Table of Contents
Last updated on: February 6th, 2020
If you have friends or family members who are barbeque aficionados, you’ve probably heard about how an electric grill can “never compare” to the wonderful flavor you’ll get out of cooking over a real flame. So make sure to read our list of 12 best electric grills in 2021 along with the article below to prove them wrong.
While an electric grill might not give you the exact same results as a gas or propane grill, it more than makes up for any shortcomings with the convenience, safety, and health benefits it offers. More importantly, however, differences in cooking technique will outweigh differences in cooking medium. This means that as long as you put in some work, the food you prepare on your electric grill can taste better than the food you smell your neighbors cooking outside.
Knowing Your Grill
Electric grills come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most convenient style is designed to fit on your countertop at home. This family of electric countertop grills includes the famous George Foreman brand. Many of these grills have two sets of cooking elements that are connected by a hinge. They sandwich your food to ensure that both sides cook quickly and evenly. Others just have a single bottom cooking surface, not unlike that of a griddle.
You can also grill food at home using a grill pan. These devices are basically just specially shaped frying pans that attempt to emulate a grill’s cooking surface on your stove. While large grill pans that cover multiple burners exist, you’ll get the best results from using smaller, one burner grill pans. This is because there’s usually a dead zone in between the two burners that your stove doesn’t heat up very well. For the ultimate stovetop grilling experience, pair one of these pans with an induction range. You’ll get incredibly fast temperature control and more heat on “high” than you’ll ever need.
In both cases (with a standalone grill and a grill pan), you’ll frequently find raised ridges on the cooking surface. These don’t really impact how your food heats. Instead, they add artificial grill lines on the finished product that make your food look more like you grilled it on a traditional outdoor grill. There’s some merit to the argument that these raised ridges help deal with fat more effectively than unridged cooking surfaces, but you’re unlikely to notice a difference in practice.
Getting The Most From Your Electric Grill
With a bit of preparation, the right tools, and a few extra ingredients, you can cook food on your electric grill that will taste as good or better than anything grilled outside. Here’s how:
1. Start With The Right Type Of Food
Grilling isn’t the best way to cook thick cuts of meat. There’s a reason why you don’t slap your turkey on the grill for Thanksgiving. Grills work by applying fairly direct dry heat, which doesn’t penetrate very far into your meat. In order to cook the center of a thick London broil, you’ll have to leave it on the grill for a long, long time. This usually means you’ll overcook the edges and have a tough, desiccated mess.
This means that in general, you want to restrict your grilling to fairly thin pieces of meat (or vegetables) only. Anything that’s much thicker than a hamburger will require special care and attention. If you want to cook something that’s more than two or three inches thick on your grill, consider using the grill only for searing the edges. Bring the center of the meat up to the right temperature by starting (or finishing) it in the oven on low or via sous vide.
A bit of salt goes a long way when it comes to cooking – or, more accurately, using quite a lot of salt is usually a good idea. Grills that use fire to cook your food can cover up a lack of seasoning with the natural flavors imparted by the smoke. When you cook on an electric grill, however, you’ll need to be extra careful with how you season your food. Use a marinade or a dry rub several hours in advance to really get the flavor to penetrate. In order to emulate smoke, try using a smoked spice (smoked paprika is great) or even a bit of liquid smoke in your seasoning.
3. Pay Attention To Temperature
It’s very important to watch your temperatures while you cook. This doesn’t just mean poking your food with a thermometer every once in a while. You need to also monitor how hot your grill’s surface gets and make sure that both the inside and the outside of your food is doing what you want.
First, don’t add food to your grill until it’s preheated. This will help you brown the exterior via the mallard reaction and give you the texture that you want. It’ll also help make cleanup a lot easier. Often times, if something sticks to a non-stick surface it’s because it was added to the pan (or grill) before the pan (or grill) had time to heat up.
Next, don’t let your grill get too hot. One of the most common novice cooking mistakes is to use heat levels that are too high. You want your grill to be pretty hot, sure, but you shouldn’t crank the heat all the way up every time you cook. Reserve the highest settings for searing the outside of meat that you want to leave rare. The rest of the time, you’ll get better results on lower heat settings.
Finally, and most importantly, monitor the temperature of the food you’re cooking. With most meats, you want to pull the food off of the grill a little bit before it hits the temperature you’re aiming for. This is because the outside of your food will be hotter than the inside. When you remove it from the grill, the hot outer edges will continue to radiate heat towards the middle. As your food cools to an edible exterior temperature, the interior will continue to cook! It’s often a good idea to pull food from the grill when the interior is about 5 degrees F cooler than the temperature you’re shooting for. This varies somewhat by the thickness of your meat and a few other factors, so experiment to find out when you should remove meat from your range.
4. Don’t Stress The Small Stuff
You’ll find some people who advocate flipping only once and letting your food sit undisturbed on the grill for as long as possible. Others will stress out about ideal marinade times and talk about how you should avoid puncturing your meat to keep the juices inside.
Truthfully, these things don’t matter very much. When you test these theories, you find that there’s not a very big difference between a steak that’s flipped every thirty seconds and poked with a fork a few times and one that’s flipped exactly once and never penetrated with a thermometer. In fact, some tests show that the first method results in a better steak.
In other words, don’t worry about grilling “correctly” or following some guidelines you read on the internet (even here!). Instead, concentrate on paying attention to what you’re doing and observing the results. You might find an unconventional cooking style that works perfectly for you.