Reviewed by Louise Totton
Like lots of mums, I want to feed my kids healthy, home cooked meals but can often find myself short on time; juggling work, the school run and other family commitments can sometimes mean that cooking from scratch isn’t always possible. That isn’t to say we don’t cook proper food – I use my slow cooker several times a week and we use the air fryer for a quick meal, but it always seems there is a trade-off. I’m not always organised enough to get meals prepped in the slow cooker before we leave the house at 8am, and I have to say that we do miss our food having texture and a bit of bite, and whilst the air fryer is great for quick meals, I don’t want to feed the kids fish fingers and chips very often!
When I heard about the Ninja Foodi, I thought that it seemed like it could solve a lot of the issues that I have with finding the time to cook a proper, healthy meal for us all. The Foodi is a multi-cooker that can pressure cook, slow cook, bake, steam, roast, grill, sauté and air fry, all in a fabulous looking and compact countertop appliance. For me, the most appealing and interesting parts were the electronic pressure cooker function combined with the TenderCrisp function. This means that you can cook a whole chicken in eighteen minutes in the pressure cooker, then switch to air fry mode for ten minutes to crisp up the skin. All very interesting stuff, but does it work?
I was full of high hopes when the parcel man came – I have to say that it comes in a massive and very heavy box (so big that I had to ask the delivery man to bring it into the house for me), which should be no great surprise as the appliance has so much packed into it! As you would expect, it is all securely packed and it arrived in perfect condition. Included in the box is:
- Ninja Foodi with crisping lid
- Pressure lid
- Removable 6l cooking pot
- Cook & Crisp basket
- Detachable diffuser
- Reversible rack
- Instruction guide
- Recipe book
- Cheat sheet
So, first thing was first – to find somewhere in the kitchen in the kitchen for this bad boy to sit! It is a large machine, and whilst you can situate it on the counter underneath cabinets, it has to be used with clear space above it. We have a long countertop in the kitchen with no upper cabinets above it, so we put it on there. I have to be honest and say that I was a bit scared to get started with it – probably because my mum had a traditional pressure cooker when we were growing up, and she instilled the fear of God into us about the fact that if we so much as touched it, it would explode!
Fortunately, things have gotten a lot safer over the years, and the Foodi, along with other electric pressure cookers, have safety features that entirely prevent the pressure lid being opened if the pot is still under pressure. Having said that, I did want to be acclimatise myself slowly to the machine, and after a good read of the instructions, I decided to do as they suggested and try it out with only water first, so I could get used to the operation of the machine and how the pressure worked.
The pressure-cooking process is basically split into three parts – building the pressure, the cooking and releasing the pressure. Trying it out with water for the first usage was very helpful, as it allowed me to familiarise myself with these processes as well as how they look on the machine.
It is actually very simple – I added 700ml of water to the cooking pot (this is ALWAYS used, regardless of which mode the Foodi is in), locked the pressure lid into place and turned the valve on top of the lid to the SEAL position. The controls of the Foodi are very simple, and are all push-button on the front of the machine. I selected PRESSURE mode, selected HI and used the timer button to set the cook time for 2 minutes, then pressed START. It really is that simple! The lights on the display and some steam release indicate that the pressure is building, and when fully pressurised the Foodi then starts to count down the cooking time, before beeping to indicate the cooking is complete. The machine lid is then locked into place until the Foodi has depressurised, either by a Quick Release (flipping the vent from SEAL to VENT), or by Natural Release (just leaving the Foodi for 15 – 30 minutes for the pressure to slowly release).
Once I had completed a couple of trial runs of the pressure cooker with just the water, I was ready to try one of the beginner recipes in the included recipe guide. Now one of the favourite meals in our house (and I imagine many others!) is a perfectly cooked roast chicken with juicy, moist meat and a crispy skin. This is one of the meals that is impossible to make in the slow cooker; the chicken is always delicious but it is so soft, it falls apart and there is no way of getting any kind of crispy skin. Because it falls apart, it’s also not even an option to cook it whilst I’m at work and crisp the skin up in the oven. So I was really hoping that the Foodi would make this family favourite possible on a time-strapped midweek evening.
The recipe looked incredibly simple, and it looked like I would be able to get the chicken cooked and roasted in the time it would take me to make a salad and cook a pan of rice. The recipe in the book uses a 2.5KG chicken, which it suggested should be pressure cooked in 22 minutes – my chicken was a lot smaller than this at around 1.6KG, so I decided to try cooking it for 18 minutes.
The first step was to mix some flavouring for the chicken, in this case, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme (I also went off-piste and added a chicken stock cube) – all ingredients I have in the kitchen anyway. These are mixed in a bowl with hot water and added to the cooking pot, before placing the chicken into the Cook & Crisp basket and sitting this on top. The pressure cooker lid is then added, the seal set to the SEAL position and you’re ready to go. The same as with the water test, I set the Foodi to PRESSURE, HI, and then set the time to 18 minutes and pressed START. The Foodi took few minutes to reach pressure, before beeping and starting the cooking countdown. Once the time had elapsed, the Foodi beeped to let me know, and started a ‘count up’ timer, so I could time the depressurisation – the recipe calls for a 5 minute natural release then a quick release for the remaining pressure. During this time, the Foodi also engaged it’s Keep Warm feature, so if you do decide to just leave it to natural release for half an hour, the food stays lovely and warm.
Once the pressure was released, I was able to open the lid and I was completely underwhelmed! The chicken was cooked and in one piece, but it was a million miles from the lovely, brown and crispy chicken that I was hoping for – the Tender Crisp had a lot of work to do! The chicken juice and stock left in the cooking pan smelled absolutely delicious and I didn’t want to waste them, so I removed the Cook & Crisp basket with the chicken inside, then lifted the cooking pan out and poured the stock into a saucepan through a strainer.
I then returned the cooking pan and the chicken back to the Foodi, basted the skin with oil, salt and pepper, and set the Air Crisp setting on HI for 15 minutes. The hinged Air Crisp lid is used for this function, rather than the removable Pressure lid. Whilst the chicken was crisping up, I used the stock that I had removed to cook the rice, and prepared some salad and a fresh baguette.
I was a little apprehensive about opening the Foodi when the timer was done – I so wanted to like it, but was worried that, given what the chicken had looked like at the end of pressure cooking, I would be disappointed. I needn’t have worried – the chicken was a gorgeous honey-brown colour and the skin was crisped to perfection! I removed the chicken from the basket easily (no falling apart at all), and I have to say that it was absolutely perfect! It was cooked thoroughly and all of the meat was perfectly moist and juicy. The skin was delicious and made that wonderful ‘crackle’ sound when I sliced through it. It really was a winner in our house – we all polished off the lot, including the rice which was delicious cooked in the stock produced by the chicken, and it would make a superb gravy for a roast dinner too.
Since we got the Foodi, I have also made a delicious roasted pork shoulder in it. This time, I also used the sauté function to brown off the meat before setting it to pressure cook. I cooked a 1.4KG shoulder of pork and started off by adding sunflower oil to the cooking pot, selecting the sauté function and searing all sides of the joint before pressure cooking it on high for 45 minutes. This time, I decided to do a 30 minute natural release as I remember my mum telling me that meat ended up more tender that way. The same as with the chicken, after it was cooked, I swapped the lids over and this time used the reversible rack to sit the pork on and setting the Air Crisp setting to HI for 15 minutes. The result was a perfectly cooked pork crackling joint and virtually no mess or fat anywhere in the kitchen. Yet again, the cooking liquor (this time just water and a stock cube) was delicious and made fantastic gravy.
As well as the pressure cooker, this device is a fantastic slow cooker – the sauté feature means that when I made a chilli con carne, I could cook the onions, spices and mince in the Foodi before adding the liquids and slow cooking whilst I was at work. This improves the flavour and texture massively compared to just dumping raw ingredients in a slow cooker – I had previously been doing this in a frying pan then pouring into my slow cooker. The Foodi saves time, mess and washing up on a busy work and school morning, which I’m delighted with!
Finally, we do all need a treat or something even simpler on occasion, and we have used the Air Crisp mode on by itself to do chips, chicken nuggets and even a pizza for the kids! All crisped to perfection, healthier than frying and far quicker and with lower energy costs than preheating the main oven and cooking in there.
I think the Ninja Foodi is a fabulous addition to the kitchen, and is one of the few gadgets that genuinely does make life in the kitchen easier and cooking quicker. I am over the moon with it and won’t be cooking roast meat any other way now. It’ll also be ideal on Christmas day for freeing up precious oven space for all of the other bits that need cooking, hopefully making that juggling act a little bit easier too!
A resounding 5/5 rating from me, and from the whole family!
For more information or to buy online visit ninjakitchen.eu.