OptiGrill Lightning Review: It's a George Foreman With Laser Eyes

Illustration for article titled OptiGrill Lightning Review: It's a George Foreman With Laser Eyes

It's been a brutal day at work, you have no energy to cook, and you just want your dinner to take care of itself. With this meat-sensing indoor grill at your disposal, it kind of will.


What Is It?

It's an indoor, electric grill with a built-in optical cooking sensor.

Who's It For?

The culinarily incompetent, also impulse buyers who shop at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


It is an evolved form of the George Foreman grill you had in college. The OptiGrill's brushed stainless steel exterior measures 14.5" x 13" x 7". It's angled, like a Foreman, to pour rendered fats into a dishwasher safe collection bin below. Both grills are removable and machine washable, which is handy for cleanup. Plus, the upper plate is independently hinged from the rest of the unit, to prevent it from pinching the up-slope side of whatever you're cooking.

The big selling point? The automatic cooking functions, which are controlled from the front handle. The system includes six programs: burgers, poultry, sandwiches, sausage, red meat, and fish, as well as a manual mode. The stages of your food's doneness are indicated by the color-changing circle on the right side of the handle.

Using It

Plug it in, press power and select your preferred meat type. Wait for the unit to heat up—it emits an audible beep when ready—then put the meat in, close the lid and wait. As the food cooks, the indicator light changes from green to orange and the unit will beep whenever a level of doneness—rare, medium, well—is reached.


The Best Part

Cook times, when using manual mode and ignoring the sensor readings, were quite good. The grill heats rapidly, cooks evenly, and is easily cleaned thanks to its pull out griddles.


Tragic Flaw

This thing under-cooks constantly. It performed commendably with grilled cheese sandwiches, burger patties, and chicken breasts, but had no idea what it was doing with sausages, steaks, really anything more than an inch thick. And God help you if you want to cook something with a bone in it: seared bone, raw meat, nom. What's more, as soon as the Opti sensor decides the food is done it automatically shuts off the heat so you either have to switch over to manual mode or say to yourself, as I did, "forget this gimmicky mess" as you finish cooking you meal on the stove like a adult.


This Is Weird...

Sure hope you enjoy deep grill marks because everything comes off this grill looking like a panini.


Test Notes

  • Two links of Italian Sausage, 1/2 length of hanger steak, two chicken breasts, two hamburger patties, and two grilled cheese sandwiches were harmed in the reviewing of this product.
  • This thing is gigantic—it takes up plenty of storage/counter space. Heavy, too.
  • Needs 16 inches of head space to open fully.

Should I Buy It?

It's a really big, really expensive ($180, seriously) indoor grill. But it's the exact same kind of grill that you can get at the exact same store for half the fucking price. But of course this one has a sensor that may or may not try to feed you half-cooked pork products, so there's that.


T-Fal OptiGrill Specs

  • Dimensions: 14.5" x 13" x 7" (approx)
  • Weight: 10 pounds (approx)
  • Cooking Modes: burgers, poultry, sandwiches, sausage, red meat, and fish
  • Price: $180 at Bed, Bath & Beyond



I have one of these but haven't had any of the problems you are talking about. In fact, I kind of got it on impulse and was going to send it back until I started using it for steaks and such. It actually gets the steaks done -exactly- right for me (although it is using the true-doneness scale, not the restaurant doneness scale... restaurants always slightly overcook, especially anything that is rare, which they mostly deliver medium rare).

I have tried it with large cuts of salmon, as well as pork. I have never had anything under-done. In fact, the few times it has been off, the food was over done.

The unit is a little pricey, I'd rather have paid $125 for it, but the ability to put this on and walk away is the big selling point. It tells me when the food is where I want it to be, which means I don't have to keep lifting the lid.

Another super important thing: The drip pan slides INTO the grill. Liquids drip off the front just like with the George Foreman, but because the drip pan is larger and attached, there is almost no mess.

Maybe I just happen to be the target demographic on this, but I really like it. I cook all the time, and a competent cook who can accomplish complex meals and dishes, but this thing won me over on convenience.

Also I sound like a commercial. But I do really like it.