Electric grills have joined the ranks of microwaves, ovens, and stovetops as a popular method of cooking in millions of American homes. Electric grills promise easy cleanup and health benefits, but the best reason to add an electric grill to your kitchen is to whip up quick and easy meals. Thinking of taking the plunge into indoor grilling? Pronto’s Electric Grill Buying Guide can help make sure you don’t get burned by a bad purchase decision.
Choose a contact electric grill if you love hot sandwiches or want to make quick breakfasts without firing up the stove. Open electric grills are the best choice for meats and fish. Look for electric grills with thermostats that can handle a variety of foods.
One of the best features of electric grills is easy cleanup. Look for durable nonstick cooking surfaces and plastic drip pans that will wipe clean. Removable, dishwasher-safe grill plates are the easiest to clean.
Electric grills with larger cooking surfaces need more storage space. If countertop real estate is limited, choose a contact electric grill that can open flat for the best balance of cooking surface and storage space.
Compare the average cooking times when shopping for an electric grill. Contact grills cook faster than open electric grills because they can heat both sides of the food at once. Look for a contact electric grill with floating hinges for the greatest flexibility.
Open electric grills should have wide, tightly spaced grill ridges that prevent foods from slipping through. You’ll want to go for sturdy drip pans and grease cups that won’t tip or move easily.
An electric grill that heats both sides of the food at once, eliminating the need for flipping. Some of these electric grills can be used in an open position, doubling the available cooking surface.
The amount of space an electric grill offers for heating food, measured in square inches. As a general rule, it takes 20 square inches of cooking surface to make a quarter-pound hamburger.
Usually found beneath the cooking surface of open electric grills, this container collects the fat and juices released during the cooking process. By adding water to the drip pan, smoke can be reduced while cooking.
An adjustable hinge that allows a contact electric grill to cook thicker foods while still maintaining compression.
A container that holds fat and juices released while an electric grill is cooking. Grease cups are commonly found on contact electric grills and can be placed beneath the cooking surface or in front of the grill.
An electric grill similar to a charcoal grill with a flat, ridged cooking surface mounted above a drip pan.
The metal bars that form the cooking surface of an electric grill. Ridges that are wide and tightly spaced provide more even cooking.
The electric grill revolution was televised. It began when Salton tapped former heavyweight champion George Foreman to endorse its line of contact electric grills, which had previously been known as the Salton Snackmaster.
Contact electric grills allow you to grill food on both sides at once. If you love hot sandwiches, an electric grill will keep you happy. With its George Foreman electric grills, Salton developed the idea that electric grills could be used for everyday cooking as well as hot sandwiches, and consumers responded by snapping up 57 million George Foreman grills.
Contact electric grills have two heating surfaces, so you don’t have to flip food to grill it on both sides. This cuts the cooking time in half, although you’ll still need to wait for the electric grill to heat up. Some newer electric grills open flat, allowing you to cook four items at once—a real time saver if eggs or pancakes are popular in your home.
Contact grills can have a traditional ridge design, but many have molded, nonstick cooking surfaces. The best contact electric grills have removable grill surfaces for easy cleaning.
Open electric grills have a single cooking surface mounted above a drip pan. These look like smaller versions of charcoal grills and are primarily used for cooking meats and fish. If you’re looking for the indoor barbecue experience, you’ll get closer to it with an open electric grill than with a contact grill. The best open electric grills have wide, tightly spaced grill ridges that provide more cooking surface and prevent food from falling into the drip pan while cooking.
By adding water to the drip pan, open electric grills promise “smokeless” indoor grilling. When hot fats and juices hit the water, they cool, and since the drip pan isn’t heated, you will get less smoke from cooking on an open electric grill than you will from pan frying. Some smoke is inevitable when you’re grilling, and the best way to control it is to choose lean cuts of meat and scrupulously trim off every bit of fat.
One of the key selling points of electric grills is the promise of reduced fat content in grilled food. Whenever meats are cooked, some fat gets cooked out of them, and the fat needs a place to go.
Electric grills offer a key advantage over roasting or pan frying because they vent fat away from food. Contact electric grills either have holes to let the fat out or a slanted design that allows the fat to collect in a drip pan. Open electric grills collect fat in a drip pan beneath the grill surface. Compare this to pan cooking, where fat settles in the bottom of the pan and cooks back into the food. Hamburgers and steak tips are two kinds of food that can soak up that excess fat.
Since electric grills move the fat away from the food, there is a slightly lower fat content. Salton claims that its electric grills reduce fat by an additional 4% when compared to pan frying. That’s not a huge number for those who need to watch their fat intake. While you’ll get a small health benefit from electric grills, it’s better to buy one for convenience and ease of cleaning.
When you’re shopping for an electric grill, first decide how you’ll use it. For sandwiches, breakfasts, and occasional burgers, a contact grill is the best choice. If you like to grill fish and meat, choose an open electric grill.
The size of an electric grill is a factor if you’re feeding a lot of people. Larger electric grills have more cooking surface area, although few electric grills are adequate for serving more than four people. You’ll trade off electric grill compactness for more cooking surface, which is a consideration if countertop space is at a premium in your kitchen. To get the most electric grill in the smallest space, choose a contact electric grill that can open flat, which doubles the cooking area.
Many electric grills have adjustable thermostats that let you set the cooking temperature from 200 to 450 degrees. These thermostats are not as reliable as the ones found on ovens and microwaves, which frustrates many electric grill owners. Look for an electric grill that heats evenly and think of thermostats as a bonus.
Pay careful attention to the way an electric grill collects fat. Look for deep, sturdy drip pans that stay in place and keep fat well away from hot surfaces. Some electric grills include a second drip pan, which is useful if you’re cooking burgers or steaks.
One of the best things about electric grills is that they’re easier to clean than pans because you’re not struggling to remove baked-on grease and fat. If that ease of use is important to you, look for an electric grill with nonstick cooking surfaces and drip pans. Electric grills with plastic drip pans can also be easy to clean, but make sure the pans are dishwasher safe if you don’t want to wash by hand.
When it comes to open electric grills, you don’t get that choice: you’ll need to clean the ridges. Some contact electric grills, however, have removable cooking surfaces that you can pop in the dishwasher, so look for that feature if you don’t want to take the extra time to hand wash.
Floating hinges allow contact electric grills to adjust to thicker cuts of meat and heftier sandwiches. Always check the quality of the hinges on these electric grills to make sure they offer good compression and won’t wear out easily.
Bun warmers are a nice plus, but you’ve probably got a toaster or oven at home, so it’s better to spend on an electric grill with more cooking surface and forego this convenience.