The Ninja Foodi bills itself as a “pressure cooker that crisps.” It’s designed to do anything a multicooker or an air fryer can do: steam, slow-cook, sear, sauté, dehydrate, bake, roast, broil, air-fry, and pressure-cook food. Since we love both our winning multicooker, the Zavor LUX LCD 8 QT Multicooker, and our winning air fryer, the Philips TurboStar Airfryer, Avance Digital, we were curious to see if the Ninja Foodi, which costs about $200, lived up to its claims of combining the functions of both appliances.
The Foodi’s shape and design are unique. Resembling a squat toy rocket ship, the machine is a little taller, wider, and heavier than our favorite multicooker and air fryer (the Foodi weighs more than 20 pounds, whereas our favorite multicooker and air fryer each weigh about 13 pounds). The Foodi comes with a nonstick insert for pressure cooking and slow cooking and a removable basket for air frying. It is also equipped with two lids: one for pressure cooking and one for air frying.
To see how the Foodi performed as a pressure cooker, we made white rice according to the manufacturer’s instructions and Easy Beef Stew from Multicooker Perfection, which calls for sautéing onions before pressure-cooking beef, carrots, and potatoes in 2 cups of broth. On the plus side, the Foodi was intuitive to program and it produced perfectly fine white rice. However, we ran into problems while trying to make the beef stew.
A small amount of liquid, typically about ½ cup, is added to most multicookers and electric pressure cookers before cooking to prevent scorching and to ensure that the machine reaches proper pressurization. We consulted the Ninja Foodi user manual and confirmed that this machine also calls for ½ cup of liquid when using the pressure-cooker function. But even when we poured 2 cups of broth into the cooking pot for our stew, one copy of the Foodi flashed an error message after the machine had come up to pressure, and stopped cooking. We then released the pressure, added more liquid, and restarted the pressure-cooking process. The sudden temperature fluctuation and prolonged cooking time resulted in mushy, overcooked carrots and potatoes. The added liquid also gave us a thin stew. The same error message occurred in later pressure-cooking tests. However, a second copy of the machine did not flash this error message when we repeated the pressure-cooking tests.
Making the same beef stew using the Foodi’s slow-cooker function proved more challenging. After 8 hours of cooking on low (per our recipe), the beef was fine, just not as juicy and tender as the beef made using the slow-cooker function of our favorite multicooker. To understand why, we heated precisely 5 pounds of water in the Foodi on the low slow-cooker setting and tracked the temperature for 5 hours. We then compared the results to the results of the same test performed in the Zavor multicooker. In the Foodi, the water reached a maximum temperature of only 194.2 degrees—about 7 degrees lower than the maximum temperature of the water in the Zavor. Plus, it took nearly 3 hours for the water in the Foodi to reach its maximum temperature, and the temperature remained the same for about an hour as the machine was initially heating. By comparison, the water in the Zavor reached its maximum temperature of 200.9 degrees less than 30 minutes into the cooking cycle and stayed there for the remaining 7 hours. This drastic difference in temperature over time explains why the beef cooked in the Foodi wasn’t as tender as the beef cooked in the Zavor.
Although the Foodi couldn’t match the performance of our favorite multicooker, we still wanted to test if it could air-fry effectively. We prepared store-bought frozen French fries and made the Chicken Parmesan and Homemade French Fries recipes from Air Fryer Perfection in the Foodi. Then we compared the results to samples of the same foods cooked in our winning air fryer. The store-bought French fries prepared in the Foodi emerged golden brown all over, and tasters said they couldn’t tell the difference between samples heated in either machine. The homemade fries and chicken both cooked a little bit faster in the Foodi than our recipes called for, and they both had a few overbrowned spots, but ultimately both recipes were fully cooked and crispy—on par with the food produced in our favorite air fryer.
That said, we had a few safety concerns with the design of the Foodi’s air-frying apparatus. The heating element for the Foodi’s air fryer is built into the base of its lid, meaning it’s completely exposed when the lid is open. When we tested air fryers, we found that models with flip tops and exposed heating elements required extra care and attention so that we didn’t burn our hands when using them. This was also true of the Foodi; we had to be careful to avoid the heating element while turning or removing food. It often felt like we were just one wrong move from burning our hand or wrist on the underside of the lid, which is not removable.
We also took issue with the design of the air-fryer basket, which had small wire handles that, when inserted, sat flush against the sides of the cooking pot. This placement made it extremely difficult to use them to remove the hot basket, especially when wearing oven mitts.
We did find one area where this machine really excelled: combination cooking. We made the Foodi’s roast chicken recipe, which called for pressure-cooking a whole 5-pound chicken before using the air-frying function to crisp the skin. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken was tender, juicy, and well-browned all over. Plus, it cooked in about 40 minutes—about 20 minutes less than it takes to roast a whole chicken in an oven.
While a combination air fryer and multicooker is a clever innovation that shows promise, we ultimately thought the Ninja Foodi fell just short of the mark. The dishes cooked in the Foodi were mostly good, but they couldn’t compare to the reliable results produced by our favorite multicooker and air fryer. Usability and safety issues were also difficult to overlook. For this reason, we still prefer our winning multicooker and our winning air fryer to this combination machine because both do a better job cooking and are easier to use. That said, the Ninja Foodi is still a decent option if you’re interested in multicooking and air-frying and have limited kitchen space.