Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill Review

An indoor grill with impressive performance

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5

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill

The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

What We Like
  • Efficiently grills without any smoke

  • Does the job of six other appliances

  • Has several pre-programmed meat settings

  • Includes a smart thermometer

What We Don't Like
  • All of the baskets don’t fit inside for storage

  • Takes up a lot of counter space

From grilling steaks to air-frying French fries to making homemade dog treats, the Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill is a multi-function appliance that completes any kitchen.

5

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill

The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

We purchased the Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.

Ninja is one of the leaders in the kitchen appliance game, so when I saw that it came out with a more advanced version of its highly rated indoor grill, I had to get my hands on it to see if it was worth the hype—or the thousands of five-star reviews. As soon as I got the Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill, I plugged it in and ran it through the gamut of cooking jobs, from grilling to dehydrating to air frying, to test all of its functions. Want to know if it passed or failed? Read on to find out.

Features: Six appliances in one

Ninja calls the Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill “the grill that sears, sizzles, and air-fry crisps,” but I think it should be called “the grill that replaces all of the other small kitchen appliances taking up too much space on your kitchen counter.” Okay, maybe it can’t replace all of the appliances—you’ll still need your blender and coffee maker—but after testing this Ninja Foodi for a few weeks, I was ready to get rid of my toaster oven, air fryer, dehydrator, and even my outdoor grill.

This version of the Foodi indoor grill has six main cooking features—grill, air fry, roast, dehydrate, broil, and bake—and, unlike the smaller version, it includes a meat thermometer that allows you to choose from several preset meat options. Instead of manually monitoring the temperature, you can set the grill to beef or pork and then choose from a range of internal cooking temperatures, from rare to well. While the whole appliance is impressive, the smart thermometer was my favorite feature by far.

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill
The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

Design: Unassuming enough to leave on your counter

Although unassuming as far as looks go, the grill is fairly large—the dimensions are about 16 by 17 by 11 inches—so it will take up a considerable amount of space on your counter or in your cabinet. Its stainless steel and black finish blends in with most other basic kitchen appliances and make it good-looking enough to keep on the counter, but I'm not a huge fan of leaving things out. The good news is that it does the job of several other appliances, so if you have an air fryer and toaster sitting on your counter now, you can replace them both with this.

I wish the grill was just half an inch bigger or the crisper basket was half an inch smaller so that they would all stack nicely inside for easy storage, but this was really the only thing I could find “wrong” with the grill.

There’s a touchscreen digital display on the front of the grill that allows you to manually choose your cooking programs and displays the prompts “add food” or “rest” when it comes time to do either. The thermometer is housed in its own hidden magnetic compartment on the side of the grill so as long as you put it away after each use, you never have to worry about losing it.

This particular model comes with three removable pans, a cooking pot, a grill grate, and a crisper basket. You also have the option to purchase a round baking pan separately. One design flaw I noticed here is that all three pans don’t stack inside the grill. You can stack the cooking pot and the grill grate or the cooking pot and the crisper basket, but you can’t do all three. I wish the grill was just half an inch bigger or the crisper basket was half an inch smaller so that they would all stack nicely inside for easy storage, but this was really the only thing I could find “wrong” with the grill. 

Performance: Worth the hype

Even after developing over 1,000 recipes, cooking steaks still feels intimidating, so the thought of being able to pull off a perfectly cooked steak with basically the push of a button sounded really exciting. But after testing and owning dozens of kitchen appliances that fall way short on their promises, I was skeptical, to say the least. 

Nevertheless, I put the Ninja Foodi to the ultimate grill test—grass-fed filets. Filets naturally have less fat than other cuts, and grass-fed filets have even less fat, so it’s really important not to overcook them if you want a good flavor.

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill
The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

During the five minutes it took to preheat the grill, I rubbed the filets in avocado oil—one of the high-heat oils recommended by the manufacturer—and sprinkled them with sea salt and crushed black pepper. Once the grill was preheated, it beeped and flashed an “add food” alert on-screen, signaling that it was time to add the steaks. I inserted the thermometer into the thickest part of one of the steaks, laid them on the grill pan, and chose the rare option in the beef preset function.

The thermometer immediately registered the temperature of the steak—59 degrees Fahrenheit—and displayed that next to the target temperature, which was 103 degrees for rare. As the steak heated up, the temperature displayed on the screen in real time, so when the internal temperature reached 80 degrees, which was about halfway to the steak being fully cooked, I opened the grill cover, which prompted the cycle to stop cooking, flipped the steaks, and then quickly closed the cover so the grilling process could continue.

After about 7 minutes of cooking and absolutely no smoke in sight, the Ninja Foodi beeped to signal that it was time to remove the steaks. Once the steaks were removed, the timer immediately began a rest cycle timer—a feature that I wasn't expecting but was pleasantly surprised by. This cycle counts up from 0 to 5 minutes, signaling that you should allow your meat to rest before cooking.

When I finally cut into the steak, I was wowed by how perfectly rare it was, and I'm not easily impressed. I’ve tried to pull this off with other grills and meat thermometers but was never as successful as I was with the Ninja Foodi.

The air fry and dehydrate settings were equally impressive. It doesn’t necessarily air fry better than others I’ve tried, but the fry basket is rectangular with a larger surface area than most air fryers, so the food cooks evenly without the need for constantly tossing it and moving it around.

I was also able to make homemade sweet potato dog treats with the dehydrate setting. I used a mandoline to slice sweet potatoes and then followed the Ninja’s instruction booklet—135 degrees Fahrenheit for about 6 hours. As someone who’s constantly on the lookout for natural dog treats, this was a selling point in itself. 

When I finally cut into the steak, I was wowed by how perfectly rare it was, and I'm not easily impressed.

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill
The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

Cleaning: Even easier than cooking

With most kitchen appliances, it’s all fun and games until it’s time to clean, but things went surprisingly smoothly with the Ninja Foodi. After I turned the grill off, I let it cool for a few minutes and then used the included brush tool to wipe down the grill grates. One side of the tool has bristles, and the other is perfectly shaped to wrap around the individual grates.

I thought it was going to take a little elbow grease, but everything brushed right off and then wiped away quickly and easily with a damp sponge. The whole process took maybe three minutes.

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill
The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Boyers

To make things even easier, all of the removable parts except for the thermometer are dishwasher-safe, so if you want to, you can give them a quick, gentle scrub with the included brush and then toss them in the dishwasher for even faster cleanup.  

Price: A quality investment

The Ninja Foodi retails around $280, which is more than reasonable for a kitchen appliance with so many high-performing functions. Even if grilling was the only feature, it does it so well that I’d still think it was worth the price. But since this one appliance can replace several others in your home—and even your outdoor grill if you really wanted it to—that sealed the deal for me.

To make things even easier, all of the removable parts except for the thermometer are dishwasher-safe, so if you want to, you can give them a quick, gentle scrub with the included brush and then toss them in the dishwasher for even faster cleanup.

Competition: You've got options

The Ninja Foodi Smart XL Grill is really in a class of its own. I don’t know of another appliance out there that offers this combination of features. However, if you don’t need all of the features, or you’re looking for a different set of features, there are some other options out there.

Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill: Since the Smart XL Grill is essentially a more advanced model of the original Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill, it makes sense to pit them against each other. Both have impressive grilling features, but the 5-in-1 is about 50 percent smaller—it can fit four steaks instead of six—and it doesn’t have the broil feature. The 5-in-1 also doesn’t include the thermometer, which is vital to the “set it and forget it” feature of the Smart XL. If you want something that’s effortless and doesn’t require monitoring, go with the XL. If you’re a steak cooking pro who doesn’t need a thermometer to tell you when it’s ready, the 5-in-1 will probably be enough for you. The 5-in-1 also retails around $210, so you save a bit of money as well.

Hamilton Beach Electric Indoor Searing Grill: If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill or you’re just looking for a way to take grilling indoors during the colder months, the Hamilton Beach Electric Indoor Searing Grill is probably enough to get the job done. Grilling is its only feature, but it retails for about $65 (or around $70 if you'd like it to have a window on the lid), so the price reflects that.

Final Verdict

Get your grill on.

There may be no such thing as the perfect kitchen appliance, but it’s really hard to find anything wrong with the Ninja Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill. It grills beautifully, air fries quickly and efficiently, and even has a dehydrate function that you can use to make natural dog treats (or your own beef jerky). If you’re even considering adding this to your kitchen, stop with the back and forth and get it now.

Specs

  • Product Name Foodi Smart XL Indoor Grill
  • Product Brand Ninja
  • Price $280
  • Weight 30.6 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 15.7 x 16.54 x 11.05 in.
  • Model number FG551
  • Colors Stainless steel and black
  • Warranty 1-year limited