Advice for new Cuisinart countertop grill
March 9, 2011 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I've just ordered a Cuisinart countertop grill. (This one, if it matters.) If you have one, is there anything you learned the hard way that I should know?

I bought it mostly because I saw an article about paninis and I haven't had breakfast yet and it made me hungry. But the idea of being able to grill other stuff inside without standing over the smokey Weber sounded really good too.

I have a reasonable amount of experience with charcoal grills. What do I need to know about transitioning to the nonstick countertop grill?

We eat mostly vegetarian, but do eat meat a few times a month. I'm not a fish fan, but the GF is, so advice on that is welcome too. (As are recipes. For other stuff, not fish. Because I'm selfish.)
posted by mudpuppie to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
how does the lid pivot, and does it provide more-or-less equal pressure on whatever you're cooking ?

If you put a monster thick burger next to some thin chicken breast, yeah, sure, won't work to well.. I have a cheapo panini press, like it, but the lid doesn't pivot nicely and could use some extra force/weight to press down on what I'm cooking..
posted by k5.user at 10:18 AM on March 9, 2011

I have an older version of this model. Keeping that in mind:

We once had a party where our outdoor gas grill malfunctioned and the Griddler substituted in a pinch. The good news is that it did the job; the bad news is that it put off a ton of smoke and the majority of the fat from the meat just sat there. There's really nowhere for it to go, and (at least on ours) the plates are not slanted in any way to route the fat towards the edge/drip cup. Too much fuss for my tastes.

The grill panels require a lot of work to keep clean. They're dishwasher safe, but mine are at the point where the dishwasher doesn't even get all of the crud off anymore. And the non-stick coating will wear off over time.

The lid gets ridiculously hot during use.

Other than that, k5.user's comment is a good one; you may need to apply pressure down on especially thick foods to assist in the process.
posted by hijinx at 10:19 AM on March 9, 2011

(1) Its not as sexy as outdoor grilling, especially charcoal. I mean this both in cooking-as-dangerous-pasttime and flavor. You'll be losing a seasoning (smoke) -- plan accordingly.
(2) Cheese is easier to clean up when the grill is cold.

My experience with old-world panini in the wild isn't great: I've had it mostly as tourist food (it kicks ass apres-ski) in Italy where its pretty simple and usually just a basic meat + cheese sandwich. Tasy, but not exactly high cuisine. Following that basic model you can do all sorts of interesting things that would tolerate a good squooshing.

I've got a plain-old press and don't get too adventuresome with it: I'd imagine that unlike a "fall-through-the-cracks" grill you could get away with grilling some fish that tend to fall apart, but would worry that delicate anythings would get pretty well pulped.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:20 AM on March 9, 2011

Ach, I meant to provide squooshy food citations: chicken breast with cheese, salami + cheese, copa + mortadella (for when I'm feeling extra-legit), flat patty melt. Any hot sandwitch where volume is an issue and you don't mind mitigating any bread/squishing issues.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:22 AM on March 9, 2011

I have this model (it was a gift). The top does pivot well, to provide even pressure, and the plates are angled to drain fat when grilling.

I don't think it gets hot enough. This has been a problem when using it as a griddle for breakfast food.
posted by SirNovember at 10:45 AM on March 9, 2011

Came to second Hijinx. Our non-stick coating wore out by putting in dishwasher/regular use. I just ordered replacements that cost me $60. Probabaly shouldnt have but I did. Maybe stick to hand washing as it might make them last longer. Works well for grilling up some chicken breast or burgers in a pinch, probably good for paninis but i would really rely on it for constant cooking.
posted by Busmick at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2011

Great for Panini's, you may have to get a towel or oven mit to apply even pressure when pressing down, or else you get alot of pressure in the rear of the sandwhich and it can squeeze the insides out.

I find that i use it less as a griddle, as with it's design, you don't have a huge amount of space...

I use it alot when i have it out, but often i find myself just using my cast iron grill pan, or my all purpose pan for most uses, and don't take it out...

Also, the Grease does stay on the grill plate, the tool it comes with is great for scraping grease off of the plates... to use it more like a foreman, i put a towel under the rear side of the machine and allow it to drip forward...
posted by fozzie33 at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2011

Sooooooooo annoying to clean. So annoying. I can't tell you how much I hate washing it.
posted by oh really at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2011

Clean it right after you get done using it. Do *not* let that stuff build up. One of those handled scrub brushes is excellent for this.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2011

Based on my experiences with a George Foreman grill -- When you're done cooking, before you eat, turn it off and unplug it. Then prepare a big wad of soaking wet papertowels, and lay that across the grill and close the lid. (You'll get some steam and a lot of water on your counter.) Then when you're done eating, take out the papertowels -- which will lift away a lot of the mess, and will have loosened the rest -- and clean the grill by hand.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2011

I had one of these and I loved it. I made paninis a lot, used the flat plates to cook pancakes, and a million other things.

Unfortunately, I have bad hands, and dropped the damn thing and broke it into a million pieces. :( I hand washed my plates and had no problem with the coating coming off.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:51 PM on March 9, 2011

I have the same model as SirNovember. It's handy and I get to BBQ inside, bug free. I soak the plates in the sink and everything comes off fine with a little scrubbing.
posted by dorkydancer at 8:10 PM on March 9, 2011

I have this grill and like it so much it has a permanent spot on my small counter. The top is hinged so you can make great paninis and it can evenly cook steaks and fish and chicken. It is not angled like the Foreman, so I just slip a jar top under the back left corner to make grease flow out the side. For a good panino, resist the temptation to crank it up to the highest temp. And you don't have to add extra pressure, though that's fun.
The plates get gross, yes. The Foreman was easier to clean by far. Try to clean them asap. And FYI, Cuisinart just came out with new waffle
plates for the gizmo.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:18 AM on March 10, 2011

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