I’ve tested many outdoor grills, some of which were smokers, like the Big Green Egg and Char-Griller Akorn Kamado. However, the one type of grill I hadn’t got my hands on was a wood pellet grill, so I said yes to the opportunity to test the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, and I’m thrilled I did. Over the course of a few weeks, I grilled, roasted, broiled, baked, dehydrated, air crisped, and smoked a variety of foods. In that time, I came to discover that grilling doesn’t have to be a long process of setting up, cooking, and maintenance. Not with the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill on hand.

Product specs:

Fuel type: Electric, woodfire pelletsWeight: 30.62 lbs.Dimensions: H 13.31 in, W 18.58 in, D 23.62 inCooking area: 141 sq. in.Cord length: 4 ft.

Unboxing the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill:

The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill was delivered in a medium-sized box on my front porch. Inside, the grill was placed in packing foam, which isn’t sustainable as it’s not recyclable in most of the country. The grill was wider and heavier than I thought it would be, and because it did not come with a stand (it’s sold separately), I would need to place it on a table when I grilled. At 30 lbs., it requires some strength to move this portable grill around. Thankfully, two handles were included in the box and after screwing them onto the grill, it was a lot easier to carry the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill between my garage and my outdoor grilling space. Beyond the grill itself, the box held a grill plate, an air crisper basket, grease pan, two different pellet bags – an All Purpose Blend and a Robust Blend – and a scooper to measure the pellets. It was easy to place the grill plate inside the grill and slide the grease pan onto the back of the grill. The air crisper basket sits on top of the grill plate when needed. The grill itself is sleek and made of considerably durable materials, though I was surprised that the smoke box was so small. I couldn’t wait to see if such a small amount of pellets would really produce juicy, smoked meats.

What is it like to use the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill?

The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill has seven different cooking functions, and I tested all of them: grilling, roasting, smoking, frying, baking, dehydrating, and broiling. For my first run with the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, I decided to grill salmon and yellow squash. However, I wanted to add some smoky flavors to the fish and vegetables, so I filled up the smoke box with a scoop of the All Purpose Blend pellets. Thankfully, you don’t have to measure the pellets out; the provided scoop is the exact dimensions of the smoke box so fill it up to the top and add them in. I then added the grill plate inside the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill and set the crisper basket aside. After filling the smoke box, I turned the knob to ‘Grill’ and then hit the Woodfire Flavor button. According to the Quick Start Guide Recipe Book, I needed to set the temperature to high and the time to 10 minutes. While the grill preheated, I prepared the food. After about 10 minutes, the screen read, ‘Add Food,’ so I did. I could already see smoke from the smoke box billowing around the grill and it smelled fantastic. Even though I set the salmon and squash to cook for 10 minutes, I ended up removing the food in seven minutes. It cooked incredibly fast. In fact, I wish I had only set the food to cook for five minutes because the fish was slightly drier on the outside than I preferred. Despite that, the fish was incredibly tasty and moister inside than I expected. There was a delicious smoky flavor to the fish and vegetables that wasn’t overwhelming, and the char created by the grill grate was incredible. After the grill had cooled, I noticed that the pellets had mostly burned down. Over the course of testing the grill, I found that the same thing occurred with pellets time and time again. There’s almost exactly enough for every function. That said, there may be certain long-term cooking functions – like smoking or dehydrating meats – that will require filling up the smoke box with more pellets. I never experienced this, most likely because the longest cooking experience I had was two-and-a-half hours. This wasn’t the only thing I learned in my time testing the grill. I also noticed that the grill informs users to flip their food when the timer reaches the halfway point. While this is helpful, I actually found that I preferred checking the food and turning it over every three minutes or so, as this grill cooks much faster than the suggested times in the recipe book. One thing to note – the grill will pause the smoke box and the heating of the grill plate every time you open it. A “Shut Lid” notification will pop up on the display until the grill is closed.  Besides cooking salmon and squash in the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, I used the air crisp function with Woodfire technology to cook chicken legs and sweet potato fries, dehydrated round steak into beef jerky (with Woodfire Technology), and smoked a pork loin to perfection. I also grilled a bacon wrapped filet mignon with baby corn, zucchini, and haricot verts, and roasted a meal of cheese-stuffed chicken breast, leeks, and bok choy. I used Woodfire technology to add a smoky flavor to the last two meals.  Not only did I broil some pizza that I’d ordered the night before, but I also baked cinnamon rolls in the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, and simply grilled (without Woodfire technology) chicken cutlets and butternut squash. I used up both bags of wood pellets provided by Ninja during my testing. Now, let’s focus on what I learned by cooking each of these different meals. Firstly, there are different preheat times depending on the cooking function. The preheat time for grilling is 7-12 minutes and three minutes when you bake, roast, or air crisp. For smoking, dehydrating, and broiling foods, there is no preheat time. If you add Woodfire Flavor to the meal, it will add an additional 5-7 minutes of preheating. Different cooking functions will bring up a different display. For instance, you will adjust the internal temperature of the grill (i.e. 350 degrees) when baking, but when you’re grilling, the temperature will read as Hi, Med, or Lo. Broiling the pizza and baking the cinnamon rolls were incredibly easy, especially since I didn’t use Woodfire Technology to do so. (I don’t think that would have been tasty.) Just as with most other cooking functions, the cinnamon rolls cooked a lot faster than I expected, so I’m glad that I checked on them throughout the baking process. Of course, if you buy this grill, you’re probably most interested in its smoking capabilities. On New Year’s Day, I smoked a 1.5-lb pork tenderloin. The recipe book said it would take 45 minutes to smoke to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. It took about 40 minutes, and the result was fantastic. The exterior of the pork loin had caramelized, and the inside was exceptionally juicy. I shared some of the tenderloin with a neighbor who doesn’t usually like eating pork and they said it was the best tenderloin they’ve ever had. Besides smoking the pork tenderloin, my favorite thing to ‘cook’ on this grill was the beef jerky. I have tried to dehydrate food in the past with an air fryer and it never worked out well. But why not try to dehydrate round steaks into beef jerky on this grill? According to the dehydrate chart in the back of the Ninja recipe guide, beef jerky should take 5-7 hours of dehydrating time in the Woodfire Outdoor Grill. However, it only took two hours for the round steak to become beef jerky, and it tasted so good thanks to the Woodfire Technology. Once the beef jerky was done, I ate it all in one sitting! For the most part, I found that the Woodfire Technology added a smokey flavor to many of the foods, meat or otherwise. That means I don’t think it’s best used for broiling or baking.  Sometimes, I found it better to just roast or air crisp ingredients and skip using the Woodfire Technology.. For instance, when I used the air crisp function with Woodfire Technology to cook the chicken legs and sweet potatoes, it resulted in a more acrid flavor than I liked. Simply air crisping the chicken and the fries would have resulted in a better taste. However, this Woodfire Technology is part of the fun of using this grill. It’s interesting to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I should also add that the Woodfire Technology doesn’t taste quite like a traditional smoker. There is a marked difference, and fans of hours-long smoked barbecue on traditional smokers shouldn’t expect Ninja’s Woodfire Technology to be the same. It’s definitely not, but the Ninja still produces unbelievably tasty meals that are juicy, smoky, and fall-off-the-bone. With this grill, you can enjoy a similar taste without as much time and effort as doing it the old-fashioned way. This grill is missing a few features that other grills have as standard. Unfortunately, the version that I tested did not have a built-in thermometer which would have been incredibly helpful during the cooking process. In the future, I also expect this grill to be outfitted with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology like other wood pellet grills. I’d love to manage certain cooking functions of the grill on my phone. A crucial thing to bear in mind is that this grill can cause a circuit breaker trip. The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill uses 1760 watts of power, so it can only be plugged into a 15-amp circuit breaker. I tried plugging the grill into the same outlet as my hot tub and it tripped the breaker. If I’d read the instructions more clearly, I would have noticed that Ninja suggests that this grill be the only appliance plugged into an outlet at a time. Now, I have to admit, I’ve plugged the grill into the same outlet as my washer and the circuit breaker didn’t trip. I’m not sure why the grill tripped one outlet and not another, but be mindful of this before you buy as you wouldn’t want the breaker to trip when you’re halfway through cooking. 

Cleaning the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill:

It’s not particularly difficult to clean the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, but it takes a bit of time. After the grill cools down, you must remove the grill grate, crisper basket (if used), and the grease tray and wash them by hand. Only the pellet scoop is dishwasher safe. If you have a good scrubber, you shouldn’t have any problem cleaning between the grooves of the grill grate and crisper basket. To make cleaning the grease tray easier, Ninja suggests covering it with aluminum foil, which allows you to throw away the greasy foil and prevents the tray from being too greasy to wash by hand. I tried this, and there were times where I didn’t even have to replace the aluminum foil because the meats and vegetables didn’t create much grease. The smoke box doesn’t need to be cleaned, but you will have to dump ashes that may still be inside. I’d also suggest that you clean the inside of the hood with a damp rag each time you’re done cooking, or else grease will build up over time. This is the case with the smoke box — grease has made its way into there and causes the lid to stick a little. Unfortunately, this is such a tight space that it’s very hard to clean with a damp rag. Perhaps an old toothbrush would be a better option.

Storage and maintenance:

Although the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill is built with premium materials to handle year-round outdoor cooking, I wouldn’t leave it outside to the elements. For one, the grill is so small that it’s easy enough to pack away in a garage, shed, a closet, or even possibly under a tall bed. If you leave it outdoors, you should invest in the grill cover (opens in new tab) that Ninja offers as an additional accessory.

How does the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill rate online?

On the Ninja website, the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill has a 4.8-star rating out of 285 reviews. However, it should be noted that the reviews combine those of the grill I tested and the premium Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill with Built-in Thermometer and Premium Package. The grills differ only slightly in that the Pro Outdoor Grill has a built-in thermometer and includes additional accessories like a grill cover, veggie tray, and roasting lifters. Most reviewers loved this grill. They raved about its portability, how easy it is to clean, and the smoking features. The only negative feedback came from those who seem to have a lot of experience with smoking on large traditional smokers. They weren’t always satisfied with the smoky flavor that this grill produces and had some trouble figuring out how to do multi-hour smokes of meat. These comments were very few, but they should be mentioned because it showcases how avid smokers might be too used to smoking the traditional way to like the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill.  If you ask me, I think that this grill and smoker is better designed for newbies or those who want a smoky flavor without the multi-hour-long experience of a traditional smoker.

How does the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill compare to similar models and its predecessors?

Ninja offers two versions of the Woodfire Outdoor Grill. The Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill is the more premium version. It’s different from the one I tested in that it has a built-in thermometer and includes a grill cover, roasting lifters, and a veggie tray. Ninja prices the Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill at about a $100 more than the Woodfire Outdoor Grill. For all intents and purposes, they both work in the same way so if you need to save some money, go the cheaper route and buy the Woodfire Outdoor Grill. Otherwise, the additional accessories and built-in thermometer are well worth the price of the Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill. Recently, I tested the Ninja® Foodi® Smart XL 6-in-1 Indoor Grill & Air Fryer with Built in Thermometer, 2nd Generation. It’s similar to the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill in that it can grill, bake, roast, air fry, dehydrate, and broil, however, because it is designed for indoor cooking, it does not have the smoking cook function. If I were going to invest in one or the other, I’d invest in the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill for the smoking feature alone. Even if you live in an apartment, you could absolutely use the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill on a small patio or even outside the entrance of your apartment. Beyond the Ninja brand, there are some countertop smokers on the market. Traeger has their Ranger Pellet Grill and Smoker and Halo sells the Prime300 Countertop Pellet Grill. Unfortunately, they’re only designed for smoking and grilling and don’t provide the same diversity of cooking options as the grill I tested. In my search online, I could not find anything that comes close to the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill.

Should you buy the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill?:

I didn’t think that I would fall in love with the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill the way I did, but the smoking feature stole my heart. With a small cup of wood pellets, the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill infuses smoke into meats and vegetables as you grill, roast, or dehydrate meats and veggies. And it doesn’t take hours of prep, cooking, or clean up time to do so. Add in the benefits of being able to air fry, bake, and broil on this grill and it’s a win in my book. Yes, I wish the grill came with a stand and a built-in thermometer, but they can always be bought as additional accessories. Plus, it’s easy to take this grill on the road whether that be a tailgate, camping trip, or a friend’s house. Trust me when I say that everyone will be impressed by this grill’s cooking capabilities. The price is incredibly affordable too, considering how many things this grill can do. Go ahead and clean out your garage or kitchen of the numerous appliances because the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill can do it all. 

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