Ninja Woodfire review: outdoor cooking without charcoal or gas
Ninja makes some of the most multi-functional kitchen appliances around. Several of its air fryers have made it into our best air fryer roundup, and while it already has a range of indoor grills, the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill - also known as the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker in the UK - is its first outdoor cooking appliance.
This electric outdoor grill offers the convenience and control of cooking on gas, combined with the smoky flavors of charcoal or wood barbecues. It does this by igniting a tiny amount of wood pellets and infusing the smoke into the grill.
Not only is this appliance a game changer if you only have a balcony or tiny patio, but it offers easy, mess-free outdoor cooking no matter where you plan to cook – so long as you have access to power. Furthermore, this isn’t just a BBQ/grill alternative; it offers multiple cooking functions. It can air fry, bake, roast, and it’s a smoker, too.
On test it proved its worth. It’s so easy to use and creates tasty, smoky flavors without a flame and with minimal mess. The bake and air fry functions worked as expected, and I enjoyed baking a brownie in the garden. This is a great outdoor cooking appliance that's sure to plug a gap in the market.
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill review: price and availability
List price: $370/ £350
The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill is available direct from Ninja US and Ninja UK, priced at $370/ £350. If you’re looking to store it outdoors, you’ll also need to invest in the waterproof cover that costs an additional $20/ £20. At the time of writing the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill Cover was out of stock in the UK.
Since it can be set up on any table, there’s no requirement to purchase the collapsible grill stand, but for those who want it, it’s a further $150/ £130. There are often bundle deals available, so it’s worth browsing the Ninja website and checking out what’s the best deal for the grill and range of accessories you’re hoping to add on.
The wood pellets cost $32/ £30 for two 2lbs/ 900g bags, which should last up to 40 cooking sessions.
Value score: 4.5/5
Ninja Woodfire review: specifications
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill review: design and features
Can be used in the rain
Multiple cooking functions
Most functions can be used with or without smoke
In the US, the Woodfire Grill is available in red or gray, but UK customers only have the latter option. It comes with a sample bag of each type of pellet, a pellet scoop, as well as the grill plate and crisper basket. There’s even a handy recipe book for inspiration, and it includes several pages of cooking charts at the back with suggested cook times and temperatures to get you started.
The cooking functions are Grill, Smoker, Roast, Bake, Dehydrate, Air Crisp and Broil (the UK model excludes the Broil function, but offers a Reheat mode instead). The large dial on the left of the control panel makes it easy to toggle through the different cooking modes, after which cook time and temperature are adjusted using the buttons below the screen.
There’s a start / stop button on the front, but also a second on/off switch under the left side of the machine. It’s quite poorly located, and virtually impossible to see, but once you know roughly where it is, you can just about find it with your hand.
The Woodfire flavor technology button can be selected when you want to add smoke to one of the functions. Simply select the cooking mode, time and temperature, then press the Woodfire button and add wood pellets to the smoker box. Cleverly, the grill will automatically ignite the wood pellets and direct smoke into the grill. There’s no flame; just a small, enclosed pot of smoking pellets.
I was surprised to read that the appliance can be used in the rain; but, obviously, if you’re running an extension power cord outside, you’ll want to be careful that it’s protected from the rain. The grill can be stored outdoors, too, if you buy the Ninja grill cover to keep it protected.
The large side handles make it pretty easy to move around. The sturdy lid handle stays cool in use and makes the Ninja grill easy to open. The accessories aren't dishwasher safe – which, in my opinion, is an oversight. Having said that, they're all non-stick and small enough to soak in the sink for removing any burnt-on residues.
There’s far less setup than I was expecting. The side handles screw on using the hex tool provided, after which it’s just a case of placing the accessories inside.
Design score: 4.5/5
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill review: performance
Tasty, smoky-flavored food
Wood pellets ignite automatically and quickly
Heats up fast
The most exciting function to try out was the grill with added woodsmoke. Setting it up was simple: I added a scoop of wood pellets into the smoke box at the side, set the grill time and temperature, and pressed the Woodfire button before hitting Start. First, the Ninja ignites the pellets – this took four minutes and during this time I started to see some smoke coming out.
Once the wood pellets are burning, the grill begins to preheat. It was set to the high temperature, with the preheat taking six minutes. I managed to find enough space on the grill plate for four chicken thighs, two burgers, a bell pepper that I’d cut into slices and five chunky slices of halloumi.
I put the chicken in first, adding the pepper and burger after four minutes. Then, following a further four minutes, I turned everything and added the halloumi. At this point I could see that the burgers were already quite charred, so I only cooked them for 2 minutes on the second side. The chicken thighs took 12 minutes, while the peppers cooked for 8 minutes and the halloumi took just 4 minutes.
All of the resulting food had a good smoky flavor, even the halloumi that only cooked for 4 minutes. The chicken skin was deliciously crisp and smoky, but the smoke flavor hadn’t made it into the meat beneath – probably because I kept opening the lid of the grill.
Despite cooking much quicker than expected, the burgers were still juicy and smoky. The peppers were super tasty, too. Given how frequently I opened the lid, I was surprised that all the food still developed a recognizable smoky hit.
With cooking complete, it took 2 ½ hours for the wood pellets to completely burn away, which meant I couldn’t bring the grill back into the house until quite late. As such, I’d probably use fewer than a whole scoop of pellets next time. The tiny smoke box barely had any ash in it at the end; it lifts out easily and I just sprinkled the ash onto my flower bed, or you could tip it straight into the trash.
I also tried out the Ninja grill's Smoker function, for which setup was similar. I filled up the smoke box with a scoop of pellets. This time, after the initial 4-minute ignition, it didn’t require any further preheat time and started counting down the 30 minutes I’d set on the timer.
I added four salmon fillets, cooking the fish at the default temperature of 250ºF/ 120ºC. I let them smoke for 25 minutes before lifting the lid, at which point they were perfectly cooked. The fish was moist and flaky, with a deep, rich smoky flavor. It was a great result and so easy to achieve.
To test out the bake function, I made brownies using this recipe. It only took 3 minutes to preheat the grill to 340ºF/ 170ºC. And 22 minutes for brownies with a deliciously gooey center. The edges were a little cakey, so in hindsight the brownie could have been removed a few minutes sooner. The aroma of chocolate brownie wafting around my garden in the breeze was certainly a novelty. And I’d absolutely class this as a successful, tasty outdoor baking session.
In my experience, Ninja air fryers are usually very good for making fries, so I gave them a go in the Woodfire using the Air Fryer function. I didn’t add wood smoke because I wanted to assess the Air Fryer function on its own. I pre-soaked my fries for 30 minutes before drying and coating lightly in oil. Following the 3 minutes to preheat, I added my 1lb/ 500g of cut potatoes, which looked like a minuscule portion in the large basket that has a 3lbs/1.5kg capacity.
I flipped the fries every 5 minutes or so. I was expecting them to take around 20 minutes, but I removed them after 16 minutes because they were nicely golden brown, crisped and with fluffy centers.
Having to hand-wash the basket and grill plate was a bit annoying, but it’s a small sacrifice to make given how easy the Woodfire grill is to use. I should also mention that there’s a drip tray included; simply place it under the back of the grill and it collects all the excess fat for easy disposal.
Performance score: 5/5
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How I tested the Ninja Woodfire
I used four of the cooking functions
I assessed how easy the woodsmoke function is to use
I noted how easy it was to clean away charred and greasy residues
Having been reviewing household appliances for several years, I’ve reviewed multiple air fryers and BBQs, but never anything quite like the Ninja Woodfire Grill – so I was excited to try this one out.
To test the Air Fry function, I made home-cut fries – something we make to evaluate all the air fryers we review. I baked a brownie using the Bake function – it offered a great way to see whether the base of the brownie would be crisped by the bottom heating element (it wasn’t). Then I used the Woodfire Grill purely as a smoker, and also as a grill with added smoke. Both functions enabled me to get to grips with smoke function.
Throughout all the tests I assessed the appliance for ease of use, ease of clean-up, and the overall quality of the grill alongside the quality of the food it delivered. I was also taking note of how fast it was to heat up, cook and cool down.
Read more about how we test.
[First reviewed May 2023]