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How to Buy an Indoor Electric Grill for Amazon.com

Holly Rudin-Braschi, MA, president of Feasting in the Fast Lane is author of Grill Power (QVC Publishing 2000)

Throughout my 21-year career as a professional cooking instructor, I have always loved to grill. But I used to reserve making my favorite grilled goodies for summer weekends when I had time to mess with charcoal and lighter fluid. Then in 1995, when electric indoor grills became available, I gave one a try and was hooked. Faster and easier to use than traditional charcoal grills, I could preheat an indoor electric grill in 10 minutes, get very similar results without the smoke, and cleanup was a snap with non-stick surfaces and dishwasher-safe parts. I also discovered that cooking on indoor electric grills is healthy. You don't have to use excess fat to grill on a nonstick surface, plus, all grills on the market are designed so that excess fat drips away from the food as it cooks. My electric indoor grill soon became my favorite year-round solution for quick and healthy weeknight dinners and easy weekend entertaining. Indoor electric grills are portable and can be used on just about any surface. I've used my grills to cook food directly at the dinner table as well as on my kitchen counter as an extra burner when I am giving large parties. I was having so much fun that I purchased all four styles of indoor electric grills available, then started using them in my cooking classes. They were an immediate hit. Since then I have sold thousands of electric indoor grills on TV and put my passion on paper in the first book about indoor electric grills called Grill Power: Everything you need to know to make delicious, healthy meals on your Indoor Electric Grill (QVC Publishing 2000). Indoor electric grills vary depending on style, manufacturer and features. So, to help you choose an indoor electric grill, I have created the following steps.

Step 1: Choose Among 4 Styles of Indoor Electric Grills

TWO-SIDED CONTACT GRILLS have two grilling plates hinged to open and close like a book so they can simultaneously "contact" and grill food on two opposite sides. Special channels or spouts carry excess fat off of the grill plate and into a heatproof bowl or drip tray. These grills are a great choice for super busy cooks because they grill food in half the time it takes using any other grill (electric, gas, or charcoal). Food grilled on two-sided grills is juicy. That's because it is pressed between two hot grilling plates leaving very little air circulation for moisture evaporation. Trapped moisture steams the food while the deep grilling ridges simultaneously create caramelized grill marks. Many models are extremely compact and store easily in a closed, upright position, making them perfect for small kitchens with limited counter or cabinet space. Look at the: George Foreman GGR62 Double Champion Indoor/Outdoor Electrical Grill, Hamilton Beach 25325 MealMaker Express Contact Grill, Hamilton Beach 25300 Meal Maker Express Indoor Extra Large Contact Grill, George Foreman GR30CB XXL Grill , George Foreman GR10ABW Champ Grill with Bun Warmer, White, George Foreman GR10AWHT Champ Grill.

HIBACHI STYLE GRILLS are the closest things to grilling on a traditional charcoal grill—only better. You dont have to mess with charcoal, there's no smoke, low splatter, and a fairly large grilling surface. Either oblong or round, these grills have open grilling racks like a traditional charcoal grill. The openings allow air circulation for crispy grill marks and for the fat and juices to drip down from the food. But instead of dripping onto hot coals and creating smoke, the fat drips into a shallow basin usually in the housing or base of the grill. In some models, the basin is filled with water to catch the fat and to regulate the grill's temperature. T-Fal 7881700 Electric 2 in 1 Multi Grill BBQ & Skillet

Other models require no water in the basin: Hamilton Beach 31625 HealthSmart Indoor Grill, George Foreman GR55 Five Star Grill, George Foreman GGR50B Indoor/Outdoor Grill, Krups 341-45 Canyon Deluxe Grill With Griddle, West Bend 6110 Heart Smart Electric Grill

COMBINATION GRILLS are shallow one or two-inch deep electric fry pans with tall, evenly spaced grilling ridges. The ridges create deep channels that lift the food off of the bottom of the pan and carry excess fat and juices to a one-inch space around the outer edge. Round or rectangular, these grills come with lids so in addition to grilling, you can use them like electric fry pans to pan-fry, sauté, simmer, steam, and keep food warm. Since these versatile grills hold liquid, you can use them to do just about any type of cooking you would normally do in an electric fry pan: pan-fry, sauté, simmer, steam, and keep food warm. Aroma AHG-1125 Health Grill

INFUSION GRILLS give you the best of two cooking techniques—grilling and steaming. The surfaces of these grills put distinct grill marks on the outside of the food while the steam that comes from liquids in the infusion cup infuses the food with moisture and flavor. They are offered in two styles. The first is circular with a lid (George Foreman GR70WHT Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Party Size Grilling Machine) and the second is a hibachi style grill without a lid (DeLonghi BG16 Alfredo Healthy Grill). Each of these grills has a small cup in the center that can hold liquids that you can flavor with everything from fresh garlic to hickory wood chips. As the cup heats, the liquid steams and infuses the grilled food with moisture and flavor.

Step 2: Choose the Appropriate Size

All four types of grills are manufactured in a variety of surface sizes. Once you have determined which style grill you want, consider how many people you are cooking for. If you are single, do very little cooking and cook only for yourself, purchase a small grill. But if you are single, enjoy cooking and like to entertain, purchase a grill with a medium sized grilling surface. This enables you enough surface space to grill for leftovers or to grill more than one food at a time (e.g. fish and grilled veggies or fruit). If you are grilling for two or more people, and like to entertain, choose a grill with a medium or large grilling surface.

SMALL GRILLS:
Contact Grills: George Foreman GR10AWHT Champ Grill

MEDIUM-SIZED GRILLS:
Contact Grills: Hamilton Beach 25325 MealMaker Express Contact Grill, Hamilton Beach 25300 Meal Maker Express Indoor Extra Large Contact Grill, George Foreman GR10ABW Champ Grill with Bun Warmer, White,

Hibachi Style Grills: T-Fal 7881700 Electric 2 in 1 Multi Grill BBQ & Skillet, Krups 341-42 Canyon Deluxe Grill, DeLonghi BG16 Alfredo Healthy Grill, George Foreman GR55 Five Star Grill

Combination Grill: Aroma AHG-1125 Health Grill

Fusion Grill: DeLonghi BG16 Alfredo Healthy Grill

LARGE GRILLS:
Contact Grills: George Foreman GGR62 Double Champion Indoor/Outdoor Electrical Grill, George Foreman GGR50B Indoor/Outdoor Grill

Hibachi Style: Hamilton Beach 31625 HealthSmart Indoor Grill

Fusion Grill: George Foreman GR70WHT Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Party Size Grilling Machine

Step 3: Consider the Wattage

WATTAGE, the amount of electrical energy that powers your grill, will determine how fast your food goes from grill to table. High wattage gives quick preheating, surface temperature stability, fast heat recovery when lots of food is placed on the grill, fast grilling and crisp grill marks that mimic those of food grilled on traditional charcoal grills. Look for a model ranging between 1,200 and 1,700 watts. Models under 1,200 watts give disappointing results.

Step 4: Consider Variable Temperature Controls for Versatile Grilling

Electric tabletop grills offer either variable temperature controls or a fixed temperature.

GRILLS WITH VARIABLE TEMPERATURE CONTROLS allow you to plug the grill in without turning the power on. They also enable you to do everything from searing the outside of a tender tuna steak for a rare grilled sashimi effect, or keep a batch of sausages warm for a breakfast buffet. For Example: T-Fal 7881700 Electric 2 in 1 Multi Grill BBQ & Skillet, DeLonghi BG16 Alfredo Healthy Grill, Hamilton Beach 31625 HealthSmart Indoor Grill, George Foreman GR55 Five Star Grill

GRILLS WITH FIXED TEMPERATURES usually have just one setting (High) that reaches between 350 F to 450 F depending on the amount of wattage that powers the grill. Many don't have on and off switches and begin preheating the moment you plug the grill in. Since you can't adjust the temperature, you have to be careful not to overcook your food on fixed-temperature grills. For example: George Foreman GR10ABW Champ Grill with Bun Warmer, White, George Foreman GR30CB XXL Grill, Hamilton Beach 25300 Meal Maker Express Indoor Extra Large Contact Grill ,

Step 5: Consider Indicator Lights.

Most grills have one of two types of indicator lights.

ON/OFF INDICATOR LIGHTS let you know the power is working. They go on as soon as the grill is plugged in or the on-off switch is set and stay on throughout the cooking time.

THERMOSTATICALLY-CONTROLLED INDICATOR LIGHTS, available on some models with variable temperature controls, take the guesswork out of preheating and grilling. They illuminate when the grill begins heating and turn off when it reaches the desired temperature. This type of indicator light cycles on and off throughout the grilling time. To prevent the grill from overheating, these lights illuminate when the internal thermostat lowers the temperature, then go off again when the grill reaches the set temperature again. The new T-Fal Hibachi Style grill, T-Fal 7881700 Electric 2 in 1 Multi Grill BBQ & Skillet offers a thermosignal "OK" light that lets you know that the grill has heated up to the temperature you've set.

Step 6: Consider Timers

Some two-sided grills offer timers that work with the on-off mechanism. You preheat by turning the timer on for 10-15 minutes, then set the timer again to the exact grilling time after you put the food in place. The advantage? It is hard to over-cook your food because the grill turns off when the timer goes off. The disadvantage? These grills cool off fast when the timer is off. So when grilling more than one batch of food, you must remember to keep the timer on continually so that the grill stays hot. You will find timers on the Hamilton Beach 25300 Meal Maker Express Indoor Extra Large Contact Grill and the George Foreman GGR62 Double Champion Indoor/Outdoor Electrical Grill

Step 7: Consider the Ease of Cleaning

Just about all indoor electric grills offer easy-to-clean nonstick grilling racks or pans, but some models are easier to clean than others are. Grills that are the easiest to clean offer heating elements and/or grilling surfaces that are "dishwasher safe," or "immersible."

Some grills offer dishwasher safe, removable grilling plates that are not attached to the heating element like the Hamilton Beach 25325 MealMaker Express Contact Grill.

In some grills the grilling rack and heating coils are one piece (AKA embedded heating coils), and separate from the base of the grill. Some of these grills are dishwasher safe, like the Hamilton Beach 31625 HealthSmart Indoor Grill

Other grills with embedded heating coils have immersable grilling racks. Immersable means that the electric part of the grill can be quickly immersed in water for cleaning. You will find this on the DeLonghi BG16 Alfredo Healthy Grill, or George Foreman GR70WHT Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Party Size Grilling Machine

On some grills, like the George Foreman GR10ABW Champ Grill with Bun Warmer, White, George Foreman GR30CB XXL Grill, Hamilton Beach 25300 Meal Maker Express Indoor Extra Large Contact Grill, the heating element is connected to both the grilling plates and the base of the grill. These grills cannot be immersed in water for cleaning. They must be carefully cleaned with soapy sponges or soft dish brushes without getting the heating element wet.

Holly Rudin-Braschi, MA, president of Feasting in the Fast Lane is author of Grill Power.
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