How to Identify Your Best Electric Grill Options
Let's get one thing out of the way. Electric grills are excellent, okay? It doesn't matter whether you have a huge backyard. It doesn't matter whether you hit the road and enjoy the great wide American highway to expose yourself fully to the wide range of blessings the great American outdoors can deliver your way.
Electric grills can make your life so much better. This doesn't mean that you can totally turn your back on gas grills. This doesn't mean that charcoal grills should be a distant and faint memory for you. There are certain situations where you would prefer those types of grills, but when it comes to convenience and instant heating, it's very hard to find a better alternative to electric grills. It really is. It takes quite a bit of work.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect grill technology. You probably already know this if you're a veteran of charcoal grilling, gas grilling, wood grilling or electric grilling. You already know this. The big difference between these grilling technologies is how the heat is generated.
Electric grills involve a metal coil or element that is exposed to a tremendous amount of electricity to produce radiant heat. Depending on how much electrical "juice" is flowing through the circuit, the grill can heat up quite a bit or can provide just enough heat to get a nice, slow roast. It really all depends on the recipe you're preparing. It all depends on how much time you have on your hands as you use your electric grill.
It's a popular grilling choice because people from a wide range of backgrounds can enjoy this grilling technology. You don't have to have much money for you to prepare a sweet, roasted or grilled meal using an electrical unit. There is a tremendous amount of variation as far as package pricing goes for electric grills.
Given this accessibility, it should really not be a surprise why more and more Americans are getting turned on to the idea of buying what would otherwise be an electric rod that has a grill top element. That really sums up what an electric grill is. You have a large metal plate and underneath it is an electrical heating unit, which is then connected to the primary input of the electric power. If you just unplug the power input, the grill stops heating. Pretty straightforward.
Of course, located somewhere in the middle of the circuit is some sort of modulation or regulation assembly. This regulates the heat. It also turns the unit on or off, but this is pretty much the general architecture of most electric grills currently on the market.
Considering it's very stripped down and basic design, it is no surprise that these grills can be very, very cheap. Since these items are very affordable, there are a lot more people getting their hands on these articles, and this bolsters the popularity of "premium" electric grill brands. There's just a huge market for these grills.
Before you jump in with both feet and spend your hard-earned dollars buying an electric grill, understand that there are key types of grills. Understand the basic categories of this kind of grill. This can go a long way in helping you pick out the very best unit of as far as your particular set of circumstances are concerned.
The 3 Types of Electric Grills
Outdoor Electric Grills
Outdoor electric grills are heavy-duty electric grills. This should go without saying. You can tell just by looking at the picture on the box or the final assembled unit that this type of electric grill means business. Why? It has to.
If you are leaving something electrical out there in your backyard, it must be able to withstand quite a bit of punishment. You're not merely punishing it when you're using it. You're not only putting a lot of stress and pressure on it when you're laying meat on it, and all that debris piles up as you cook one meal after another. You're also exposing it to the elements. Depending on the design of the electric grill, there might be tremendous rusting pressure on certain sensitive spots of its electrical system.
This is extremely important. You need to pay attention to this sensitivity. You need to pay attention to certain gaps in the design because if you're going to buy an outdoor unit and particular electrical sub-assemblies or electrical lines get corroded or insulation strips away. Sooner rather than later, you might be putting yourself in harm's way. You might suffer the risk of electric shock. At the very least, the unit will stop working because a short has developed or its circuit has been interrupted.
Whatever the case may be you're faced with a problem. How do you get it repaired? Do you really have the time to ship it back? Is it still under warranty? There's just so much unnecessary drama there.
This is why it's essential to look for a heavy-duty unit. This unit must be able to operate for a long, long time in the outdoors without any rusting or circuit breakdown. The good news is you can pretty much tell quickly whether an outdoor electric grill is properly insulated and designed to take whatever pressures the external elements can put on it.
Indoor Electric Grills
The great thing about indoor electric grills is that they're not entirely indoor. Think about it. If you have an indoor electric grill, you can still use it on a porch, and then get yourself a barbecue going. Once the barbecue is over, you take the unit in and clean up. You can use it in a balcony. You can use it in your garage. Indoor grills are hands-down the most adaptable of all electric grill types, but they do have a limit.
Understand that these are not heavy-duty units. You can't take them outdoors for long periods of time. You definitely cannot leave them outdoors. Still, their versatility and ability to deliver consistent and predictable heat to your foods go a long way in ensuring that you can get barbecues going wherever and whenever you want.
The big disadvantage with this type of electrical grill product is the fact that it can't withstand punishment all that much. Always remember this. When you're dealing with an indoor grill, by definition you're dealing with something smaller that requires lighter duty.
This doesn't mean that it's a complete lightweight. This doesn't mean that you have to give up on your dreams of preparing a barbecue for all your extended family members. You just have to plan. You simply have to schedule it right so the grill can produce peak levels of efficiency while not leaving you out hanging to dry.
Electric griddles are mainly just heated surfaces that you can press down to trap heat around food. Electric griddles have been around for a while. In fact, a lot of sandwich machines out there use a griddle design. The great thing about griddles is that they make a sandwich or bread heating so much more efficient. Whether you're heating a stuffed pita or a stuffed taco or even a burrito, griddles got you covered. They work great with quesadillas and other enclosed-type foods.
The big downside with griddles is that you have to use them indoors, and they can't take much punishment. You can't just leave them outdoors and expect them to work like clockwork. It doesn't work that way. So, you have to be a little more careful with griddles. Moreover, since a lot more of the space of the griddle gets used up, you have to use up a lot more elbow grease making sure they're properly maintained.
Electric Grill Powerhouse Brands
Now that your mind is open regarding possible outdoor or indoor electric grills or even griddles, the next step is to zero in on a particular brand that may make sense as far as your specific needs and circumstances are concerned. Three key brands really stand out in the electric grill marketplace. These are Weber, Char-Broil and George Foreman.
Weber is the granddaddy of all grills. You have to remember that Weber made a name for itself with gas grills and charcoal grills. It knows how grills work. It knows how to produce great barbecue time and time again.
The downside with Weber is that it's such a trusted name that a lot of people give it a pass for certain design shortfalls or less-than-stellar performance. This is the danger you face when buying an electric grill with the Weber imprint. Just because it has the Weber band doesn't necessarily mean that it's a product that proudly steps into tried and proven Weber territory. You have to remember Weber made its name in the world of charcoal and gas grills.
When it comes to electric grills, it just has a reliable brand. This doesn't mean that you have to run away from Weber. I'm not saying that all. What I'm saying is that you need to pay attention to what its strong suit is and look at the features of the particular Weber electric unit you are thinking of buying to make sure you have a more than even chance of getting the kind of grilling experience you're in the market for.
Char-Broil is a solid brand. It mimics char-broiling and charcoal grilling textures. It offers quite a bit of technology and innovation. Unfortunately, when it comes to durability, sometimes there is a sacrifice between getting cutting-edge technology and ensuring that the product would stick around for a long time. Thankfully, for most Char-Broil models and model lines, this is a non-issue. Still, it is a possibility so be on the lookout for it.
George Foreman is the granddaddy of electric grills. Well, it's true that electric grills have been around for a long time before the George Foreman brand ever hit the market, it's undeniable that the George Foreman brand actually took the marketing and public awareness of electric grills to a much higher level. The technology has already existed for a long time, but when it comes to public demand and clamor for high-quality electric grilling, George Foreman is in a class by itself. This is why a lot of people automatically flock to this brand. It's effortless to put together. It's straightforward to buy. It's very easy to use. It's just easy all around.
Of course, there is a disadvantage to this. The disadvantage is that it might not be as durable as you would like. It might not be as heavy duty as you would expect. Understand that there's always a setoff. Still, if you are looking for a great starter electric grill, you really can't go wrong with the George Foreman brand.
Advantages of Electric Grills
Now that you have a clear idea of what brands are out there as well as the different types of electric grills, let's get down to the basics of why you would want to use such a grilling unit. What is the big deal about electric grills?
First of all, they're very popular. This might seem like a shallow reason but bear with me. Things that get popular become popular for a reason. There is such a thing as collective wisdom. There is such a thing as social proof.
The reason why electric grills and George Foreman grills, in particular, are so popular because people are busy. People don't have the luxury of time. There's just something appealing to whipping out a plastic grill, using it, cleaning up and storing it away. Whether you live in a high-rise condo, in a small, cramped apartment or in a tiny dorm room or a large suburban home, there is something appealing about the quick usage and affordability features that an electric grill brings to the table.
Moreover, you have to understand that you're not dealing with an open flame. This makes electric grills much more friendly for kids. You can prepare hot dogs, burgers and other grilled items in front of the kids without having to worry that one of your children will reach into that the grilling compartment and burn themselves with an open flame.
This doesn't mean that the extreme heat threat is gone. They can, of course, put their hands on the grill and burn themselves rather badly because electric girls still produce quite a bit of heat. Still, you have a lot less to worry about. You just need to warn your kid never to put their hands on the surface, and at least you can rest assured that you have to worry about open flames.
Besides, since electric grills guarantee quick starting and heat delivery, there is no heating drama. Seriously. All the drama of starting a fire, distributing that fire or keeping the fire going, go away with electric grills. As long as you are in an area that doesn't suffer power interruptions, you are ready to go. It doesn't matter whether you are preparing a small barbecue, or you're grilling enough beef to produce a whole side of beef. You are covered.
Another great thing about the healing that you get from electric grills is that the heating is standardized. In other words, you are guaranteed a certain range of heating. You also can modulate that heat using an electrical control system. Sounds good so far, right?
Well, the big downside to this is that if you're looking for a tremendous amount of heat and an enormous amount of flame, you're not going to get it with an electric grill. You just have to invest either in a charcoal grill or a gas grill.
Concerning urban or suburban usage, electric grills bring a lot to the table. They're ideal for balconies, apartments, condos, high-rise apartments, suburban homes. They're very, very flexible and very versatile as far as internal or external living spaces are concerned.
Even if you're a student living in a shoe box of a dorm room, you can still use an electric grill. Small spaces are not a problem. As long as you have something that is at least 5 feet x 5 feet, you can put an electric grill in there, cook yourself up some barbecue and have a great time.
The disadvantages of electric grills are actually pretty straightforward. In fact, people who are taken in by the advantages of electric grills usually don't care about the drawbacks. However, to ensure that you have enough information to make the right choice as far as electric grills are concerned, let me spell out these shortcomings. Depending on your needs, they might not be that big of a deal. In fact, they might not be shortcomings at all.
First of all, you cannot use smoking when you're using an electric grill. There are no places to put wood chips. There are no places to smoke the meat, so it gets that sweet, smoked flavor. Unless you're using an electric smoker in coordination with your George Foreman grill, there's usually no smoking element.
Also, the texture is a hit-or-miss affair. If you're using an electric grill, there are certain times where the texture is just right. If you're looking for barbecued burgers that have that nice alternating texture of succulent and crunchy, you can get that pretty much like clockwork with charcoal grills. When it comes to electric grills, it's anybody's guess. Because this is a hit-or-miss affair, it depends on your heat setting. It depends on how you position the meat. There are just so many factors at play, and it really isn't a slam dunk.
Also, even if you get superior heating with electric units, understand that a lot of these units do have a hotspot. In other words, you look at the surface of the grill and you can designate certain spots to get really, really hot while other spots tend to remain cold. Generally, this is not a problem if you know where the hotspots are, but if you are in a rush or if you're preparing a lot of food that needs to be cooked within a relatively short period of time, this hotspot problem is going to produce substandard food. Some of that food will be awesome, but a lot of it would be mediocre at best.
Finally, the aroma might not be there. There's a reason why people love charcoal grilling. There's a particular aroma that you get when pieces of the meat get burned, but they don't get turned into a crisp. There's just some chemical process that is unleashed, and certain chemical byproducts are released on the surface of the meat that really goes a long way in giving the meat a distinct aroma. You know that something has been barbecued right because the aroma is there. Of course, this is paired with a succulent interior in a crispy exterior, and you're in seventh heaven. Sounds awesome, right?
Unfortunately, you generally can't find this combination when it comes to electric grills. With electrical grills, you get fast heating, you get excessive heat, and get the job done quickly, but in a broad range of internal and outdoor settings, but you give up a lot for this.
Uses of Electric Grill
If you're looking for quick ideas for your electric grill, let me spell it out for you: they're perfect for making steaks. They're superb for cooking burgers, hot dogs and anything that you usually put on a grill. Believe it or not, they're also perfect for pancakes. Indeed, depending on the surface of the grill that you are using, you can even use them as a griddle for flapjacks or waffles. If you love Korean barbecue or Thai Satay barbecue, you're in luck. Electric grill's flat surface makes for a great safe and smoke-free grilling surface for Korean barbecue and Thai satay.
Generally speaking, electric surfaces do a bang-up job of grilling. As long as it doesn't involve a multi-step mysterious grilling procedure that involves all sorts of exotic ingredients and herbs and spices, you're pretty much good to go with a particular electric grill setup.
This is especially true when it comes to Mexican food. Mexican foods that involve pieces of tortilla with cheese or filling heated on both ends do well with electric grills. I am, of course, talking about quesadillas. Quesadillas are the usual suspects when it comes to cooking excellence on electric grills, but tacos can be prepared with electric grills as well. You can also cook pupusas or El Salvadorian "enclosed" tacos. The only limit really, regarding the foods you can prepare with an electric grill, whether it's a George Foreman unit or not, is your imagination.
What is the Best Electric Grill for Steaks?
If you are just looking to prepare the best steaks time and time again, you need to pay attention to the following factors. These factors may not apply to other foods. They might not apply to certain brands. So, zero in on these factors.
First, there has to be enough flat area to accommodate a broad range of steak sizes.
Also, there has to be enough flat area to accommodate a large amount of food that you may be preparing at one time.
Also, pay attention to the strong heating power of the electric grill. This is extremely important because it may turn out that it's only able to deliver a concentrated amount of heat in a very narrow diameter. You need to know where that area is.
Also, pay attention to the heat ring involved. There's really nothing you can do about this. You need to make sure that it is as wide and as evenly distributed as possible. Look at the surface of the electric grill. Is there a slight indentation? Are there enough grooves or enough design elements to ensure efficient grease handling?
Make no mistake about it, you may be using an electric unit, but since you're working with meat, there is going to be a lot of fat or grease involved. So, make sure that it is designed in such a way that it catches the grease so that the grease is not an issue.
The George Foreman grill does an excellent job of capturing grease. You can cook one steak, burger and hot dog after another and rest assured that all the fat can easily be trapped and thrown away. Ease of cleanup is a natural outgrowth of effective grease handling. If the unit is designed to drip grease the right way, then cleanup is usually a no-brainer.
Additionally, the unit must be easy to disassemble and store. This is non-negotiable. If it takes a tremendous amount of hassle and time to disassemble a unit, chances are you would leave it assembled, and it will be an eyesore. It might stink up your room and cause all sorts of problems. Who wants that unnecessary headache? You probably don't. So, keep this in mind.
Finally, if you are a big barbecue aficionado, and you have all sorts of grand visions of great stuff that you want to put on the grill and the excellent flavors and textures you want to explore, then you ought to look into smoke management. There has to be a unit that either you add onto the electric grill or that you buy separately from the grill assembly which enables you to smoke meats. So, keep this in mind.
How to Choose the Best
To sum up, if you are serious about choosing the very best unit in your particular situation, you cannot take other people's recommendations. What makes sense to them might not make sense to you because their range of circumstances and needs are different from yours. So, what makes sense? Well, you need to look at the following objective factors.
First, pay attention to the size you need. The size, of course, involves the amount of food that you would be preparing at one time. It also includes the sizes of the portions that you are preparing.
Next, you need to pay attention to how much heat you need quickly. Heating speed is important. There are certain electric grill units out there that take a while to heat up. They might be a buck short and a day late as far as you're concerned.
Also, heating levels are critical. This is especially true if you are going to be using heavy-duty meats and you're going to be basically slapping on one steak and taking it off and then slapping on another piece. If you see that happening in the future, then you need many different heat levels which would enable you to maximize the value you get for the electricity that's powering your unit.
Also, it's essential to insist on an easy-to-disassemble unit. This is what made the George Foreman grill so popular. The grill is not only sturdy, but it's actually easy to disassemble. This is why if you are living in a somewhat enclosed space, you can have a grilled meal and not have to worry about having to run to the closest park or run to the parking lot to cook your meal. You can grill it right in the middle of your room, and then once that's done, put everything away. Ease of disassembly is crucial for indoor units and also for outdoor units.
Not only should the unit be easy to pull apart, but it also has to be conducive for you to be able to put it in a neat box and store it away. Whether you're storing it away for several months or storing it away for a couple of days, it shouldn't matter. You must be able to put everything away quickly without much thinking or elbow grease.
Also, it pays to have a unit that is very easy to clean up. We're not just talking about trapping grease. We're not simply talking about disassembling the units and then wiping them down. The whole unit must be easy to clean up. You don't want any molds. You don't want any nasty debris to pile up. You don't want anything to stink.
Finally, the unit has to have a long warranty. This is non-negotiable. If you buy a unit that lasts only a few months, then you've wasted your hard-earned money. Sure, it may seem like you didn't pay that much for it, but think about it. Since you only used it twice, you paid a lot of dollars for each single use. Talk about a waste of time. Talk about a rip-off.
This is why you shouldn't get all hung up on the pricing. Focus instead on how durable the unit is. If the unit is going to be able to give you five years of dependable service, then whatever money is spent on that unit would be money well spent.
Keep the factors described above solidly in mind if you're in the market for electric grills. You really have to know what you're looking for otherwise you might make an uninformed choice. If you make an uninformed choice, the chances of you regretting your decision are going to be quite high. Do yourself a big favor and do your homework. You have enough information to make the right call again and again.
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