The Ninja Foodi Grill: Is it Worth Buying?


The Ninja Foodi AG301 and its base components. Photo credit to SharkNinja Corporate, used under Fair Use.

By Gabriel Cabello Torres, Technology Editor

Cooking isn’t always fast, easy or energy efficient. Sometimes you’re running late for work and have to deal with the dilemma of spending money on fast food or making a mediocre home cooked meal. You may be an experienced cook who’s also dealing with meal-prep, observation, and clean-up. Cooking on stove tops can give off varied results and slow-cooking or pressure cooking may not be optimal for your schedule. 

These reasons pushed me to take advantage of a sale and spend a hefty total of $125 on the Ninja Foodi AG301. Using this appliance for weeks allowed me to answer an important question: Was this purchase worth it?

There was a time when air fryers were the most popular kitchen appliance. Experienced buyers eventually grew weary of the excitement that surrounded this machine on Facebook parent groups. When one company’s item gets popular, other companies will try to milk the cash cow with products that are questionable in efficiency and durability. However, great products have come out and been improved upon since the height of the trend. The Ninja Foodi has kept my interest the longest due to its multiple features. Ninja has a long list of kitchen products, and as a whole, the products I’ve purchased from them haven’t been a disappointment. 

The appliance has a nice black-silver appearance and can comfortably sit in the corner of your kitchen. Its dimensions are roughly 15x15x11 inches so it’s not terribly tall either. This model does require space above it for the lid to completely open, which shouldn’t be an issue for most kitchens. The Foodi has five functions: Grill, Air Crisp, Bake, Roast, and Dehydrate. The grill option has four heat settings: Low, Medium, High and Max. Every other option uses a more precise heat setting in Fahrenheit. Any option you choose on the Ninja Foodi allows you to digitally select the time you want it to cook for. This model of the Foodi has a 4 quart capacity, but if you need more space there’s the Ninja Foodi XL, which boasts twice the capacity. These appliances are behemoths and are frankly overkill for the average household.

The time it takes for the Ninja Foodi to heat up is fairly quick unless you’re going for really high temperatures. If you need more cooking time, you can readjust without any issues. Regardless, if you’re doing a quick food prep, you should be done by the time it’s finished heating. This allows you to be more flexible in the kitchen with the Foodi, especially if you’d rather sauté vegetables on a skillet instead of using the same appliance twice. A massive pro is that you can actually cook frozen meats and veggies; you just have to adjust for time and temperature. Thankfully, the appliance comes with a recipe book along with a cheat sheet listing tips on how much you should compensate when heating frozen food. While a salmon filet wouldn’t taste as great as if it was non-frozen, it’s a welcome trade off for time and efficiency. 

A great pro is that a smaller appliance like the Foodi saves a lot of energy over using your actual oven. This makes cooking bacon for one much easier, since you don’t have to deal with the oil splash from a pan. Cleaning the different parts of the appliance is relatively easy. The only part of the appliance that requires major attention is the splatter shield, since it catches oil and food particles which could get burnt on the shield. Everything else, including the racks and drip basket, are dishwasher safe.

However, there are cons as well. First off, there seems to be no difference between the roast and bake function. A quick search through recipes and threads use the two terms interchangeably. They function nearly identically; they both reduce the fan’s speed so it doesn’t work like a convection oven. The only noticeable difference are the racks you’d use for the respective functions. It feels like false advertising and makes it redundant to give them two buttons. 

Second, the ceramic coating is not extremely durable. I try to avoid using the rough side of the sponge when cleaning certain kitchenware because it could damage it. Despite this extra level of care, the ceramic coating started chipping off the grill plate. This is disappointing to say the least, especially when you consider that the Ninja Foodi comes with a brush to clean certain parts. This hasn’t impacted how my food cooks or tastes yet, but it still feels like it should last longer than a month, given its price point. 

Additionally, the Foodi doesn’t come with all the extra attachments that make the Foodi’s other functions work optimally. Neither a dehydrating rack nor a baking plate are included, and must be bought separately just like you would with the extra attachments for a Cuisinart Pro Mixer. You could use the air cripser rack for dehydrating but it’s not as effective. It might be a make or break for some, but at least you’re provided with the essentials for the machine. Also, the appliance’s description says “4 quart capacity,” but that depends solely on the type of rack you’re using. You’re going to be able to utilize much more space with a grill plate as opposed to the air crisp rack because it covers more surface area. 

Another con is that the base grill plate misses the mark on preserving the juiciness of meats. All of the juices that give things like burgers or chicken that delightful flavor boost are ultimately lost due to the holes on the grill plate. You could invest in a traditional griddle, but nevertheless, it’s a let down. 

Should you buy the Ninja Foodie? It depends. If you’re busy, then this neat little appliance can do wonders for your schedule. It’s also great for healthier alternatives to cooking foods that tend to be greasy, like chicken tenders or fries. It won’t be the same, but it makes maintaining a healthy diet a lot easier. Please take note, the healthiness of your food ultimately depends on how you cook it and the ingredients you use. The experienced home cook might look at this product with curiosity, but it’s not a dire need like, say, a dependable chef’s knife. It would still be interesting to experiment with and see what interesting dishes you can make. For example, you can make beef jerky with the “Dehydrate” mode. 

Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, it would be best to save your money until then to see if the prices drop to a point that doesn’t suckerpunch your wallet. I personally enjoy the appliance, but I definitely feel like it could be better. If you want a more “traditional” looking oven, there are other models that would better fit that description.