Last month, my brother commented on my article about the Grildebeest that a George Foreman grill is a handy way to cook things with minimal supervision and better energy efficiency than a stove. I hadn’t considered buying one of those grills before. (We have a small kitchen, so we try to avoid owning a lot of gadgets.) Last week, the smallest size George Foreman grill was on sale at Target for $15 and I got a Target coupon for $5 off any size George Foreman grill, so I decided to give it a try.
It’s a cute little thing and very lightweight. I was skeptical about its usefulness. But I thawed some veggie burgers, I read the instructions (all about meat) and washed the grill, and my six-year-old son and I attempted to make dinner. He was very interested in learning to use the new machine.
We cooked a burger for one minute. Warm, but not very warm. We cooked it for a second minute. It smelled good, looked brown, and was too hot to touch. We tried toasting a bun in the grill for one minute. Perfect! One burger ready to go in 3 minutes.
Subsequent experiments have shown that we don’t have to thaw the veggie burgers first; they’ll cook from frozen in 4 minutes, although they come out damper than the thawed ones and seem to cool off faster. The only one that took longer (6 minutes) was the breaded fake chicken type–maybe the crumbs keep the heat from soaking in–but at least the crumbs didn’t fall off in the grill as I expected.
My brother’s explanation of the energy efficiency makes sense: The George Foreman grill heats food from both sides at once and doesn’t heat much area around it, and that’s a great thing on a hot day! We in Pennsylvania have no right to complain, compared to other parts of the country that have suffered much worse heat this summer, but it was pretty hot and very humid the first several days we had the grill, and we don’t have air conditioning. It was wonderful to be able to cook without hovering over a hot stove! After using the grill for 10 minutes, our kitchen isn’t noticeably warmer than our dining room, like it usually is after cooking with the stove or toaster or (ack!!) oven. It’s also really nice to be able to have toasted buns without heating a separate appliance.
A surprising advantage to the George Foreman grill is that it’s so easy to use safely and correctly that my six-year-old can do it himself! Of course he needs supervision, but he’s been doing all the work himself since the second burger of that first meal. It’s easy to open and close the grill without touching the hot parts. The spatula that came with it is pathetic, but a regular nylon spatula works fine for lifting the food–and you don’t have to flip it, which reduces the odds that a burger will fall apart.
The George Foreman grill does have a non-stick coating, which I’m not thrilled about because Teflon has health and environmental hazards. I would’ve bought one without the coating if I could. I’ve avoided it in all other cookware for years. But unlike some non-stick pans I’ve had, this grill doesn’t let off an evil chemical smell when heated, not even the first time we used it. It might be risky anyway, but at least it isn’t obviously horrible! Since it heats automatically, I hope it’s heating only to a safe temperature; the health risks of Teflon are worse with overheating.
Using the grill only for veggie burgers, buns, and zucchini in olive oil, I’ve found it very easy to clean. Just wipe with a damp cloth! About that zucchini, though: One of the main ideas of the George Foreman grill is that it’s angled to drain off fat. So if you have coated your vegetables in tasty seasoned oil, you’ll find that all of it ends up in the drip tray! I actually poured it back onto my zucchini on my plate! You might get better results if the veggies marinate in the oil overnight before grilling. The grill did a good job of making zucchini with the texture it has when people cook it on an outdoor grill, but I like it cooked softer, so I’ll probably continue cooking it in a skillet myself. [UPDATE: Thanks to some sort of robo-blogger (see pingback below) linking to everyone who mentions the George Foreman grill, I found these instructions for making yummy-sounding grilled vegetables on a George Foreman grill! Notice how that recipe includes pouring the extra marinade over the cooked vegetables.]
I wouldn’t have predicted it, but I guess the George Foreman grill works for me! Check out Works-for-Me Wednesday for things to do with old magazines and many other ideas!
TWO YEARS LATER: We’re still using our George Foreman grill on hot summer days, as well as most times we reheat veggie burgers year-round. The non-stick coating is holding up fine. Visit the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop for more summer eating ideas! Also, make sure to check out my recipe-naming contest, which is staying open until someone thinks of a name that really sounds right to me!