Aug 04, 2023

The Best Electric Grills for When Gas and Charcoal Aren't an Option

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Today's electric grills are nearly as good as live-fire cooking.

When shopping for a grill, the debate almost always comes down to gas vs charcoal. But what if neither of those is an option? If you live in an apartment or condo with rules against live-fire cooking, then your only option is to go electric. Thankfully, the industry has noticed the potential in this market and many modern electric grills are so good they almost eliminate the need for a traditional grill. Don't believe us? Just check out the selection of electric grills below.

If it weren't for the power cord and digital gauge, you'd likely have trouble distinguishing this from your average gas grill. The stainless steel-bodied Edge from Char-Broil certainly looks the part of your standard backyard grill, and thankfully, its performance is as good as its looks. You can dial in your precise temperature from 200 all the way up to a whopping 700 degrees. It will also automatically adjust itself to stay at your desired heat level, reducing the heat loss that often comes with electric grills. There's even an auto-cleaning feature that eliminates yet another annoyance that plagues electric grill owners, so you don't need to worry about trying to scrub food debris off the heat coils yourself. It can take a while to heat up though at higher temperatures, with reviewers complaining of up to 45-minute wait times to reach 700.

Kenyon makes some seriously luxe electric grills, with prices to match — the brand's top-of-the-line Texan model will set you back nearly five grand. So where does Kenyon get off charging so much for grills that lack live fire? It's all about quality. The G2, like other Kenyon grills, is made from marine-grade 304 stainless steel and is rustproof and weatherproof, meaning it can live outdoors if you so choose. But the G2 also has a leg up on some of its brethren in that it's also rated for indoor use, making it as versatile as it is durable. It heats up lighting fast — over 550 degrees in just seven minutes — and boasts dishwasher-safe nonstick grates for easy cleanup. There's a baffle to protect against wind, and a unique drip tray under the grates that you can fill with liquid to impart additional flavor or juiciness into your cooks. Still, the price tag of $900 for just 213 square inches of cooking space is a tough pill to swallow.

There's no way around it: when most people hear the words "electric grill," they think of a George Foreman. The former heavyweight boxing champ has been hawking affordable plug-in tabletop grills for years, and while most of them are pretty subpar when it comes to actually grilling food, this higher-end (yet still crazy affordable) model is much improved over that one you had in college. It includes niceties like a stand for outdoor use and an exterior thermometer, plus a durable nonstick ceramic coating on the cooking surface. It has the trademark George Foreman slope that allows excess fat to drip off while cooking, but because there's no space between the grates, the cooking experience is more akin to a griddle than an actual grill.

Weber launched the electric Lumin in 2023 to much fanfare, with the aim of creating a grill for people who don't grill. The result is an all-in-one outdoor-only appliance that can not only grill but steam, smoke, defrost and act as a food warmer. Our tester used one for several months and found that it performed most of these tasks admirably — he appreciated the speed at which the grill heats up (hitting 600 degrees in 15 minutes), the great sear it's able to put on steak and veggies, and the fact that he could steam and grill simultaneously, as the included steamer basket takes up just half of the cooking surface when using it.

On the downside, our tester did notice that the Lumin's heat dropped quite dramatically whenever the lid was open, which isn't ideal for an outdoor grill. He also found the grill needlessly difficult to clean — drippings fall below the heating element, which needs to be removed with a screwdriver every time you want to clean it.

Read our full Weber Lumin review.

Breville excels at making high-tech kitchen appliances, from its beloved espresso machines to its unique induction cooker, so naturally, the brand has the best indoor-only electric grill you can get. The Smart Grill is powered by a 1800W heating element — that's 50 watts higher than the outdoor-only Char-Broil Edge — which gets hot enough to sear a steak with ease. You're also getting precise digital controls and a user-friendly LCD display. The grill is unique in that it must be opened all the way to use the grill grates, which are on the underside of the lid. When opened all the way, half your cooking surface is grated and the other half is a griddle. That's good if you're looking for an all-in-one cooker, but if your main interest is indoor grilling, you're going to wish you had more room to grill.

What's the biggest thing everyone misses about cooking over a live flame? That smoke-kissed taste. Normally, it's impossible to replicate on an electric grill, but Ninja has come up with a workaround. The Woodfire Outdoor Grill incorporates an integrated smoke box that holds half a cup of wood pellets, while a convection fan evenly circulates the smoke around your food. You can add smoked flavor to your grilling sessions, or you can put the grill in smoker mode for some actual electrically-smoked meat. The device also works as an air fryer and has modes for baking, roasting, dehydrating and broiling. It's even weather-resistant enough to be stored outdoors year-round. But while this Ninja can cook a lot of different foods and styles, it can't do much at once as the cooking surface is a measly 141 square inches.

The Lumin is not Weber's first electric grill, as the Q line has been around for years. The larger model, the 2400, packs a solid 280 square inches of cooking space across its porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates. The portable Q (just make sure you have an outlet nearby where you're going, the cord is just six feet long) is also easy to clean thanks to the removable grease pan that catches all your drippings. This is just a grill, though, so if you're looking to do any steaming or smoking, you're better off paying a few extra bucks for the Lumin. Reviewers have also complained about wide fluctuations in temperature while cooking, likely due to the thin aluminum body.

Many gas grill aficionados will tell you that if you want a perfect sear on your steak, you need an infrared burner. Char-Broil has incorporated infrared technology across the entire heating surface of its Patio Bistro electric grill, meaning you get perfectly even heat with no hot or cold spots. There's also a removable warming rack for cooking with indirect eat (or for, you know, keeping food warm). A knob gives you easy control over your temperature, and an in-lid thermometer lets you know how hot your grill is at any given time — at least in theory. Even with the infrared tech, though, this grill doesn't get very hot. Reviewers say it maxes out around 450 degrees and has a hard time even maintaining that temperature.

Because there's no live flame involved, electric grills have a harder time maintaining their cooking temperatures compared to traditional grills. This is particularly true when the lid is open, as many electric grills suffer massive temperature drops in such situations. Grills with bodies made from lighter materials, such as aluminum, will see greater temperature fluctuations, while more premium electric grills have thick stainless steel bodies that mitigate these temperature drops.

Like with other grills, you'll want to pay attention to the maximum temperature of your electric grill. A higher temperature will get you results that are closer to the food you'd grill over a live fire, like a nice seared steak or charred vegetables. Outdoor electric grills will give you the highest temperatures and the best performance, reaching temperatures between 600 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor electric grills, meanwhile, usually max out between 450 and 550 degrees.

Unlike gas and charcoal grills, one major advantage of electric grills is that some of them can be used indoors. Because there's no live fire on an electric grill, there are no flare-ups and little to no smoke (usually). But not all electric grills are suitable for all situations: some are indoor-only, some are outdoor-only and some can be used both indoors and outdoors. An indoor electric grill is not weatherproof and could get destroyed outside, while an outdoor electric grill may smoke out your kitchen and pose a fire hazard indoors. Always check to see if the grill you're interested in will work with your needs.

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