After spotting the Actifry cauliflower “rice” recipe that I blogged about a few weeks ago, Tefal got in touch to ask if I’d be interesting in trying their latest kitchen innovation, the Tefal Optigrill. I’m sure you’ve seen the TV ads for the grilling machine recently, it’s somewhat similar in appearance to the iconic George Foreman-style grills in as much as it allows you to move the grill out of the oven and onto your kitchen counter.
The major differences are found in the machine’s objectives. While the George Foreman has traditionally focused on being a “health” machine, the Tefal Optigrill concentrates its motives on “perfecting” the art of home-grilling with clever technology that allows the user to customise their grilling preferences and make light work of family cooking.
At home, I do try to grill a lot of food… it’s healthier and less messy than frying but there’s definitely an art-form to the technique and one that I don’t always get right. I’m forever setting the smoke alarm off, not necessarily because I’ve burnt the food but because excess fat spits onto the heating elements! And then there’s the skills needed to grill food well. I don’t mind admitting that pork often emerges from my grill a little dry and I don’t even bother attempting some fussier foods such as chicken and fish, I just use the oven instead.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I find working with a conventional grill a bit hit-and-miss. When you get it right, the results are amazing… belly pork crisped to perfection under a hot grill cannot be beaten. But when I get it wrong, I’m either left with a kitchen full of smoke or a disappointingly uneven result. Because of this, I only ever fry steak. If I’m going to spend £8 or £9 on a couple of pieces of high-quality meat, I’m loathe to roll the dice on my cooking abilities to get it right.
And this is where the Tefal Optigrill promises to excel. Great results, first time… all of the time.
But does it? Let me throw some photos of recent meals into the mix and let you be the judge!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried many different things with my new countertop grilling machine. From lamb to pork, steak to chicken and even a bit of cheese. The results have been mostly brilliant. My only disappointment has arisen when cooking something that requires the technique to really crisp the fat. In this case, the Optigrill produced a massively underwhelming and somewhat flacid pork belly. I was gutted! I guess belly pork really does need the kind of heat that requires me to flap a tea-towel around infront of the smoke alarm as the fat spits and crackles under a conventional grill.
Everything else that I’ve thrown at the machine has been cooked marvellously. And not only that but with minimum fuss, mess, and indeed thought because the clever device will actually tell you – through a series of flashing lights and beeps – when your food is ready. Not only when it is cooked, but also at what stage of “readiness” it currently sits at.
If you like your lamb a little pink… turn off the Optigrill and remove your meat at the “orange for medium” stage. If you like your steak to be well-cooked, you’d want to remove your food from the grill when greeted with the “red for well-done” light. There’s definitely a learning curve to the machine, especially if you’re simultaneously preparing a timing-is-critical side-dish and you’re not quite sure how long the Optigrill will actually take to cook your food! But this is something that is easily surmountable with a little practice, once you’ve cooked a favourite dish… you’ll know for next time.
Unlike the George Foreman’s seemingly default setting of “squeeze all fat out of food until it no longer has any taste or texture”, the Tefal Optigrill does a great job of getting super-hot in the pre-heating stage, allowing the machine to effectively seal in a lot of the flavour before it actually starts cooking your meal. You will still see excess fat and/or water drip into the tray underneath but it certainly doesn’t make a habit of drying out your food.
I’ve stopped using any oil at all on the plates prior to cooking, I seem to get an equally good result whether I use oil or not… so why add the extra calories? I was also pleased to discover that both the upper and lower grill plates can be removed completely for easy cleaning and I recommend giving them a quick wipe with a piece of kitchen towel prior to washing up/putting in the dishwasher.
I’ve found that I’ve been able to work the Optigrill quickly into my routine, which is always the key as to whether or not it will end up stuffed in the back of my cupboard once the novelty has worn off. Ultimately, a kitchen “gadget” has to be usable in multiple and varied situations… it needs to be versatile. Whether I’m cooking lamb leg steaks to go with a full roast dinner (sticking the roasties and yorkshire puds in the Actifry means that I don’t even have to turn my oven on!), grilling halloumi to go with a posh Summer salad, or chucking frozen burgers onto the machine for a quick weekday evening meal, the machine hasn’t left me disappointed.
So far, the Tefal Optigrill has more than earned its keep on my kitchen counter.
* press sample
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