Ninja is one of those brands you can count on when it comes to innovation in kitchen appliances. And though this is branded as a 5-in-1 grill, what that means in real terms is that as well as an indoor grill, it’s also a stand-in for the best air fryer, plus it can roast, bake and dehydrate. In comparison to Ninja’s standalone air fryers, it’s an expensive choice especially given the capacity, but it’s the cheapest of the indoor grill range offered by the brand.
It takes up more space in your kitchen than a similar capacity fryer, but having said that, the unique grill function makes it more versatile too, allowing you to produce char-grilled meats, fish and vegetables from the comfort of your kitchen, so no more worrying about sudden rain showers while you grill your steak.
I tried this grill in my own kitchen for a couple of weeks and found it super easy to use, I’m even tempted to ditch my previous air fryer and keep this instead. It’s not perfect, but I found the grill and air fry functions performed well. You can even see it in our guide to the best indoor grills, and it's the only one in that roundup that can also air fry. I’m yet to be convinced about the bake mode, though.
Ninja Foodi AG301 5-in-1 Indoor Grill specs
- Capacity: 6 qt cooking pot, 4 qt crisper basket
- Size: 11 x 14 x 17 inches
- Settings: Grill, air crisp, dehydrate, bake and roast
- Comes with: cooking pot, crisper basket, grill grate, cleaning brush, recipe book
- Power: 1,760 watts
- RRP: $229.99
The Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill came in a hefty box but thankfully most of the packaging inside was easily recyclable cardboard, with just a few plastic bags separating out some of the accessories. On first impression, it was bigger than I expected and you’ll either need to give up a big part of your kitchen cupboard to store it, or if you want to leave it on the counter, be aware that it’ll take up a good chunk of space. Something to consider if you live in an apartment or have a small kitchen.
It comes with three main cooking accessories, the first is the 6 qt cooking pot, this needs to be in place regardless of which function you’re using. Then there’s a 4 qt crisper basket which slots into the cooking pot and has a perforated base for use with the air crisp mode. Thirdly, the heavy 10 x 10-inch grill grate which slots into the cooking pot when grilling. I found it slightly frustrating that only two of the three can be stored inside the grill when not in use though.
Like an outdoor grill the lid is hinged at the back and lifts up so you can check or add the food, which makes sense for grilling. But what’s not obvious when you look at it online, is that the way the lid is hinged means it needs a good 4 ½ inches of clearance at the back to allow it to open. So realistically you can only push it to the back of the counter when you’re not using it.
The pull-up lid is an unusual set up for an air fryer and unlike a standard drawer style air fryer that has a handle, when you want to shake the fries, you have to lift out the hot crisper basket first. But on the plus side, given that the air frying capacity isn’t huge, I was struck by how big the basket feels, this is in part due to the wide and shallow design that means food can be spread out instead of piled up.
Grilling in the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill
Being its main selling feature, I was keen to try out the grill function. And for my first foray into Ninja grilling, I rifled through my fridge and decided to grill up some asparagus.
The grill has four temperature settings and I selected high, which is one below the hottest, at this stage I also adjusted the timer. It runs a preheat before you can start grilling, this took what felt like forever, but was actually around eight minutes. You also have to make sure the grill grate is inside during the preheat so it gets nice and hot.
During the preheat I coated my asparagus in a light drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. And as soon as the Ninja beeped and displayed ‘add food’ I popped it inside, closed the lid, and the timer began to count down.
After a couple of minutes I had a peek, gave it a turn and then let it grill for another three minutes. At the end of the five minutes it was cooked and I can honestly say, I think this is how I will always cook asparagus from now on! It was tender, but the tips had a lovely crispiness and the charred bar marks added to the flavor.
Spurred on by the success of the asparagus I tried some sausages. After consulting the ever-so-helpful grill chart at the back of the recipe book, this time I opted for the low heat setting and set the timer to 12 minutes.
On this lower heat setting the preheat was marginally quicker, but still took seven minutes. Other than giving them a quick turn halfway through, I let the sausages grill for the full 12 minutes.
During grilling there was very little smoke and I was struck by the lack of sausage smell in the kitchen. I personally hate the fatty smell of sausages cooking, so this was a welcome benefit of grilling them in the Ninja.
The finished sausages were cooked through and nicely browned, with appealing bar marks from the grill plate. And although it wasn’t too noticeable on my sausages, the curved bar shape would be noticeable on something flatter like a burger or piece of chicken, which may frustrate lovers of straight lines!
It's loudest in grill mode, hitting 60dB on my noise meter, compared to around 55dB on the air crisp mode, but it’s a low hum as opposed to an annoying sound.
Air frying in the Ninja Foodi AG301 5-in-1 Indoor Grill
The air fry mode is called air crisp on this grill, though you may notice in the pictures that it shows as air fry on the model I reviewed, this is because I reviewed it in the UK where it’s labelled as air fry instead. Right, now that we’ve got that bit of admin out of the way, let me tell you about how much I enjoyed air frying in this Ninja grill.
Ever since I found out you can make grilled cheese sandwiches in an air fryer, I’ve been itching to try it out. And when I opened this one up and realized I could fit two grilled cheese sandwiches side-by-side, I knew I had to give it a go. I read a few foodie blogs and from these I deduced that eight minutes at 380°F was a good starting point.
I kept it simple with grated cheddar cheese inside standard white bread, buttered on the outside. The air fryer took just three minutes to preheat, after which I carefully placed the sandwiches on the crisper plate and closed the lid. I opened it up after four minutes and the bread had crisped up enough to make the sandwiches easy to flip over.
At the end of the eight minutes I was presented with the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, crisp and golden on the outside, with oozy melty cheese inside. And because there’s space for two at once, my husband didn’t miss out on this delicious treat either.
On a slightly healthier day, when I was in need of a tasty snack, I pulled half a cauliflower out of the fridge and decided to air fry it. I cut it into florets and coated them in a tablespoon of oil and plenty of salt and pepper, then preheated the air fryer to 400°F, which again took three minutes.
After six minutes I checked on the cauliflower, gave it a stir and closed the lid for a further four minutes. After 10 minutes the cauliflower was cooked through, tender on the inside but crispy and salty on the outside – the perfect healthy snack and I can confirm it was super tasty
Using the same settings as the cauliflower I air fried hand cut chunky potato wedges to have with soup for a hearty lunch. I cut enough for two portions and coated them in a tablespoon of oil as well as salt and pepper.
After 10 minutes I lifted out the basket using oven gloves so I could give it a good shake and repeated the shake after 18 minutes. It’s a bit more hassle than shaking the contents of a drawer style air fryer, but personally it didn’t bother me. I switched it off after 22 minutes because the wedges were cooked, golden and crisp with fluffy centers.
Oven baking in the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill
I did want to have a go with the bake setting. However, the recipe book doesn’t offer up much guidance or suggested times and temperatures for the bake mode, so I was a bit in the dark and attempted to use it like baking foods in an oven.
So when I was making homemade pizzas for dinner, I thought I’d try and cook one in the Ninja using the bake function to see how it turned out. I know fresh pizzas need a hot oven to cook well, so in the absence of any advice in the cooking charts, I set it to the highest available temperature which was 400°F.
Maneuvering the doughy fresh pizza base into the cooking pot was tricky to say the least, and I barely managed to do it with the pizza still intact. After seven minutes, I opened the lid to check on progress and it was immediately obvious that the cheese and toppings were cooked enough.
Sadly though, the base was still a little too doughy, so I had to chalk this one up as a learning experience. The heat comes from the lid, so perhaps cooking something like pizza that needs a lot of heat on the base, was not a good idea.
Next up I tried to bake a potato topped chicken pie, opting for a lower temperature around 350°F. I checked it a couple of times and the potato topping was crisping up beautifully. But after 25 minutes it was dark enough so I removed it. I stuck a temperature probe inside, but it was only 130°F which even though the chicken was pre-cooked, just isn’t hot enough.
I think it would work well if you had a hot pie filling and just wanted to heat and crisp up the potato topping, which is how I’d approach it next time. I’d definitely say you need to be prepared for some trial and error if you want to get the most from the bake function.
How does the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill compare to other air fryers?
Unlike other air fryers from Ninja and its highly rated competitors such as Instant, this one doesn’t have a pull-out cooking drawer. As I’ve already mentioned, this means you can’t simply grab a handle to pull out the basket and give it a shake when your fries need stirring.
Instead, you have to reach for the oven mits and lift out the crisper basket to shake it. I didn’t mind this, but it is marginally less convenient and some people might find it annoying. On the plus side though, it’s very simple to use and cooks just as well as other top-performing air fryers. And did I mention how much I liked having enough space in the crisper basket for two grilled cheese sandwiches side-by-side?
Thanks to the non-stick coating, hand washing all the accessories was very easy and I didn’t experience any sticking whatsoever. The grill plate is trickier to clean due to the ridges and grooves, but Ninja supplies a cleaning brush which helps.
If you’ve got a dishwasher and want an easy life, everything is dishwasher friendly including the splatter guard, so there’s actually no need to do it by hand.
Should you buy the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill?
I really enjoyed using the grill and air crisp functions and achieved great results with both, so I’d say if you’re going to use both of these functions it’s definitely worth it. For smokeless indoor grilling with minimal cooking smells, this grill will give you great results. But if you don’t think you’ll use the grill function, you may as well save some money and look at Ninjas dedicated air fryers, most of which can also dehydrate, roast and bake.
I found that despite its relatively small capacity, the air fry basket felt roomy and there’s definitely a benefit to being able to spread out foods like fries, instead of having to pile them high like in a traditional basket. But the downside is that it’s a chunky appliance and it’s not ideal if you’re short on space.
It’s also worth noting that there are loads of optional extra accessories that you can buy to get the most out of this grill, these include griddle trays, a rack, kebab skewers and even a loaf pan.
About this review, and our reviewer
Helen McCue is a freelance contributor who trained as a Home Economist. After starting her career in the food industry, she moved into home appliance reviews, utilising her cooking skills and experience to put all kinds of products to the test, and over the years has reviewed hundreds of home and kitchen appliances for a variety of publications.
Having completely renovated her current house, Helen reviews kitchen appliances from her open plan kitchen at home in a beautiful Berkshire village. When she’s not working, Helen can be found enjoying the local countryside or dreaming about her next house renovation project.