Barbecuing on a Budget: The Best Electric Grills Under $200
lorious grilling season! Welcome the long afternoons with an icy beverage in hand and your favorite foods sizzling on the grill. But what about the urbanites, apartment-dwellers, and minimalists out there? Don’t worry! A good barbecue is here for you, too.
Whether the rest of your lifestyle fits into 1,000 square feet or you’re feeding a crowd somewhere that doesn’t allow an open flame, we’ve got your grill.
We’ve rounded up the best electric grills under 200 to satisfy barbecue cravings in small spaces, at indoor parties, or any other situation where burning gas or coal doesn’t quite work.
We’ll be comparing the George Foreman 15-Serving Electric Grill, the Char Broil Infrared Electric Bistro Grill, the Zojirushi Indoor Electric Grill, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, and the Masterbuilt Electric Veranda Grill. We’ll also cover how to pick out the right electric grill for your needs and a few hot tips for satisfying your barbecue-tooth. Yes, even how to get the seared and smokey flavor you dream of.
But Can it Really Grill?
Today’s electric grills are really designed with grilling in mind. They are powerful devices that can produce the intense heat needed to sear meats. With upper temperatures of 500°F and above, you won’t feel like you’re struggling to cook on a dorm room hotplate.
Electric grills came into vogue in the mid-1990s with the enormous marketing success of the first George Foreman-branded contact grill. Searing plates at the top and the bottom meant foods cooked quickly. The angled bottom plate drained fat into a tray. While this design is still available (and popular), electric grills have become bigger and more powerful. Today’s models range from space-efficient cookers designed for one or two people to free-standing units that accommodate more than a dozen burgers.
When it comes to achieving great barbecue taste, sufficient heat is essential. Combustion cooking like gas and charcoal adds its own unique flavor to food, and the fact is an electric grill won’t perfectly replicate it. However, there are tons of cooking methods out there, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Electric grilling has some big pros that make these grills hold their own against their more traditional competition.
The biggest plus that electric grills have on their side is that they can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. Neither a surprise summer downpour or driving winter snowstorm can stand between you and a perfectly seared steak.
Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Electric Grill
Like with any cooking method, electric grills have a set of their own tricks to make sure your food comes out just the way you want it. As we mentioned above, heat is key to getting a strong sear and flavors that say “grilling season”.
The way to get the heat you need out of an electric grill has mainly to do with its wattage. Not all devices are the same, so check when you’re shopping. If the wattage isn’t printed on the box, you can look it up online or ask to look at the bottom of the appliance itself, where the wattage will be listed. For high-heat grilling, look for 1,000 watts or more.
Because there’s no combustion, electric grills need a little help to give foods a smokey flavor. Try cooking with smoked bacon or seasoning with smoked salt or paprika. Liquid smoke, which is available in all kinds of wood types, is another great way to add a hit of smoke to a marinade or sauce. To get a smokey flavor without additional ingredients, consider picking up a smoking gun. These small handheld devices let you blow smoke into a covered pot or container. Put on the cover, trap the smoke, and let your food soak up the flavor.
Electric grills are versatile, so think beyond the burger! Heating quickly and being easy to clean make these grills a useful kitchen companion. Try out veggies, panini sandwiches, quesadillas, and more. An electric contact grill is also one of our favorite ways to reheat slices of pizza. Soggy leftovers are a thing of the past!
What to Look for in an Electric Grill
There are many models on the market. The ideal features and setup will vary from person to person, so consider how and where you’ll be using your electric grill.
There are two general types of electric grill: open top and contact. Open top grills have a heating element underneath the food only. Many have a lid that can be closed while food cooks, trapping heat and moisture. The lid helps foods cook quickly and stay juicy. Contact grills have a heated plate below and above the food, cooking both sides at once. These are great for sturdy foods like meat and grilled sandwiches.
Temperature control is important for hitting the mark where food is done but not overdone. Especially when cooking thick pieces of meat, it’s useful to turn down the temperature so you don’t burn the outside but the inside has a chance to cook through. A built-in temperature gauge is essential for knowing just how hot your grill is before and during cooking.
If you’re looking at a contact grill, a floating hinge is a valuable feature. This allows the plates to remain parallel with food of any thickness, avoiding having one side of your sandwich crunched down from being too close to the hinge.
Removable grill plates make cleanup quick and easy. Many are dishwasher-safe. Some electric grills even come with different styles of grill plates for preparing a variety of foods.
The Best Electric Grills Under 200
At a glance:
- 250 square inches of cooking surface
- 1600 watts
- 38 inches high on stand
- Nonstick grill-plates
- Variable temperature control
George Foreman has been a big name in electric grills since the 1994 release of the Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. This big free-standing grill goes way beyond cooking up a quick healthy chicken breast for lunch, though. With the ability to cook over 15 servings for a group indoors or outdoors, this appliance is the life and soul of the party.
Like the original, this grill features a sloped surface to drain away excess fat into a tray. The durable nonstick plates are removable for easy cleaning. The stand means you can set the grill up on a patio or in the yard, but the grill itself is removable for use on a table or counter-top. A vent in the lid enables moisture control.
The George Foreman 15-Serving Electric Grill combines power, convenience, and capacity with the health-boosting design that made the brand famous. Your next cookout (or cook-in!) will be a smash hit.
At a glance:
- Maximum 240 square inches of cooking space
- 1800 watts
- Nonstick grill plates
- Grill and griddle surfaces
- Plates have independent temperature control
This little unit from Cuisinart is way more than meets the eye. Closed, it’s a floating-hinge contact grill for crispy, melty panini sandwiches. The top plate can be locked in position so it is above, but not touching, the food inside. Since the temperature of both plates is controlled separately, these settings are perfect for melting toppings or preparing open-faced sandwiches. In contact grill mode, the unit can fit six burgers.
Flip the grill open and the cooking space doubles to a generous 240 square inches. You can grill, griddle, or choose half and half. Crank up the heat with the two-minute 500°F SearBlast feature on one side or both to boost the flavor of meat, fish, and vegetables. Open to a full-length griddle, you can make up to a dozen pancakes at a time.
Cleanup is a snap with removable plates and drip tray, all of which can go in the dishwasher. Combining the functions of a contact grill and a counter-top open grill, this appliance offers a huge number of uses in a very small footprint. Versatility has never been more delicious.
At a glance:
- 240 square inches of cooking surface
- 80 square inches of warming area
- 1750 watts
- 40 inches high
- Porcelain-coated cast-iron grill plate
- Variable temperature control
Another free-standing big-capacity unity, the Char-Broil Patio Bistro Electric Grill is ready to be your full-featured grilling station. It has ample cooking space to grill for a group plus a warming rack up top to heat upsides or buns. The porcelain-coated cast-iron grill plate does a good job of transferring heat to sear foods and is rust-resistant. The removable drip tray makes cleanup easy.
Wheels on the unit enable you to move it from place to place with no fuss. Two sturdy folding shelves give you prep space and somewhere to set your tools close at hand. The infrared heating element cooks hot and helps lock in juices and flavor.
This grill is intended for outdoor use, so it needs at least a balcony to live on. It’s still a great choice for apartments that don’t allow for gas or charcoal and people who want the convenience of an electric grill.
At a glance:
- 115 square inches of cooking space
- 1300 watts
- Nonstick grill-plate
- Variable temperature control
This sleek countertop unit makes for great grilling that’s easy on your budget of both cash and space. Its smokeless design lets you breathe easy during an indoor grill-fest and won’t set off alarms to bother your neighbors. Fat and oil drip through the grill plate into the integrated drip tray for leaner meals.
The unit comes apart for easy cleaning and the drip tray is dishwasher safe. It has cool-touch handles and will not turn on unless the heating element is installed properly. This grill offers enough space to cook a meal for several people but won’t overwhelm your kitchen.
With a top temperature of 410°F, this grill doesn’t get as hot as some on our list but still provides ample cooking power for a wide variety of foods.
At a glance:
- 196 inches of cooking space
- 1650 watts
- Porcelain-coated grill-plate
- 41.3 inches tall
- All-metal construction
- Includes cover
This attractive outdoor grill puts high heat and speedy cooking within reach. Variable temperature control lets you control how you want your food to cook. The grill reaches a maximum temperature of 600°F, enabling a tasty sear on meats and vegetables. 196 inches of cooking space allows for up to ten burgers at a time. A temperature gauge on the lid helps you monitor the cooking conditions without having to open the lid and lose all your heat.
The enameled-steel body is rust-resistant, and the grill comes with a cover, so you can be confident about leaving it outside. When you do need to move it, the unit weighs only 25 pounds. The grate, grill pan, and reflector plate can all be removed for easy cleaning.
Get Going With a Grill of the Future
Wherever life may take you, there’s still room for a good barbecue. Electric grills suit apartment life or a backup grilling option when the weather is no fun for outdoor entertaining. Whether you’re looking for a counter-top unit or a free-standing outdoor grill, there’s an electric option for you.