Electric grills are nothing new. Just ask George Foreman whose company has been at the forefront of indoor electric grill production for almost three decades. However with climate change and an almost universal drive towards a cleaner, more sustainable lifestyle on the agenda, even some barbecue experts are predicting a gradual reduction in the use of both gas and charcoal barbecues and increased demand for their electrically-powered counterparts.
Let’s face it, gas is dirty and charcoal isn’t exactly environmentally sound either so it’s only natural for the world to seek a cleaner fuel. And given the huge rise in electric car use, cordless garden machinery and heat-pump use for home heating, electricity now seems to be the best way forward, irrespective of how cleanly or dirtily it is currently produced.
As a result, instead of just standard indoor electric grills like the George Foreman range, we’re now starting to see the first opening salvos of genuine electric barbecue-style grills for outdoor and, in some cases, indoor use.
Of course, Big George's device is still the market leader, but when it comes to choosing the best portable grill for healthy cooking there are now numerous other heavyweight title contenders, including Tefal and Sage, along with BBQ kingpin Weber.
Whether it’s sizzling steaks, searing skewers or in some cases even toasting sandwiches, the best electric grills are a quick, easy and healthy option for a whole range of meals, as they reduce the amount of artery-clogging fat that seeps into your food, by draining it off during cooking.
Granted, most current indoor models aren't much different to how the grill in your conventional oven works, but there are some key advantages to tempt you into buying one. For a start, they’re rapid and cook most things in a fraction of the time, saving electricity in the process. They also help keep meat moist and succulent by not overcooking it.
By contrast, the barbecue-style electric grill works on the opposite principal of having the heating element underneath the grill instead of above and below, just like a charcoal or gas barbecue. This means the fats drip on the element below to create that delicious smokey barbecue flavour we all crave. And because there is no name flame, electric barbecue grills can be safely used on balconies and other areas where charcoal or gas barbies aren’t welcome.
So what are you waiting for? Embrace the future of grilling and start going electric.
Best electric grills 2023
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Although Weber launched an electric BBQ grill quite a few years ago – the Pulse 1000 – which you can read about below, the new Lumin is a different little beast that specialises in five main disciplines – grilling, searing, steaming, smoking and warming.
We received the Lumin Compact so that’s the model we’ll discuss here. However, if you prefer more grilling space, perhaps opt for the larger Lumin instead. Both models are available with or without a dedicated stand.
The Lumin Compact uses a simple oven-style heating element beneath a split 180in² high-quality cast-iron grate. In our test, it heated up to 315˚C in about 15 minutes and seared the skin of our chicken wings so quickly we had to immediately drop the temperature to a more manageable level. Impressively, the temperature dropped as quickly as a gas grill and the wings came off the grate with lovely sear marks, crispy skin and succulent centres.
Admittedly, the main plug-in temperature controller is labelled using a series of slightly confusing icons for its various functions – warming, smoke infusion, steaming and high-heat searing – but you can ignore them if simply grilling because each setting is essentially just a different level of heat, from low to high.
Aside from the aforementioned grate, the Lumin Compact also ships with two stainless steel trays that are used for steaming and smoking. Since the grill is split into two parts and the tray is half the size of the grill, you simply remove one of the grates and replace it with the steel trays. Hence, for steaming, you fill the lower tray with water and use the top-mounted perforated tray to cook the ingredients and for smoking, you just replace the water for damp wood chips and place ingredients either on the steel tray or the main grate on the side.
I found this barbecue to be amazingly controllable and, as expected with electricity, temperatures remained constant throughout the cooking process. Yes, a latch on the lid would have been handy for transportation and yes, at 12kgs, it’s too heavy to carry long distances. Whether we like it or not, this little grill is likely to be the future of barbecuing, so it’s just as well the food it produces is on a par with gas and possibly even charcoal.
In a nutshell, the Lumin Compact is a brilliantly versatile option for use on a patio, balcony, boat or campsite – in fact, anywhere charcoal or gas isn’t welcome. I’d even go so far as to say that you could even use this grill indoors as long as there is an extractor fan above. Top choice.
Need further proof? Check out our article on why the Lumin might just be the easiest barbecue you'll ever use
Another top electric barbecue and grill choice is the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker. This versatile piece of kit has 7 cooking functions to choose from: Grill, Smoker, Air Fry, Roast, Bake, Reheat and Dehydrate. So, if you're not in the mood for grilling, you can use this handy device to air fry your chicken instead.
When you buy the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker, you get the barbecue, grill plate, cook and crisp basket, pellet scoop and two Woodfire Pellet starter packs. Designed for barbecuing all year round and in small spaces, the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker is perfect for grilling newbies and experts alike.
For authentic grilling tastes, you can use its Woodfire technology and pellet starter packs for extra barbecue flavour. The grill provides a great char without using this, and you get the grill marks perfectly seared on what you're cooking. The grill is easily removable but the inside of the Ninja Woodfire Electric BBQ Grill & Smoker does get dirty very quickly. Other than that, it's a top choice for both indoor and outdoor grilling.
It's not just the name that’s a mouthful with this feature-packed grill, which is sold under the Breville name in the USA and Australia. You can just use it freestyle if you prefer, but its killer feature is an integrated probe for checking the internal temperature of your food – it's most useful for meat, of course.
In auto mode, an alarm sounds when it's reached your favoured grilling level, from rare to charred, letting you know when it’s time to let meat rest so it retains moisture and is ultimately juicier, tastier and more flavoursome.
So, just tell the Smart Grill Pro what you're cooking – there are specific cooking modes for beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish – stick the probe in and it does the rest. There’s a useful LCD display and a 180-degree opening. That's handy for eggs and pancakes, and also means it can double as a back-up barbecue when British summer inevitably goes wrong.
The grill can be set at a height or angle to suit what you’re cooking, and the grill plates are removable and interchangeable, with one ridged and the other flat. They’re not dishwasher safe though, which is a bit of a pain.
Given its size and price, the Smart Grill Pro can be considered a rather more serious proposition than the other grills here. You should either be intending to use it very regularly, or have an enormous kitchen that it can be stashed away in.
George Foreman grills are renowned for their simplicity and this model is a prime example. For a start, at just 30.8 x 27.8 x 10.7cm, the Individual model we received is really small so storage should be a cinch. In fact, it can even be stored in an upright position. If you need more meal estate, consider the Family edition instead.
However, the best part about this new grill is that the electrical connection module is separate from the main unit so you can simply unplug it and put the entire grill section in the dishwasher. This is a major bonus since grills are notorious for being tricky to keep clean, often to the point of the user abandoning the cooking system altogether. The Immersa uses a floating hinge system which allows you to grill larger-than-average burgers, steaks and over-filled sandwiches. And to keep mess to a minimum, there’s a handy grease tray below.
This writer tried making a hamburger on it and the result was okay. Sure, it was a long way from the barbecued flavour of the Weber Lumin above but it was perfectly acceptable for a quick bite. Personally, I found it best when grilling chicken breast and, above all, making toasties – I especially liked the cross-hatch sear marks on the bread. Also, the lightish lid didn’t completely compress the toasty into a flat mess.
For those who are interested in getting good at grilling, Sage’s The Smart Grill Pro is the perfect choice for this goal. It's beautifully made and well-engineered, with an intuitive design that allows even novice users to cook up a storm. The Smart Grill Pro is also equipped with grill and griddling power, as well as a a plug-in heat probe.
The precision controls of the Sage The Smart Grill Pro allows you to tailor the end results to suit any kind of palette. While it's pricey, this is definitely a premium grill that should be invested in if you're considered using it regularly.
French brand Tefal has taken its country’s gastronomic reputation to heart and packed what feels like an entire commis chef inside the Optigrill+.
As with the Sage grill, you can stick what you want under the grill, press a button illustrating the food type and the Tefal uses sensors to measure the thickness of the cut and automatically adjust the cooking time. It even detects how many items are on the grill, adapting time and temperature accordingly.
In practice, it works perfectly with an LED indicator changing colour as you progress from rare to well done, with an audible alert at each stage.
The controls are unnecessarily difficult to get to grips with, the overall design and lighting is crude and no open flat grilling restricts the grill to a 90-degree operation only. However, if you're only an occasional griller, this would make an excellent, more compact, alternative to Sage's King Kong-sized griller.
Americans love a grilled cheese sandwich, so US brand Cuisinart has here come up with something that's midway between a panini press and a grill.
Unlike Sage's design, which is like something from a commercial kitchen, but tarted up for posh homes, this wouldn't look out of place at your local caff. In a stroke of genius, this one can also be completely opened so you can grill on two surfaces at once. A floating hinge, meanwhile, makes accommodating bigger items easy when doing stuff like fat toasties.
Heating is fast, even though the wattage makes it appear a tad underpowered on paper, and the griddles are dishwasher safe. That's just as well, mind you, as the lack of slats means fat tends to congeal rather than drain. Again, the Americans tend to like that.
Last but not least is this, the George Foreman Fit Grill, which comes in small, medium and large sizes. While this large model comes light on frills the best thing about it is its simplicity. The improved design heats up much more quickly than older editions and it gets nice and hot and stays that way.
You don't get any kind of control over temperature, the red and green lights on the top give you all the indication you need that it's ready and maintaining the correct amount of heat. What you do get though is lots of space, with plenty of cooking real estate for a collection of toasted sarnies or paninis.
That extra cooking area lets you grill enormous kebabs, or everything needed for a full English if that's your thing. The unit has a fold down bracket underneath to tilt it up, allowing grease and oil to drip off the edge into the included plastic collection tray.
The floating hinge lets you to pack just about anything in, like enormous burgers for example, but you'll need to keep your eye on it as scorching can occur. Nevertheless, cleaning it is a cinch and can be done with a damp cloth or sponge once it has cooled down.
It's not dishwasher friendly though, and the power cable is pretty short. The George Foreman Fit Grill is a best-seller mind and it's easy to see why, especially for the money as it's frequently on offer.
The Weber Pulse 1000 is designed for people who want to BBQ on the balcony without breaking the terms of their lease, or causing their neighbours to come and kill them.
Grill purists will have already moved on by now having read that opening sentence, but it's actually a great device. At 1.8 Kilowatts, this is actually less powerful than its new stablemate, the Lumin. There's a bright temperature display, instant control over heat – the precision is far greater than what you could ever achieve with charcoal, although I don't think gas has much to worry about – and also a plug-in probe for monitoring the internal temperature of food. For some reason, this is not done on the main display but via Weber's iOS and Android app but it works so well, it almost takes the fun out of it. Most food comes out perfectly done, so long as you properly pre-heat the grill.
Slightly to my surprise, as well as being well cooked every time, food done on the Pulse 1000 does seem to have a more barbecue taste to it than what you'd get from a standard electric grill like most of the others on this page. Weber reckons that's down to its porcelain enamelled cast iron plates, but maybe it's just the fresh air.
On the subject of fresh air, I ought to address the main marketing claim of the Pulse 1000: that it's more neighbour-friendly. It's true to say that there's no charcoal smoke or potentially deadly and probably lease-violating gas canisters involved, but due to science, smoke and fumes coming off your food is pretty much unavoidable.
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