Cooking | October 6, 2022 11:30 am

Review: Ninja’s Woodfire Outdoor Grill Brings the Smoke Anywhere

This portable electric grill uses wood pellets to add smoky flavor, but its real strengths lie elsewhere

Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill on a table with food. The grill adds a "smoking" element to food.
The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill is an interesting tailgating option
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As a co-owner of a very small NYC apartment that happens to have a deck, I’ve been interested in getting my grill game on — and my first foray into the world of outdoor electric grills was a success.

My initial non-gas/non-charcoal grill venture was more about escaping the heat of a kitchen in the summer (and abiding by the city’s restrictive fire codes, which limited my grilling options). But as the weather has cooled, my interest in outdoor cooking has remained strong.

What could I do beyond grilling meats and veggies?

Enter the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, which promised an easy way to not only grill outside, but also smoke, air fry, broil, roast, bake and even dehydrate food. You probably know Ninja from their array of small kitchen appliances (blenders, coffee makers, toasters, etc.) — Woodfire represents the brand’s first outdoor product.

But the selling point here is the “smoking” part. There’s a giant “woodfire flavor” button on the bottom left/center of the unit’s control panel. Scoop some proprietary Ninja wood-burning pellets into a small smoke box on the side, close the lid, press the woodfire flavor button (a flame icon will appear on the digital readout) and voila, near-instant smoky goodness can be added to anything you want to grill, air crisp, roast or dehydrate (but not broil).

The learning curve here is modest. The results? Your love of the grill may depend on how much you like to bring the smoke, or if you find its other uses to be the real selling point.

The specs:

  • 30.62 lbs
  • 23.62” x 18.58” x 13.31”
  • Enough room (via its 141-square-inch Nonstick Grill Grate) to grill six steaks or 30 hot dogs, air fry up to 3 lbs of wings, or BBQ smoke a 9-lb whole brisket
  • Included: Nonstick Grill Grate, Crisper Basket, Pellet Scoop, Ninja Woodfire Pellets Robust Blend And All-Purpose Blend Starter Packs and a Quick Start Guide with 15 recipes

What works: 

  • The included booklet is colorful and provides extremely simple instructions. Outside of one technical hiccup (see below), figuring out how to use the Woodfire is a five-minute job. 
  • These grills are fast. Even with pre-heating, various cuts of meats on the 141-sq-in grill surface were done in minutes (Ninja claims the grill “tenderizes large cuts of meat up to 40 percent faster and with 80 percent fewer pellets than competitors’ grills”)
  • The Ninja was the first appliance I’ve used that did a good job with air frying frozen French fries (you’ll use the included crisper basket here)
  • Clean-up was easy. There’s a removable grease tray, and wiping down the Woodfire (after it cooled) and its removable grill grate took just a few minutes.
  • Every direction I followed in the included recipe book was accurate. No under- or overcooking here if you’re using their guide.

What kind of works:

  • The pellets we tried — an all-purpose and robust blend — added a lot of smoke to various meats (chicken, a pork roast, steak, etc.). Like, a LOT. And it created a rather smoky atmosphere around the grill as well, so don’t use this indoors if you plan to utilize the Woodfire flavor option. 
  • The display will let you know when to add food after pre-heating, when to flip food and when everything is done. An app that could send you a note would have been even more helpful.

What needs work:

  • There are a few different buying options with the Woodfire. At $369, it seems pretty modestly priced, but you’re gonna want to add a cover, built-in thermometer, veggie tray and crisper basket … and, TBH, a grill stand, which is $179 more (I’m currently using an outdoor metal dining table to hold up the grill, which is not ideal.) 
  • The Woodfire is “portable” but it’s actually very heavy and bulky … and I don’t trust the plastic side handles — one actually broke off during shipping. 
  • You’ll want to use a dedicated electrical outlet for this, and one that can handle a major appliance. During my first go-around with the grill, the circuit was tripped and the machine shut off after two minutes. I had to experiment with a few different plugs around the apartment before I found one that worked. (For mobile generators, Ninja says they must be rated at least 15A 120VAC to operate.)
  • The overall “smoke” flavors here were a bit aggressive and it didn’t seem to matter much what pellets I used … and you’re limited to the Ninja brand pellets. It’s certainly something I’d want to play around with more.

Final thoughts:

Veteran BBQ “smokers” will probably find the Ninja limiting, but novice chefs will love that the Woodfire is on the lower price end of wood pellet grills. Add in its (semi-)portability and versatility  — you don’t have to use the smoker to use the grill — and you have an appliance that seems best suited for tailgating and camping trips, where most people will be just fine with some grilled meats and veggies…and more adventurous cooks can easily and quickly test out the Woodfire’s other wide-ranging if modestly successful abilities.