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Is the Ninja Foodi worth buying?

Ninja Foodi
(Image credit: Ninja)

I’ve been a fan of Alton Brown for more than a decade for his approach to food that’s equal parts science, history and good ole’ common sense. As such, I tend to take his rules for cooking to heart, especially his disdain for unitools. You know, those one-use gadgets that can only do one thing really well and typically end up gathering dust somewhere in a far-flung corner of a kitchen drawer or cabinet. 

That’s why I was initially skeptical of the Ninja Foodi. It’s large, has an equally big attachment and seemed like a step down from an Instant Pot. But after owning one for almost a year, I can confidently say it’s been a great addition to my kitchen repertoire, and earns its reputation as one of the best air fryers you can buy.

(Image credit: Future)

The Bottom Line:  The Ninja Foodi is a kitchen multitasker that's as big on features as it is in size. Not only can it slow cook, sear and saute, it also functions as a pressure cooker and air fryer, complete with swappable lids.

Pros: This ain't no one-trick pony. The Ninja Foodi can prepare a variety of foods faster than conventional means thanks to its pressure cooker functionality. And when you're done, you can crisp things up with the built-in air fryer. 

Cons: The 6.5-quart Foodi is huge. At 25 pounds, the 14.2 x 16.8 x 13.1-inch device takes up major space on my relatively small New York City-apartment kitchen counter. It’s so big, I store it on an upper cabinet when it’s not in use, which is a pain, because I find myself climbing up and down my ladder fairly often to retrieve it.

My other beef is that it can be a bit difficult to clean the air fryer lid. You’ll definitely want of those small flexible brushes to get those hard-to-reach places between the grate and the actual lid.

(Image credit: Ninja)

Ninja Foodi: Everything you need to know

At its core, the Foodi is a pressure cooker, which means it uses trapped steam, the increased atmospheric pressure inside the pot and the cooking liquid to cut cooking time significantly. In fact, pressure cookers typically cook foods about 30% faster than conventional methods of cooking such as steaming, braising or broiling. Although Ninja claims the Foodi gets the job done 70% faster. 

That means that you can get falling off-the-bone pulled pork in about 1.15 hours compared to the 3-4 hours you’d have to wait for that mouth-watering goodness in a regular crockpot (which I also own). I’ve also done delicious short ribs in an hour, essentially allowing me to eat approximately two hours after I come from work counting prep work. 

And while the pressure cooking component of the Foodi is great, marvelous even, the multicooker has a few more tricks up its sleeve such as the ability to sear and saute. And yes, if you like to do things the old-fashioned way, the Foodi even functions as a top-notch slow cooker. But my favorite function by far is the air fryer feature the company calls Tendercrisp. 

Air frying has become all the rage for people like me who still love the taste of fried foods, but don’t want the guilt and mess of all that leftover oil. Is it completely oil free? No, but using 3/4 cups of canola oil to fry chicken is a lot healthier than the cast iron skillet full of oil I usually use. It’s also cleaner. 

The Foodi definitely comes in handy when it’s a wings and things night, but the air fryer really makes a difference when used in conjunction with the pressure cooker. After using the pressure cooker to cook a 5-pound chicken, I switch over to the air fryer to get the skin nice and crispy. It can be a bit of a hassle switching between the pressure cooker lid and the air fryer lid, but it’s worth the 30 seconds of struggle. 

So I went through most of the pros of the Foodi, now here are some of the cons. The 6.5-quart Foodi is huge. At 25 pounds, the 14.2 x 16.8 x 13.1-inch device takes up major space on my relatively small New York City-apartment kitchen counter. It’s so big, I store it on an upper cabinet when it’s not in use, which is a pain, because I find myself climbing up and down my ladder fairly often to retrieve it. 

My other beef is that it can be a bit difficult to clean the air fryer lid. You’ll definitely want of those small flexible brushes to get those hard-to-reach places between the grate and the actual lid.

Bottom line

I've owned the Ninja Foodi for awhile now and I'm still getting plenty of use out of it. The pressure cooker saves me a lot of time without sacrificing what matters most - taste. And I don't feel as guilty frying up a batch of fried things since I'm using less than half of the oil as usual. Yes, it's huge as kitchen appliances go, but if you have the storage space, the Ninja Foodi should definitely be a part of your kitchen menagerie.