Ninja Foodi Smart XL Review
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Ninja Foodi Smart XL
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|Bottom Line||It doesn't cook everything perfectly, but we applaud the effort and feel this product is worth buying||Continual product improvement and great results in the kitchen are why this model is still our favorite||This is an exceptional product across the board, but it comes at a high cost||All the convenience and performance of larger models in a more compact package||A good all-around pressure cooker that often sells for a bit less than most of the popular models on the market|
|Rating Categories||Ninja Foodi Smart XL||Instant Pot Duo Plu...||Breville Fast Slow Pro||Instant Pot DUO Mini||Presto 02141|
|User Friendliness (35%)|
|Cooking Performance (30%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (25%)|
|Cooking Features (10%)|
|Specs||Ninja Foodi Smart XL||Instant Pot Duo Plu...||Breville Fast Slow Pro||Instant Pot DUO Mini||Presto 02141|
|Pot Material||Nonstick||Stainless Steel||Nonstick||Stainless Steel||Nonstick|
|Capacity||8 quart||6 quart||6 quart||3 quart||6 quart|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Greater simplicity is what sets the newest Ninja Foodi Smart XL apart from past models. Specifically, needing multiple lids for each cooking mode is now a thing of the past. A proprietary new feature called SmartLid allows users to choose between three completely different cooking modes with just the push of a finger. The new design is much easier and requires less time and cupboard space.
When we compare the complexity of this product against its effortless and intuitive control panel, we are truly impressed. The Ninja Foodi Smart XL is a breeze to use, earning it a top performance for user-friendliness. Its interface is well-proportioned and easy to understand, allowing users to easily switch between several different cooking modes. The interface is also appealing and interactive. We liked that it always told us "Goodbye" when we turned off the power. It also told us to "Shake the pot" when cooking egg rolls.
We must mention that the Ninja's interface isn't solely touchscreen. There's a slider to select cooking modes, several buttons to control pressure and time, and a turn knob for choosing between various cook settings. We can't say that the Ninja's menu is overly simple, but we can say with confidence that all of these control systems interact seamlessly to make perfect sense. We really enjoyed using our Ninja and often found ourselves twisting, sliding, and clicking without having to stop and study the menu.
Kudos to the manufacturer for giving the Ninja a 3-foot power cord. This underrated convenience feature greatly increases the functionality of any kitchen appliance by allowing it to have greater range on the countertop. However, weighing in at 25 pounds, the Ninja isn't as mobile as some of the cookers we've tested. We feel it can be challenging for some users to lift and move this product. Additionally, it's nearly 15-inches tall, so it's a tough squeeze into most cupboards or shelves.
The Ninja's lid functions very well and can be left fully open while you stir food or fill the pot with ingredients. However, we were a bit divided over it being permanently attached. On one hand, it is an added safety feature that keeps the lid firmly in place when it's hot. It also prevents the lid from falling if bumped. However, this can also make the Ninja a little more difficult to clean.
The Ninja can do much more than pressure cook. In fact, its applications are nearly endless. However, in light of this review, we adhered to our standardized tests that primarily focus on standard pressure cookers. That said, we awarded our Ninja an above-average score for its cooking performance. This product performed well, but we didn't feel its final dishes were worthy of our highest score. In short, the Ninja offered an acceptable performance, but its cooking ability was a little hit-or-miss.
In our rib test, our Ninja's performance was mixed as the meat seemed to cook unevenly. To be clear, the overall end product was tasty and acceptable. However, it certainly wasn't fall-off-the-bone perfect, and we didn't like the varying differences in the meat.
We needed a few attempts during our steamed rice testing, but in the end, we were pleased with our Ninja's ability to produce good rice consistently. Although, the rice was not perfect. It was a little sticky and somewhat inconsistent in texture. However, these slight imperfections would never be noticed by most hungry eaters. Our rice turned out the best when we removed the pot immediately after the cooking cycle was completed and allowed it to cool on the counter. This process resulted in rice that was more uniform and less sticky.
The Ninja produces above-average cooked vegetables, earning it respectable marks during our saute tests. The items cooked well and tasted great but were a little uneven. Although cooked together for the same amount of time, the zucchini and broccoli were tender, but the carrots were slightly undercooked. During this test, vegetables often cook more evenly, so the Ninja's results lead us to bump down its saute score just a smidge.
We also tried our luck at steam-cooking some wedged potato slices. After their steam bath, we used the Ninja air fryer on them to add a crispy, golden exterior. They were delicious.
Ease of Cleaning
The Ninja earned a slightly above-average score for its ease of cleaning. As previously mentioned, we were a little divided over the product's permanently attached lid. It's a great safety feature; however, when it is time to clean a pressure cooker, some chefs prefer the ability to completely remove the lid for a more thorough cleaning following messier dishes. That said, cleaning wasn't much more difficult, but we did account for the inconvenience in our lid-testing scores.
We absolutely love the Ninja non-stick pots. There are varying opinions in the pressure-cooker community on stainless steel versus non-stick. We'll table that issue for another day and simply say that the Ninja is a breeze to clean. Even caked-on rice can be removed in seconds. We feel this is a convenient feature that potentially adds value for busy people who don't want to spend a lot of time during cleanup. Additionally, all of the Ninja's internal pots are dishwasher-safe.
Where do we start? The Ninja's cooking applications are nearly endless, earning it a perfect performance in our cooking features metric. In addition to being a pressure cooker, it's also a steamer and an air fryer, and it only requires one lid.
The best part of this Ninja model is its all-in-one lid. Prior Ninja models required users to switch out lids for different cooking modes, creating more hassle and requiring more storage space. This newest model employs a single lid that easily adapts to each of its three cooking modes with the push of a finger. A slider switch, which sits above the control panel, moves horizontally and internally adapts the lid for "pressure-cooker mode", "steam-fryer mode", and "air fryer mode". These three settings are the main cooking modes for the Ninja, and within each mode are numerous cooking options which allow users to broil, bake, roast, slow cook, saute, steam, sous vide, and more. The Ninja even comes with a dehydration option.
Being one of the largest models on our list does have its benefits. This 8-quart beast is big and heavy, but with that comes the ability to cook a full meal consecutively. A pasta dish can be cooking at the very bottom, while just above, broccoli is steaming, and chicken is roasting. Cooking all three at the same time utilizes the Ninja's steam-crisp setting, which uses the steam and air fry functions at the same time. Lastly, we love that the lid can be opened and closed during the steam-crisp and steam-bake settings, allowing cooks to check on their dishes. We also like that the timer automatically stops counting when the lid is opened.
Should You Buy the Ninja Foodi Smart XL?
Sometimes there's a tradeoff associated with multipurpose products. Generally, quality is sacrificed for convenience. We feel the Ninja balances this tightrope quite well, but it still has some room for improvement. So, if you're looking to consolidate cooking appliances and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of quality, you'll like the Ninja. It can cook an entire meal at the push of a button, saving you time and space and using less electricity. This product is great for busy people who want things done efficiently and effectively.
What Other Pressure Cooker Should You Consider?
If you're just cooking for one, check out the Instant Pot Duo Mini. It's a 3-quart device that offers many functions (except an air fryer). If you want decent performance at a lower price, we suggest the Presto 02141. It offers a ton of features with a more appealing price tag. Lastly, if you're seeking the best pressure cooker on the market, you'll want to study up on the Instant Pot Duo Plus V4 or the Breville Fast Slow Pro. These are pure-blooded pressure cookers. They lack the Ninja's air frying function but are otherwise two of the best cookers money can buy.