by Joe Lonergan
Firstly, I would like to point out that this is a review of a mainstream product, a Ninja Aifryer. We have reviewed an Air Fryer before with some smart home accessibility options but what if you buy a mainstream product from your local electrical store, can you use it if you have sight loss? Can you make it accessible?
For anyone that doesn’t know what an Air Fryer is an Air Fryer is a cooking device that uses hot air which is blown onto the food using the built-in fan. It is like a small convection oven that can cook many different types of food.
The Ninja Dual Zone AirFryer is an Air Fryer with two baskets so you can cook two different foods at the same time. It has some preset functions such as Max Crisp, Air Fry, Roast, Dehydrate, Reheat, and Bake. Because of its dual zone capacity, it takes up a bit of space on your countertop, almost as much as a microwave. But it does look good on your counter like most Ninja products it has a premium look. It has a digital display and numerous plastic matt finish buttons which are located on the front above the two baskets. The buttons are flush with the appliance so if you are blind or have low vision you will need some tactile markers like locator dots or bump Ons to make the buttons more distinguishable.
Unboxing / What are my first impressions of the item?
The two drawers have an easy-to-grab handle to pull the drawers out easily and safely. I liked the premium feel of this Air Fryer and when I checked it out in the shop, I realised it had buttons that made a clicking sound every time you pressed them. Even though the buttons were flush with the device and were not easy to find I decided to purchase the Air Fryer as I had a pack of locator dots ready to put on the essential buttons.
I put a locator dot on the on button on the top left of the device and I put one on air fry, bake and start. I also put a bump on the button for switching to the second basket. If I hadn’t put some tactile markers on the buttons, I would have found the Ninja Air Fryer almost impossible to use. There are also buttons for decreasing the temperature in increments of 10 degrees and buttons for decreasing or increasing the minutes in increments of one. Later I decided to put locator dots on these too. When I got the product, I needed help to learn where all these buttons were so I could apply the locator dots. Once I had learned where the buttons were and memorised what they did it was time to start using the product.
So now it was time to cook.
My first attempt at cooking in the Air Fryer was a predictable option, frozen French fries otherwise known as chips. So, I decided to use the air fry function and leave them on for ten minutes as this was the common recommendation. I turned on the Air Fryer with the on button on the top left and it made the signature Ninja sound, then I pressed the Air Fry button and then I pressed the start button on the top right. Then the Air Fryer started up straight away and I could hear the fan, so I knew it had started. I used my Alexa to start a ten-minute timer.
The default time for Air Fry is 20 minutes and the default temperature is 200 degrees, but you can pull the drawer out at any time to check or shake the food or when your timer goes off.
The drawer was safe to pull out and the Air Fryer turns off automatically once the drawer is pulled out.
When I was satisfied the chips were cooked, I emptied the contents from the drawer onto a plate. I was surprised by how good the chips tasted and found that they turned out better than chips from a regular oven.
Another suggested option is to use the Max Crisp option for anything that comes out of the freezer like Chicken nuggets or frozen chips, both cooking options work well.
So, what foods did I cook in the Ninja Air Fryer?
I cooked sausages, Pudding, Rashers, and almost the full Irish breakfast with great success. I cooked toasted sandwiches, spring rolls, Chicken nuggets, and battered and breaded fish fillets.
So, you get the idea of the type of food I had cooked in it, most of these cooked well at the default 200 degrees. Occasionally I used the bake feature for baking part of baked bread rolls. In the bake setting, it cooks at a lower heat. I put the bread rolls in, turned on the Air Fryer, pressed bake, and then pressed start. Again, I used Alexa to start a timer for 8 Minutes and when I pulled out the drawer I had two lovely crispy bread rolls.
It came with a recipe book which I did not use. But you can ask Alexa for Air Fryer recipes if you are looking for accessible recipes. It is also a great device if you have kids and want to rustle up something quickly as it cooks in half the time of the oven.
For someone with low vision I would also recommend putting on locator dots as the text is not that big, but some of the buttons light up when activated which might help. If you can not see the display you, could use your magnifier but that is not ideal.
On occasion I called the Be My Eyes app on my iPhone for assistance to check what was displayed on the screen such as temperature and remaining cooking time.
In general, I found it very easy to use and as long as I could remember which buttons, I put the locator dots on I was fine, so not a very steep learning curve but keep in mind you may need help to identify buttons when you first get it.
The Ninja AF300 retails at approximately €229.
To summarise I love the Ninja and would recommend it to anyone who loves to adapt their mainstream products with bump Ons or locator dots. It is very useful for anyone with a vision impairment and a great tool in the Kitchen. I wouldn’t define it as accessible, but it is usable. After all people with sight loss have been adapting products like this for years using bump Ons and tactile markers so why not think outside the box and recognise you do not have to deprive yourself of using a popular mainstream product?
You can listen to a conversation about Air Fryers on our 50th episode of the Talking Technology Podcast where I do a quick demo of turning on the Ninja Air Fryer.