Some electric grills are made specifically for either indoor or outdoor use -- although some are appropriate for both. For safety, though, you should not use an electric grill indoors if the manufacturer says it's for outdoor use only. Regardless of where they're used, when it comes to electric grills, performance is key -- so we looked for the models that heat up quickly, actually hit the temperatures they promise, and pack enough punch to sear in flavor and juices, along with those dark, bold grill marks that are almost as important as the taste.
Our Best Reviewed outdoor electric grill is the Char-Broil Patio Bistro (Est. $130). With its small two-wheeled cart and domed lid with built-in temperature gauge, the Patio Bistro looks like a conventional charcoal grill; give it 10 to 20 minutes of warming time and it'll cook as hot as a charcoal grill, too. Its infrared heating element (think the glowing coil in an electric oven) can easily drive interior temperatures up to 600 degrees -- more than enough heat to sear steaks. Thousands of happy owners are surprised at how well this electric grill performs, resulting in food that's perfectly cooked and not dry or rubbery. It's particularly popular with apartment dwellers who can't, or don't want, to deal with fire issues on a small patio or deck. Many say they feel as if they're still cooking on a "real" grill.
The Patio Bistro is also big, one of the largest we saw, with 320 square inches of cooking. Users say you can easily cook for two to four people at a time, and there's a removable warming rack for keeping leftovers warm. Customers say the rolling cart assembles easily but if you already have a table or pedestal for storing the Patio Bistro, you can purchase a tabletop version, the Char-Broil Patio Bistro 180 Grill (Est. $120). The porcelain-coated nonstick grates are reported as easy to clean and are dishwasher safe -- if they fit.
The Weber Q series (including the Weber Q-1400 (Est. $249) and Weber Q-2400 (Est. $300) is also becoming increasingly popular for those who need an electric grill outdoors, thanks to its 600-plus-degree steak-searing heat. These electric grills from Weber are also powerful enough to recover heat quickly after you lift the lid. One test from Popular Mechanics found that the Weber Q gave the best grill flavor on hamburgers of the small balcony grills tested. Owners agree, giving both models in the Q-series top marks for how easy it is to use and clean, and for the great sear it imparts to meat.
Although these electric grills are tabletop units, they offer good cooking space (189 square inches for the Q-1400, 280 square inches for the Q-2400) and are made of cast aluminum with porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates. They're heavy, though: the Q-1400 weighs about 28 pounds, while the Q-2400 closes in on 40. That makes them awkward at best as portable units; if you don't have a dedicated tabletop space for them outdoors, Weber offers two rolling carts, the Weber 6549 (Est. $50) and the Weber 6557 (Est. $70) that may make it easier to use and store these grills.
If you'd rather do your grilling indoors, opt for a contact grill like the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N (Est. $85), which can do anything and everything you want. And we do mean everything: It gets hot enough to grill thick hamburgers and large cuts of meat quickly, but also has a floating hinge that allows it to excel as a panini press. You can even flip both halves open to use it as a griddle. The removable and reversible cooking plates (one side smooth, one side ridged) offer even more options for cooking -- so you can have grill marks on some foods, like burgers, while using the flat side for things like pancakes. The plates are dishwasher-safe, and owners say the drawer-like grease catchers are easy to pull out and clean.
The Griddler GR-4N's flip-open design has a very small footprint, but still delivers about 13 inches by 11 inches of usable cooking area and, at just over 13 pounds, most say it's quite portable as well.
For another highly portable indoor grill with an even smaller footprint, consider the classic George Foreman series of plate grills. These George Foreman grills are available in sizes ranging from small, two serving models that are perfect for couples, to family-sized grills that can cook for up to nine people. The George Foreman grills range in price from $20 for a two-person model up to $70 for a family-sized grill. Most of the grills in this line are fairly small, light and easy to move around and store. They also all come with the George Foreman brand's iconic sloping grill, meant to help drain grease away as you cook, something that reviewers who are trying to cut back on their fat consumption say works really well. The George Foreman classic plate grills also cook food in about half the time of a traditional grill top -- the food cooks from the outside in on both sides, so there's no flipping. Some of the grills have removable plates that you can hand wash or pop into the dishwasher; while with others you have to clean the plates on the grill itself. While owners say the grills with removable plates are much easier to clean, even those George Foreman grills with stationary plates get great reviews for performance and convenience.
Finally, if you're on the fence about whether to do your cooking indoors or outdoors, the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor electric grill (Est. $100) is a favorite with thousands of happy owners who say it allows them to have the grilling experience no matter their space or the weather conditions. This George Foreman grill can function as a tabletop unit or mount on a detachable pedestal. It comes in two sizes -- a 12-serving or 15-serving version -- with 200 to 240 square inches of cooking area. Both versions also come with an in-lid temperature gauge, variable temperature control, and of course the George Foreman trademark sloped grilling surface.
Users say the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor electric grill gets plenty hot, although it won't sear quite like a fire-based grill, and does a good job on steaks and other cuts of meat. Some do warn about not crowding the food too much, saying that tends to reduce its performance and may result in a grayish appearance on meat.