By Jamie Kravitz, Digital Editor
The Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill is a top-rated kitchen gadget that the internet is obsessed with. But what makes this multi-use cooker stand out from other multi-cookers on the market? I tested each of its five features to find out for myself. (Full disclosure: I received a complimentary one to try.) Read on for my review of the Ninja Foodi Pro Grill's grill, air crisp, roast, bake and dehydrate settings, plus the pros and cons I found of the product as a whole.
What is the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill?
The Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill with Integrated Smart Probe and 4-Quart Air Fryer, which retails for $180-$220, is a multi-use kitchen appliance with five functions: Grill, Air Crisp, Roast, Bake and Dehydrate. This specific 5-in-1 feature is unique to the Ninja Foodi Pro Indoor Grill. While there are other multi-cookers and multipurpose air fryers on the market, none of them also contain an indoor grill feature like the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1.
What is included with the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill?
In addition to the main unit with removable splatter shield, the Ninja Foodi Pro Indoor Grill also comes with a removable grill grate, crisper basket, cooking pot and roasting rack, plus a cleaning brush and the integrated smart temperature probe. Everything but the main unit and temperature probe are dishwasher-safe. I do not have a dishwasher in my apartment and found it easy to clean everything by hand using a sponge and soapy water. I didn't have to soak or scrub hard at anything to clean off the accessories after cooking. Even hardened cheese from grilling cheeseburgers came off the nonstick coating right away.
How does the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill work?
Similar to other popular gadgets with multiple features, like the Instant Pot, I found there to be a bit of a learning curve with the Ninja Foodi Grill. As long as you read the instructions before cooking, the actual process is very straightforward, but it takes some trial and error to get the cooking times just right. To start, plug it in and press the power button to turn on, then follow the instructions for next steps depending on which feature you're using.
The large display is easy to read and the unit has separate up and down arrows on the left side to increase or decrease the temperature and on the right side to do the same for cook time. You can open the hood at any time to check on your food. Cooking is automatically paused when the hood is open.
In my opinion, the best part of the Ninja Foodi Pro Grill is that nothing comes out of it tasting bad. Even when things cooked a little too long, or when I myself made a mistake — like forgetting to season the chicken breast before grilling — the food was still enjoyable and took very little effort to make.
What are the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill's cooking functions?
Chicken Breast: On my first try, I planned to simply grill a chicken breast. I ordered groceries online due to the pandemic, and the standard chicken breasts were all out of stock (thanks, 2020), so I ended up with thin-sliced chicken breasts. In my eagerness to test my new gadget, I completely forgot to rub the chicken with oil and season before grilling. Like I said — read (and absorb) the directions first! I was worried the thin-cut chicken would come out dry or overcooked, but even without any oil it was surprisingly juicy.
Frozen Turkey Burger: After my first pass at using the Ninja's Grill function, I decided to grill a frozen turkey burger next. I added a slice of cheese in the last two minutes of cook time and was pleased with how nicely it melted around the burger. The inside of the burger stayed juicy, while the outside of the burger was crispy — but maybe too crispy. I followed the grill time on the turkey burger box and the result was a little too well done for my taste. Next time, I'll cook it for a couple minutes less.
Fresh Hamburgers: I also grilled fresh hamburger patties, which I hand-formed using 85% lean ground beef. I followed the "kickstarter recipe" for basic cheeseburgers from the recipe book that came with the Ninja Foodi Pro Grill. Unfortunately, the temperature probe came out of my hand-formed patties while cooking, but the finished burger still cooked nicely. My only complaint was that even though I followed the steps exactly for adding the cheese, it was not completely melted when the unit signified cooking was complete. I let the cheese melt for an extra minute or two, removed the burgers and put the buns in the Ninja. They came out a little burnt, but overall the taste wasn't too bad. As I've said, it seems like it takes a few tries to get cook times exactly right with the Ninja — even when following their recipes.
Sirloin Steak: Of course I had to test the grill feature on steak, so that was meal number four. Using the temperature probe, I set the "Temp iQ" to 130 degrees for medium rare. Out of all the meat I grilled, I had the best experience with the temperature probe in the steak. It came out of the thin-cut chicken breast and my hand-formed hamburger patty during cooking, but stayed in the steak fine while it cooked. I like my steak medium rare, so this result was absolutely perfect.
Some things to keep in mind: The grill does take about eight minutes to preheat, and the preheating noise is loud. For a fairly small machine, it emits a sound a little bit like an airplane getting ready for takeoff. Once the preheating is done, the Ninja grills your food very quickly. You really have to keep an eye on your meat and on the temperature display. Also, the indoor grill feature really is entirely smokeless!
I have friends and family members who rave about their air fryers, but I never had much interest in one. After using the Ninja Foodi Grill's air crisp feature, though, I get it. I used the air crisp feature to cook the fresh Brussels sprouts pictured above, as well as frozen French fries and frozen tater tots — and all three came out great.
I used no oil for the fries or the tots, and after preheating, it only took eight minutes to cook a big serving. For both the fries and the tots, I set the timer for four minutes, opened the hood and flipped using a large spatula, then closed the hood and let them crisp up for another four minutes. The fries and tots came out perfectly browned and crispy. Especially with the fries — I used frozen Ore Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food Fries — which did have an impressive, fast-food quality crunch, especially given the fact that they were cooked without any oil.
I was worried that the Brussels sprouts were too browned, but they tasted great. Just like with the Grill feature, the Air Crisp setting cooks much more quickly than a standard oven. While this is ideal for getting dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, I'd suggest erring on the side of caution and setting the cook time on the lower end to start. You can always open the lid, flip and add more time, but you can't go back once you've over-crisped your sides.
I tested the Ninja Foodi Pro Grill's Roast feature on these pork chops, and was impressed with how quickly they were done. This feature is definitely a major time-saver. The pork chops cooked up nicely and came out with a lightly browned crust on the outside. When I cut into them, they were juicy on the inside.
I'm not much of a baker, so I chose to keep it simple and make a standard box mix of fudgy brownies to test the Ninja Foodi Pro Grill's Bake feature. You can purchase a multi-purpose round cake pan for the Ninja, which is sold separately, use your own cake pan or bake directly in the Ninja's removable cooking pot. I chose the third option, which worked out fine. I coated the bottom of the pot with cooking spray before pouring in the brownie mix so they wouldn't stick.
My kitchen was quickly filled with the delicious, chocolatey aroma of baking brownies, just like when baking in the oven. I followed the instructions in the Ninja Owner's Guide and reduced the oven temperature on the box mix by 25°F. Based on my experience with the other Ninja settings, I did set the cook time for a shorter amount than what the box listed. When the timer went off, I checked on the brownies and could see that they still needed more time, so I ended up baking them for the full 33 minutes that the box called for.
A taste test of the brownies conducted by both me and a friend deemed them delicious. The Ninja-baked brownies were chewy and fudgy on the inside, with a nice flaky top.
Full disclosure, I've never dehydrated anything before, so I wasn't totally sure what to expect from the Ninja's Dehydrate feature. I decided to test it out with an unopened bag of pineapple chunks I had in my freezer. I removed the ice crystals and patted the pieces of fruit gently with a paper towel, then spread them out according to the instructions.
The dehydrating fruit gave my kitchen a pleasant aroma, though it was not as strong as when I was baking brownies. Eight hours later, the dehydrated pineapple was done. I was worried the pieces might stick to the bottom of the pan, but they all came out easily with a silicone spatula.
The verdict? I thoroughly enjoyed the chewy, sticky treats. They made for a very flavorful snack, and the pineapple managed to be both sugary sweet and tart at the same time. I'll definitely try this feature again with different kinds of fresh and frozen fruit. I plan to dehydrate mango next.
What are some pros and cons of the Ninja Foodi Pro 5-in-1 Indoor Grill?
- Beginner cooks can make food that tastes great, with few ingredients and not much work involved.
- Amateur cooks can experience features they might not necessarily be able to try without having to buy multiple kitchen gadgets.
- All parts are easy to remove, clean and reassemble.
- Air-fried foods come out crispy even without any oil.
- Grills indoors without any smoke.
- Takes some trial and error to get cooking times right.
- Everything cooks very quickly, so you need to keep an eye on the display and open the lid of the Ninja regularly to check on your food.
- The "grill" marks don't have the traditional look and you have to press down on the meat to really make them show.
- The temperature probe doesn't always stay in the meat, which can lead to an inaccurate read.
The Bottom Line
I am a novice cook living in a small space without a family to feed. Keeping that in mind, I very much enjoyed grilling, roasting and air-frying a main course and sides in under 30 minutes, without having to turn on the oven or the stove at all. It was fun to experiment with baking dessert and dehydrating snacks, again without having to touch the oven. I was cooking for one to two people and had room left in the Ninja, but if you're looking to feed more than a few people you'll have to cook in batches.
The Ninja itself is boxy, but it didn't take up a huge amount of counter space in my apartment — especially when you take into account the fact that I've been using it daily.
My only real critique is that because the gadget is so quick and powerful, it's really easy to overcook or burn your food. I imagine that with more practice, though, I'll get the hang of cook times.