The Ninja Foodi claims to be a pressure cooker, slow cooker and air fryer and can steam, bake, roast and grill. Rupert Parker puts it through its paces
I still cling on to my mother’s pressure cooker, one of those that you put on the gas and let it work up a head of steam, puffing away noisily. It’s served me well over the years but the Ninja Foodi brings me into the 21st century with a jolt. It’s a huge machine, sitting on the countertop like an alien spacecraft, and just as intimidating. To add to the confusion, there are also two lids, one which lifts up and the other detaching completely.
However, once you’ve realised, that it’s an electric pressure cooker which also steams and slow cooks, with a sauté function and an air fryer crisper, then it all begins to make sense. You can start by frying your onions, garlic and spices, browning your meat along the way, then set it to pressure cook. When time is up, you can then utilise their TenderCrisp Technology, the air fryer function, to brown whatever you’ve been cooking.
The size does have its advantages since it can take a medium whole chicken, or joint of meat, quite comfortably. To put the machine through its paces, I try to cook a Sunday roast together with vegetables and dessert. First I add a couple of cups of water to the pot, together with smashed garlic cloves, rosemary, lemon juice and salt. I’ve already salted and peppered the chicken so I place it in the tray above and set the timer 18 minutes at high pressure.
Unlike my trusty old favourite, when it gets up to pressure after around 6 minutes, it’s almost silent and beeps when time is up. I’m told to wait 5 minutes, then release the pressure with a comforting plume of steam. Inside the chicken is still pale but the thermometer shows it’s up to the requisite 75C. Now it’s time to dump the pressure lid and, after basting the bird with olive oil and paprika, close the crisping lid. This acts almost like a fan oven, and after 10 minutes I have a browned chicken, smelling wonderful.
I take it out to rest, add red wine to the pot, press the sauté function, and reduce the liquid to make gravy. Next, I’ve chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms and courgettes, then marinated in a dollop of olive oil with garlic, to create a simple ratatouille. I place this mixture inside, together with some cubed potatoes and set it to bake for 10 minutes. I’m just guessing on the time, but the great thing is that you can lift the lid at intervals and check on the progress.
I carve the chicken, the skin crispy and the inside moist and succulent. Together with the vegetables and potatoes, I’ve the perfect roast dinner, and all cooked in less than an hour. I could have cooked it in the oven, but there’d be the waiting time for it to heat up, and I do believe the pressure cooking makes the flesh moister. Even better, all I have to wash up is the pot and the rack.
Now for the dessert. I’ve already cubed apples with blackberries and pressure cooked the mixture for 8 minutes. Now I add crumble mixture on top and set to air crisp at 180C for ten more minutes. I keep an eye on it, checking periodically. After a few more minutes the top is dark brown and the fruit mixture bubbles inside. It’s an excellent dessert, the apples delightfully soft, although there’s slightly too much juice creeping into the crumble. Next time I won’t add water to the fruit.
So my first experiment worked out well and, once you understand the basic functions, there’s nothing to be frightened of. I quickly learnt to move from sauté to pressure cook to air fry without really thinking about it. The great advantage is that everything happens in one pot, no messing up the hob or the oven. Ironically this machine would be perfect for cooking in a bedsit, although sadly there probably wouldn’t be enough space.
Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker OP300UK costs £199.99 from their website, with free next day delivery