In this article I am going to review contact grills and provide a buying guide of what to look for in a contact grill and what makes one contact grill better than the other. We will go through all the functions that are available and what use do they have and then provide a review of twelve more known contact grills.
But first thing first, let's have a look at what types of grills do we even have. The basic separation is indoor / outdoor grill. These grills can be either stationary or portable. Outdoor grill is further separated by the
type of fuel - gas, electric, charcoal, pellet grill (more on outdoor grills here). Indoor grills are divided into table top or open grill and contact grill. There is also a griddle where the main difference between a griddle and a grill is that griddle has flat surface while grill has ridged surface imitating outdoor grill (more on difference here).
1. What separates the contact grills?
The main assessment categories are:
- grilling (probably the hardest thing to assess without actually grilling the meat)
- handling (how easy it is to use, cleaning, operation...)
- quality and safety (quality of build, how easily you can get burned or an accident like burning yourself can happen)
The functions are:
- which positions are supported (contact, oven (au gratin), barbecue (open 180 degrees) )
- removable grilling plates
- dishwasher proof grilling plates
- power (usually 1800W or 2000W)
- adjustable height of top plate
- adjustable plate tilt
- adjustable temperature
- griddle plate
- warmup time and maximum temperature
- upper plate dripping into a container and not on the table
2. Buying guide - what functions should your contact grill have and why
Contact grill position - This position is especially suitable for quick high-temperature grilling on both sides (rump steaks, hamburgers etc.) and for making toasted sandwiches or paninis. Height adjustment of upper plate is useful to prevent too much pressure by the weight of the upper plate on your food. This is especially evident when grilling baguette or tender meat / fish.
Oven position - This is the ideal position to grill and cook au gratin at the same time. The oven grill position is also suitable for the preparation of all kinds of ‘open’ toasts, e.g. with egg, tomato, peppers and/or onion rings, covered with cheese. Height adjustment of upper plate can make a difference since it allows you to fine tune the closeness of the upper plate to the food and therefore adjust the speed of gratination.
Barbecue position - In this position, the grill offers a large grilling surface for the preparation of all kinds of snacks, such as satay, vegetables, fruits etc.
Removable grilling plates
Removable grilling plates are much easier to clean than fixed plates. You can detach them and soak them in water. On fixed plates you need to use wet paper towel and cleaning upper plate is especially not simple if the grill has no Barbecue position. However having removable plates does usually mean that there will be greater loss of heat, so the time to warmup will be longer and more electricity will be needed to maintain the heat. The mechanism for detaching plates can also wear out depending on the quality of build.
Dishwasher proof grilling plates
If grilling plates are declared as dishwasher proof this usually means they are made from quality coating and do not scratch so easily.
Do not buy any grill which has less than 1800W! You will either have to wait ages to fully warm it up or it won't be hot enough. More power usually means better grilling, the plates will get hotter faster or even better will get hotter in the same amount of time. And hot is what we need when grilling steaks.
Adjustable tilt is useful for food with more fat. Tilting the plate helps drain the fat from the plates and because of this the end product is a healthier food with less fat.
For simple toast making there is nothing wrong with one fits all temperature. But for making good meat, you need to put it on max temperature at the beginning and then cook it on medium. So temperature is very important.
It is useful if you want to make eggs, you have small pieces, vegetables, Teppanyaki. However your primary goal is grilling so it is a nice add-on but not needed and most contact grill come without flat plate.
Warmup time and maximum temperature
Fast warmup time is good, but be careful. If the grill with power of 1800W heats faster than in 5 minutes your grill might not be getting hot enough. At around 150C a Maillard reaction occurs but for good grilling you need a grill capable of achieving 200-250C. There is a simple test to check this if you do not have a thermometer. Hold your hand approximately 5cm (3 inches) above the heat source, about where the food will be cooking, and count how many seconds you can keep your hand there.
High Heat: 1-2 seconds or 230-260° C (450-500° F)
Medium High Heat: 2-4 seconds or 205-230° C (400-450° F)
Medium Heat: 4-5 seconds or 175-205° C (350-400° F)
Medium Low Heat: 6-7 seconds or 150-175°C (300-350° F)
Low Heat: 7-9 seconds or 120-150°C (250-300° F)
Upper plate dripping into a container
A lot of grills when opened from contact grill position drip onto the table. This is messy and not wanted. Some grills have this solved by either dripping onto the lower plate or dripping into the container even when the upper plate is opened. It is a good thing to check before buying a grill.
3. Review of contact grills
Below are reviews of grills from the following companies: Gastroback, Catler, Steba, Grundig, Philips, Gorenje, Bosch and Tefal. There are also some special signs where "~" means approximately, "?" means information was not established, "/" means not applicable. "Y" and "N" stand for "Yes" and "No".
(Gastroback Design Grill
|Grilling score (1-5)||4,30||~4,3||4,30||3,70||3,70||3,30|
|Position - Oven (au Gratin)||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Position - Barbecue||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Adjustable Oven position height||Y||Y||N||?||Y||N|
|Max temperature in C||220||220||250||220||~150||~220|
|Integrated drip tray||Y||Y||N||Y||N||N|
|Warmup time score (1-5)||4,4||?||4,4||5||4,7||4,5|
|Upper plate not dripping when open||Y||N||N||Y||N||N|
|Safety and quality|
|Build quality (1-5)||3,5||?||4,3||3,9||2,1||2|
|Approximate price in EUR||200||110||95||90||85||110|
|Gorenje KR1800KDP||Gorenje KR1800WPRO||Bosch TFB3302V||Bosch TFB4431V||Tefal
|Grilling score (1-5)||4,10||~3,5||~4||~3,5||~4||~4|
|Position - Oven (au Gratin)||Y||Y||N||Y||Y||Y|
|Position - Barbecue||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Adjustable Oven position height||N||N||N||N||N||N|
|Max temperature in C||?||?||?||?||?||240|
|Integrated drip tray||N||N||N||N||N||Y|
|Warmup time score (1-5)||4,2||4,7||?||?||?||?|
|Upper plate not dripping when open||N||N||N||N||N||Y|
|Safety and quality|
|Build quality (1-5)||2,7||2,5||2,8||2,5||3||3|
|Approximate price in EUR||80||45||80||65||90||85|
All grills listed here are good and should not be neglected. A lot depends on what you want to do with your grill. For making sandwiches you will probably seek fast warmup time. For grilling meat you should pay attention to the temperature grill can reach and maintain and how easy it is to clean the plates afterwards. If you plan on grilling fat food, an integrated tray for fat is a must. Unfortunately there is no simple choice of choosing the one best contact grill. Each grill has some deficiency. The top grill is from Gastroback but you cannot remove the plates what makes it much harder to clean. The others do not grill as good or they do not have adjustable height etc. So it seems we are still waiting for "The contact grill".
References used for this article (in German language):
- Testmagazin 11/2012 - Grills im Vergleich (Testmagazin 11/2012 on Testberichte)
- Testmagazin 12/2010 Tisch- und Kontaktgrills im Test (Testmagazin 12/2010 on Testberichte)
- Haus & Garten Test
- Kontaktgrill Test website - Amazon comments overview
-- Extra comment 4.4.2014
I found a few new things:
- Steba PG4 is also sold under Kenwood brand.
- Tefal is a favourite of Jamie Oliver and he has his own brand of contact grill with his name on it.
- I also see George Foreman a lot and it has good reputation among customers.
- I am now an owner of Steba FG95. And for now I can only say that I am satisfied with it.