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,
having consistent, even and accurate temperatures is 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 inexpensive grill or griddle, 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 cleanup 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 grill or griddle 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