Ninja Foodi Grill
- Multiplie functions
- Air Fried goodness
- Amazing grilled taste
- Well built
- Easy to clean
- Next to no smoke
- Makes a little noise
- Small amount of experimentation required to achieve perfection
I love a good kitchen gadget, but in a compact townhouse, any new gadget must earn its place. It must be able to do something faster, easier, or just plain better than the bog-standard appliances on hand. Today it is the Ninja Foodi Grill’s turn to try and earn some coveted counter-top real-estate.
Disclosure: Ninja provided Blog of Dad with the Ninja Foodi Grill free of charge, for the purpose of review and ongoing use. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own views, based on my experiences with the Ninja Foodi Grill. For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.
Ninja Foodi Grill First Impressions
The Ninja Foodi Grill is an impressive-looking appliance. It is large, which is necessary for a contraption that can make enough food to feed a family of four, but it does not overly dominate the kitchen. It takes up about as much space as the Philips All-In-One Cooker. The Foodi Grill is also reasonably heavy. For me, this is a positive sign – it fills me with confidence that I am working with a machine that is up to the task.
Inside the box is:
- The main unit
- A non-stick, ceramic-coated grill grate
- A 3.7 L non-stick, ceramic coated crisper basket
- A 5.6 L non-stick, ceramic coated cooking pot
- A cleaning brush
- A recipe book/cooking time guide
- A splatter shield
- Instruction booklet
The included kit is the first clue as to the versatility of the Ninja Foodi Grill. It caught my attention when I went looking for an air fryer, and air frying is certainly one of the Foodi’s strong points. But it is not even the main event! As the name suggests, the Ninja Foodi Grill is an indoor, counter-top grilling gamechanger… as long as it does what it says.
While, for my culinary purposes, the air frying and indoor grilling functions are of most interest, it must be noted that the Ninja Foodi Grill also comes with roast, bake and dehydrate functions. In my book these are secondary functions, but they surely make the Foodi Grill one of the most versatile appliances around – it has definitely scored points in its bid for my counter-top.
The Main Unit
The main unit has a premium look and feel. The materials are a combination of stainless steel and hard black plastic, and it feels sturdy and well-made. The Ninja Foodi Grill is heavy, but not too cumbersome to move around or stow away in a cupboard when not in use. The weight contributes to the overall feel of a robust product made to work.
The lid glides effortlessly up and down when opening and closing. There is also a satisfying click sound about halfway through the opening and closing movements. It is surprising how little things like a well-designed lid mechanism can put a smile on my face, but it does!
The front control panel is well designed and easy to understand. The display is simple and clear, and the five different functions each have a dedicated button. Temperature adjustments and the timer are controlled through simple up and down arrows. Each button makes a satisfying click sound, which is reassuring.
The Grill Grate
Grilling is the main event when it comes to the Ninja Foodi Grill. Because of this, I would expect the grill plate to be a thing of substance and it doesn’t disappoint. I’m not sure what material the grill grate is made out of because of the non-stick ceramic coating, but it has a substantial heft to it. According to the manual, preheating is the key to getting the most out of the grill grate. Deep channels allow for fat to easily run off , and the circular pattern of the grill combined with preheating should make for some interesting grill marks!
The Crisper Basket
The crisper basket has the same ceramic coating as the grill. It is a substantial size – bigger than I was expecting – and it should be able to easily cater for my family of four. The crisper basket is much lighter than the grill, as I would expect. It slots neatly into the cooking pot, which must also be used when air frying.
The Ninja Foodi Grill – Air Frying
For me, this is the main reason we are here and reviewing the Ninja Foodi Grill. Air frying is all the rage right now, and for good reason! It uses far less oil (or even no oil!) while still producing a similar, crispy and delicious result! What’s not to like?
Naturally, my first attempt at using the Ninja Foodi Grill was to make homemade fries. I tried both regular potato and sweet potato, because one cannot have too much fried potato goodness.
The results were not perfect, but for a first attempt they were extremely pleasing. The sweet potato chips were a massive hit with the 1 year old (I enjoyed them too) and they were dead-simple. I peeled a sweet potato, cut thin (approximately 1cm) chips, sprinkled on some paprika and a small drizzle of vegetable oil, and threw them into the Foodi Grill’s preheated crisper basket.
There were too many chips for a single layer, but that didn’t matter. Every few minutes I opened the Foodi Grill and gave everything a quick shake. After about 15 minutes I had air fried sweet potato chips that were extremely moreish when paired with a garlic aioli. They were soft on the inside and reasonably firm on the outside. I plan to do a little fine-tuning to perfect the outer crispiness, but overall they were a great success.
Similarly, the potato fries were easy to prepare and cook in the air fryer. After a bit of research I decided to soak the peeled and cut potato chips in water for 15 minutes prior to oiling and cooking. While this is a recommended step in many recipes, it comes with a big caveat – make sure the chips are fully dried prior to air frying. I tried to dry mine fully, but I was a bit pressed for time and I’ll admit that I rushed this step. As a result, I don’t think my fries were as dry as they could have been.
Did this ruin the meal? No. The end result was delicious and far better than any homemade chip/fry that I had ever made before. Can I do better? Yes! I am now a man on a mission to perfect the air-fried chip! (More on this in Friday Fakeaway, below).
My second attempt at air frying was a slightly more ambitious pork katsu. Everyone in our house is a big fan of Japanese food, so the (traditionally deep-fried) goodness of a katsu was high on the to-do list. After a fair bit of research I settled on a twice-fried method. I even made my own panko breadcrumbs to try and hit that authentic katsu texture.
I rate this one a great success for a first attempt. I air fried my katsu in two batches for ten minutes each (turning once after five minutes) at 200 C. Then I fried them again for 11 minutes (turning once) each at 170 C. My trusty meat thermometer told me that I had hit the perfect temperature for pork by the end of the second air fry and the result was superb! I will continue to tweak this a little bit, probably by turning down the temperature on the first run and possibly extending the cooking time. Want to know more? Check out my Prok Katsu with Tonkatsu sauce recipe!
The Ninja Foodi Grill – Grilling
Indoor grilling is the main game of the Ninja Foodi Grill (the clue is in the name). Whilst I initially went looking for an air fryer, it was the indoor grilling function that really caught my eye. However, I am also wary of the Jack of all trades, master of none effect. Sometimes when products try to do everything, they end up doing nothing well.
The hefty grill grate gave me good reason to hope that the Foodi Grill meant business. The (highly recommended) preheating function also made me feel like the Ninja Foodi Grill could pull of a reasonably authentic barbeque experience.
The burger tasted better…
To test the grill function I went with homemade burger patties. I kept it simple, as I wanted to really see what the Ninja Foodi Grill was capable of – a 100% minced beef patty, hand pressed. I didn’t add any salt or pepper, just pure meat Vs hot grill. Any flavour imparted into the patty would be thanks to that most wonderful of chemistry – the Maillard reaction.
The Ninja Foodi Grill comes with a cookbook, and at the back of that cookbook is a quick guide to using the functions with the most popular types of food. This is great, as it takes much of the guesswork out of cooking things for the first time. Naturally, beef burger patties make the list (right above filet mignon). The guide states to grill on high for 4-6 minutes, and this setting worked extremely well with my burgers.
The magic of the preheating and the heavy grill grate was immediately on show, as the burgers began to sizzle the moment they hit the grate. The smell was incredible and it let me know straight away that I was onto a very good thing. The grill grate is large enough to fit four large burger patties at a time.
The result was outstanding! The all-beef patties emerged fully cooked, still moist and with satisfying char marks. The taste was fantastic, with the Maillard reaction triggered by the pre-heated grill plate producing the complex caramelized flavours. A controlled sprinkle of salt and pepper prior to cooking would no-doubt take this flavour to the next level, but I cook to suit the dietary needs of a 1 year old and added salt is an absolute no. To be frank, reducing added salt is way better for my health too and, thanks to the delicious flavour of the grilled patty, I didn’t miss it.
I couldn’t review an indoor grill without testing a barbeque classic, the good old Aussie lamb chop!
I had a packet of forequarter chops in the freezer, which I placed in the fridge to defrost overnight. Unfortunately, my fridge is a little too capable when it comes to keeping things cool, because by dinner time, they were still partially frozen.
It turns out that this is absolutely not a problem for the Ninja Foodi Grill. In fact, I could have left them in the freezer right up until it was time to cook.
The handy manual provides guidance for grilling from frozen, which is essentially to reduce the heat and cook for longer. Even though my chops were partially defrosted, I took the food-safe path and followed the cooking from frozen guidelines.
As with the burgers, the process was extremely simple and the result was delicious!
I had four large chops to cook, which was more than could fit in the Foodi Grill. It would have squeezed three in, but I opted for two-at a time batch cooking. There was surprisingly little in the way of smoke, although during the cooking of the second batch my smoke alarm did trigger, despite there being no visible smoke. Ninja does advise to wipe down the grill and cooking pot if batch cooking more then two lots, as the fat that collects in the bottom tray continues to cook (and then burn) with each new batch. It certainly wasn’t a big deal for me. My hypervigilant smoke detector often triggers at the slightest sign of food being cooked and traditional methods of indoor-cooking lamb chops produce much more visible smoke.
The Ninja Foodi Grill – Dehydrating
Dehydrating is one of those things that I didn’t know I needed in my life until I had it. To be honest, I still don’t need it in my life. BUT, it is fun to have and a potential way of easily making healthy and delicious snacks for the kids.
It does take a long time to dehydrate food, but it isn’t time consuming because you don’t actually have to do anything while the Ninja Foodi Grill does all the hard work. All I had to do over seven hours of apple drying was lift the lid every now and then and sample a not-quite-fully-dehydrated-but-still-tasty piece of apple.
The preparation for dehydrated apple chips was very easy (slice an apple, soak in a little lemon juice and water to stop discolouration, shake dry, place in Foodi Grill) and the end result is very satisfying. The dehydrated apple is packed full of flavour and both kids enjoy eating them at snack time (I do too).
I have already begun investigating other fruits and herbs/spices to dehydrate. I believe this will become a particularly useful function for those times when we find ourselves with an abundance of a particular vegetable product that has been purchased on special.
The Ninja Foodi Grill – Cleaning
I hate cleaning the kitchen. It is my least favourite thing about cooking and something I dread after cooking up a storm. Naturally, the dishwasher helps, but it can’t do everything.
Except, with the Ninja Foodi Grill, it can do most things! All of the internal components are dishwasher safe, which very much appeals to me!
The big surprise though, is how easy the components are to clean by hand. The non-stick surface is effective, and even after double air-frying my pork katsu, the seemingly baked on batter just wiped right off. I hand-washed the crisper basket, cooking pot and splatter shield in a matter of seconds..
After cooking the lamb chops, I left everything (except the Foodi Grill base) to soak in the sink for an hour while I got the kids ready for bed. When I returned, all I had to do was a quick wipe down in some fresh hot, soapy water and a rinse. Too easy!
The Ninja Foodi Grill – Cons
Whenever I write reviews, I attempt to provide an honest and balanced insight into the performance of the product. This is important as it is rare to find a perfect product. With the Ninja Foodi Grill, there are two things to consider when purchasing.
Firstly, it was louder than I expected. I don’t know why I assumed a device like this would not omit any noise and on reflection, of course an indoor grill and air fryer that is able to pull off the culinary delights of the Foodi Grill would require a robust method of air circulation. The noise is not overwhelming and I could still easily hold conversations in the kitchen while the Foodi Grill did its thing, just be aware that it does make some noise.
Secondly, there is a minor learning curve. Don’t expect to produce a perfect result on the first attempt. If your experience is anything like mine, your meals will be very, very good right from the start, but there will be room for improvement. For me, this was no big deal. I like the challenge of setting the bar high and trying to clear it on each subsequent attempt, but for others there could be some initial frustration. That being said, it is one of the easiest cooking appliances to get the hang of and the throughout my testing I have found the Foodi Grill to be very consistent. My advice is to stick with it, do a bit of research about perfecting your favourite foods and reap the delicious rewards! (see Friday Fakeaway below).
STOP THE PRESS!
I was just about to publish this review of the Ninja Foodi Grill, but I had to include my latest attempt at air-fried goodness. Why? Because it was amazing and exactly the result that I was hoping for when I first began dreaming of air fryer greatness.
Those who know me know that a certain, readily available take-away fried chicken is my one weakness. Okay, fine… It’s one of my many weaknesses. Anyway, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it. I love it, but I suspect that it isn’t very good for me…
Recently I had read a few articles claiming that a particularly famous secret herbs and spices mix had been revealed, which naturally sparked the notion that I should perhaps, possibly, definitely try and replicate it for myself.
I made a few minor modifications, because three different types of salt plus MSG seemed like a lot. Obviously that had some impact on the taste of the chicken so it wasn’t an exact replica, but it was sensational and a worthy replacement.
The result that I achieved with the chips was just as good (if not better). In the interests of air fried chip perfection, I had been conducting some research. My goal – chips that were crispy and a light golden colour on the outside, while soft and fluffy on the inside.
I abandoned the shoestring method of my first attempt and instead opted for a thicker cut. This time I soaked the cut potatoes for about an hour, before par-boiling for four minutes (place in a pot covered in fresh, cold water. 4 minutes from time water reaches boiling). I then drained the chips well in a colander and set aside to stream dry (while I air fried the chicken). I shook the colander a few times to rotate the chips and remove as much moisture as possible.
After that it was a light coat in a small amount of vegetable oil, then into the Ninja Foodi Grill on air fry mode for about 20 minutes at 200 C.
The result? Air-fried perfection. Soft and fluffy, crispy-golden perfection. LOOK AT IT!
The Ninja Foodi Grill isn’t going to replace the four-burner barbeque for large family gatherings, but it’s capacity is easily suitable for feeding our family of four (probably more – definitely more by batch cooking). For a countertop appliance, I was surprised by how much it is actually capable of holding.
With consistently delicious results from even my first attempts at air frying and grilling alone, the Ninja Foodi Grill is worth the asking price. Throw in the added features of dehydrating, baking and roasting, (not too mention the extremely easy cleaning) and you have a pretty amazing kitchen appliance. For me, the result of my Friday Fakeaway sealed the deal. The Ninja Foodi Grill has well-and-truly earnt its spot on my countertop. To get the most out of your Ninja Foodi Grill, do the research, perfect your timing and heat settings and reap wonderful, delicious and relatively healthy rewards!
I’d give it six stars if I could.