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Even for those who live in warmer climates, there are days when it’s just too cold to head out to the backyard and fire up the grill. Still, your mouth waters for the taste of perfectly grilled steak or gently barbequed fish fillet with beautiful char marks. One way to ensure that taste anytime is to take your food indoors.
The market offers a spectacular array of indoor grills from which to choose. Options like the T-fal Optigrill sit at the top of the heap. This worry-free grill measures the thickness of your food with a sensor in order to ensure grilling “accuracy.” Whether you prefer your steak blood rare or well done, the T-fal has a colored indicator light that alerts you when your meat is done just so.
Then there are indoor grills that push their role beyond indoor barbecue. For example, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Grill can cook your steak, press your panini, or sizzle your pancakes. The Cuisinart represents a class of grills with removable plates that have ridges on one side for grilling (love those char marks) and are flat on the other for griddling purposes.
At BestReviews, our goal is to offer our readers honest recommendations and shopping guides for a wide variety of products.
As part of our process, we conduct detailed consumer surveys and study current market conditions and trends to ensure we are recommending the very best.
If you’re interested in purchasing an indoor grill, we invite you to look at the five top products in our matrix, above. Our selections reflect quality as well as value for your money.
If you’d like to learn more about indoor grills, please continue reading this shopping guide.
Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."
Are you cooking for yourself, your family, or a gaggle of guests? And what is it you are grilling? The answers to these questions help determine which type of indoor grill is right for you.
For example, if steak preparation sits high on your list, a grill that presses the food with dual plates goes to the head of the class.
Our cooking expert Francois says one thing is certain: Cast metal grates are better because they retain heat. Consider these other factors when selecting an indoor grill:
Smoke-free isn’t smokeless. Most smoke-free models just have a pan at the bottom that you can fill with water. The concept is that grease will fall into the water and not burn. However, this does not prevent grease from smoking on the grill itself.
When it comes to indoor grills, the size you need depends on what you’re cooking.
If you plan to fire up three or four steaks, the Zojirushi Indoor Electric Grill provides an ample cooking surface that’s approximately 13” x 19”. If you’re a solo diner, the George Foreman model on our shortlist is more than adequate with its surface of approximately 11” x 11”.
Consider the amount of counter space you’re willing to share with your grill, too. A larger grill, like the DeLonghi Perfecto, is somewhat of a countertop hog.
Of course, you have the option of stashing your grill in a cupboard when not in use. But some cooks don’t like this idea.
To press or not to press? For indoor grills, that is the question.
A pressing grill has two cooking plates that fold over to cook two sides at once. On our shortlist, the George Foreman, T-fal OptiGrill, and Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler fall into this category. Their hinge-based folding action allows users to press sandwiches in the manner of a panini maker, creating that melding that is the signature of a Cuban sandwich or a top-notch grilled cheese.
A grill that does not press its plates together is closer to an outdoor grill in how it cooks. The Zojirushi Indoor Electric Grill and DeLonghi Perfecto use this non-press method. We like these grills for their ability to give the home chef greater control over the outer char on their food. However, some open grills like these create a lot of smoke, especially at high temperatures.
Francois says to consider what you're using your grill for, because some press models can open up flat and have a flat side and grill side, allowing you cook a whole breakfast.
Statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association tell us that unattended kitchen appliances were the top cause of house fires between 2010 and 2014, so keep an eye on your grill while it's in use.
Different models offer a variance of temperature and cook time controls. Disparities between products relate directly to cost.
For example, the $24 George Foreman model has basic lights that indicate when the grill is hot.
Embedded heating elements make a big difference. On some models, the heating elements is inside the grate, helping it get super hot. When the heating element is under and the grate is “floating” above, it’s much harder to get a super hot grate.
All of the models on our shortlist feature nonstick surfaces which are easy to clean.
Anything you cook on an outdoor grill can also be cooked on an indoor grill. This includes meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, and pizza.
Indoor grills that close via a hinge make great sandwiches.
The Cuisinart 5-in-1 pushes beyond grilling and sandwich prep to griddle pancakes and sizzle bacon.
Former heavyweight champion, George Foreman, packs a one-two punch in this price range. Foreman’s GR-10B Classic is ideal for someone who plans to use the grill sparingly. (The plates are not removable.)
For just a little more, you can purchase Foreman’s Removable Plate model featured in our matrix for $24. We believe this price difference to be well worth the money, even for the casual user.
After marinating your meat, pat it dry it and remove all spices and seasonings. If you don’t do this, the seasonings may burn, creating more smoke and giving the food a bitter flavor.
The Zojirushi gets high marks for its durability, even though it’s a bit trickier to clean than some other models. And, in spite of the common complaint that the DeLonghi Perfecto takes a while to heat up, users voice positive feelings about this model.
If you want a “jack-of-all-trades” indoor grill in this price range, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 targets your needs. Reviews applaud its versatility and voice only minor complaints about fat dripping onto the countertop when the lid is not fully closed.
Always allow the grill to cool completely before removing any pieces, especially the drip pan as oil will be hot.
Most owners of the $128 T-fal Optigrill appreciate its ability to heat up quickly, as well as its ability to measure food thickness and intuit the proper cooking time. The surface is a bit smaller than some buyers expected, but it’s more than adequate to cook two hamburgers at once.
If you want to know how best to use your T-fal OptiGrill, check out one of the many videos on YouTube from the popular home shopping networks. The OptiGrill is often a featured product on these kitchen segments. It also happens to be the winner of our Best of the Best title.
Each of the T-Fal’s detachable pieces can be washed in the dishwasher, including the drip plate. However, the whole unit shouldn’t be rinsed under water, as it could damage the grill.
Before cleaning your indoor grill, make sure it has cooled off.
Always wash new appliances before using them. When we first plugged in the George Foremen, we noticed a bit of a chemical smell. This may be normal, but it’s still wise to clean your fresh-from-the-factory appliances before using them.
Don’t use aerosol cooking spray on your grill. These chemicals can build up and decrease the grill’s efficiency.
Never use metal skewers, tongs, forks, or knives when dealing with food on a nonstick surface, as it could scratch. Instead, invest in appliances made specifically for use on nonstick appliances.
To use wood chips with your indoor grill, soak them in water for approximately two hours. Place the chips in aluminum foil, poke some holes in it, and lay your foil package on the grill. Make sure your grill has a lid to allow the smoke to circulate inside the cooking area.
Vegetarians enjoy grilling, too. The key to tasty grilled veggies and non-meat burgers lies in the oil, which prevents sticking.
When grilling bananas, cook them in their peels to preserve the fruit’s soft texture.
If you choose, you can grill ears of corn right in their husks. Peel back the husks slightly and dab the ears with butter or oil; then close up the husks. Wrap them in foil and place them on the grill.
Q. Did George Foreman really invent his grill?
A. No. The grill was actually invented by Michael Boehm, who used the former boxing star as the marketing face of the product. Boehm used to carry the patent for the grill around to prove his ownership.
Q. How much did George Foreman earn for the use of his name on the grill?
A. While not confirmed, Salton Inc. allegedly paid the former boxer $137 million in 1999 for the right to use his name.
Q. Are there ways to grill food without an indoor grill?
A. Yes. You can use a sturdy frying pan with raised grill lines (called a grill pan) to elevate the food above the floor of the pan and allow drippings to run off. A top-notch grill pan costs about $40 and can be made of cast iron, anodized aluminum, or a similar material.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.