Why the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Air Fryer Is My Go-To Kitchen Gadget

Wondering if the Ninja Foodi Air Fryer is right for you and your family? Read our full review on the pros and cons, plus how to get the most out of this handy appliance.

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September 25, 2020

I'll admit, I was late on the air fryer train. I thought, why get another appliance when my convection oven pretty much does the same thing? Well, I was very, very wrong. I finally decided to cave in and try one, and the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Air Fryer had the best reviews and seemed like a good fit for my family of two.

I've had the Ninja Foodi for four months now and have used it almost every day since, so I know all the ins and outs. (I even bought one for my sister and sister-in-law.) I have used every feature and have cooked everything under the sun in this air fryer. It's now my go-to appliance in the kitchen — I haven't turned my real oven on in months.

If you're on the fence about buying an air fryer, or if you're not sure the Ninja Foodi is the right one for you, keep reading.

How to Use the 5-in-1 Cook Settings

The Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 includes five cook settings: Air Crisp, Grill, Dehydrate, Bake and Roast. I'll walk you through each option and how to use them.

Air Crisp. I use this feature the most. The Foodi comes with an air crisp basket that perfectly crisps pretty much any food you desire, from breaded meats to vegetables to frozen foods like French fries. The air crisp also allows you to enjoy your favorite comfort fried foods without using oil, so it's a healthier, guiltless option. Also, I use this option to warm up any leftovers. It's way tastier than warming up food in a microwave.

Grill. At first, I didn't think I would use this option as much. Only a charcoal grill or a smoker is worthy of a good cut of meat, and I was pretty set in my ways. For the sake of trying everything in this air fryer, I grilled a New York strip using the grill setting. I can't express how quickly it cooked the steak. It definitely beats firing up the grill on nights you want the flavor of a grill without the hassle. The Foodi comes with a grill grate, so you even get the satisfaction of grill marks.

Bake. For everyone out there with a sweet tooth, you'll love the bake option. If you're someone who always has a batch of cookies or other desserts in your freezer, using the Foodi to bake just a few cookies at a time is a much better option than warming up an entire oven. It bakes just as nicely and more quickly without using as much energy.

Dehydrate. I dehydrated mangoes and sour apples in six hours, and they turned out delicious. This is a great option for those who want to dehydrate food without investing in an actual dehydrator. You will need to buy a separate rack to properly use this setting. (You can also use a rack from your toaster oven or other appliance as long as it fits inside the air fryer.)

Roast. You can roast anything to perfection within minutes, from pork tenderloin to roast beef. Seriously, every meat I roasted was so tender and cooked in less than 10 minutes. You will need to purchase a separate roasting rack to use this setting.

How the Ninja Foodi Works

Once you cook with the Foodi a few times, it's simple to use. The Foodi comes with a small recipe book and cooking charts. If you're new to owning an air fryer, the recipe book is really helpful in giving ideas on where to start. To use the air fryer, simply place either the basket (for air crisp), the grill grate (for grilling or baking) or a separately purchased rack (for dehydrating or roasting) in the cooking pot inside the air fryer. Click the power button to turn it on, and choose your setting. If you're grilling, you can use the cooking chart to pick a cooking temperature, from low to max heat. (An exact temperature will display and you can manually adjust the temp if needed.) The Foodi will preheat for three to 10 minutes depending on your setting, and it will beep and display "Add Food" once it's preheated. You then open the lid, add your prepped food and close the lid. An automatic timer will immediately start counting down. You can manually adjust the time while your food is cooking, and any time you open the lid during cooking, the time pauses. When time runs out, the Foodi beeps and automatically turns off, indicating your food is ready to eat.

Pros

  • You can cook an entire meal (main dish and sides) in less than 30 minutes.
  • You can cook healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods using less oil.
  • You can take food from the freezer and cook directly in the air fryer.
  • Warming up the air fryer takes less energy than an entire oven.
  • You don't have to be a good cook to make delicious food. The air fryer perfectly cooks tender meats and roasts crispy vegetables.

Cons

  • It takes up a lot of countertop space.
  • It won't fit enough food inside for an entire family, so you will have to cook in batches. It's better suited for single people or couples.
  • If you want to cook two different foods on two different settings, you will have to switch out to the appropriate pan and start the preheating and timer from the beginning. (Although once the unit is heated, preheating doesn't take as long.)
  • Cleaning the pans isn't the easiest, but I still found I had fewer dishes to clean using the air fryer.

Tips on Using the Ninja Foodi Grill

Even though Ninja provides a cooking chart, I learned very quickly the times are off. I burned my food the first few times I cooked with the Foodi, so I recommend checking your food as it cooks until you get the hang of how long it takes to cook your favorite foods. I also recommend using a meat thermometer to make sure your meat has cooked to a safe temperature.

One caveat to the Foodi is that once the time runs out, the unit completely turns off. So, if your food isn't cooked, you'll have to start from the beginning, meaning it has to preheat again. This is kind of a pain when you're trying to get dinner on the table, so I recommend adding extra cooking time and checking your food to make sure it doesn't burn. (I set a separate timer with my smart speaker.) If you're cooking two different foods on the same setting (like chicken and French fries), add enough time to the timer to cook both foods. Since the Foodi pauses the timer every time you open the lid, you can switch from one food to the next and simply close the lid to start cooking again. (No need to preheat twice!)

Use oils with a high heat index, like canola or avocado oil, to prevent smoking while cooking. I always toss or spray my foods directly with the oil rather than adding the oil in the air fryer to prevent smoking and burning. (Some users also said spraying oil directly in the pan caused the pan to peel.)

Join a group online dedicated to air fryer tips and recipes. I was a bit overwhelmed when I first got my air fryer. I had no idea where to start, what recipe to try first or what tips I needed to get the most out of my air fryer. I joined a group online where people share tips, recipes and other information to help you get started. I have learned so much from this group and continue to use it today for new ideas and tips.

If you're cooking in batches and the first batch of food gets cold, place it back in the air fryer for 1-2 minutes to warm it back up. Also, if you're cooking a protein and sides, cook the protein first and let it sit at room temperature while your sides cook. If the protein gets too cold, put it back in the air fryer for a minute or two.

Don't overcrowd the air fryer with food. An air fryer is a chamber that uses cyclonic air to rapidly cook your food. If you layer food on top of each other, the air won't circulate around every part of the food, so the food won't get as crispy. Make sure you place the food in one layer and leave space between each piece to result in evenly crispy food.

My Favorite Foods to Cook in the Air Fryer

These are some of my favorite foods and their cooking times categorized by setting.

Air Crisp

  • Bacon — 7-9 minutes
  • Frozen French fries — 10 minutes
  • Breaded chicken — 10-12 minutes
  • Chopped Brussels sprouts tossed in oil — 5-7 minutes
  • Leftover pizza — 3-4 minutes
  • Broccoli tossed in oil — 4-6 minutes

Grill

  • Salmon — 6-9 minutes
  • Steak — 7-10 minutes
  • Chicken — 10-12 minutes
  • Vegetables tossed in oil — 5-7 minutes
  • Wedge salad — 3-4 minutes
  • Pineapple — 5-7 minutes

Bake

  • Homemade doughnuts — 4-6 minutes
  • Homemade cookies — 4-6 minutes

Roast

  • Pork tenderloin — 8-10 minutes
  • Roast beef — 8-10 minutes

Dehydrate

  • Mangoes and apples — 5-6 hours

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