Outdoor grill covered in snow? No problem. The Ninja Foodi Grill lets you make great grilled food inside. And it doesn’t stop with grilling. You can also air fry, roast, bake, and dehydrate food. But the Foodi Grill is best at doing its namesake—grilling.
It Slices, It Dices…Whoops, Wrong Machine
I don’t like to cook. But I most certainly do like to eat. So I’m always looking for an easier way to prepare food. I’m not alone in this pursuit—just look at how popular the Instant Pot and its clones have become. But the Instant Pot is, at its core, just a fancy pressure cooker.
I spend a good part of the year making food on the gas grill out on my deck. But living in the Northeast, grilling outdoors isn’t always practical. In fact, as I write this, there’s a couple of inches of snow on the gas grill and the deck.
That’s where the Ninja Foodi Grill comes in. If you watch the infomercial, it seems like there’s nothing food-related this gadget can’t do. While the reality is a bit more limiting, the Foodi Grill is a multipurpose cooking instrument that lets you cook a wide variety of foods on your countertop, though, in my testing, some came out better than others.
It’s In There
The Ninja Foodi Grill comes in two models. The $199 model I tested has a grill plate, crisper basket, and food basket in which you can roast and bake. For another $100, you can get the model that has a temperature probe, so you can set the internal temperature of the food you’re cooking rather than the time. That model also includes a rack, baking pan, and skewers. All that is nice, but I’m not sure I’d want to spend $300 just to get the extras.
The Foodi Grill comes with a small instruction book and an equally small book of recipes. It gives cooking times for different kinds of meat and seafood. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide any real guidance for roasting, which usually involves using a grate (not included) that lifts the food off of the surface of the cooking basket. Ninja sent me a grate for testing, and while it is included with the more expensive model, it’s also available for purchase separately. You can also get griddle, baking pan, and skewer add-ons.
In my testing, I used the grill, air fryer, and roast features. In all modes, including the dehydrator mode, cooking is accomplished by circulating very hot air, similar to a convection oven. The temperature can be set as high as 550 degrees, which is hotter than most oven/broilers.
The air crisp function works pretty much the same as a dedicated air fryer. The directions tell you to add a small amount of oil, set the Foodi Grill on “Air Crisp,” the temperature on 350 degrees, and the time on 20-30 minutes. Using the Foodi Grill’s Air Crisp mode isn’t going to save you much time if any. But it does produce excellent “fried” food like french fries and frozen chicken tenders.
But the Foodi Grill is a real champ when it comes to performing its namesake: grilling. In my testing, I grilled steak, pork chops, and chicken, fried frozen french fries, and roasted several eye rounds of beef and small pork loin roasts. Except for the roasts, everything came out exceptionally good (more on this later).
Cooking and Cleaning: Easy Peasy
Actually, cooking requires that you preheat the grill, which takes about eight minutes. Much of my testing (and eating!) involved grilling boneless 1-3/4 inch thick NY Strip steaks. The directions tell you to lightly coat the food with oil to enhance searing. The type of oil you use for this is important—it needs to have a high smoking point. My first attempt was using a light coating of peanut oil. While there wasn’t enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm, there was a noticeable amount.
Next time out, I brushed on a light coating of generic vegetable oil and sprinkled on some Montreal Steak Seasoning. I set the Grill Control on High (500 degrees), and let the grill preheat for eight minutes, setting the timer for an additional eight minutes which starts when the grill has preheated.
An “Add Food” message is displayed on the control panel when the grill has preheated. Opening up the lid and placing the steak on the grill started the timer. After four minutes, I opened the lid and turned the steak, and after an additional four minutes, the steak was ready. And though the grill marks are semi-circular, they were there, just like on my outdoor grill.
The result was a perfectly done medium-rare steak. Delicious! If you like your food a bit less straight-from-the-cow like I do, another two minutes or so will give you medium or even medium-well. Plan on having to zero in on the time until you get a better feel for how long a particular cut, thickness, and piece of meat or fish will take. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to wait for the food to defrost—just add another few minutes to the cooking time.
Air frying worked as advertised, taking about the same amount of time (20-25 minutes) at 350 degrees as would take in the oven, though the fries came out nice and crispy. I can’t say the same about the roasts.
Since the Foodi Grill uses convection circulation of hot air to cook. I estimated that it would take about the same amount of time to prepare in the Foodi as in my tabletop convection oven. After ruining several eye round roasts and a couple of pork loin roasts, I gave up—they were either too rare or overcooked, with seemingly no middle ground. Too rare was easy to fix—I just put the roast back in for a few minutes more. Too well done, though, is impossible to fix. For roasting beef, chicken, and pork, I’ll stick to my Oster countertop convection oven.
When you’re done cooking, cleaning up is easy. The cook basket and grill are coated in non-stick ceramic, and a small plastic brush is included to let you scrub off any food that does happen to stick. I also used the brush to scrub the splatter shield. But most of the time, I waited until the grill cooled off a bit, and simply put all three components in the sink, squirted some dish detergent into the basket, filled it with water, and let all three pieces soak for an hour or two. All the parts are also dishwasher safe, which did an excellent job of getting any remaining grease from the surface.
But It’s Not Perfect
As much as I liked the Ninja Foodi Grill, it’s not perfect. It’s large and heavy, and I don’t have room for it to sit permanently on my kitchen counter—I have to store it elsewhere and move it when I want to use it. And if you don’t use one of the recommended oils, expect to see some smoke in your kitchen. Even if you do use one of the oils that Ninja recommends, there’s still a small amount of smoke produced with most foods.
I was also less than impressed with some of the other cooking modes. I don’t dehydrate food, but if you find it useful, know that you’ll need the optional food rack, which isn’t included with this model. Nor is the optional baking pan. Both of these come with the more expensive model, which might be worth looking into if you want the additional accessories and the internal temperature thermometer.
Finally, I also had only modest luck using the Foodi Grill to roast. There’s no guidance on how to set the controls for different types of roasts, and my beef, pork, and chicken roasts all came out either too rare or overdone. Better instructions would have saved me some less-than-perfect meals.
But when it comes to grilling, whether steak, pork chops, or chicken breasts, the Foodi Grill is a champ. And if you enjoy grilled food as much as I do, and are really annoyed when you can’t use the outdoor grill, you’ll love the convenience of being able to get delicious grilled food from your kitchen counter. For that reason alone, I think you’ll love having the Foodi Grill, even if all you use it for is grilling.
Here’s What We Like
- Multi-purpose food prep
- Leaves grill marks like an outdoor grill
- Adjustable heat levels for different kinds of food
- Easy to clean
- No need to defrost food before grilling
And What We Don't
- Expensive for what it is
- Wrong oil might produce smoke
- Large, heavy, and bulky---may be too big for small kitchens