Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven review: eight cooking functions in one compact package

Find out how the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven got on when our writer pushed it to the limits.

from Ninja
RRP  £349.99
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven review

by Adam Binnie |
Updated on

At first, it’s a bit hard to pin down exactly what the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven is when considered in the world of BBQs. Unlike the Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill we’ve also reviewed, which is resolutely an electric barbecue (and air fryer in one), this appears to be an al fresco version of an appliance you may already have in your kitchen. So, what gives?

Well for a start, like that electric grill (and unlike your oven) it features the ability to generate wood smoke for an authentic barbecue flavour. It also heats up to a searing 370 degrees for rapid pizza making, and deeply charred joints of meat. Much like Ninja's first entry into outdoor cooking, it opens you up to a whole host of cooking functions; you can roast, bake, smoke, and dehydrate amongst other options, all for less than £350.

This is a multi-talented machine suitable for outdoor spaces where you can’t have gas or charcoal, but it is also capable of much more than first meets the eye. I got to the bottom of its potential during a full test, with - no spoilers - a very specific use case that I’ll explain later.

Ninja Woodfire Electric Outdoor Oven overview

Pros

  • Makes great pizzas
  • Adds smoky flavour to meat
  • Easy to operate - simple turn dials

Cons

  • Tricky to clean inside

Testing the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven

Build

• Attractive terracotta finish
• Strong, spring-loaded door
• Large plastic feet to protect the stand from heat

The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven arrived fully constructed with its bakeware tucked neatly inside the door, so all I had to do was lift it into its new home in the back garden and plug it in. It’s not especially heavy at 18kg but is an odd shape to get your arms around (measuring 41 x 57 x 51cm) so you might want to consider enlisting help if you need to carry it far.

With all the packaging removed, I could assess the equipment included inside, comprising of a pizza stone, roasting tin and rack, plus an accessory frame they slot into.

These are a specific size to fit the Ninja oven, meaning existing baking gear you own might not fit, potentially limiting what you’ll use the oven for - unless you’re willing to fork out on official Ninja accessories.

Also bundled inside were a pellet scoop and two bags of Ninja Woodfire Pellets (a robust flavour and an all-purpose one) that should last six sessions and give you an idea of which you prefer. After that, you can buy bigger bags or use generic wood pellets, although Ninja advises against this.

The unit and the accessories all feel very robust, especially the roasting tin, which is made of thick, heavy metal and has proved durable so far. Even the pizza stone has a fair bit of heft, although having experienced first-hand how breakable these can be, I’d still be weary of mistreating it.

Ninja says the Woodfire Outdoor Oven is weather-resistant and can be used even if it’s raining (or snowing!) so long as you give it a bit of extra time to warm up. There is a cover available to help protect it from the worst of the British weather and if yours is going to live outdoors permanently (you can’t use it indoors anyway) then this would be a sensible purchase.

Usability

• Different programmes for different food
• Takes a while to preheat
• No glass in the door to check progress

Unlike the oven in your kitchen, the Ninja Outdoor Oven has eight different cooking functions to choose from, rather than just setting the temperature and time.

These include Max Roast, Gourmet Roast, Top Heat, Bake, Smoker, Dehydrate, Keep Warm and Pizza. The latter is further divided up into different styles that I’ll elaborate on later.

Each programme has a couple of different steps to follow, such as allowing time for the unit to preheat before adding your ingredients, or pressing the Wood Fire button at the right point in the cook, and as a result you’ll want to keep the instruction book close by for the first few times you use it.

In terms of internal capacity, Ninja says you can get a 12-inch pizza in there, a 3kg chicken and vegetables, a 5kg beef joint, or two racks of ribs. I’ve tested all of these (more on that to follow) and have been impressed with how much you can fit inside.

There are two main dials – one to select cooking mode and one to adjust things like the time, temperature or pizza type. The buttons on the front are a touch-sensitive plastic construction to keep water out and are big enough to operate while wearing barbecue gloves.

Performance

• Makes surprisingly brilliant pizzas
• Very effective at roasting joints
• Smoker mode is best for shorter cooks

As with many Ninja products the Woodfire Outdoor Oven combines the functions of many other appliances in one. I’ve found it most useful as a pizza oven and for either finishing off low and slow barbecue recipes, or holding them at the right temperature until guests arrive. It’s also really good at adding smoky flavour to shorter roasts, which I’ll get onto.

Does it make good pizzas?

My first port of call was to test its ability as a pizza oven. Before I took the plunge into a dedicated outdoor appliance I tried lots of different ways to recreate the authentic Italian crust I love so much. My indoor oven simply doesn’t get hot enough, so I had high hopes for the Ninja, which goes up to 370 degrees.

Being really picky, this is still a bit shy of the 400 degree minimum I dial my outdoor gas-fired pizza oven up to, but that requires pretty constant faff to maintain, while the Ninja is more set and forget.

There are different pizza modes on the dial including Artisan (puffy crust, leopard spots, you know the type), classic Thin Crust, chewy New York, then larger variants including Deep Pan and Calzone. A Custom mode allows you to set the parameters however you want.

I’ve tested the Artisan and Thin Crust modes and shuffle between the two depending on what state the dough I’ve made is in. Quite often I make loads of it at a time and then freeze it, and usually this rolls out much thinner once defrosted and had a tendency to overcook in the hotter Artisan mode. That mode is perfect when the dough is fresh though, resulting in puffy, airy crusts.

If Neapolitan-style is the benchmark then the Ninja has a pretty good stab at it – ultimately I don’t think it gets hot enough, which means a longer cooking time and a crispier crust than the red-hot, 90-second firing they get in my gas-powered pizza oven. But whichever way you slice it, the Ninja Outdoor Oven makes good pizzas.

It’s also much easier to use than a proper pizza oven; it can be used in places where you’d never be able to install a wood or gas-fired unit, and with the addition of a scoop of pellets, it features a pretty authentic taste too. You do have to get over the anxiety of closing a solid door on your creation and not being able to keep an eye on its progress though.

Other downsides? It takes a bit longer to heat up than my Witt Etna Rotante, it isn’t as fun to use, and doesn’t retain its heat as well, so you have to pause briefly between pizzas to ensure the stone can get back up to temperature. But otherwise, I’ve found it delivers incredibly consistent and delicious results with minimal faff. Just remember to purchase a pizza peel unless you have one already.

I think it’s a great first step into homemade pizza but if this is the only function you’re interested in, there are better options. Thankfully the Ninja Outdoor Oven does a lot more besides.

Does it work well as a smoker?

Yes, but with a bit of a caveat – the smoker box is only large enough to hold a handful of pellets, so you can’t expect the same results as you’d get in an offset smoker or pellet grill.

However, because it doesn’t use the pellets as its primary heating method (like my Weber SmokeFire) they smoulder away for a decent amount of time.  Once lit there doesn’t appear to be a way of making them stop, and you have to fill the hopper up to the top every time, and this can seem a bit wasteful on shorter cooks.

Plainly, you are going to get more wood flavour into a joint of meat left in a smoker for ten to 12 hours so it wouldn’t be fair to directly compare the Ninja oven to my Weber pellet grill. You can refill the hopper multiple times during a cook but it’s definitely smokier the first few times you do this.

There is an argument that food takes on most of its smoky flavour during the first couple of hours when the surface of the meat is cold, so for things like chicken, sausages, smaller pork cuts or even ribs that don’t require such a long cook, it does a really good job.

I have tried a small brisket in the Ninja Outdoor Oven and the texture of the meat was slightly drier but sliced nicely, thanks to its ability to maintain just the right temperature. It wasn’t anywhere near as smoky and the bark didn’t develop quite as well, though.

Where the outdoor oven has become absolutely invaluable for long, low and slow smoking meat is for finishing off pulled pork or brisket joints after I’ve wrapped them in butcher’s paper to prevent the temperature stalling. At this point, they’re not taking on any more smoke, so why leave them on the smoker, which is expensive to run?

Wrapped and probed with a thermometer they can sit in the Ninja at the ideal temperature until the meat is falling apart. I’ve done this countless times now and have been really pleased with the results. It also has a keep warm function which can be used to hold joints of meat at a safe temperature until you’re ready to serve, which has proved very useful.

Does it do roasts better than an oven?

This is perhaps where the Ninja Outdoor Oven crosses over the most with an indoor appliance, but it has a few benefits that are worthy of note. The pork below was started off in my smoker and then finished in the Ninja.

The Max Roast function in particular is very useful, because it features a two-stage programme that blasts the joint of meat with a high heat before dialling it back for the rest of the cooking time. This gives you a great sear on the outside and a perfect interior, plus you can add more depth of flavour with a handful of smoke pellets.

That’s not a million miles from what you can achieve in an oven but when I’ve been catering for a large group and the rest of my dishes are either sitting in the smoker or being seared on the barbecue, the fact I can roast another joint or some vegetables without having to run in and out of the kitchen is a massive upgrade.

How easy is the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven to clean?

There are quite a few nooks and crannies inside the Ninja oven, particularly around the top and bottom heating elements, which means it’s a bit fiddly to clean. If you use the Woodfire function then the smoke leaves a residue on the inside of the oven that can be a bit tricky to clean off.

I’ve found it easiest to get it roaring hot for 20 minutes or so before letting it cool completely, and then having a good with some washing up liquid.

Some of the bakeware goes in the dishwasher – the accessory frame, and the roasting rack – but the pro-heat tray is hand wash only. It fits in a standard sink easily enough, but again, make sure it has cooled down first. The pizza stone cannot get wet because it’s porous and needs to be scraped lightly with non-metallic tools instead.

The outside needs a wipe every now and again and the tough paint finish on the top and sides of the oven is holding up well, with no scratches or dents. You can remove the pellet box to clean it out and Ninja recommends brushing it once every ten uses.

Price and competition

This one's a bit tricky to call because there aren't many outdoor appliances like the Ninja Outdoor Oven. The closest thing really is the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ but even that has its differences, cooking via direct heat rather than convection.

If it's a dedicated pizza oven you're after then the Modern Gardens favourite Ooni Fyra 12 can be had for the same budget, but that's wood pellet powered, not electric. The Cuisinart Indoor Pizza Oven is pretty close in terms of function but as the name suggests, can't be used outside.

Final verdict: Is the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven worth it?

The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven does a lot of things quite well, but none of them well enough to replace an appliance dedicated to that job. In other words, I’m not going to get rid of my pizza oven or smoker just yet. But if you don’t have the room for those or can’t practically have gas- or charcoal-powered appliances in your outdoor space then the Ninja is a great solution, offering multiple functions in a relatively compact package.

I’ve also found it works super well as a complimentary device to my existing outdoor cooking line-up, helping to finish off smoking joints or add extra pizza making capacity for larger groups. I wouldn’t purchase it for a single purpose but I have found it really useful in lots of surprising ways.

Finally, it’s also a great enabler of 100 per cent outdoor cooking – no more dividing my time between the garden and the oven in my kitchen. Now I can just stay outside all afternoon creating delicious food and ignoring my guests. What a dream.

Rating: 4.5/5

How the product was tested

I have tested the Ninja Outdoor Oven in my garden regularly for six months so far, using homemade, hand-stretched dough, and a long handle, perforated peel to launch them. Most of my pizzas have high-hydration bases. I have also experimented with larger joints of meat like pork shoulder, beef brisket, a whole chicken, plus smaller things like sausages, rib racks and burgers.

Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven accessories

Ninja Woodfire Oven bundleNinja

If you're interested in buying the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven but want to make sure you've got the 'essential' accessories, you can buy this bundle which includes the oven, a stand and a cover. This is an easy way to ensure you've got it all in one delivery, though it's worth noting it is slightly cheaper to buy the different components separately.

Woodfire Outdoor Oven CoverNinja

This cover for the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven is a great investment if you're planning to cook in all weathers. Designed to fit snugly over the oven, reviewers found it did a great job protecting the oven, staving off downpours with no issue. It's also handy for when your oven is in the storage too, keeping it free from dust and critters.

Ninja Woodfire Adjustable StandNinja

This foldable grill stand is custom-made specifically for the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven, so it's perfectly housed without the need to a larger table. It comes equipped with a side table for food prep and six utensil hooks, but if you feel like you could do with extra side table space, you can buy another separately.

What to read next:

Best portable BBQ for cooking away from home

Best tabletop BBQs for ease and adventures

Our pick of the best budget pizza ovens, all under £150

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Adam Binnie is the Affiliate Operations Editor and reviewer for Modern Gardens, specialising in bikes, fitness, cars, parenting and cooking. Adam Binnie has been feverishly attempting to recreate Neapolitan pizza at home for about ten years, testing barbecue-mounted ovens, standalone units, and even a method using a hot frying pan and grill that would enrage pizza traditionalists (but works brilliantly).

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