Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

When I was first offered the opportunity to review the T-fal OptiGrill I was just as much skeptical as I was intrigued. After all, as a "grilling pro", what could it possibly offer? Well, I was surprised at the results of my extensive review.

You can read all about the grill at their web site, but here's my bottom line. This is an 1800-watt indoor grill with six programs that automatically adjust the cooking time and temperature according to the type and thickness of what you're cooking.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

That all sounds pretty cool, but the obvious question is, "Yeah, but does it deliver?" The short answer is yes. It's about as brain-dead to operate as can be. You look at what you're cooking, set the program, and wait until the indicator light (I call it the magical orb of done-ness) tells you that it's perfectly cooked. In fact, it's so easy that my three girls have come to use it frequently.

Now, you might be tempted to think to yourself, "Come on Daddio, it's just a glorified panini press!" Well, I feel ya, but that's simply not the case. There is indeed some kind of electronic wizardry that takes place under the hood. Sure, a grilled cheese or panini is a no brainer, but let me show you two simple extremes that I think will illustrate what I'm saying.

Here's a frozen Johnsonville® brat patty cooked to perfection using the frozen burger setting. You simply pre-heat, set the food in there and wait for the light to get to the proper color for the desired done-ness (in this case well-done). Oh, and there's an alarm that sounds at each level of done-ness. I turned the patty 90° about two-thirds of the way through the cooking process to get those pretty (OCD) grill marks.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Yeah, a frozen burger is not all that impressive, so let's turn up the heat (pun intended) to put this thing to a serious test. Let's put a quality steak on this bad boy and see what happens. This was a one-inch thick USDA Choice ribeye that I seasoned straight out of the fridge with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

I preheated it on the steak setting, threw the meat in it, closed the lid, and came back 8 1/2 minutes later (medium-rare on the indicator light) to this beautiful specimen. The outside was very nicely seared, the done-ness nearly perfect, and the flavor was great. I cook steaks outside over charcoal all the time and it's very hard to reliably accomplish that with a one-inch steak.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Oh, and by the way, I checked the internal temperature of the brat patty and the steak with a Thermapen® and each was dead-on for the advertised done-ness.

Another great plus is that the non-stick cooking plates and drip pan come out very easily with the push of two buttons, and they are dishwasher-safe. The clean-up really couldn't be any easier.

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Kitchen appliances like this often come with some cheesy recipe booklet that is typically not even worth the paper on which it's printed. Given that, I was really impressed with the recipe book (not booklet) that comes with the OptiGrill. The recipes are well thought-out and the photography is great. Here are some samples:

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Review: T-fal OptiGrill (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

My only complaint about the OptiGrill is its capacity. At $180 it would be nice if it were larger. For a family of five like mine you have to work in batches, which can be a pain. Other than that, this unit does exactly what it promises and it produces great indoor grilled food. Sure, it won't replace your outdoor grill, but you'll be surprised at how often you'll use it. Our family typically uses ours several times a week.

Disclaimer: The OptiGrill set was provided to me at no charge from T-fal, but the review is entirely my own.

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32 Comments:
Blogger Chris said...
Nice pic of the steak. We had to use a Foreman grill when we first moved to Knoxville because grills were banned where we lived for the first 6 months. I wasn't impressed with the results but it looks like the T-fal performs much better.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Highly energetic article, I loved that bit. Will there be a part 2?



Look at my webpage - Paleo Recipe Book ()
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - Thanks. No, I'm sorry, but there's just one part.
Blogger mr student said...
I bought one and I was very happy up until I I found out that you received a recipe book with your purchase.
Blogger John Dawson said...
mr student - Things happen, so I'm sure it was just missed in packing. Just give them a call (800-395-8325) and I'm sure they'll make it right. ;-)
Blogger jjohnsonlee said...
This review is about the company that sells this product, not the product itself!

I would say the company is the WORST I have ever dealt with. I'm not someone who has ever posted a negative review, but the company is SO AWFUL I felt compelled to do so.

I ordered the product, was not told it was back ordered and when I called to find out where it was they let me know they did not know when I'd receive it.

The customer rep was clearly reading off a script and had zero ability to actually listen and handle the issue.

Since then I've sent 4 emails and made two calls to try and get the issue resolved. I have NOT had a single response other than an automated email telling me "we are sorry to hear you are not happy"

Blogger John Dawson said...
jjohnsonlee - I'm sorry that you've had a bad customer service experience. I have no affiliation with the company, but I will see what I can do.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Just received the grill and it has performed as advertised on my first effort with frozen hamburger patties.
Anonymous Shannon said...
After reading your review, I was intrigued!! I bought one yesterday and just cooked my first ribeye...........a rare steak cooked to perfection!! This little grill is amazing.......a George Foreman with brains!! Thank you!! This is the ticket for wintertime when I don't want to freeze to death on the deck!!
Blogger John Dawson said...
Shannon - Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad that you found my review helpful, and more glad that you're enjoying the grill. It's pretty cool, eh?

Try a grilled cheese panini in it.
Anonymous Wayne Brown said...
Great review! Something like this would be handy for people who don't have a whole lot of outdoor real estate (like apartment or condo dwellers).

How much smoke does the unit put off during the cook?
Anonymous Shannon said...
Wayne, while grilling my rare ribeye I had just a whisper of smoke!! Not sure what would happen if it had been cooked to well done. No smoke with a grouper filet either. You are right, this is perfect for the apartment or condo dweller!! I have purchased two more to give as Xmas gifts. One is for a 92 year old gentleman that loves a good rare steak but hates to drag the grill out just to toss one steak on it!! I cannot praise this unit enough!!
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wonder if there is a way to get a good smoke flavor with this unit, other than liquid smoke?
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - It's an indoor electric grill, not a smoker. If you want true smoke flavor you've got to take it outdoors.
Blogger John Dawson said...
Er, by "take it outdoors" I mean the food and cooking, not the OptiGrill.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks for this review. I just ordered one and can't wait to try it!!!
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I purchased this grill, and tried a bone in chicken thigh, which was done perfectly. I tried a steak last night, it was about 1" thick, and wanted it done medium. When I opened the grill, it was pale brown, with lots of juice still oozing out of it (I didn't marinate the steak, just added sea salt). I didn't want it getting overcooked, so I took it out to my plate, and all I had was a pale brown slab of meat which looked like I had boiled it in water. I'm pretty sure I didn't do something right. I finally had to transfer it to a iron skillet to give it a sear, at which time it was well done, and ended up tasting ok, but I was disappointed with the overall outcome. I want to try again, but I need to figure out what went wrong the first time. Any tips you may have will be helpful. (I followed instructions)
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - I've cooked several steaks in the grill and I've never had a problem. Did you use the steak setting? That's the only thing I can think of.
Blogger ThatGuy Nando said...
thanks for your review! I just got one for Christmas and now I can't wait to use it :)
Anonymous Anonymous said...
As for the steaks, they keep getting cooked on rare, and there is a comment about problems getting it medium and it was only 1" thick ... our steaks are usually about the same and I like medium to medium well ... very skeptical right now about it
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - You control the doneness by leaving the steak(s) in the grill until the indicator gets to the proper color (orange for medium). It sounds like you're simply taking them out too soon.
Anonymous Ben said...
I've read comments about the indicator light now working with thicker steaks. Have you tried it with 1.5" or 2" steaks? Or what about bone-in steaks like a rib-eye (my fav)?
Blogger John Dawson said...
Ben - I've not tried cooking steaks thicker than about an inch, and T-Fal doesn't recommend cooking bone-in meats in the OptiGrill.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks for your honest review. I'm a steak lover who lives in an apartment so I don't have access to an outside grill. I tried using a cast iron skillet but couldn't deal with the smoke and grease splatter. I also tried the George Foreman grill. The problem is that since the steak cooks so fast on both sides you can't get a good sear on it. You have to use a really thick steak and hope for the best. I read every review and saw every demo I could find online. Your review states the same thing. The T-Fal OptiGrill works if you follow the the instructions. Thanks for helping me to decide to purchase this item. :) FYI, it's also recommended to wipe the grilling plates with a cooking oil soaked paper towel before use.
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - Thanks, I'm glad that you found the review helpful. Please swing by again and let me know what you think after you've tried it.
Blogger Anonymous said...
John, thanks for your quick response. I did purchase this grill.
I grilled 3 pieces a little over 1" thick of fillet mignon to check out the rare, medium and well done settings.
For good seared steak it's recommended to pat your seasoned or marinated meat dry with a paper towel before grilling.
(Check out the Grilling Tips insert that's included. This might help out the people who commented about having problems.)
I sprayed the grilling plates with an olive oil mister that I purchased with the grill. It works great!
I keyed in the proper setting. The preheat function seems to be the longest part of the cooking process.
After the beeping I put on the steaks on walked away and let the grill do the cooking.
Beeping again my rare fillet was done. It did put the seared grilled marks on the steak and it was cooked somewhat rare in the middle. The medium and well done steaks were also cooked appropriately.
The well done steak was rather dry and not juicy. This could be expected since fillet mignon is very lean and this grill does make some of the fat drip out. (I know it's a sin to take a such a beautiful and expensive cut of meat and make pot roast out of it, but I wanted to see how it would come out.)
As far as the taste, it was pretty good not great. I think a steak with more fat in it would taste better on this grill. Fat equals taste!
I tried precooked bratwurst sausages. They were great! Seared well and hot and juicy.
I tried the manual mode and grilled a big hunk of, once again, fillet mignon. I seared it on all sides. It came out great. Seared very well and nice and rare inside.
Like any cooking, doing it yourself is still the best, but you can't beat the ease of operation of this grill. How else can you cook a steak and walk away and just wait for the beep. It works!
Clean up is easy and expected with the removable grilling plates. Just press the related black button on the left side. (This is not clearly stated in the manual so I'm glad you mentioned it.)
It's well made. I'm impressed with the sturdy giant hinge that's easy enough to clean around it and the industrial spring wrapped power cord.
A good buy! Thanks again John.
Gonna try a panini next...
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - Thank you for your very detailed follow-up. I'm really glad that you are enjoying the grill.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Does anyone know why it keeps coming off the chicken setting to the manual setting?
Blogger John Dawson said...
Anonymous - I think it goes to the manual mode if you leave the meat in past well-done.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Just purchased one last night. Cooked marinated chicken tenders, awesome. Also cooked fresh asparagas with olive oil, salt and pepper, delicious. I am so impressed, can hardly wait to get home tonight and try grilled eggplant. I love it.
Anonymous Deb said...
Interesting,,,I am seeing both positive and negative...My guess would be what their expectations were & possibly if they followed directions
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I have found that to sear meat properly, you need to allow it to continue to pre-heat, even after it tells you it is ready. The other thing is that the meat must be ready to put on because you want to QUICKLY open, place meat, and close. Don't wait to season..have it completely ready to place into the grill and close it right away.

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