What the best electric grill has

  • A built-in temperature gauge. If your electric grill has a cover, a temperature gauge built into the lid will let you know when it's ready to cook. For contact-style grills, you may simply have a "go" light that tells you when the grill has reached the set temperature.
  • Enough power to recover heat quickly once you lift the lid. Every time you lift the lid of a covered grill to turn meat or check its doneness, some heat escapes. The best grills have enough power to quickly build back up to the desired heat level.
  • Temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Although you can safely cook meat with lower temperatures, this is the gold standard for properly searing steaks and other substantial meats.
  • An adjustable thermostat. No matter what you're cooking, consistent, even and accurate temperatures are the key to getting great results from any grill -- but you need different temperatures to cook a grilled sandwich than to sear a steak, so an adjustable thermostat is a must. Even on a relatively simple panini maker, this is a nice touch that lets you tweak the temperature to match the size and contents of your sandwich.
  • Removable cooking plates or grates. It can be awkward to try to wrestle with cleaning a large grill that doesn't have removable plates. Although it can be done, removable plates or grates that you can pop in the dishwasher or easily hand wash in the sink make clean up much quicker and simpler.
  • A floating hinge. This isn't an issue with those indoor/outdoor electric grills that resemble conventional grills. But for contact grills, which press down and cook on the top of your food as well as the bottom, a floating hinge helps ensure even cooking on both sides. This feature is especially important on sandwich grills, because if the lid doesn't sit evenly on the top layer of bread, it may press some of the melted filling out on side of the sandwich or render the whole thing as flat as a pancake.
  • Adequate cord length. There are a lot of great things about using electric grills, including low fuel costs, easy "lighting" and fast warm-up times (when compared to charcoal). But one downside is that you'll be leashed to the nearest electrical outlet -- so be sure the unit's cord is long enough for you to work at it comfortably.

Know before you go

What are your community's rules? Many condo associations and apartment leases allow outdoor electric grills -- even if they don't' allow traditional gas or charcoal grills, which we cover in a separate report. However, not all do -- so always double-check before you buy.

What do you want to grill? If you're interested in grilling meat, finding a grill that provides high enough temperatures -- ideally up to 600 degrees -- should be your first priority. If you're only going to cook sandwiches, a lower-temperature panini press is a reasonable choice that can still offer some limited multi-tasking.

How many people do you cook for? Nobody wants to cook pancakes for six on a tiny griddle or grill their steaks one at a time -- so if you expect to cook for a lot of people at once on a regular basis, it's worth investing in a larger grill, griddle or sandwich press.

Where will you keep the grill? Some people are happy to leave their electric grill or griddle sitting on the counter or the patio, especially if they use it frequently. If you aren't interested in using the grill as a decoration, though, measure your kitchen cabinets or drawers to make sure that you can easily store it away. For outdoor grills, you can purchase a cart to keep them out of the way, and a cover to hide the entire thing or protect it from rain.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Electric Grills | Best Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grills | Best Electric Griddles | Best Panini Press | Our Sources

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