Aug 06, 2023

Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ and Smoker (OG701UK) review: Tasty smoke without the fire

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Combining the simplicity of electricity with the authenticity of smoke, the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ and Smoker is an effective appliance

Ninja might be well known for its air fryers and multi cookers but it’s now branching out into the world of outdoor cooking with the Woodfire Electric BBQ and Smoker. Using a combination of electricity and wood pellets, this BBQ and grill hybrid allows you to cook outside with authentic results, minus the expensive gas canisters or large, kiln-dried logs. Of course, in true Ninja style, as well as being a smoker and grill, it can also perform a number of other cooking tasks such as air frying, roasting, baking, reheating and dehydrating.

The Woodfire has been predominantly designed with small gardens and balconies in mind, those without the space for traditional smokers or storing fuel. Instead, its tiny smoking compartment allows you to use wood pellets, which deliver strikingly similar results to using a full-sized smoker. Despite being made with small spaces in mind, this is still a grill for everyone. Its outstanding array of features and excellent results make it a good all-rounder, if you can handle the somewhat high price.

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At £350, the Woodfire Grill is one of Ninja’s most expensive appliances but it’s also by far its most complex. It’s an outdoor electric grill, which uses wood pellets to infuse smoke flavour into just about any food you can imagine. You’ll receive two different “flavours'' of pellets in the box as standard, and a scoop for measuring them out, and you can buy additional packs on Ninjas’s official website (£30 for two or £15 each) or use third-party pellets, as long as they’re a similar size and food-safe.

The grill also has air frying and other oven-style capabilities thanks to a powerful fan built into the lid. There’s also an air fryer basket included in the box, which simply sits on top of the grill. In fact, the Woodfire has seven functions in total, including smoking, grilling, air frying, baking, roasting, reheating and dehydrating.

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As you might expect from an outdoor appliance, it has a weather-resistant outer shell, allowing you to store it in your garden all year round. If you’re worried about how the sun or rain might affect the look of the Woodfire, though, there is an option to buy a cover separately for £20. Alternatively, you can also store the Woodfire indoors when you’re not using it. The Woodfire comes with an RCD safety plug, while the on/off switch – hidden away behind the front of the grill – also has a waterproof casing on it.

At 46 x 46 x 34cm (WDH), the Ninja Woodfire is about the size of a large portable barbecue. The removable grill measures 37 x 28cm, which is plenty big enough for a family meal and a lot larger than many compact grills. It’s fairly weighty at 12kg but it does come with two carry handles to make lifting easier. The handles require some simple assembly but everything you need to do that is included in the box.

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When it comes to price and features, there’s nothing quite like the Ninja Woodfire BBQ Grill. At £350 it will set you back about as much as the classic Weber Q1400 electric grill (£350) or the newer Weber Lumin Compact (£399). If you’re less interested in Ninja’s additional features, then a more simplistic electric barbecue might be worth considering. Both of these models are highly respectable electric barbecues in their own right but neither comes with the additional smoking function the Woodfire Grill offers.

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The Woodfire Electric BBQ is a supremely versatile appliance, allowing you to go beyond the realms of what’s normally possible with an outdoor grill. As well as smoking joints of meat and grilling kebabs, I found it easy to air fry outdoors and even use the Woodfire as a standard oven. This is because it uses electricity as its main source of power, meaning the temperature is more easily controlled to achieve decent results across a range of foods. What’s more, because there’s plenty of grill space, it’s able to accommodate six or seven skewers, two sliced blocks of halloumi or four chicken breasts at a time.

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The star of the show, however, is the flavoured wood pellets. When choosing the smoker option on the grill using the control dial at the front, it ignites the pellets as part of the preheating process, ensuring food gets as much time in contact with the smoke as possible, and the end result is strikingly similar to what I’ve experienced using a full-sized smoker and barbecue. One scoop of pellets can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of what you’re smoking, so you will need to top these up occasionally for larger joints of meat or a particularly packed grill.

I was able to soften aubergines for a smoky baba ganoush in around 20 minutes at 170ºC on the smoker setting, while flattened chicken breasts reached crisp, smoky perfection in just ten minutes at 200ºC. The smoke doesn’t penetrate quite as deeply when smoking larger joints of meat such as pork shoulder. However, I found this to be preferable, as it allowed the marinade I used to shine through better, rather than it being all smoke. In general, I found food cooked relatively evenly on the Woodfire and achieved a nice outer sear without drying ingredients out too much.

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The Woodfire’s baking, reheating and roasting functions also performed well during testing, but most notable was its air fryer setting. In our tests, the results from the air fryer were as good as, and in some cases better than, some stand alone air fryers I’ve previously reviewed. It cooked 500g of homemade chips to an enticing crisp in just under 30 minutes at 180ºC without parboiling.

I also found food was easier to turn and achieved a more even crisp than some bowl or basket style fryers due to the Woodfire’s larger surface area. What’s more, its energy consumption while using the air fryer setting was surprisingly low. In tests, it consumed 0.41kw/h of electricity in 60 minutes when set to 200ºC, almost half of many traditional air fryers.

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When you’re done grilling, baking or air frying, another huge benefit of the Ninja is that it’s a lot easier to clean than your traditional BBQ grill or smoker. While only the pellet scoop is dishwasher-safe, the ceramic coated, non-stick grill and fryer basket are very easy to clean after use using a non-scratch scourer and some dish soap, especially if you don’t let any crispy bits dry on.

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Of course, cleaning isn’t entirely fuss-free and not being able to use the dishwasher is a bit of a pain. There are some bits that are trickier to clean than others as well. The pellet box on the side of the grill gets quite gunked up and the sticky residue left behind is tough to clean, as you need to allow it to cool completely before you can get to it. Similarly, the lid and heating element can get pretty messy and need a decent scrub to remove built-up residue, as it can’t be soaked in the sink.

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The Woodfire can also take a while to get to the right temperature. In my testing, it took an average of seven minutes to get to temperature on the high grill setting and anywhere from 4mins 30secs to 16 minutes using the smoker at various temperatures. It’s still quicker than your average charcoal barbecue for the most part and stays at temperature for longer but, considering how quick some of Ninja’s other products are to pre-heat, this was a little disappointing.

I also wasn’t as impressed with the Woodfire’s dehydrate function as I was with the rest of its settings. As with most multifunctional appliances with dehydrators, the results were fairly average and I'm not convinced it has a place on an outdoor appliance like this, as you’re unlikely to leave your bananas or apples dehydrating in the machine overnight.

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It’s also worth noting that, at £350, this is a very expensive appliance in a highly competitive barbecue and smoker market. Of course, there’s nothing else quite like the Woodfire when you take into account its variety of functions and the fact it’s electric. Nonetheless, there are a lot of excellent barbecues at this price, which means you’ll need to be convinced you’re going to make the most of its extra functions to make it worth buying over a traditional BBQ or smoker.

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The Woodfire is quite an investment and there are definitely a few kinks to iron out to make this the perfect outdoor grill. However, if you’re looking for a convenient, multifunctional barbecue and smoker, it’s a respectable choice, with lots of features to play around with. What’s more, if you’re unable to use wood or gas barbecues where you live, or just would rather not, it does a fantastic job of grilling and smoking with authentic and delicious results.

Traditional outdoor cooks might still prefer a more classic grill or smoker such as the Char-Broil Big Easy Smoker or the Weber One-Touch Original Charcoal BBQ but for anyone seeking an easier life, the Ninja Woodfire delivers similar results in a far more convenient and easy to use package.

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