Get your New Year off to a flying start with this versatile machine that saves time and energy and delivers great results
I’m not a great one for kitchen gadgets, most of them I use for not much longer than a month or two before putting them in the attic.
It looks like a tech graveyard up there, one day I am hoping they will all be collectors’ items.
Our airfryer though we have used for many years and really have come to rely on it.Not only does it do chips with just a teaspoon of oil, it’s come in handy for roasting all kinds of meats and fish as well heating up shop bought pasties etc.
The sort of pastry things that always go dispiritingly soggy when heated in a microwave.
So we were keen to try this new machine, The Ninja Health Grill And Air Fryer, sent to us to test from Ninja. It promised all that convenience and more.
So, with hands trembling with anticipation we unboxed it.
First thing to say is that all the packaging, but for a plastic bag around the instruction books, is recyclable cardboard, Well done Ninja on that one, I really dislike ending up with piles of styrofoam, and so does the planet.
The device, as the name suggests, is not an airfryer per se, although Ninja do make those as well. It’s more than that.
Noticeable right away is that it has quite a hefty worktop footprint. As the lid needs space to hinge up, you also have to bring it forward about 30 cm to open it, although it can of course be pushed back against the wall when not in use.
It can’t be a coincidence that it has the look of a Samurai helmet, which is quite sweet, and the colour scheme is matt black and chrome, so it looks okay in any kitchen.
So, what can it do? Well according to the makers, what can’t do?Like an airfryer it has a heating element in the lid which combined with the powerful fan can get the temperature up to 265C.
Unlike an airfryer though, as well as the crisper basket for air-frying potatoes, chicken etc, it has a removable solid grill plate and a simple cooking pot.
All of these are heavily coated with an effective non-stick surface.To grill, you put the grill plate you preheat in the machine and choose one of four heat settings. When it’s ready to go, after about six minutes, the screen displays’Add Food’ and bleeps.
You then put your meat, veg or fish on the grill and you can hear an immediate sizzle. Then just put the lid down and wait for the pre-set time to elapse.
You’ll get grill marks only on the side touching the grill, although you can turn the food over at any time; the machine automatically goes into pause mode until the lid is lowered again.
We grilled steaks and then salmon. I checked both with a Thermapen instant read probe thermometer and both cooked fine using just the given presets.
I would next time adjust the cooking duration to be shorter for my personal preferences, but that’s easily done.
What was particularly good on both foods was the absence of any smoke in the kitchen and the attractive grill marks on the steak.You can, they say, also cook food from frozen. Not something I’d do usually, but good to know that it’s possible.
As for air frying this was very good; crispy chips using only a tiny amount of oil.
There is no handle on the Ninja’s basket, so during cooking you have to move the chips around using a spatula. On all air fryers turning the chips over now and then during cooking is a must. Again, the timer pauses when the lid is raised.
The Ninja can also dehydrate fruit and vegetables, it has a setting just for that. It’s fun to play with, I like to dehydrate tomatoes for sauces and apple slices for snacks, but you can’t do very many at a time unless you buy the optional dehydrating rack for £20.
Treat the Ninja as a mini oven and it can be very useful to save both time and energy. Baked potatoes take about the same time to cook as in a conventional oven, but the Ninja heats up much quicker and being small uses far less power.
We found flatbreads and nans warmed up quickly too, with better results than in a microwave, while whole sweetcorn came out with good grill char on them.
Fish parcels in foil also cooked quickly and well. We even made a tart tatin.
The Ninja comes with a recipe booklet which might be a bit American angled for some tastes, but it does give you inspiration and tips, and at the back is a comprehensive ten-page index of food types and how to cook them.
Cleaning up after is easy. The grill plate’s non-stick surface is very thick and while bits of food can get stuck in the grooves, the supplied brush winkles them out easily enough.
There is a mesh filter in the lid to protect the heating element from splashed oils and fats, this comes out in a click and it’s a good idea to rinse it through regularly.
Cons? It does get very hot on the sides, so it needs keeping out of the reach of small children. My test model was whisper quiet at first, but now seems to be a bit noisier, although it’s still perfectly acceptable. The guarantee is long enough to cover any problems.
Verdict? The device is quite large, so the Ninja won’t suit every kitchen, but overall the remarkable usefulness it delivers makes up for the space it occupies. We find ourselves using our main oven less and less, so saving electricity and a fair bit of time.
Overall, this is a gadget that actually won’t end up in the attic. It will become, like it has at our place, indispensable every day.