiddly and less intuitive to use, although it does have the added benefit of that automated stirring paddle.
Both offered up similarly decent results in my testing, although I found that chips brown slightly more evenly in the Actifry. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether you want an air fryer with true dual cooking or whether that stirring paddle is too important to pass up.
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK review: What’s it like to use?
The absence of a stirring paddle and quick cook settings isn’t an issue when it comes to using the Foodi Dual Zone. You do have to shake food every five minutes or so if you want an even colour on the outside. However, throughout my testing I found that neglecting to do this didn’t really affect the overall taste of food.
Otherwise, it’s very effective and extremely easy to use and, for those who have never used an air fryer before, there’s a comprehensive cooking guide included in the box.
In testing, both the sync and match settings worked without a hitch, with no great variations in ‘doneness’ when comparing baskets. The sync function meant foods were cooked through at the same time, even when chips were air fried for 25 minutes at 180°c and vegetables for 20 minutes at 160°c, for example.
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For thinner frozen foods such as french fries or onion rings, the Max Crisp function worked unbelievably well. In testing, this setting cooked 160g of potato lattices to crispy perfection in just six minutes, verses 15 minutes in a standard oven. It can handle larger quantities too, cooking 24 frozen nuggets in as little as eight minutes.
Dehydrating in the Ninja is also an easy, albeit time-consuming, process. Overall, this setting worked well for single portions of fruit and veg, dehydrating two bananas in ten hours and one apple in eight hours. You’ll need to prepare for some trial and error though, as even small variations in the thickness or quantity of an ingredient can alter the cooking times dramatically.
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK review: Should you buy it?
If you were to combine the Foodi Dual Zone with Tefal’s Genius XL 2in1, you’d have the perfect air fryer; until that happens, however, you’ll have to settle for one or the other. My choice would be the Ninja.
Overall, I found the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone is much easier to use and I really appreciated its additional functions, in particular that amazing Max Crisp setting for frozen foods. It’s significantly cheaper than Tefal’s latest Genius 2in1 model, too.
Having to return to the air fryer to shake food mid-way through cooking isn’t ideal but this isn’t too much of a bind and the results speak for themselves. The Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK is a fantastic product and one I wholeheartedly recommend.