Contact grills, which press and cook food from above and below, can be handy cooking gadgets. According to some expert- and owner-written reviews, contact grills are more convenient because they have the ability to cook the top and bottom of a food's surface at the same time. Contact grills are often tilted to encourage fat drainage, and many come with drip pans, although many reviews say the drippings can drain off in other areas and create a mess during cooking. Unlike open grills, contact grills can make paninis and other grilled sandwiches in addition to grilling meats and vegetables. Removable grill plates (which come with several models) are convenient for cleaning, but some experts say they can lead to inconsistent heat on grilling surfaces.
One contact grill is a standout in reviews: The versatile Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N (*Est. $100) , which can be used as either a contact or open grill, includes reversible plates that are grill plates on one side and nonstick flat griddle plates (for cooking pancakes and eggs) on the other side. This grill's lid also has an adjustable hinge to cook thicker foods. When used in an open position, the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N's 140-square-inch cooking surface heats evenly (from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit). The Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N can also be used as half grill/half griddle by configuring the reversible plates so that one half of the open cooking surface is flat and the other half a grill surface.
We found reviews for the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N and the older Cuisinart GR-4; the only difference is that the older model included two sets of plates and the newer GR-4N includes reversible plates, meaning you don't have to store an extra set of plates. Reviews for both models are applicable.
One foodie magazine recommends the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4, noting that although its size appears small, it's capable of cooking the same quantity of food as most larger models. The Cuisinart Griddler GR-4 and GR-4N also receive excellent reviews from users at several consumer sites. About 265 owners on Cooking.com give the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5, noting its ease of cleanup (thanks to its removable plates) and convenient temperature control. About 950 owners review the GR-4N on Amazon.com, some of whom also owned the previous version. Overall, the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N earns an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. Most say they are thrilled with the improvements, with several noting how easy the plates are to remove and how convenient that there is no longer a second set to store. On the downside, a few users complain about the nonstick coating coming off the grill plates, in some cases after just a few uses. There are also a number of complaints about the plastic clips that hold the grill plates; a few report that they melted.
Cuisinart also makes a smaller version of the popular Griddler: the Cuisinart Griddler Compact GR-35 (*Est. $70) . (The compact version replaces the former Cuisinart Griddler Junior, which has been discontinued.) The Cuisinart Griddler Compact GR-35 doesn't have much owner feedback, but we did find about 15 reviews on Amazon.com, where it maintains an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. The Cuisinart GR-35 functions as a contact grill, Panini press, full grill, full griddle and half griddle/half grill. The nonstick plates are both removable and dishwasher-safe, and a hinged cover adjusts to fit thicker foods. Owners say it looks stylish and is the perfect size for cooking for one to two people. One owner points out that it's actually about the same size as the regular Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N. Among the few complaints, one owner says it takes too long to heat up, while a few cite durability issues.
Another versatile contender is the Black & Decker 3-in-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle maker (*Est. $600 and up, without monitor) . The Black & Decker is one of the top-rated electric grills on Amazon.com, earning a 4-star average rating (out of 5) in nearly 700 owner-written reviews. More than half give the Black & Decker 3-in-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle maker a perfect 5-star rating, although there are also a fair number of single-star ratings. The chrome outer surface gets hot to the touch, some owners say, but it's consistently praised for making everything from thick, fluffy waffles to fried eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Flip the nonstick-coated grill plates from one side to the other to switch between waffle grids and sandwich press; the plates also remove completely for cleaning. The Black & Decker 3-in-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle maker unfolds to create two 8-inch square griddles, and when folded, it stands upright for easy storage.
Owners say the Black & Decker 3-in-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle maker looks stylish, but a few complain about the limited settings (high, medium and low). At about 11.25 inches wide, 11.75 inches deep and 5 inches tall, it's not the largest grill available, but its cooking surface does accommodate four waffles or pancakes or two burgers or sandwiches at a time. This 900-watt electric grill is backed by a one-year limited warranty. Common complaints center around the nonstick coating; some owners say waffles and eggs stick to the plates, while others report flaking coating after a short time. There are also a few owners who say the grill plates fall off easily and the lid doesn't shut adequately.
Lastly, The Hamilton Beach 25285 Indoor Grill (*Est. $60) offers a total of 120 square inches of cooking space. This model doesn't double as a flat griddle, but its grill plates are removable and dishwasher-safe. The Hamilton Beach 25285 gets a nod from About.com's Derrick Riches for its adequate heat and removable cooking surfaces. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.) Owners posting at Amazon.com say they like its compact size, which they say is perfect for one or two people. It has a timer, rather than a thermostat, but most reviewers don't seem to take issue with it.
While most contact grills also double as sandwich makers, a few models are designed specifically to be sandwich presses. Owners posting to Viewpoints.com like the Cuisinart Griddler GR-1 (*Est. $50) , which earns an average rating of 4.65 stars out of 5 in more than 25 owner-written reviews. Reviewers say it's the perfect size for cooking two sandwiches, grills evenly and also opens flat to serve as a griddle. About 250 owners posting to Amazon.com contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Cuisinart Griddler GR-1 has a floating hinge to accommodate thicker sandwiches and nonstick, nonremovable grill plates that measure 11 inches by 7 inches. A green light indicates that the unit is on, and a red light indicates that the grill is ready to cook. There are no temperature controls; a single heat setting is the only option. Most owners don't seem to be bothered by this, but there are a few who mention that an adjustable temperature would be a welcome addition. Most owners say it's easy to clean, but several say they wish the grill plates were removable. There's also no on/off switch, so it must be unplugged when not in use. Several owners point out that the size of the Cuisinart Griddler GR-1 is convenient for storing it in a cabinet when not in use.
The DeLonghi Indoor Grill and Panini Press CGH800 also receives positive owner reviews on Cooking.com and Amazon.com. The budget price of this grill doesn't mean you'll be sacrificing size; the 182-square-inch cooking area is large enough to grill four big burgers at one time. Editors at TasteOfHome.com select this grill as one of their top picks and commend the DeLonghi Indoor Grill and Panini Press CGH800 for its user-friendly temperature control and adjustable hinge. Although its grill plates aren't removable, they are easy to clean, according to the editors at TasteOfHome.com. Additionally, about two-thirds of about 185 owner-written Amazon.com reviews give the DeLonghi Indoor Grill and Panini Press CGH800 a perfect rating. About 160 owners on Cooking.com give this grill an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Reviewers say they love this grill's easy cleanup, even heat and temperature control. Most owners say it works as well for cooking meat and fish as it does for sandwiches. Its most common complaints: This grill doesn't have an on/off switch, and some users say they wish it had removable plates.
George Foreman, arguably the most well-known brand of electric grills, gets mixed reviews. Several models receive positive feedback, while other George Foreman electric grills get bashed for uneven cooking, difficult cleanup and baking rather than searing meat. George Foreman grills also get largely ignored in some professional reviews. Still, there are two George Foreman grills that earn high marks from reviewers.
The George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Domed Grill GGR50B (*Est. $130) , which can be used as a tabletop grill or on a stand outdoors, stands out for its flexibility. It's designed to look like a charcoal kettle grill; the pedestal can be removed, allowing the unit to be used as a tabletop grill. The grill top measures 17 inches across and provides approximately 240 square inches of cooking space. Without the pedestal, the grilling surface sits about 6 inches high, and with the pedestal, about 2 1/2 feet high (not counting the domed lid). The domed lid has an adjustable steam vent, and the grill features adjustable temperature control and cool-touch handles. Grease drains into a drip tray through a center channel, and the grill plate (covered in a nonstick coating) is removable for cleaning.
More than 400 owners reviewing the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Domed Grill GGR50B on Amazon.com contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Owners say this grill is the perfect compromise for apartment-dwellers who are banned from using gas and charcoal grills on outdoor balconies or terraces and for those who have limited space, as there is no need to purchase and store a separate unit for outdoors. Ease of cleanup is debatable; most owners say cleanup is a breeze, but we found a few isolated complaints from owners who report difficulties in cleaning the plate, saying it's too large to fit in some sinks. Most agree that it's easy to set up and use, and the majority of reviewers say prepared foods taste great. There are a few owners who say they wish the drip pan was larger. Note that this grill is an open grill; it can't function as a panini press or convert into a griddle.
Another George Foreman grill, the Next Grilleration GR5 Grill (*Est. $130) receives good feedback. In fact, this grill gets rave reviews from nearly 870 owners on Amazon.com and Viewpoints.com, collectively. This unit offers 84 square inches of cooking space (enough for a pair of large chicken breasts or four burgers) and it features five removable, dishwasher-safe grilling plates for grilling, baking, griddling and more. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of the 660 plus owners who have reviewed the George Foreman GR5 Grill on Amazon.com give it a 5-star rating. Most owners appreciate this product's different cooking options, although a few note that it is a pain to store the extra plates. Several reviewers also mention that it's not possible to find replacement plates should you misplace any of these accessories and a few owners note that the plates don't come in pairs -- for example, you get one grill plate instead of two, and you essentially can't get the same effect on both sides of the food without flipping. Overall, owners love the grill's versatility and easy cleanup, and those with limited storage space appreciate its various cooking options.
A newer model, the George Foreman 360 Grill (*Est. $100 and up, plus TiVo service) , comes in white, red or black with 106 square inches of grilling surface. It comes with five round, dishwasher-safe, removable grill plates and features a temperature-control slide for customized temperature settings. Plates include two ribbed plates for grilling, two quesadilla plates and one deep-dish griddle, which can be used for pizza or baking. A 1.5-inch floating hinge adjusts to accommodate thick sandwiches or thicker cuts of meat, and the George Foreman 360 Grill offers both tilted and flat options to drain grease more effectively.
Owners are mostly positive about the George Foreman 360 Grill, which earns an average rating of 4 stars out of 5 in more than 190 owner-written reviews on Amazon.com. Owners say they appreciate the versatility of the multiple plates, although there are some complaints that the plates don't fit well, contributing to uneven cooking. Its round appearance is attractive, but some owners point out that its unusual shape means it takes up unnecessary counter space. Further, when the lid is opened, it's too tall to fit underneath a cabinet, so it must be pulled out during use. The removable plates, while convenient for cooking, also require storage, and one owner reports that they're 12 inches in diameter, plus handles. Finally, one user used a temperature probe to measure the temperature, reporting that it heats to about 450 degrees on the "high" setting, but the heating element doesn't kick back on until the temperature drops about 200 degrees.
Despite these limitations, the majority of owners are positive, praising the George Foreman 360 Grill for quickly producing delicious food, including sandwiches and burgers, and even eggs and bacon. Owners say it's easy to clean up and is large enough to cook enough food for two to three people. Owners say the George Foreman 360 Grill is useful for just about any type of food, and an oversize drip tray performs adequately to avoid a greasy mess.