Everything You Need to Know About the Ninja Foodi
It’s like your Instant Pot and air fryer had a baby.
Have you ever wished you could cook something crispy in your Instant Pot without having to transfer it to the oven? You know, the one major thing that would make it a true, can-do-it-all appliance? True story: That grievance is the exact reason the people at SharkNinja created the Ninja Foodi, a pressure cooker-air fryer hybrid.
The Ninja Foodi is still in its infomercial stage, which means it’ll take some time before it becomes a household name. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook this multi-cooker. Especially if you like your food with a little crunch.
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How to Use a Ninja Foodi
When I first took the Foodi out of the box (Ninja sent us one to try out), I was perplexed. This thing is huge compared to my 3-quart Instant Pot Duo Mini, and comes with a few parts and accessories I’m not used to. In addition to bare-bones accessories like a removable cooking pot and a rack (this one is reversible!), the Foodi includes a crisping basket and detachable diffuser as well as an entirely different lid. Separate accessories available for purchase include a layered insert, a multi-purpose pan, a roasting rack insert, a dehydrating rack, a loaf pan, and a crisper pan. There are also all kinds of bundled accessory packages available from other brands online.
Since the Foodi touts two very different functions, it has two lids: one for pressure cooking, and one for crisping. Do not try to screw the pressure lid on top of the crisping lid, because that will leave scuff marks. It also won’t work. The crisper lid is permanently attached to the Foodi via a hinge on the side. So when you want to use the Foodi’s pressure-cooking capabilities, you flip the crisper lid up. Then, you screw the pressure lid on like you’d do with an Instant Pot (clockwise to lock and counterclockwise to unlock), just with this other lid looming over you. It all sounds a little counterintuitive, but the lids are arranged this way so once you’re ready to start crisping your food, all you have to do is flip it down and go.
The crisper lid is designed for use during the Air Crisp, Bake/Roast, Broil, and Dehydrate functions. When you’re using the crisper, you can flip that lid up whenever you like and the Foodi will automatically pause the cooking process so you can check on your food.
The pressure lid, on the other hand, is intended for use during the Pressure Cook, Sear/Saute, Steam, and Slow Cook functions. If you aren’t already accustomed with pressure cooking, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with some important functions: Building and releasing pressure. Like with the Instant Pot, it’s recommended that you start with a water test that’ll involve both building and releasing pressure.
To start, flip the crisper lid up and put the pot inside the Foodi’s base. Add three cups of room-temperature water to the pot, and then screw in the lid. Both this lid and the base feature arrows that indicate where the parts are supposed to meet. Once it’s flush, turn the lid clockwise and lock it.
The nice thing about the Foodi’s pressure lid is that it cuts out some guesswork and actually labels where the pressure release valve’s SEAL and VENT positions are. Seal the release valve, and then click the PRESSURE button on the control panel. The Foodi defaults to high pressure, and in this case you won’t have to adjust that. You will, however, need to adjust the time to two minutes before pressing the START/STOP button. The Foodi will start a little light display, counting down until it’s fully pressurized and will automatically switch to Keep Warm. Congratulations, you’re halfway through the test! Now all you need to do is release that pressure by turning the pressure release valve to the VENT position. It’ll be a little scary at first because all that steam is fighting to get out, but ferocity will decrease until there’s no steam left. That’s how you do a quick pressure release. Once all the steam is gone, you’re free to open the lid again. The test is over now, but for future reference, most recipes will call for natural pressure release, in which you let the steam escape on its own, without turning the valve. Only use the quick pressure release if a recipe calls for it, because steam is no joke.
Once you’ve got the mechanics of the pressure cooker down, you’re pretty much good to go. All you need to do is find a recipe and stick to the directions, give or take a few preferences (More on that later). It’s easy to use and, with the exception of the crisper basket, much easier to clean than the Instant Pot thanks to the coating on the inner pot and the Foodi’s plastic exterior.
We Tried It!
MyRecipes got a few Ninja Foodi cookers in the mail, which meant we had to try them out. The Ninja Foodi team is so proud of its tender on the inside, crispy on the outside results that they have their own trademark way of describing it: Tendercrisp.
To test the crisping capabilities, I made Buffalo Chicken Wings. I also made Baked Macaroni & Cheese to see what all the fuss about pressure cooker pasta was about. Since the recipes were easy to follow, it was very easy to multitask, and I had two very different dishes ready in less than an hour. To be fair, though, I was working with two of these things, and most people probably aren’t.
Both of these recipes required that I use the Foodi’s pressure cooking and crisping capabilities. The crisping part threw me off a little because once that step is over, the Foodi just turns off instead of switching to a “Keep Warm” mode. Additionally, the Foodi doesn’t beep anywhere near as loudly as an Instant Pot. My wings were ready before I realized it, and I felt obligated to flip them over and crisp them for a few more minutes to even out the texture. Thankfully, that extra time didn’t cause any problems, so it looks like I’ll never burn anything with the Foodi’s air fryer.
The wings, which I bought frozen, only needed five minutes in the pressure cooker. After adding a little canola oil, I shut the crisping lid so the wings could get some texture. The Foodi’s crisper helped the chicken wings brown beautifully, and the grease dripped down to the bottom of the pot (The wings were in the crisper basket, hovering over half a cup of water). Once the wings were done and covered in sauce, they definitely had texture, but I’m curious to see how they’d fare with a longer go in the crisper.
The macaroni wasn’t crispy—rather, it was covered in crumbs. The two cups of panko that Ninja’s recipe called for is probably too much. Next time, I’d definitely cut that amount, possibly by half—but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. The panko added a crumbly texture rather than a crispy one, but the real star of the macaroni was its creaminess and flavor.
With its huge size and slightly unfamiliar mechanics, the Ninja Foodi definitely intimidated me. But after trying it out and tasting its bounty, I assure there's nothing to fear.