You’ll need to learn to love your Ninja foodi, because it really has to stay on a worktop to ensure you get the most out of it. Plus, at a touch more than 10kg, it’s definitely not practical to be lugging it out of a cupboard every time you fancy a batch of chips. It does take up quite a lot of room when it is out on display, which is worth considering if you have a small kitchen or limited worktop space. We also found it became quite hot underneath during use, so be sure it’s on a heatproof surface to prevent any damage.
Luckily, it looks as stylish as an air fryer can, with appealing curved lines, a sleek black and silver exterior, a lift-up lid and a touch-screen display along the bottom. It’s very easy to wipe down to keep clean and more than one visitor admired it in our home, though all assumed it was an indoor pizza oven.
It doesn’t come with masses of accessories you’ll need to find a home for either – a definite plus in our book. Apart from the unit itself, which has a removable splatter guard, the box includes a 3.8l cooking pot, a 3.8l crisper basket and a 740cm² grill plate, which are all ceramic-coated and stack together, though all can simply be kept on the machine itself when not in use. It also comes with a cleaning brush with scraper, an instruction booklet and recipe guide to get you started and a digital cooking probe that can be stored in the side of the machine. The removable parts can all be cleaned in the dishwasher but we found it easier to quickly wash by hand, using the scraper on any sauces or stubborn marks. We found baked-on grease was easier to shift from the grill plate if we soaked it in water for a while first.
While it’s handy to keep the instruction book close by (initially, at least), this appliance is so easy to use, we reckon we could have figured it out without any guidance at all. The touch screen controls are a doddle to operate and even include a progress bar to monitor preheating, with clear on-screen instructions when it’s time to add or remove food for the perfect results. It’s basically a matter of selecting the cooking function you want, changing the time and temperature from the default setting, if desired, then pressing start. simple.
The probe is a little more complicated to operate but straightforward once you get the hang of inserting it into the thickest part of the meat or fish you’re cooking. The instructions share detailed explanations of how this should be done for everything from steaks to a whole chicken, to ensure it works correctly. It’s possible to select how you want meat cooked, from rare to well done, and the unit then takes care of everything else. We were skeptical it really could manage a medium-rare steak – something many restaurants don’t do well – but ours turned out perfectly. Bear in mind the meat might look a little under-done when it first comes out from the grill, but the screen will then instruct you to let it rest for up to five minutes to complete the cooking process.
We were really impressed by the grill overall too. Cyclonic grilling technology circulates air rapidly around the food on a high-density grill plate, which gives food a delicious chargrilled taste a normal grill just can’t replicate – it’s closer to a barbeque flavour. However, it is recommended to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable or coconut oil, rather than olive oil, to minimize smoke.
The air fryer is equally top notch. Chips especially were golden brown and delicious and cooked much quicker than a normal batch in the oven. However, it took a couple of attempts to get them exactly as we prefer them and it is necessary to shake ingredients regularly while cooking, for the best results. The air fryer was also particularly good at cooking frozen food, including onion rings and fish fingers – a godsend on a busy weeknight.
Though we didn’t expect to be as impressed by the roast and bake functions, they don’t let this appliance down. Huge cakes or joints of meat will still require a traditional oven but our Ninja foodi turned out a fantastic roast chicken and a tray of chocolate chip cookies that got the thumbs up from our discerning junior tasters. We especially loved the fact we didn’t need to heat the entire oven to cook these, though if you’re baking more than one batch, it would work out quicker to use the oven and cook in one go, instead of running this machine twice. Particularly large families might find it’s not quite big enough for their needs either, as it only comfortably cooks between four and six portions of food at any one time.
We were also impressed by the included recipe book, which would really encourage less-confident chefs to experiment in the kitchen. Recipes are included for marinades, spice rubs and dipping sauces, and we also rustled up grilled sirloin steak with asparagus – cooking the vegetables while the meat was resting. The recipe for Cajun chicken-and-pepper kebabs has already become a firm family favourite, while a full breakfast of four rashers of bacon, eight sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms cooked in a little over 10 minutes. The grill even told us when to flip the sausages. It’s the closest we’ll ever get to having our own private chef.