I’ve tested countless grills of all kinds — indoor, outdoor, charcoal, gas, and electric — and charcoal always wins out. (There’s nothing like the distinctive, smoky flavor you get when you cook over briquets.) But, really, cooking outside on any grill is pretty great. For starters, the cooking surface is almost always larger than what you’d get inside on your stovetop. You also don’t have to worry about smoke and meat smells permeating the air in, say, your bedroom or your couch. And, as long as you can keep mosquitoes/flies/ants at bay, it’s fun to be/eat outside!
What if you don’t have a backyard or any outside space, though? Can you get in on the fun by picking up an indoor grill? Can you use it to get a burger or a T-bone comparable to the one you’d cook outside? Well, you can get food that LOOKS like it was cooked on a traditional grill, but — I’m sorry to say — it’ll basically taste as if you’d cooked it on a skillet. (I said I was sorry!) And actually, if it’s flavor you’re after, you’re better off using a frying pan or a cast iron skillet. See, indoor grills and grill pans only give you grill marks where the food touches the grates — but when you put your food in a pan, you get browning across the entire surface and it’s that browning that makes the food taste good.
Back to indoor grills, though. There are two types: closed or opened. Closed grills, which resemble a waffle maker, cook two sides at once and are also called contact grills. The now-iconic George Foreman is a good example of this type, which is faster and more versatile (you can also use one to press a mean grilled cheese sandwich). However, if you want to make like you’re flipping burgers in the backyard, you’ll probably prefer an open grill. While I really do think you’re better off doing your indoor “grilling” in a pan, I understand that you may want a specialized indoor grill. As I said, some may help you press paninis and there is something about seeing those grill marks stamped on your burger. And so I have some suggestions for you.
If you want to try indoor grilling and have the space for another electric appliance, I recommend the Cuisinart Griddler. It comes with reversible plates, so it can be used as a griddle or a grill. Use it with the lid down for pressing a sandwich or quickly making chicken cutlets, or open to cook bacon and eggs.
For a grill that cooks on only one side at once, I’m partial to the Hamilton Beach Searing Grill with Lid Window, which holds six hamburgers at a time and stamps them with deep grill marks like the ones you get from your outdoor grill. It comes with a lid which doesn’t press down but does speeds up cooking a little and helps contain smoke and odors.
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