The Ninja Foodi is an intimidating purchase, both in terms of its price tag and its large dimensions. That said, we do think it's worth the cost (and space) if you have it. The Ninja Foodi is a do-it-all kitchen appliance. This multi-cooker can steam, sear, sauté, slow cook, bake, roast, and grill, but what sets it aside from most of the best Instant Pots is that it can also air fry. This is all possible because it comes with not one, but two lid attachments, which offer very different cooking capabilities.
We put the Ninja Foodi to the test for two months to bring you a comprehensive review. Our tests involved following specific Ninja recipes, and adapting our own, to see just how useful this multi-cooker can be. Keep reading to find out how it held up.
Ninja Foodi review: What you need to know
When the Ninja Foodi first turned up we must admit, it surprised us. Sure, you'll read online that this is a large multi cooker. We even read the dimensions online before buying to make sure it fit into the space we had in mind. When it arrived though, it was clear that there wasn't a hint of exaggeration online: this is a very big appliance. Now, if you have a spare kitchen counter or a spare cupboard, you'll be able to make this work in your home. For those in apartments or who are short on space, it's going to get in the way.
We reviewed the 6.5-quart Ninja Foodi, which is 17 inches wide, 14 inches deep, and 13 inches long. It weighs 25lbs, which isn't too heavy to lift, but it's definitely heavy enough that you won't want to constantly take it in and out of storage to use it.
The Foodi comes with a non-stick inner pot that lifts out to be cleaned in the dishwasher. It also comes with air frying racks and an air frying basket that allows air to circulate and air fry more effectively. The Ninja Foodi looks like the Instant Pot Duo Nova's less glossy cousin. With a shiny exterior and simple digital display, this doesn't look like a machine with an RRP of over $200.
Another very common complaint with the design is that the Ninja Foodi's air fry lid is non-removable. This lid is attached via a hinge, so if you want to use the pressure cooking lid you'll need to have the air fry lid skewing awkwardly to the side as it cooks.
Ninja Foodi review: How it performed
The Ninja Foodi has a variety of cooking functions for you to take advantage of, and comes with a leaflet containing a variety of recipes to help you make the adjustment. Cooking in a Ninja Foodi will take some getting used to, especially when adapting to recipes you've typically cooked on the cooktop or in the oven, so it's reassuring to have a chart with all the cooking demands you'll need for different types of food such as cuts of meat, pulses, and sauces. Once you've started "translating" your recipes, the transition becomes easier. The cooking modes in the Foodi are as follows:
- Slow cook
- Air crisp
The first four modes require the pressure lid, and the bottom three use the crisper lid. You select your desired mode on the LED display, from where you can adjust the temperature and time to your liking.
We enjoyed the pressure cooking functions the least of all the Ninja Foodi's modes. It takes some getting used to, and releasing pressure can be a little scary (and loud) at first. There's no denying that pressure cooking is a fast way to cook large cuts of meat or tough vegetables, but we took issue with this function when we cooked fries for the first time.
As per the Ninja recipe book, we chopped up our potato wedges and set them on to pressure cook for a few minutes. This was our first time using the pressure setting, so it surprised us to find out that it takes a very long time for the Foodi to pressurize. For this relatively simple recipe, it took over ten minutes to come to pressure. After the pressure cooking was done, the wedges came out mushy and overcooked - as if we had boiled them for far too long. Not only would it have taken us less time to par-boil our potatoes, this would also have given us control over the cooking process.
Leaving your pressurized cooker to take care of things can be a little scary, so it's best saved for meals that aren't likely to overcook, such as ribs or pulled pork. So, that's what we did, and we must confess that it works a lot better when you're attempting to achieve that meltingly soft, pull-apart meat texture.
For healthy home cooking, the best food steamer will help you achieve soft and tender fish, meat, vegetables, or even rice. We tried steaming vegetables in the Ninja Foodi by placing some broccoli in the basket and pouring a little water into the bottom of the Foodi. This worked well - in fact, we had no complaints. The only thing worth noting here is that smaller items such as green beans may fall through the cracks in your steaming rack or basket.
The sear/sauté function can be used individually to cook things like bacon or eggs, but because of the deep pot in the Ninja Foodi, this could prove a little hard to manage. We tested out this function when cooking some ingredients before turning them into a slow cooker soup, and another time when searing onions and peppers before adding our casserole ingredients. It works well, heating up very fast and frying off those component ingredients to add some extra flavor before you make a one-pot meal. Will it replace our frying pan? Probably not - it's a little bit fiddly for use on its own purely down to the dimensions of the pot.
After searing, we got right down to slow cooking. All we can say for the slow cooking function is that it worked exactly like a slow cooker. In fact, the Ninja Foodi has decidedly left our slow cooker out of a job. Its large capacity means we were able to make soup for the whole family using only one pot, which really is home cooking at its best.
One complaint we had with the slow cooking function is the timer. Many slow cookers with digital controls allow you to adjust the heat and timings depending on the degree, but our Ninja Foodi only let us choose a high heat or low heat, and you're also limited to either two or four hours on timings. We don't see why you can't adjust the timings in the same way you can adjust on other modes, which makes this feel like a rather rudimentary slow cooker function. Still, it definitely gets the job done.
Ah, the air crisp function. We love the air frying element of the Ninja Foodi. It truly sets it apart from other multi-cookers (that is, other than the Instant Pot Duo Crisp) and it really is good. After our traumatic pressure cooking experience, we learned to simply toss some potato wedges in a little oil and seasoning before putting them in the air crisper for 20 minutes, and it's given us amazing results every time. In fact, we've also used the air crisp function to make our own homemade fried chicken and even breaded fish, so it's definitely versatile. This is one of our favorite parts of the Ninja Foodi, and we definitely think it rivals the best air fryers out there.
The dimensions of the Ninja Foodi aren't best suited to baking or cooking. You can buy inserts such as loaf or bundt tins to make your Foodi more suited to baking, but they're not included with the purchase. We did make a cobbler in the base of the non-stick insert pot, which worked very well. The top was crisp and the fruit was soft but not overcooked.
One thing we saw a lot of when researching the Ninja Foodi was images of people cooking whole chickens inside it using the bake function, so we tried this too. Tried, that is, until we realized that this immense machine couldn't fit a family-size chicken. The chicken would technically have fitted into the Ninja Foodi if we had leaned it against the side of the basket, semi-upright. Although the Foodi is plenty large for most things, if you want to use it for large cuts of meat we would suggest buying its big brother, the Ninja Foodi XL.
Should you buy the Ninja Foodi?
This machine will transform the way you cook, and it will do it for the better. We did have a few quarrels with the recipes that come with the Ninja Foodi, and found that a trial and error approach eventually got us to a place where we understood how to convert our usual recipes to the Ninja way of cooking. Now we've got used to cooking with the Foodi, it's used on a daily basis. Usually, multiple times a day!
We think that despite the complaints we made in our Ninja Foodi review, it's still a capable multi-cooker that will readily replace a whole range of kitchen appliances. When you consider the huge list of features you'll get with your Ninja Foodi, the size will start to make more sense. It's larger than the average slow cooker, air fryer, or steamer, but it does all this and more in one machine. It also does so quietly enough that you can still go about your day in your kitchen diner.