phynedyning

Heavyweight winners: George Foreman countertop grills

In Shameless plug on August 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

It’s been some time since the Phyne Dyner offered up a ‘shameless plug’. While grilling purists will likely ‘pishaw’ and raise contemptuous noses at George Foreman’s offerings in countertop grills, these little guys pack a big punch for a very modest cut of your hard-earned prize money. Enjoy!

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My friend, Danny, called me yesterday morning to ask if I wanted to tag along with him “grill shopping”.

Danny is a vegetarian.

“Planning a steak dinner for Labor Day?” I asked wickedly.

Silence.

Danny lives in a condo. Charcoal and wood-fired grills are prohibited where he lives and even gas grills are as popular with his HOA as Louisville Sluggers at a baby seal convention.

He was perplexed. “Do you know anything about electric grills? Connie (his girlfriend) wants to grill some summer squash and carrots. She said we’d go to Costco this weekend to look at an electric model.”

I cringed. I had seen one at the big box store where I shop. It was a wimpy, robin-egg blue gizmo that stood on a spindly pedestal. My wife called it “adorable’. I thought it was to grilling what a blowup doll is to sex.

Research has proven that enormous, stainless steel barbeque grills can elicit ¾-inch beard growth in neutered men and in female members of the Brady Coalition.

I closed my eyes and laid bare my soul: “I have a George ForemanGrilling Machine.”

After outing myself, I decided to make the best of it.

I had purchased the glorified hotplate on a whim. It was cold and snowy, with occasional showers of freezing urine. (A typical Iowa early spring.) I was coveting a steak dinner and my wood/charcoal behemoth was still buried under three feet of snow. I reasoned the $25 Foreman grill would do as good as my trusty iron skillet on a steak. “What’s to lose?”

That was eight years ago. I still use the countertop grill for an occasional hamburger, veggie patty, grilled zucchini, and to toast buns and hotdogs. It also continues to see steak-grilling service when the weather sucks…about ten months out of every Iowa year. It sees a lot of duty time preparing grilled vegetables for side-dishes.

It does a nice job on each task I assign to it.

Just let the grill pre-heat and toss on the food. You even get some pretty sweet grill marks if such things matter to you. Cleanup is reasonably easy. But mine is an older model using permanently attached grill plates. That’s kind of a bummer because the grill cannot be immersed for cleaning. Most of the newer models come with removable plates. Even so, the non-stick coating on my old grill has held up well and the whole thing wipes clean with a few paper towels and soapy water.

The grill folds to cook both sides of the food at one time, so there’s no spatters of grease like from an open cast iron skillet. The temperature of the grill, while adequate to provide a reasonable char on meat, does not get so hot that it fills the kitchen with smoke.

I suggested that we go look at Foreman’s offerings first. He could pick something out and take it home ‘on approval’. If Connie didn’t like it, he could take it back. Before I picked him up, Danny had gone online and made a list of different grills to check out.

Let’s pause here so I can make a quick observation: Electric countertop grills and panini presses are virtually identical. So, what’s the difference?

You can buy a Foreman grill for $20 to $100. A panini press with grilling capability (high enough grilling temperature and ridged plates) will set you back $50 to $250. I paid $29 for my Grilling Machine in 2006.

I stood back while Danny picked out the newer version of the model I have. It set him back $36.95, plus tax. As we made our way to the checkout, Danny began to fidget with the box. He grinned at me.

“I’d really like to try it out.”

“Great!” I said, “Let’s buy a couple pounds of hamburger.”

We ended up buying a package of Morningstar Mediterranean-style vegetable patties. Connie would be home in about an hour and Danny asked me if I would help him fix their supper. I agreed.

Danny has a pretty well equipped kitchen. Cooking is also a bit of a hobby for him. I began to set out the items we’d need. Danny started working up side salads.

[Cook’s Note: The falafel spices and tahina are available at Middle Eastern markets and in most grocery stores in populated areas. The sesame oil* and olive oil* are best dispensed from Misto oil sprayers.]

1 Morningstar Mediterranean-style vegetarian patty per person

½ sweet onion, coarsely chopped

2 C button mushrooms, thick sliced

1-2 TBS falafel spice blend

toasted sesame oil*

olive oil*

1 whole wheat bun per veggie patty

tahina

Pre-heat the countertop grill according to its instructions. When the grill is hot, place the chopped onion and the mushrooms on the grill surface, spray with a bit of sesame oil and season with a teaspoon or so of the falafel spices. Cook until well browned and then remove to a plate. Place the vegetable patties on the grill and spray their upper surfaces with olive oil. Season generously with falafel spices. [You may have to ‘stack’ the patties if the grill does not press down on the top surfaces. Just ‘rotate’ the patties by flipping them so both sides get some grill-time.] Remove the patties when cooked through (about 4 minutes).

Spray the cut surfaces of the buns with sesame oil and place them on the grill and close it. Grill them for 3-4 minutes or until the rolls have nice, toasty grill marks.

Remove the buns from the grill and turn it off. Scatter some of the cooked onion and mushroom on the bottom bun, lay on a patty, and scatter a bit more of the onion mixture on top of the patty. Finish off the sandwich by drizzling it with a tablespoon (or two) of tahina. Serve with salads, olives, and pickles.

The George Foreman countertop grills perform very well and give cash-strapped consumers an inexpensive, all-weather alternative to charcoal or gas grills.

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