Multifunction pressure cookers and air fryers are wonderful workhorses in the kitchen. The pressure cooker gets food on the table quickly, and the air fryer lets you fry food with almost no oil. But leave it to next-step inventors to create an appliance that does both: the Ninja Foodi, a pressure cooker that crisps.
I was eager to give this new cooker a test drive, and I love the food I’ve cooked in the Foodi.
So does JL Fields, a vegan culinary instructor, cookbook author, vegan restaurant critic for The Gazette and a consultant in the Foodi’s development. She was one of several chefs invited by Ninja to test the device with their own recipes and provide feedback.
“I was invited to participate because I wrote a cookbook about pressure cooking and another about air frying,” Fields said. “When I got the final product, I was blown away. The pressure cooker works just the same as the Instant Pot, and the air fryer performs beautifully, too. What I particularly love is making food that can start with pressure and end with crisping.”
To make french fries, she cuts potatoes and pressure-cooks them for a minute or two. Then she releases the pressure, removes the lid, seasons the potatoes and uses the air-fry function.
“Perfect fries!” Fields exclaimed. “I do the same with tempeh, and it comes out tender and nearly seared. I’ve been using the Ninja Foodi at cooking demonstrations around the country.
In Atlanta last month, I made a simple vegan macaroni with the pressure cooking function and then added (vegan) buttered panko on top and air-crisped for a few minutes. I had made a golden casserole.”
The Foodi, she has determined, “is the most used device in my kitchen right now.”
I, too, fall in the camp of “satisfied Foodi fan.” There are pros and cons worth noting, however.
• The Foodi is super easy to operate. It’s similar to the Instant Pot and other electric pressure cookers.
• A very nice display window tells you what’s going on in the pot and how much time is left during the crisping function. Blue lights rotate in a square on the display while it is pressurizing; they stop rotating when it has reached pressure.
• The instruction manual is helpful and easy to follow.
• A cookbook is included, as well as a cooking cheat sheet for commonly cooked items.
• A Cook & Crisp basket and a reversible rack (high and low positions) are included.
• Instead of stainless steel, the pot is ceramic with nonstick coating.
• The air fryer does an excellent job of crisping foods.
• The air fryer timer counts down and shuts off after the time is up, so you don’t have to stay in the room to turn it off.
• The pot is a bit shorter and wider than the Instant Pot, which allows more area for crisping and browning.
• The Foodi is big and heavy. You’ll need a good-sized space to store it. (It took up the space that both my Instant Pot and air fryer had occupied.)
• The lid for crisping and air frying is hinged and not removable. When the pressure cooking lid is being used for cooking, the crisping lid needs to be open. But it can’t open on a counter that has cabinets over it. You’ll need to use it on an island with open overhead space.
• The electrical cord is only 33 inches long, so you’ll need to be close to an outlet to use it. (The instructions say not to use an extension cord.)
• The pressure-release valve on the Foodi is short and a little more difficult to maneuver without getting a burst of steam on your hand when releasing steam.
• Hot air comes out from the back of the unit as it’s air frying, so you’ll need to place it away from walls and cabinets. Again, an open island cooking surface is handy.
• Many accessories that fit in most 6-quart pressure cookers will be too tall to use in the Foodi.
• When the cook time is up, the beep at the end is not very loud and is not adjustable. I have to set a second timer.
Trying it out
The first dish I made in the Foodi was roasted chicken, using the recipe from the cookbook included with the appliance.
The recipe called for a 4- to 5-pound chicken, so I went with a 5-pound bird. It fit in the crisping basket, but when I switched from the pressure cooking lid to the crisping lid, the chicken was a little too close to the top and one leg got burn marks on it.
The recipe said to add lemon juice, hot water, honey, peppercorns, kosher salt, fresh thyme and garlic to the bottom of the pressure cooker before placing the crisping basket and chicken into the pot. I expected the meat to have more flavor than it did.
So the next time I tried the same recipe, I bought a 4-pound chicken. I tucked a preserved lemon into the cavity of the chicken along with honey, peppercorns, fresh thyme and garlic. The water went into the bottom of the pot.
This time, the chicken meat had a nice sweet, lemony flavor and was juicy. The skin was crispy all around the bird (thanks again to the holes in the bottom of the crisping basket), and there was enough space in the pot so the air fryer lid didn’t touch any part of the chicken.
Since those early experiments, I’ve made sticky St. Louis ribs, a frozen chicken dinner, and chicken Parmesan with penne and broccolini following recipes from the Foodi cookbook — all with excellent results.
Bottom line: The Ninja Foodi is an amazing appliance. It does an excellent job of pressure cooking and an excellent job of air frying. Cost is $199.80 at ninjakitchen.com.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.