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Electric grills might not be the first thing to come to mind when you’re thinking about grilling out, but we have a secret for you - their structure is similar to other, more traditional grill formats, and you’ll still get that classic grilling feeling. Electric grills have a heat source underneath a cooking surface and generate convective heat when the lid is closed, but there’s no open fire. This makes them a great option for out on a balcony or for an apartment or condo-dweller (pending landlord approval), but they can certainly be a great addition to any outdoor kitchen. Since there’s so much to think about, our experts created this guide to make it easier to pick out the right electric grill just for you.
The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want a built-in, freestanding, or portable electric grill. Portable tabletops tend to be the most popular configuration, but we’ll talk you through all three
Built-in electric grills have the benefit of not needing to constantly refuel or put in natural gas lines. They’re convenient because you just need to plug in to an outlet. You’ll be able to maintain the same temperature without having to constantly tend to a fire. Electric grills are much more environmentally friendly than other types of grills, too. There are even some modals out there that are combo built-in and portable units, which is helpful for those who can’t decide if they’ll want to take their grill with them or not!
Freestanding grills don’t quite have the flexibility as, say, a freestanding gas or charcoal grill, because they still need to be connected to a power source. You can only go as far as the power cord allows you, and we don’t recommend using extension cords because it’s hard to find one that can handle the power you’ll need for your grill. That said, you do still have more mobility than a built-in. You’ll also have side shelves to serve as prep space on electric grills with carts, so you should consider how important that is to you.
If you want true mobility, you may want to choose a portable electric grill. This configuration allows you to grill on the go, as long as you can find an outlet. Tailgates, campgrounds, you name it! Things to consider if you want a portable electric grill is how compact the modal is and how much it weighs. If you want it to last for a long time outdoors, you may want to consider getting an electric grill made out of stainless steel.
Now that you’ve decided your structure, you’ll need to think about what size you need your unit to be. Think carefully about how many people you usually cook for, the maximum possible number of people you would cook for, and how often you cook for those different amounts. Remember, you don’t always have to use the whole cooking space, but it’s not like you can make it bigger later if you decide you need more space, so it might be best to err larger. Many electric grills are smaller in nature, but we can absolutely help you find a bigger electric grill if that’s what your situation calls for.
Small electric grills have a maximum cooking surface of 26 inches wide (or less). You could still probably fit 5 to 15 burgers at one time, so this size should suffice for a small family.
A medium electric grill’s cooking space measures between 27 and 33 inches wide. That’s enough space for about 12 to 21 burgers at once, so it will work great for a big family or small group of friends.
We’ve organized our electric grill selections into four classes - Luxury, Premium, Practical, and Economy - based on the features, performance, and overall quality of the modal. You’ll want to decide which classification of grill is going to give you the most bang for your buck.
Electric grills in the Luxury category are the cream of the crop. They’re constructed of higher quality materials like commercial-grade stainless steel and tend to have bigger grilling surfaces that perform better all-around. You’ll find electric grills with more (and better) features in the Luxury class, like rotisserie capabilities, digital controls, and extra safety features. But, grills in this category tend to have lifetime warranties should any of those features fail.
The Premium class of electric grills is next in line. They will be well made with 304-grade stainless steel, but with long (or lifetime) warranties in case their durability fades. You’ll find Premium electric grills are easier to clean because they have more removable components. They will also have features like safety timers to help you out.
Practical electric grills are not our A+ students, but they still will give a fairly consistent performance. You won’t find as many of the bells and whistles that you’ll find in our higher classifications, but you should still find their locking lids and easy to clean systems helpful. Electric grills in the Practical class are a mixed bag in terms of quality of the materials and how long they’ll last, and the warranty coverage is not as good as our Luxury or Premium grills.
The Economy class of electric grills are not as consistent in terms of temperature or performance and their features are much more basic. They’re usually constructed out of painted steel, so they’re not going to be as durable as the higher grades. These warranties are also much shorter, maxing out at about 3 years. That said, it will be the friendliest to your bank account.
You will need a dedicated power circuit for your electric grill - you should not have other appliances plugged into that same outlet when you’re using it. If it’s sharing an outlet, your grill isn't going to have the power it needs to cook things properly. Instead, it’'s going to take you a lot longer to cook your meals because the grill won't have the power to reach its full temperature potential.
You’ll also need to take a look at your grill’s manual to see what amperage your grill requires to function properly. Most electric grills will work fine with a standard outlet, or 15 amps, but some require 20 amps all the way up to hardwiring into 220-volt outlets. Despite the fact that electric grills might seem easier to fire up, they’re not simply a “plug and play” kind of appliance, so pay close attention to their requirements.
Generally speaking, your electric grill should only be used outdoors. There are exceptions, of course, but the manufacturer will still say you need to use a vent hood when you're using an electric grill indoors
Honestly, it's probably best to just stick to using your electric grill outdoors, but always take a look at the owner's manual when you have questions about operating your grill. Even though the heat source is not an open flame, small flames can occur on occasion, and that's where it gets really dangerous to grill indoors. Grills that are approved for indoor use deposit food drippings out of the grill unit so they can't catch on fire.
Electric grills operate differently than grills with open fires because more airflow actually makes the electric grill lose heat quicker instead of growing the flames. So, if you really want to manage the temperature, you should really be sure to keep your electric grill’s lid down as much as possible when in use. One exception to this is an electric grill connected to 220 volts. The more power your grill is getting, the easier it is for it to maintain a consistent heat, but putting the lid down is good practice. We’re sure the women in your life will agree.
The last thing we want to remind you of is how important it is to protect the electrical components of your grill from water and humidity. Now, you could just bring the unit inside every time it’s not in use, but we strongly, strongly recommend investing in a grill cover instead. It's also going to limit dust building up on the unit and keep pests away from damaging the electrical wires.
If you still have questions about purchasing an electric grill, please feel free to reach out to our experts, who are happy to help talk you through the process. We know there’s a lot to keep in mind, which is why we're here to make it as easy on you as possible!