When you’re craving a grilled steak and you don't have access to a great outdoor grill, your thoughts may turn to an indoor grill. These countertop appliances can either have wide, open grates like outdoor grills, or covers that press down on a burger or a chicken breast, cooking both sides at once. The latter, often called contact grills, were made popular for healthy cooking by the George Foreman Grill in the mid-1990s, and are great for making diner-quality crunchy grilled cheese sandwiches.
The best of both types will grill up a burger and cook meat that tastes like summer. While you can make a mean hamburger or sirloin with flavorful browning and crusting with the equipment you already own—a skillet and a stove—you’ll appreciate the versatility of an electric grill.
The best electric grill we tested is the Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe(available at Amazon for $159.95). It's packed with features and can be used as a contact or an open grill—and even as a griddle. If you want a less formidable model and to spend a lot less, the George Foreman 4 Serving Basic Plate Grill (available at Walmart) will get the job done.
To help you spend wisely, we chose highly-rated products and used each one to toast bread, grill hamburgers, and press paninis. We then took the top performers and grilled chicken breasts and salmon filets to help us determine our favorites.
Here are the best indoor grills we tested ranked, in order.
Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe
George Foreman 4-Serving Removable Plate Grill
Hamilton Beach Searing Grill with Lid Window
All-Clad Electric Grill with Autosense
Breville the Perfect Press
Zojirushi Indoor Electric Grill
Cuisinart Griddler Five
Philips Avance Collection Smoke-less Indoor Grill
Black and Decker 3-in-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle Maker
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Although large and pricey, the Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe offers a lot of cooking options for your money. In addition to being used as a closed grill, the two sides open up to form two separate surfaces for those times when you want to increase the number of burgers you can grill at once from six to 12. The plates are reversible with a grill pattern on one side and a flat surface on the other. With both sides open and the flat surface in place, the Griddler Deluxe turns into a griddle, although there is a gap between the two halves that limits the number of pancakes you can cook at once. But, all in all, this is a very versatile product.
The Griddler browns quickly and evenly. Longer cooking items like paninis and chicken breasts came out crispy with beautiful grill marks. Using the high heat sear function, burgers were grilled perfectly.
In addition, this Cuisinart has lots of special features. You can select different temperatures for each plate, which is particularly helpful when it’s in the open position. You can cook the bacon on medium on one side and scramble the eggs on low on the other. During preheating, the knobs glow red, then change to green when the selected temperature is reached. An innovative lever on the side of the machine allows you to adjust the distance between the two plates so that you can avoid crushing your burgers as well as press down on a grilled cheese sandwich, but not so hard that all the cheese oozes out. The plates are particularly easy to snap in and out and they can be washed in the dishwasher. In the back of the grill, a drip tray slides into place. Not only is the manual thorough, it contains recipes that you actually want to prepare.
You can thank George Foreman (or whoever licensed his name) for first putting the contact grill on the map. This inexpensive black plastic model isn’t particularly sexy looking but it’s relatively small and offers a no-fuss method of cooking a couple of burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, it is called a four-serving grill, but in actuality it could only hold two 4-inch patties. While paninis weren’t quite as crusty as from some of the more expensive products, burgers, chicken, and salmon completed cooking with gorgeous grill marks. This model has only one heat setting so it’s a no-brainer to operate. With grill plates that pop out for thorough cleaning in the dishwasher, it’s an improvement over the original Foreman grill which required that you wipe down the plates. It comes with a simple removable drip tray that sits in front to catch the drippings as they fall from the slanted surface.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for more than 30 years. Before that, I womaned the grill in New York City restaurants for seven years. It’s been a long time since I lived in a house with a backyard, so an electric grill is my best bet for burgers. And as those of you who have read my other reviews know, I’m a pushover for anything crispy. If there’s one on the menu, I’ll always order a grilled cheese sandwich.
We tested nine grills including those with wide-open surfaces and others with lids that close down and cook the food from two sides at once. In each, we toasted bread to see the evenness of the grill’s heating pattern and then grilled hamburgers to see how long it took to cook if it left distinct grill marks, and how evenly it browned. In the closed grills, which are often called contact grills or panini presses, we cooked a thick ham, cheese, and tomato sandwich on sourdough bread. At that point, we eliminated products that we thought had serious drawbacks. In the remaining five grills, we made chicken breasts and salmon filets.
As we grilled, we considered the ease of use of each appliance. We looked at how easy it was to use the controls, determine when the surfaces were preheated, and clean the various parts as well as whether or not there were any safety concerns. Because we know space is at a premium for most of us, we noted how much room they required on the countertop and in a cabinet.
Differences Between Open and Contact Grills
An open grill definitely gives more of the illusion that you’re actually grilling. It has a fairly wide grate that sits over a drip pan and you flip food over just as you would on an outdoor grill. While they hold more food at once than a contact grill, they take about twice as long to cook. Plus, they require more countertop and storage space, and their larger grill surfaces and drip pans take up more room in the sink or the dishwasher. In our tests, open grills didn’t give us much better results than a closed grill and they can’t be used to make a pressed sandwich. For this reason, we didn’t select any of the open grills we tested as a top pick.
Other Indoor Grills We Tested
Hamilton Beach Searing Grill with Window
If you’re dead set on an open grill, our first choice is the Hamilton Beach Searing Grill with Lid Window which is big enough to cook six hamburgers at a time. Burgers, chicken, and fish came out with deep grill marks closely resembling the ones you get from your outdoor grill. The lid doesn’t press down on food but rather, it helps to hold in heat to speed up cooking a little and also contain smoke and cooking odors. The grill grate and the drip pan go in the dishwasher and the lid comes off for hand washing.
If you’re looking for a status symbol for your countertop and are willing to pay top dollar for it, consider the All-Clad Electric Grill with Autosense. It stamped impressive grill marks on chicken and salmon and cooked up crunchy gooey paninis. But its claim to fame is that it has preprogrammed settings that automatically select the time and temperature for six categories of food; the grill then signals with a lighted bar and beeps as your food progresses through five cooking levels from rare to well done. There’s also a frozen button to use if you’re using the presets with frozen food. If you prefer, you can select your own time and temperature by pressing the Custom Temp button. However, as you would expect, all these special settings, that are designed to make life easier, can wind up complicating things.
The All-Clad only has grill plates, cannot be used as an open grill, and is big enough for just four burgers so it’s not as versatile as the Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe, yet costs $100 more. Still, we can’t fault its cooking performance and it is a solidly built machine. The plates come out and along with the drip pan can be machine washed. A recipe booklet is included.
The Breville the Perfect Press is small, beautiful, and with no temperature settings, uncomplicated to operate. Although it’s primarily intended for panini, it can easily handle three burgers or chicken breasts. The plates have a flat surface so you don’t get any grill marks and you can’t remove them for cleaning. While not being able to rinse them under running water may bother you if you’re a cleaning fanatic, they wipe clean easily, and removing and reinstalling the plates is one less thing to worry about. But my biggest gripe is with Breville’s "crush control" feature, which is supposed to prevent you from pressing down too hard on sandwiches, but it couldn’t adjust to evenly rest on a thick panini and as a result, the paninis I made didn’t come out evenly browned. As the plates lock together, the unit can stand up vertically when it’s not being used and there’s cord storage in the bottom which makes this product handy to store.
While you’ll ultimately get beautiful results from this grill, you do have to flip foods over and have a little patience. In our tests, it took 10 minutes to cook six burgers and 20 minutes to grill salmon. That may not sound long, but it’s more than twice the time most of the closed grills needed. Even though it doesn’t have a lid, we didn’t notice much smoking during grilling. The Zojirushi model is large and will take up quite a bit of space on the countertop, in the dishwasher, and in a cabinet or closet if you’re going to stash it away between uses.
Like the Griddler Deluxe, the Cuisinart Griddle Five is handsome and versatile. It too can be used in an open or closed position and has both grill and griddle surfaces. Smaller than the Deluxe, it can only hold four patties at once when closed or eight when open. We found it really excelled when it came to chicken and salmon, which came out looking bronzed.
This grill has an LCD screen that shows the temperature choices, lighted bars to show you the progress of preheating, and a timer that can count down or count up. However, the functions on the display are controlled by turning and pressing a knob so many options lead to some confusion. The drip pan slides into the grill but it took us a little bit of experimentation to figure out how to position it.
What holds us back from recommending this model wholeheartedly, is that at higher temperatures and longer cooking times, the edges of its handle get quite hot. Although it wasn’t hot enough to burn us, it was a cause for some concern.
This product is solidly built and cooks evenly. It’s also large, heavy, and very pricey, yet it will only cook six burgers at once. As claimed, it didn’t smoke, but then neither did the open Zojirushi. It has only two settings, high and warm, which make it easy to use but also makes it seem like you’re not getting much for your money. Although you do get a recipe book, the use and care leaflet is skimpy on details. You can clean the grate and drip pan in the dishwasher.
On the Black and Decker 3-in-1 Grill Griddle and Waffle Maker you get cooking plates that can be reversed from a flat side to a waffle side so it really is like getting two appliances in one. It does a nice job of browning burgers and grilling cheese sandwiches, but we didn’t test it with chicken and fish because the small handle becomes too hot to touch after cooking. With the Black and Decker, you don’t get a drip pan and have to put a small bowl underneath the drip spout at one corner to prevent a messy countertop. Dishwasher cleaning isn’t recommended. On the upside, Black and Decker hardware can be found almost everywhere, so there's a good chance that, should you prefer to shop in local stores over online outlets, you'll be able to pick one up without too much trouble.
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