Ask any grilling purist if electric grills are comparable to their charcoal grill, and you’re likely to get an earful. However, that’s nary the real answer, nor is it the real question.
While you won’t find many grillers running long extension cords to use their electric grill in the park, this doesn’t mean that these appliances don’t serve a purpose.
Below, we’ll explain electric grills’ pros, cons, and specifics—such as cooking flavor, temperatures, and more.
The Case Against Electric Grills
First, we’ll look at the case many who say electric grills are a waste of money will make.
These folks typically stick to the more traditional style of grilling, such as using charcoal, wood, natural gas, and propane. But, keep in mind that lots of grillers further divide when it comes to which traditional grilling method is best.
It’s fair to say that electric grills can get the job done but don’t have the same flavor or “soul” you find in traditional BBQ methods. You’re not going to get the same aromas, smoky flavors, and charcoal flavors you get from fire-based grilling.
These are the main reasons why so many people dislike electric grills.
Electric Grill Drawbacks
One of the biggest drawbacks to using electric grills is the wildly inconsistent cooking quality.
Depending on what make and model you buy, results can be unpredictable when it comes to the overall cooking experience. Some grills may not be able to accommodate the heat requirements needed in certain recipes.
It’s best to read as many reviews and watch as many review videos as possible before committing to any one electric grill. Look for even heating, easy cleanup, and a lifespan of a good few years.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these grills, because they are intended for both indoor and outdoor use, are more compact—and therefore have less grilling space than their gas, electric, and wood pellet counterparts do.
Heating time is another downside to electric grills. Some models may take longer to heat up evenly and reach the desired temperature.
The Case For Electric Grills
Fans of electric grills argue, rightfully, that not everyone has the luxury of being able to own and use a traditional grill because of where they live.
Some people may live in apartment buildings without space for grilling, have a small backyard, or live in an area that, for one reason or another, prohibits grilling.
For people in these situations, electric grills will be the best they can do under the circumstances. After all, many an indoor griller say that having an electric grill is better than having no grill at all, and we cannot disagree with them.
While you may not get the same flavors from traditional grills, you can still enjoy those beautiful grill marks, and they cook your food. Also, some models have a smoker box attachment for infusing your meat and veggies with a smoky flavor.
Electric Grill Benefits
High-quality electric grills can be comparable to gas or propane grills when it comes to pre-heating times. And, while they may not offer as much space as traditional grills, you can still find various sizes that can accommodate cooking for two or a small group.
The most common type of electric grill is contact grills, like the George Forman grill, which doesn’t take up much space in the kitchen. They are also a handy substitute for oven cooking and toaster ovens for certain recipes such as chicken and panini sandwiches.
Many models have bells and whistles, such as non-stick surfaces, that make them much easier to clean than traditional grills. Some grill plates are even dishwasher safe, something traditional grillers will not have.
Temperature control is another benefit. While built-in temperature gauges on traditional grills are notoriously inconsistent, electric grills offer more accurate temperature control to deliver perfectly grilled food every time.
Plus, electric grills are environmentally friendly; they will make your food smoke, but they won’t release fumes or chemicals into the air.
And if you’re trying to eat healthily, these grills offer the cleanest cooking out of all other grilling options. They also have better drip trays that catch fat dripping off the meat. This lets you sear your veggies and meats while locking in all the flavorful juices.
Some models also have a hood window that allows you to monitor your food without opening the lid. You would only find this feature in a few higher-end smokers and grills.
Many models also have other features, like a removable griddle plate that lets you make things like pancakes, hash browns, and fried eggs.
Portability is another plus. Electric grills have offered many traditional models. With these grills, you don’t have to worry about cleaning them out or taking up a lot of space in your trunk or backspace. Some are small enough to fit under your seat nearly!
And finally, there’s the issue of cost. Certain electric grill models can cost more upfront. However, when you factor in the materials you need to buy for certain types of traditional grills, such as charcoal briquettes, propane, wood, etc., electric grills are cheaper in the long run.
Tips for Better Tasting BBQ on an Electric Grill
Aside from electric grills with a wood smoker, there are also other ways you can give your food a bit of bbq flavor.
Seasoning is very important when cooking on an electric grill. While you may go with lighter seasoning on traditional grills, as you depend on the cooking fuel (wood, propane, charcoal) to add flavor when using an electric grill, you have to rely on pre-seasoning alone to achieve the best flavor.
Many indoor grillers swear by using liquid smoke as part of their pre-seasoning to achieve that coveted smoky BBQ flavor. You can add a few drops to any marinade.
Another tip is to marinate your meat a little longer than you might use a traditional grill. Some folks may marinate overnight or for a few hours before throwing their meat on the grill.
Also, don’t forget about your veggies. Your electric grill is great for cooking a wide variety of veggies and fruits, such as eggplant, bell pepper, mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, pineapple, apples, peaches, and much more! Best of all, you don’t have to worry about your food falling between the grilling grates.
Another feature to look for is models that offer a floating hinge. This feature will allow the top plate to sit lower or higher depending on the thickness of your food. However, a fixed-hinge electric grill will cook food closest to the hinge faster.
Finally, when looking for the best electric grill, consider the wattage. You want to get something that offers at least 1,000-1,500 watts. Smaller grills that offer only 750 watts are usually not hot enough to give your food grill marks.
So if you use a lower wattage grill, your food is less likely to taste like food from an outdoor grill.
If you live in a place where outdoor grilling isn’t an option, then electric grills are your only option.
Honestly, food prepared on these grills can taste fantastic with a bit more preparation. They are the next best thing to traditional grill types and allow you to enjoy delicious BBQ without all the mess and stress.
So go ahead, plug in, and grill with your head held high!