Indoor electric barbecue grills make a lot of sense during cold weather and for apartment dwellers. Their convenience can tempt even hardcore charcoal grillers. Popular brands include Salton (George Foreman), Sanyo, DeLonghi, Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart.
Grill Size and Power: Watts, Temperature and Power Density
The grill needs to be hot enough to sear meat for that grilled taste and browned look, otherwise the feared "boiled meat" taste will result. Many manufacturers claim a maximum temperature of about 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also important is the power density of the grill. A larger grill obviously needs more power. To compare grills, the power of the grill (Watts) should be divided by the area of the grill (square inches) to get the power density. For clamshell grills, the area of the top grill should be included in the calculation.
Power densities can range from 6 to 18 Watts per square inch.
Grills range in size from about 36 to 200 square inches. Depending on the type of food grilled, 30 to 50 inches is needed to cook for each person. For clamshell grills, some manufacturers report the cooking area to include both the top and bottom hot plates. Others don't.
Clamshell Double-Sided Contact or Press Grills
These are like panini sandwich makers. Heating elements at the top and bottom means
- Shorter cooking times.
- Less heat and grease splatter.
Features to look out for:
- Floating hinge to adjust for different food thicknesses, up to 3 inches is possible.
- Open flat hinge. Some grills can be opened 180 degrees and used as a conventional flat single-sided grill.
- Tilt control and grease channels to collect grease. A built-in drip collector is convenient.
Removable plates are a major feature that should be considered.
- Easy to clean. The cooking surface is popped out and can be soaked in the sink. Some are dishwasher-safe.
- Flat or ribbed plates can be inserted depending on the type of food cooked.
- Some users complain of less heat and/or uneven heat distribution compared to fixed plate models from the same manufacturer.
- Plates can fall off in the middle of cooking if not properly secured. Locking latches can loosen or break over time.
Traditional Single-sided Grills
Single-sided electric grills try to simulate charcoal grills. A metal grate has electrical heating elements built into it. It is placed over a drip pan. A glass cover is sometimes provided to reduce splatter and shorten cooking times.
While less well known compared to the George Foreman clamshell grills, they are popular with people who like traditional grills and who don't like to squash their meat. There is even a George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor single-sided grill with a domed cover.
Some models have waterproof soakable grills for easy cleaning but most need to be wiped clean to avoid short-circuiting the heating element.
A raised rim is useful to prevent food from falling off.
Electric Grill Features
Popular features include
- Variable temperature or power to allow more control over the cooking.
- Timer. Some timers cut off the power while others only beep but allow the cooking to continue.
- An on/off power switch. Some grills need to be unplugged to switch them off.
The Best Electric Indoor Grill
Both clamshell and single-side grills have their fans. More important is a high power density to nicely sear the meat. Ease of cleaning is also important otherwise grilling becomes a chore.
The best electric grill will not be able to give the same taste as a charcoal grill, though using liquid smoke flavoring can help. However the convenience of an electric grill can turn grilling from a monthly chore to a weekly or daily treat.