The Ninja Foodi smokeless indoor grill is the best thing I have bought all year. But let me explain why: One of my biggest points of pride as a dad is that my two young sons love grilled meats. As long as it has grill-marks, my boys will tuck in to pretty much any pork, bratwurst, steak, chicken and fish I put on their plate. They might even eat grilled vegetables if I catch them on the right day.
This is the most powerful and flavorful indoor grill we've ever used.
The problem is that I live in an inclement area of Northeast Ohio where I’m not always thrilled to schlep outside to the grill. And that’s where the new Ninja Foodi grill comes in. It’s an indoor grill that ensures that my kids can get their grilled goods even if it’s 32 degrees with freezing rain outside. But most importantly its versatility beyond grilling makes it a family cooking machine pretty much ideal for households with kids — whether they like grilled foods or not.
At about a foot-and-a-half long and 14 inches wide, the Foodi grill is pretty compact for cramped kitchen spaces. And to be honest, when I first set it on my counter, I was a bit dubious that the 10 by 10-inch high-density grill grate would be big enough for my family’s grilled meat needs. But I found that it could cook four pork chops at a time without crowding. Considering there are four people at the table every night, that was pretty perfect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Ninja Foodi grill works by heating up the grill insert to a blistering 500 degrees. That hot grill plate combined with a convection system that circulates the air means food cooks quickly and comes off the grill nicely browned and crisp, complete with the grill marks that prove your work. This system of air and heat, along with the ability to control cooking temperature, also means that you can grill even if your food is frozen. That kind of convenience is great for busy families. I know that sometimes the planned meal falls through or time gets too make what was planned. Being able to dip into the freezer and grill without thawing is a big plus.
One thing I worried about before using the Foodi grill was that it would smoke my family out of the house. But smoke is mitigated by circulating air, a grease guard and a “cool air zone”. I’m not sure how it all works to keep the thing from pouring out smoke, but I did cook an increasingly greasy selection of meats, mostly without trouble. The one time I did get smoked out was when I neglected to clean the 6-quart inset before grilling a second batch of sausages. The smoke was overwhelming, but it was also due to user error. Every time I’ve used the recommended oil and started with a clean machine, smoke has never been an issue.
If the Foodi were just a grill, I would consider it a “nice to have” kitchen accessory for families. But the Foodi can also act as an air fryer, a dehydrator, a griddle, and a roaster. You can also use it to bake, though that task seems to be for more expert users. That versatility pushes the gadget across the line into “must have” territory.
After cooking on the Ninja Foodi grill, what thrills me is how friendly it is to kid’s foods. Chicken Dinos and fries cook up fast and crisp on the air crisp setting. It cranks out perfect grilled hot dogs and the griddle accessory can knock out some pancakes. Pop in the optional dehydration rack for some dried fruit snacks and you’ve got a pretty damn kid-centric kitchen cooker.
There are a couple of drawbacks: Though small, you do need to consider storage. If you don’t have any storage you’ll want to be prepared for the grill to live on your counter. But luckily it’s handsome enough that it won’t offend most people’s sensibilities.
Also, like the Instant Pot, the Ninja Foodi Grill does require some time to preheat before you can start cooking. That preheat time doesn’t really lengthen dinner prep too much, considering how quickly it grills. Stil, nobody likes to wait. I’ve learned to prep the ingredients during preheat time.
If you happen to have an Instant Pot in your home, then the Ninja Foodi Grill will be a welcome addition to your multicooker arsenal. And honestly, between the two, you may go weeks between turning on your stovetop or oven. And maybe that appeals to you. I know what appeals to me: The Ninja Foodi Grill is a kid’s food cooking machine — something I never knew I needed and now something I may not be able to live without.
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