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If you live in a climate with distinctively changing seasons, enjoying the flavorful food of outdoor grilling can have a all-too-small annual window before the cold sets in, the propane tank turns off, the tarp goes on, and the grill sits outside until the warm weather returns once again.
But an indoor grill is a game changer, and a welcome one for people who crave the foods and even the cooking process of a good grilled meal in the winter months.
Since using a regular grill indoors is not at all safe or recommended (seriously, don’t), these grills open up a whole new array of options when it’s cold out. Each relies on an electrically-heated grid, but has their own unique features and varied ways of cooking and distributing heat to keep it safe indoors. You can also adjust the intensity and how precise you want your settings. An upward-tilted, infrared-heated grill is a good option for maintaining a consistent temperature all around the surface, but having a hood lets you double-source your searing heat from the top and bottom at once.
How Does an Indoor Grill Work?
Most of the smokiness from grilling comes from the dripping juices, falling fats and food pieces that slip through the grill grates right onto the extremely hot heat source below. This can still happen with indoor grills, but each unit has different precautions in place to prevent or cut down on smoke significantly. These can include things like adding a layer of water to the drip tray, sealing the grill surface with a cover, or having the majority of the heat source come from above and not below.
Cleaning can also be simpler and less messy than a regular grill too. Even though they’re electric, most units are built with easy cleaning in mind, and come apart into dishwasher-safe or scrubbable pieces.
No grill is going to be totally smokeless, and there’s even a difference between less-smoke and smokeless (the former just has less smoke than normal, and still can make your kitchen a little hazy). But an indoor cookout on a snowy day can be just as enjoyable, and these units make an excellent gift for the grillmasters who can’t wait for the next summer solstice to come around.
1. Philips Smokeless Indoor BBQ Grill
Phillips well-designed 120v, 1660-watt indoor grill uses an infrared head that’s directed up at the 14 by eight-inch grill from both sides to heat the grate, but not the drip tray underneath. That helps the sides stay cool and helps to eliminate smoke rising up when it hits the surface. This also lets you remove the top at any time
While you can’t set it to exact temperatures, the three settings are enough to get the job done. The low setting is perfect for keeping already-cooked foods warm without drying them out, while the high setting is plenty hot enough to cook whatever you’ve got on the grill evenly, with a max of about 474 degrees Fahrenheit and very little temperature variance around the grill surface (after pre-heating for around 6-10 minutes).
Setup is simple and cleanup is similar to a regular grill, for the grates anyhow – a tough bristled brush and warm water (once everything has cooled down) will get the crusty, burnt drippings off. To clean the unit itself, a sponge is usually enough. The grid is also dishwasher-safe; just don’t submerge the whole thing in water, of course.
2. De’Longhi BG24 Perfecto Indoor Grill
De’Longhi’s 1600-watt indoor grill features a tempered glass lid, which safely seals in the heat to keep your cooked food warm and moist (and is great for melting cheese too). It’s also got a separate five-setting temperature gauge, which is endlessly satisfying to pop in to the main unit every time you want to fire it up. It also makes cleaning safe and simple, separating the electric source from getting anywhere near water.
There’s a large grilling surface for cooking for multiple people, larger than the other grills here, though the design is more like a griddle than a true grill. It’s got an aluminum grate up top, with a coil running from the gauge that evenly heats up the surface. The bottom acts as mostly a holder for the drip pan, and you can even fill it with a thin layer of water to reduce the amount of splatter while cooking.
Be aware that while this is indeed an indoor grill, this isn’t a totally smokeless grill – especially when the fat drippings fall through the grates. The lid does a great job of sealing in the smokiness, but you may need to crack open a window or use this under a kitchen fan.
3. Hamilton Beach Electric Indoor Searing Grill
With an 118 square-inch surface, and a hood that provides high-searing heat from the top, Hamilton Beach’s indoor grill cooks food fast and fully.
The see-through window on the hood is another nice perk, allowing you to keep an eye on your food as it cooks. There are also lights that indicate when the surface is pre-heated, so you don’t have to guess or take a temp reading before throwing your food on.
This ranges from about 200 to 450 degrees (Fahrenheit), and takes a while to pre-heat the first time, but after that is quick.
The nonstick grates help make cleaning easier, and it’s also dishwasher-safe along with the hood and drip tray – which is extra large to catch all the juices and pieces that fall during cooking.