From Season 7: Lighter Family Favorites
Thanks largely to George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine, indoor electric grills have become common kitchen appliances. But the champ now has plenty of competition, so we brought seven models, all priced under $80, into the test kitchen for some culinary sparring. We grilled hamburgers, salmon, zucchini, grilled cheese sandwiches, and thick Cubano panini (roast pork, ham, and cheese on sub rolls). The following features separated the winners from the losers.
Fat drainage is one of the popular selling points for many indoor grills, but in our tests the removable reservoirs on four models never filled with much, if any, fat. The moats surrounding the other three grills never overflowed, even after two batches of hamburgers.
Removable grill plates are easy to clean, but we noticed a tradeoff in performance. The grills with removable plates had noticeable hot spots or a top plate that ran hotter than the bottom. The grills with fixed plates produced even heat across their grilling surfaces.
With both a top and bottom heat source, an indoor grill will take roughly half the time of conventional stovetop cooking. However, aside from the speed, hamburgers and salmon didn't gain anything other than some attractive grill marks. With a few extra minutes, a skillet could have done just as well and offers more possibilities (like deglazing the pan to make a sauce). On the other hand, indoor grills made shatteringly crisp sandwiches and panini.
The size of the cooking surfaces ranged from 62 square inches to 110 square inches. While the largest grill could accommodate five burgers or two large panini, the smaller grills could handle just two burgers or one panini at a time.
We used an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of the cooking surfaces when fully preheated and found slight variations that didn't correlate with performance. A better gauge of performance was the width of the ridges (the portion of the cooking surface that actually touches the food) and the distance between those ridges. Models with wide, closely spaced ridges have nearly half their cooking surface in contact with the food. Narrow, widely spaced ridges meant that just a fraction of the cooking space was in contact with the food. This means less heat applied to the food, less browning, and sandwiches that are less crisp.
In the end, our testing revealed one clear winner if you like grilled sandwiches, but for burgers and fish we found a heavy pan is just as good.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.