Ninja Woodfire 8
The traditional options for outdoor cooking and grilling tend to be gas or charcoal, and each has its devotees, with good reason. Gas can be cleaner and more convenient, while charcoal delivers more authentic smoky flavor. But recently, pellet grills, which burn compressed wood pellets, have become a popular way for outdoor cooking enthusiasts to get the best of both worlds. They offer smoky, wood-fired flavor without the mess and fuss of a standalone smoker.
When I’d heard that Ninja, a brand that has been disrupting kitchen appliances (in a good way) for a while now, was debuting a pellet grill that also functions as a roaster, dehydrator, smoker and pizza oven, I was eager to try it out. After spending a few weeks testing it, I can confidently say that while it may not appeal to barbecue purists, the Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven is innovative enough to make it well worth the $400 price tag.
The Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven is an easy-to-use option for infusing any number of foods with wood-fired flavor, and offers a range of cooking temperatures and modes, from low and slow to brick-oven-pizza hot (700 degrees Fahrenheit), which means you can roast, broil, bake, smoke and more. It’s priced on par with single-function pellet grills that don’t deliver as much value, so it's a great choice for backyard chefs who want to take their grilling up a notch.
The Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven is small compared to most standalone smokers and grills, and at just around 17 by 15 by 22 inches, it doesn’t take up too much real estate. It was simple to unpack and straightforward to assemble — just insert the accessory frame and smoke box, plug it in and you’re ready to go. Plus, if you decide against investing in the optional stand, it can be placed anywhere. Its size doesn’t limit its capabilities, however, as the efficient design allows you to do anything from roasting up to a 12-pound turkey to baking cobbler, smoking ribs and making a 10-inch pizza, among other functions.
The oven includes a pro-heat pan with a roasting rack insert and a pizza stone, which allows you to use all its basic functions. Other accessories, including a stand and cover, are optional. The oven must be plugged into a standard electrical outlet to operate, but other than that, all you need are wood pellets if you want to add smoked flavor to your food. I put it to the test by roasting salmon filets, making pizza and smoking eggplant, peaches and a whole chicken. I didn’t get to test the dehydrator or specialty roast function, which is akin to a reverse sear, but based on how the other modes performed, I am confident the Ninja Woodfire Oven will excel at those as well.
The design is aesthetic enough, with rounded corners, brushed stainless and a terracotta finish, and it comes with a sleek, easy-to-read digital display. In short: This machine delivers a lot in a small package.
The Ninja Woodfire Oven delivers smoke via a small smoke box on the side. Simply fill it with Ninja wood pellets in the flavor of your choosing, then select your cooking mode from the preset menu options and add the woodfire flavor option (Ninja notes that Woodfire flavor technology cannot be used with the broil or warm function). The machine will automatically preheat, which can take about 25 minutes or so, tops, but it’s important to factor this time in if you’re getting ready to feed a crowd. However, I’ve messed around with lighting charcoal chimneys for longer than that.
The aroma of the smoke is pretty potent, and I tried both the milder All-Purpose blend and the Robust blend. The smoky flavor of the food was stronger with the Robust blend, but a lot depends on what cooking mode you use, as well as the type of food. The eggplant (which I used for baba ganoush) and peaches took the flavor most strongly, while the flavor was barely perceptible in the salmon.
Anyone used to cooking over charcoal or a wood smoker may be disappointed with the smoke strength, but it definitely comes through in all cases, and the beauty of this machine is the lack of mess and fuss required to achieve that. There is no fire to stoke, no airflow worries and the whole process happens rather quickly — around half an hour for fruit and vegetables and, I’d imagine, things like cheese or nuts, and several hours for large meats like a whole chicken.
Best of all, the clean-up is much easier: Simply empty out the ash from the smoke box when cool, and clean out the oven with a dry wire brush every 10 uses or so.
Brick oven pizza had the perfect Goldilocks amount of wood-fired flavor, and was definitely one of my favorite uses of this machine. Because the oven gets up to a whopping 700 degrees Fahrenheit, it doesn’t take long to get a beautifully charred pizza crust, depending on which of the five settings you choose (Neapolitan, thin crust, pan, New York and frozen). The manual says it should take 3 minutes after it’s fully preheated, and my 10-inch wood-fired pizza was gorgeous using this timing. In fact, it was easily the best-tasting pizza I have ever made, a true game changer.
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While the Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven has a lot going for it, there are some aspects that could be improved upon. This is an electric oven, and while plug-and-go efficiency has its perks, it does require that the oven be located close to an electrical outlet. This can be inconvenient for several reasons, and I found it so mainly because having the oven that close to my house made the inside smell smoky for a day or so after every use. An extension cord could help with that issue, but would be unwieldy and unattractive. However, this option may be a fair tradeoff for not having to deal with fuel and mess.
But my primary concern was how an electric grill would fare in the extremely wet weather we’ve been having. Although compact, the Ninja Woodfire Oven is still quite heavy, and not easily moved around. And while the cord is waterproof, I still get nervous with electrical cords and water. I’d definitely opt for the cover, which is sold separately for $25 but fits both the machine and the cord.
Not all the accessories for the Ninja Woodfire Oven are as useful. I personally found the plastic stand somewhat flimsy and overpriced at $200. Another drawback is the brand recommends you use only Ninja Woodfire pellets for the stove. While they’re not pricey at $16 for a 2-pound bag, having to remain loyal to a single brand can be inconvenient.
And finally, while the Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven’s small footprint is an asset in some ways, it can also be a disadvantage if you like to feed a crowd. It will work for a large roast and even a small turkey, but you won’t be able to do sides at the same time. Additionally, while the bake and roast functions are nice, they don’t offer too many advantages over a regular oven, although this outdoor oven could come in handy for large gatherings like Thanksgiving when indoor oven space is at capacity
The Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven occupies a pretty niche place in the market. Even the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, which has many similar functions, cannot make wood-fired pizza. Most other pellet grills won’t reach such high temperatures while also being able to cook low and slow the way smokers are intended to, and lack the other functionality as well. If you do find one with dual functionality, like the Pit Boss Navigator Pellet/Gas Combo Grill ($1,249), you’re likely to pay a lot for it. They also tend to take up a lot more space.
The Weber 18-Inch Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker ($419) is a classic and might appease barbecue purists and offer more cooking grate surface area, but dinner won’t be done nearly as quickly or easily. Ditto anything from Traeger, like the Pro Series 22 Pellet Grill and Smoker ($600). Maybe most comparable is Z Grills Cruiser 200A ($329 $299), a travel-size pellet grill with most of the functions of the Ninja Woodfire and a similar price point. Even that won’t fire up pizza, however, because it only reaches a max temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
As backyard barbecuing gets more creative, the ability to smoke a variety of foods is becoming increasingly popular. The Ninja Woodfire 8-in-1 Outdoor Oven is an efficient, convenient way to achieve smoky, slow-cooked flavor without the expense, patience and maintenance required by most traditional smokers. It also offers added value that other pellet grills can’t, thanks to its multifunctionality and wide temperature range. I can say that it definitely revolutionized my homemade pizza game — never have I gotten such a pizza-parlor-perfect chewy, crispy crust on a pie before.
While deviating from the recipe book will likely require a slight learning curve, this machine makes it easy to get creative with your food in so many ways.