Three best indoor grills
Your steaks are ready to grill, but it's freezing outside. The trusted backyard barbecue is covered with snow.
It's enough to make a grill master groan.
Winter signals months of going without the mouthwatering taste of grilled meats and veggies. The deprivation can be year-round for residents of apartment buildings and condos that don't allow gas or charcoal grills. But you needn't surrender quite so easily to the elements or prohibitions. With an in indoor grill, you can enjoy the flavor of outdoor cooking without the hassle of lighting coals or the expense of propane.
While limited in size, most electric indoor grills have a big enough cooking surface to handle four portions at once. Like their outdoor cousins, they drain away excess fat and are fairly easy to clean thanks to the removable, nonstick plates and trays.
Some indoor grills cook both sides of the food at the same time with a pressing design. This speeds up cooking and is great for making sandwiches and paninis. The hinges allow the grill to adjust around the thickness of the food. Other indoor grills are more like traditional grills with one cooking surface and a metal or glass lid. This type of grill gives the chef more control, but it isn't as versatile and takes longer to cook.
Considerations when choosing indoor grills
Some indoor grills are compact, which means they take up less counter space and are easier to store, but they may not be able to cook more than two or three portions at the same time. That makes them a good choice for couples. If you are feeding four to six people or like to host dinner parties, however, you will probably want a grill with an ample cooking surface of 100 to 200 square inches.
An embedded heating element that distributes heat evenly is a must. Also look for grilling grates made of durable cast iron that have a quality nonstick coating and are removable for easy cleanup.
Most quality indoor grills have a removable drip pan or grease tray. This makes cleanup easier and helps reduce the risk of fire.
Non-skid feet are a must-have safety feature. They prevent the grill from slipping or sliding on your countertop during cooking. After all, nobody wants to get splattered with hot drippings or sauces!
Many grills come with adjustable thermostats that offer a number of pre-set cooking functions and allow you to control the surface temperature from a simmering 200°F degrees to a sizzling 400°F. If you're a demanding griller, you may want a control with a digital readout for the greatest level of precision.
Even grills with only one cooking surface should have a cover that can trap heat and smoke close to the surface and lock in moisture while cooking. A metal lid is better at retaining heat, but a glass lid allows you to monitor your food as it cooks.
You could pay $50 or lower for a basic indoor grill. On the higher end of the pricing scale, you'll find indoor grills that cost between $150 and $200.
If you're willing to spend a little more on a new indoor grill, there are some advanced options to consider. For example, some models have built-in sensors that detect the thickness of your food and automatically adjust the cooking time and temperature. They beep when the meal is done.
Another fun option is an "aroma scenter" that gives enterprising cooks the chance to better match an outdoor grilling experience. The scenter is a drawer or compartment in the grill that allows you to add wood chips, herbs, or spices so those flavors can be infused in the food.
There are also virtually smokeless grills on the market that use indirect infrared light instead of standard electric coils. The indirect heat cooks the meat, but the juices and drippings don't sizzle and smoke on the grease tray.
Q. How do I avoid scratching the cooking surface of my grill?
A. Don't use metal spatulas, tongs, knives, or forks. They can mar the nonstick coating on the grill plates.
Indoor grills we recommend
Our take: A stellar indoor grill loaded with features that are simply above the rest.
What we like: The grill senses and adapts to food thickness. Powerful 1,800-watt heating element for fast, even cooking. Removable non-stick grill plates.
What we dislike: Surface for cooking is not as large as some would like.
Best bang for your buck: George Foreman Indoor Grill
Our take: This popular no-frills grill is durable with a price that's hard to beat.
What we like: Features enough cooking space for four portions. Removable cooking plates. Designed to drain excess fat.
What we dislike: Short cord is not as convenient as a grill with a longer cord.
Choice 3: DeLonghi Perfecto
Our take: Excellent grill for the money with lots of useful features.
What we like: Food stays juicy thanks to glass lid. Large cooking surface. Temperature control.
What we dislike: Slow to reach temperature.
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