The Foodi OL550EU follows the design of the large model already tested, but is 3 cm shorter and has a more modest finish. The set is still well built and beautifully finished in brushed metal, and there are some differences in the control panel. Sensitive keys are replaced by physical arrow buttons that allow you to adjust cooking parameters, and the program selection wheel is made of plastic.
The SmartLid stays in the game with its three position slider that you just need to slide from right to left to access the different categories of programs available. This is the main advantage of this line compared to the previous one. Remember that older models required the use of a second lid for pressure cooking, as well as simmering or steaming – in short, all kinds of cooking that could lead to condensation.
The SmartLid adapts to all types of cooking by integrating the resistance and fan required for hot air cooking, as well as the seal and pressure relief valve for pressure cooking. Ninja is even taking the opportunity to introduce a new category of Combi-steam software.
As the name suggests, these programs combine steam and hot air. In this model, there are two of them against four in the OL750EU: Frying and steam and Oven and steam. The OL550EU also loses the various decompression modes available for pressure cooking, as well as proofing programs for yeast doughs such as bread. There are also Air Fry, Grill, Oven, Dehydrate, Browning, Steam, Simmering and Yogurt programs, in addition to the keep warm function.
After selecting a program with the cursor and wheel, the cooking parameters appear on the segment display in the center and can be adjusted using the arrows around it. The ones on the left control the temperature within 10°C with programs using the highest resistance, while those using the lower resistance give you a choice between different power levels. The arrows on the right allow, in turn, to adjust the cooking time in a more or less wide range depending on the program: for example, from 1 to 60 minutes for frying and from 4 to 12 hours for stewing.
Everything is pretty intuitive, but could be better with a real screen. While the segment bar can provide some information about program progress and problems, it can’t show step-by-step recipes like the Cookeo Touch Wi-Fi. The screen would also take advantage of a multilingual interface, especially French. The commands are written in English only, so if necessary, you will need to refer to the instructions for use for translation.
For cooking, the user has a 6-liter tank, but no more than 4.5 liters, and even 4 liters for pressure cooking. These limits are written directly on the tank, graduated in liters and “cups” (for Anglo-Saxon recipes). In any case, the capacity is quite large, and thanks to the large diameter of 24 cm, large cuts of meat, such as roasts or a whole chicken, can easily be placed in this tank. Since it has a non-stick coating, the use of metal utensils is not recommended, and it can be difficult to remove it while hot without handles.
Several accessories are provided, starting with the Krusty basket and its detachable frying base. With a volume of 3.7 liters and the ability (according to Ninja) to hold up to 1.1 kg of French fries, it should provide better air circulation in the tank, which does not interfere with stirring the food for even cooking. Thus, handles are provided for taking it out and shaking it during cooking, but it is difficult to grab it in the tank. It is also necessary to have time to hold it over the latter during operation, otherwise excess oil will drain onto the work surface or, even worse, onto the floor.
In addition to this basket, Ninja provides a grate that allows food to be lifted more or less depending on the direction in which it is placed, as well as cooking on two levels. The OL750EU comes with an additional grate for cooking on three levels, but it has a higher bowl (by the way, like the OL650EU).
When not in use, the user can leave the basket or grate in the tank, but they must be stored elsewhere. The device itself is equipped with a handle that allows it to be moved, but given its impressive size, it is desirable to have enough space on the work surface to leave it there. The smallest Ninja multicooker remains the Foodi MINI OP100EU.
Foodi OL550EU SmartLid with two heating elements and 11 cooking programs is one of the most complete multicookers on the market. We also decided to combine our test reports for oil-free fryers and multicookers in order to evaluate them as best as possible.
As for the multicooker, the OL550EU offers a simmer program with two power levels. The highest level is in line with what is traditionally expected for this type of cooking, as our water is heated to around 92°C. As is often the case with Ninja, the simmer programs are split into two stages with a lower temperature during the first hour of around 75°C, which can slow down the cooking process.
We see the same thing at low power. Our water is first heated to about 55°C, then to about 75°C. Strictly not high enough for stewing, this temperature is more in line with what would be expected in so-called “low temperature” cooking. Nutrients are better preserved, but cooking takes longer.
The Browning program Foodi OL550EU gives you a choice between five degrees. The maximum temperature can reach 240°C at the bottom of the tank in 5 minutes. It’s a little strong. We prefer the intermediate power, for which we noted a temperature of around 155°C. Power 1 allows heating up to approx. 90°C. We don’t see much interest in this, but the Ninja has the advantage of offering an extended temperature range.
On the other hand, on our thermal plate, the heating is not uniform, the temperature at the bottom of the tank can vary by several tens of degrees. If it is always important to stir during browning so as not to burn the food, then with the OL550EU this is even more so.
Finally, we measured the time it takes for the Ninja to build up pressure with the minimum recommended amount of water of 250 ml. Our timer showed 6 minutes when the preheat end chime sounded on the low setting and 6 minutes 38 seconds on the highest setting (only two offered). Either way, it’s pretty fast, much faster than Sage’s Fast Slow GO.
As for the fryer, the Foodi OL550EU SmartLid boasts one of the widest temperature ranges as it allows you to choose between 40°C and 240°C. However, you must switch to the “Dehydration” program for the lowest temperature and the “Grill” mode for the highest. We were able to notice that these temperatures were not fully met. This is quite surprising because the OL750EU was very accurate.
The temperature of 40°C is slightly exceeded at the beginning of the cycle. As for 240°C, they are barely reached on the first heating, but then the temperature fluctuates between 210°C and 220°C. The temperature rise is also quite slow, but for stabilization, these are good indicators. The uniformity is also great.
We never noticed big temperature fluctuations during our tests, nor big differences in the tank. The Ninja slow cooker also catches up a little in temperature compliance when we ask it to heat up to 200°C and 180°C. If it exceeds these temperatures on the first heat, it will eventually return to it on its own in a few minutes if the lid is not open, and even faster if it is open for those who preheat as advised by the Ninja.
Preheating can really be interesting given the always quite long preheating time, but we prefer to add a few minutes of cooking to compensate and avoid this step – we already have to think about mixing food during cooking.
This is what we did with our french fries, taken out with the right and fairly even frying. However, we remained reasonable in terms of quantity as we followed the cooking chart in the recipe booklet without trying to see if 1.1 kg of French fries could actually be cooked. Thus, our test batch consisted of 500g fresh medium sized French fries. After 27 minutes with the Air Fry program at 200°C and four mixes, everything was cooked, golden and even a little crispy. As with all frying without oil, we are far from the thick and uniform crust that forms in an oil bath, and it never lasts long after cooking.
Please note that it is possible to cook french fries with the Fry & Steam program of the Foodi OL550EU SmartLid. We did not repeat the test with fry, but our temperature measurements allowed us to establish a curve similar to that obtained in the large model. So the result should be the same.