It’s a tempting thought in the middle of winter: the unmistakable taste of food grilled outdoors, without battling the elements or standing outdoors to cook in a heavy coat and gloves. Indoor electric grills offer the perfect way to do it. Unfortunately, many don’t pass the taste test.
Let’s be honest. You’re never going to fully duplicate the flavor of meat grilled over charcoal, or even cooked on a premium outdoor gas grill, by using an indoor appliance.
If you choose the right indoor electric grill and get a little creative with your spices or rubs, though, you can come awfully close – and if you close your eyes, you might almost feel the gentle summer breezes and see the kids running around the yard as you chew.
All of the products on Groom+Style’s best indoor electric grill top 6 list will do a very good job with burgers and steaks; you’ll even see features like “sear” buttons to put the perfect finish on meats. Where many of them shine even more, though, is with thin food like fish filets and items like sandwiches and Paninis. Some can also double as a terrific griddle.
The Two Main Styles of Indoor Grills – Open Grill & Contact Grill
There are two styles of indoor grills. They each have covers, but one is known as an open grill because the cover doesn’t contact food when it’s closed. The other is a contact grill, on which the cover presses against the food that’s inside to provide a more even cook and the telltale “grill marks” on both sides.
Open grills are generally larger and will come closer to recreating the taste of meats grilled outdoors; they’re also the only type which can properly handle unevenly-shaped foods like vegetables and shrimp.
As long as they’re powerful enough, contact grills cook faster because both sides of the food are being cooked simultaneously, They’re also ideal for grilled sandwich preparation, and if their surfaces are dishwasher-safe they clean up more easily. Contact grills should definitely have hinged floating cover to accommodate different foods of different sizes, and all of our reviewed models do.
Indoor Electric Grill Buying Considerations
There are different criteria by which you can best judge each type of grill, but some are important for both open and contact models. They should be able to hit temperatures up to 425-450° (and higher for searing meat), unless you’re only going to use them as a griddle or to grill Paninis and grilled cheese sandwiches.
They should have enough power to handle their assignments and to quickly return to temperature after the lid is raised. They should have adjustable thermostats and built-in thermometers. Their grates or cooking plates should be removable for easy cleaning. And an overlooked but important consideration: their cords should be long enough for convenient placement.
Groom+Style have included both contact and open grills on our top 6 list, so you can choose the style you’d prefer based on your needs and their features. Let’s get cooking.
1. Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
This Cuisinart unit has become the go-to indoor electric grill in recent years, and for good reasons. It’s the most versatile contact grill on the market because its construction allows it to do much more than its competitors; that’s what the “5-in-1” is all about.
Let us count the ways. You can use the Griddler as a traditional contact grill (1) or as a Panini press (2), you can fold the top all the way back to use the unit as a two-surface open grill (3) or griddle (4) since the plates are reversible with both flat and grill surfaces, or you can split the difference and use one side as a grill and the other as a griddle (5) for those Sunday morning pancakes and sausage breakfasts.
Having two cooking surfaces greatly increases the amount of food you can prepare on the Griddler, of course. There’s enough room for eight normal-sized pancakes when used as a full griddle, two or three large steaks when used as a full grill, and four to six burgers when used as a contact grill.
This model maintains temperatures extremely well across the entire cooking surface in both open and contact modes, it’s able to reach 450° (425° for the griddle) and has a 500° sear setting for finishing off your meats. Any indoor grill will spatter when you’re grilling meats (when you’re outdoors, you just don’t notice it) but there’s noticeably less of an issue with the Griddler than most competitive units; just don’t cook fatty meats on “high.” Preheating takes between five and ten minutes.[youtube id=”JW9DgPELdjE” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
Most of the small touches are taken care of, too. There are metal clamps to firmly lock the top in place in contact mode, the grease-catching cups slide out easily, and both the plates and grease cups are dishwasher-safe although you can usually clean the plates pretty well with a wet paper towel. If you love home-cooked waffles, waffle plates are available for an additional price.
The cooking surface is flat so grease doesn’t run off quite as easily as it should, and the cord is relatively short, but those are really the only negatives we found. One thing they don’t mention in the instructions, though: don’t use non-stick spray on non-stick plates, because that can wear away the surface.
The griddle works wonderfully, Paninis and other sandwiches come out perfect, and grilled meats are cooked quite well for an indoor model (don’t forget the spices or rubs for outdoor flavor!). The Griddler is great value.
Facts and figures for the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler:
2. T-fal GC702 OptiGrill Indoor Electric Grill
This T-fal contact grill model came in ranked #2 on our list of the top 6 best electric grills because it doesn’t have the same flexibility as the Griddler. If we were to judge purely on features and results, however, it would have topped the list.
When you first look at the OptiGrill it doesn’t look like just another indoor grill, it looks like a kitchen appliance, almost industrial in appearance. It’s heavier and takes up a large footprint on the counter, even though its cooking surface is smaller than that on the Griddler.
But there’s a lot packed into this electric grill. Start with the six cooking programs you can choose to tell the OptiGrill what you’re preparing: burger, red meat, poultry, sausage, fish or sandwich. Then factor in the “automatic sensor cooking” which detects the number of items and thickness of what’s placed onto the grill, and then sets the proper temperature and cooking time automatically. (You can adjust them manually as well for any of those foods, for uneven thicknesses or other items like vegetables, of course).
Add the smart LED system which glows green for cooking, yellow for rare, orange for medium and red for well done, and finish with the “frozen” mode which can grill foods right from the freezer. There are audio “beep” alerts as well. As you can tell, this is no ordinary indoor grill.
The non-stick plates are made from die-cast aluminum and clean up easily, the OptiGrill is the most powerful of all the models the Groom+Style Review Team looked at and takes only about five minutes to heat up – and food comes out juicy and absolutely delicious (bearing in mind that it still won’t fully taste like it was cooked outdoors).
If we had one issue with this T-fal beauty it’s that it doesn’t have a sear mode, but for a small family we’d choose the OptiGrill in a flash.
Details for the T-fal GC702 OptiGrill Indoor Electric Grill:
3. Delonghi BG24 Perfecto Indoor Grill
This open indoor grill stands out because its heating element is fully embedded in the grill plate, which is the only way to reliably guarantee even heat distribution through the entire cooking space. It also happens to prepare food very well.
We do have to mention the major drawback of this Delonghi unit right away: you can’t put the grill plate in the dishwasher because of the embedded heating elements. It’s non-stick, though, so it cleans up easily by hand; the drip catcher is dishwasher-safe. There’s a decent-sized cooking area (for an indoor grill, of course) and the tempered glass lid contains heat and steam to cook food faster and help the meat retain juices.
It also helps contain spatter, as you’d guess. The Perfecto heats up relatively quickly, though it does take longer to cook food than a contact grill since there’s only one heating surface. You can set cooking temperatures on the detachable thermostat that runs from low to high (high is 450°). There is no sear function.
The lid sits pretty close to the grill surface so don’t plan on grilling extremely thick meats, and we find that indoor open grills cook more like a combination grill/oven than an outdoor gas or charcoal grill. With that in mind, the finished products come out tender, tasty and “grill-like,” and it’s unrealistic to ask much more than that for the price.
In-depth on the Delonghi BG24 Perfecto Indoor Grill:
4. Power Smokeless Indoor Grill
If you watch much TV, you’ve probably seen ads for this grill: “Virtually Smokeless!” “Infused With Flavor!” “Smoke Extraction Technology!” Surprisingly (at least to the review team, that is), the Power Smokeless Grill delivers most of what it promises, although at a rather high price.
First things first. We usually prefer contact grills for indoor use, but this model is an open-style grill with a glass top. That means the Power Smokeless won’t cook quite as quickly or evenly as a unit whose upper and lower plates both make contact with the food, it won’t make cool “grill marks,” and it’s not ideal for grilling a Panini. It’s also somewhat low-power, at 1200 watts versus the 1500 or 1800 watts a top-end grill normally delivers.
However – we do really like the Power Smokeless Grill. It does a great job cooking almost every type of food as long as you give it enough time to do its work. And the smart temperature control that lets you set target temps as high as 450° makes things simple. Of course, the fact that it’s an open-style unit with a large cooking surface also means that it’s easy to grill the odd-shaped vegetables and seafood items that a contact grill can’t handle; the 14” x 8” grilling surface is big enough to fit eight large burgers, three large steaks, three racks of ribs or an entire chicken.[youtube id=”uBjbtdAItC0″ width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The big question, of course: is the Power Smokeless Grill really “smokeless?” The answer: it depends. When you’re grilling lean meat or other foods that aren’t fatty (such as fish or veggies), and when you’re depending on the non-stick grill surface to cook without additional oil or grease, it’s virtually smokeless. If you’re cooking meat that drips a lot of grease, or if you use oily marinades, liquid smoke or other fatty liquids, you’re going to see a good amount of smoke.
Two other notes: this grill is quite easy to clean as long as you’re not using extra oil or fat, and you have to pay extra for desirable add-ons like a griddle plate.
This is the most expensive indoor grill in the Groom+Style rankings, but you get a lot for your money if a large grill top and “smokeless” operation are the features which matter most to you.
More info on the Power Smokeless Grill:
5. George Foreman GRP99 Next Generation Grill
Note: we review George Foreman’s, lower priced but, best selling model at the end of this article for those who are interested.
You knew it had to be here somewhere, right? There actually were indoor electric grills before George Foreman arrived on the scene (we owned one of them) – they just weren’t very good. This line of grills redefined the category in the late 20th century, though, and the current model is dependable and a good performer.
There are many good features on this Foreman contact grill, including the ability to digitally set exact cooking times and temperatures, the LED readouts, and the sloped grill that causes a minimum of fat buildup and splatter.
The reason the GRP99 doesn’t rank higher on our list of the top 6 best indoor electric grills, however, is that if you’re not very careful it can remove too much fat from the meat you’re cooking, leaving you with dry or rubbery steak or chicken. The Groom+Style Review Team also thought the power cord was definitely too short.
The Next Generation’s components are easy to remove and dishwasher-safe, the cooking surface is large enough for making four burgers or a couple of steaks and the food can definitely be tasty – just be sure to check your meat regularly as it’s cooking.
Specifications for the George Foreman GRP99 Next Generation Grill:
6. Hamilton Beach 25360 Indoor Flavor/Searing Grill
You can probably tell that we’re partial to contact grills, but this Hamilton Beach open grill is a good performer – and the way it’s built can almost make you feel like you’re cooking outdoors, because the cover is an attached (but removable) hood just like the one on your gas grill.
Groom+Style didn’t like the fact that the highest temperature this grill can hit is 400°, but it’s always going to take longer to cook food in an open grill so that wasn’t a fatal flaw, and to compensate there’s a 450° sear function that we did like.
The non-stick grill plates come out easily for cleaning, it doesn’t take up a huge footprint (although the power cord is very short so it can’t go just anywhere), and most importantly, it cooks well while retaining flavor and juices.
It wasn’t quite as impressive as the Delonghi open grill we reviewed earlier, probably because it’s much less powerful, but it’s still a good choice in this price range.
Digging deeper on the Hamilton Beach 25360 Indoor Flavor/Searing Grill:
Bonus Review – George Foreman GRP-1060B 4-Serving Removable Plate Grill And Panini Press
The GRP-1060B is George Foreman’s best selling model and deserves to be mentioned in this review. It is a bare-bones grill at a low price, so you won’t find many extra features like timers and adjustable thermostats on this 60-square inch contact grill. But it’s large enough to prepare a tasty dinner for four (if they don’t have huge appetites), the non-stick coating on the plates is much better than on previous models, the machine heats up quickly (it’s ready to go in as little as three minutes), and the trademark Foreman sloped grill design means there will be a minimum of fat buildup and splatter.
There’s a one-inch adjustable hinge on the top that lets you grill different cuts and sizes of meat and veggies, as well as paninis.
Once again, like with the GRP99 model listed above, the Groom+Style Review Team also thought the power cord was definitely too short. The unit is available in either black or platinum finishes.
The 4-Serving Removable Plate grill’s components are easy to remove and dishwasher-safe, the cooking surface is large enough for making four burgers or a couple of large steaks and the unit cooks nicely.
Specifications for the George Foreman GRP-1060B Grill And Panini Press: