The best electric grills offer a solid barbeque experience without the hassle of heavy smoke and charcoal. Under the umbrella of electric grills, there are two main types: open grills and contact grills. Open grills have one cooking surface, requiring the food to be flipped during cooking. Some come with lids that help contain heat and steam, and others do not. Conversely, contact grills (often called panini presses) have top and bottom cooking surfaces. These grills are designed to cook both sides of the food at one time. Some contact grills and open grills also convert to griddles, which have a flat cooking surface (ideal for frying eggs and cooking pancakes) rather than the grill-like ridges. George Foreman is the most well-known brand here, but lots of manufacturers make electric grills.
We found the best professional reviews in cooking magazines. A 2009 article in Cook's Illustrated magazine rates seven griddles for temperature, accuracy and consistency (how evenly the heat is distributed across the cooking surface) by setting each griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and measuring the temperature at five to seven minute intervals in three places on the cooking surface. Cooking performance is tested by cooking French toast, bacon and pancakes, and evaluating the quality of the prepared foods. Finally, ratings are offered for ease of cleanup. An older Cook's Illustrated review rates six open grills, comparing electric grills to those designed to sit on a stovetop burner, rating them in terms of the flavor of the food cooked, ease of cleanup and other features.
U.K.-based Which? magazine conducts professional testing of 19 indoor grills, rating each for ease of operation, ease of cleanup and storage by preparing a variety of vegetables, chicken and fish. Some of the models tested aren't available in the U.S., and among those that are, none is selected as a top performer. HubPages.com and IndoorGrillReviews.com also include recommendations and reviews for electric grills but do not conduct formal comparison testing. About.com also recommends 10 indoor grills with brief rundowns of features of each model. Surprisingly, ConsumerReports.org does not report test results for electric grills and hasn't covered the topic since 2007.
We consulted a few individual product reviews on About.com and Bestcovery.com. Bestcovery.com chooses five grills as top picks without much explanation as to why they are better than the other grills. Likewise, About.com and TheKitchn.com each offer recommendations for electric grills, although it's not clear whether grills have been tested as models are not compared and contrasted. Owner-written reviews at such websites as Amazon.com, Target.com, Viewpoints.com, Epinions.com and Cooking.com also offer nice insights and more detailed feedback about long-term durability.
Other things to know: Experts at Cook's Illustrated magazine say that contact grills offer faster cooking time, and open grills offer a cooking experience more similar to cooking with an outdoor grill, which can be important to some people. Editors say grills with removable grill plates tend to be easier to clean, although their heating surfaces can be less consistent, with scanty hot spots or a top plate that is cooler than the bottom plate, according to some reviews. Grills with non-removable plates tend to have more even heating surfaces. Read on to learn more about choosing the best electric grill.