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Ninja's New $399 Woodfire Oven Makes a Damn Good Pizza (and Way More)

This affordable appliance can cook a Neapolitan pizza, but also make your meat taste like it were grilled over fire. Time to live the grill-dad dream.
Ninja's New $399 Woodfire Oven Makes a Damn Good Pizza (and Way More)
Composite by VICE Staff

Wood. Fire. Flavor. Since the dawn of cooking, when that first New Balance 990-adorned caveman cranked his first Steely Dan record and held a flame to that hard-earned hunk of dinosaur meat or whatever, these three words have constituted man’s greatest culinary ideals. When combined, however, the words represent one of our highest modern achievements in cooking technology. Indeed, while the charcoal grill is a barbecue wonder that many local dads would argue cannot be topped, and the gas grill is a masterpiece of quick convenience, few cooking techniques have yielded us as much pleasure as heating food over or near a pile of burning wood. Whether it’s a Neapolitan pie made in a wood-burning oven from Naples, a chicken breast that’s reached rotisserie nirvana, or a mind-blowing maitake mushroom cooked over an enveloping flame, the taste of fire is something that almost all food-enjoying simply love. Luckily, there are many fine ways to simulate or harness the wood-fired experience, like home pizza ovens and fire pits that are also grills, but few contemporary devices have sought to actually infuse food with that smoky, open-fire flavor. Well, a new fighter has entered the ring.


Beloved cooking brand Ninja, maker of an array of air fryers, ice cream makers and smart ovens that we at VICE highly stan, recently released the Woodfire Outdoor Oven—technically an “8-in-1” oven—that has a number of exciting features. First, it includes a pizza stone and heats up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a formidable home pizza that clearly aims to compete with Ooni and Gozney. It’s also an electric oven that uses hardwood pellets to infuse food with real wood-fired flavor. Naturally, at the cool price of $399 (though it’s currently an additional $50 off on Amazon), the oven might seem too good to be true. I certainly thought that. When I first heard about it, I thought, There’s no way that this $400 oven makes pizza that’s even remotely as good as my Ooni Volt, or even my apartment’s regular oven. I also didn’t think that a handful of wooden pellets could level my food up with a legitimately rustic, deep flavor. So I tried it, obviously.

$399.99$349.99 at Amazon

$399.99$349.99 at Amazon

What does the Woodfire Outdoor Oven do?

At the risk of sounding like a walking ad, what doesn’t it (claim to) do? A couple pages into the Quick Start Guide, you’ll see a ton of expensive buzzwords: high-heat roaster, artisan pizza, barbecue smoker, specialty roast, bake, dehydrate, “pro-level textures you can’t get indoors.” Suffice it to stay, this Ninja product sets the expectation bar extremely fucking high.

The oven comes with a pizza stone, a high-heat pan, a roasting rack, and a frame to hold stuff in place while you’re cooking. It also comes with your first pack of wood pellets, though you’ll eventually need to buy more (they’re about $15 on Amazon, which frankly is fine considering that if you switch to this thing, you won’t need to buy charcoal or propane anymore). The control bank makes it pretty easy to pick the type of cooking you want to do (smoking, roasting, pizza, et cetera); another knob lets you select the temperature and time (there’s a chart in the guide, so you’ll know generally how and long to cook some salmon or chicken, if you don’t already). As far as pizza goes, you just tell it the type of pizza—like Neapolitan, New York, or pan—and it pretty much sets up the time and temp for you, which is cool. For the pellets, you just click the “Woodfire Flavor” button and it begins roasting those babies. Warning: If you do go that route, your patio or yard will quickly begin smelling like a barbecue restaurant, which will either make your neighbors horny or annoyed, depending on how cool they are.


Is the pizza good? 

Like other pizza ovens, this one also comes with its own recipes. I was a little nervous about the “artisan” pizza (think: Neapolitan) proofing time, which was basically one hour. Comparatively, other home pizzas I’ve made want you to proof for six, eight, or even over 24 hours, depending on what kind of fermenting you’re doing; for additional context, the new Ooni Volt’s Neapolitan dough rises for about two hours. However, as someone who has committed to a personal goal of doing recipes the right way as much as possible, I followed the directions as closely as possible without deviation. The “artisan” dough did rise pretty well, and yielded four nice-sized balls; by the time we were baking, it was extremely pliable and easy to manipulate—IMO, a very good hour-rise pizza recipe. Due to the short proofing time and the temp (the oven temperature only goes up to 700 degrees, remember, which is lower than the temperature of a typical brick pizza oven you’d use for a Neapolitan), it doesn’t really get the impeccable bubble or general airiness of that kind of pie. That said, the pizzas it makes with the Ninja recipe are very good regardless, and I imagine most recipes from your fave ‘za cookbook would be phenomenal. I started with a Margherita pizza, which was appropriately melty, floppy, and aromatic; I also cooked a pesto and heirloom tomato pizza that retained a ton of moisture and savory flavor while still becoming a crispy delight, which is exactly what you want to happen with a tomato pizza. 

Next up, I tried to make a “Detroit” version of Ninja’s pan pizza. Unfortunately, I had a few glasses of wine and entered full Dumbass Chef Mode™, so after creating the pizza in my beloved 10x14 Lloyd pan—which makes incredible Detroit-style pizza—I realized that it didn’t fit into the Ninja, so I cooked it in my Ooni. (Lloyd’s 8x10 pan would have fit.) Later, I put the second pan dough in an 8” by 8” Le Creuset and cooked it on the “pan” setting (aka 450 degrees for 15 minutes). It was nice, fluffy, and cheesy, but since I didn’t use the true Detroit pan, it lacked that hardcore burnt, crunchy edge signature to that regional style of pizza. In any case, it was still an extremely tasty ‘za that would have satisfied any general pan pizza fan.


What about other food? 

I also cooked two chicken breasts in the oven. All I added before cooking was some salt, pepper, and a ramp marinade I enjoy, and cooked each piece of chicken for about 20 minutes at 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Honestly, they tasted and smelled super smoky and grilled, but were still juicy inside, tasting more or less like I’d cooked them over charcoal, but with a rotisserie vibe as well. A great result, in my opinion. 

The million dollar question: Does it actually taste “wood-fired?” 

The Detroit pizza took on some incredible wood-fired flavor. I even ate a little spoonful of just the sauce off the top, and it really, truly tasted like I’d cooked the pizza over (at least some) wood. Now, should we be making Detroit-style pizza that tastes like it was made in a smoker? I don’t know, but the smoke flavor combined with the ton of oregano and garlic powder I used for that pizza's sauce gave it a super legit wood-fired pan pizza vibe. Granted, you don’t have to use the “Woodfire Flavor” function, and you might not want to. But it’s there, and it’s pretty smoky, for better or worse. The flavor that the setting gave the “Neapolitan” pizzas was also very palpable and noticeable by the guests of a pizza extravaganza I threw—they all said they tasted the woodsmoke. Does it actually replicate the taste of a pizza made in an oven imported from Naples? No, TBH, but that’s why those ovens weigh (and nearly cost) as much as a Chevrolet Impala, are hand-delivered from Italy, and take a team of professionals to install, while the Ninja is $400 on the internet, arrives the next day, and can be ready to cook within half an hour. Frankly, comparing those things would be like showing Oppenheimer on your formidable home entertainment system and trying to convince your friend that it was the same as seeing it in 70mm—it’s still great, but it’s not the same thing.

TL;DR: The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven is a pretty serious and versatile appliance, and I’m actually surprised that it isn’t more expensive. You can cook a ton of different ways in it, from smoking to roasting to barbecuing; and on top of that, it’s also a pizza oven that makes really solid ‘za. It might not be as rustic as an actual pizza oven or get as hot as some competitors’ home pizza ovens, but those are made specifically to do pizza. If you’re looking for an electric oven that can precisely cook almost any food you want and imbue very tasty wood flavor, this is an extremely good buy. 

Try the Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Oven on Amazon.

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