Thursday, 22 October 2015

Tefal Optigrill - The Grill with a Brain!

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill

About a month ago, we were given the opportunity to review a Tefal Optigrill. It boast about having a brain that can sense the thickness of the food, and with 6 automatic programmes, it can adjust the temperature and cooking times for almost any food you want to grill. It also comes with a LED indicator so that you can cook the perfect steak for everyone, even at the same time.

Although we had a grill before and ended up giving it away because we hardly use it (we rather use a grill pan than that because it wasn't cutting a lot of job for us and it was much harder to clean too), a kitchen appliance that has a brain is exactly our kind of thing (we like our computerised rice cooker, coffee maker and bread maker!). I immediately told hubby about the Optigrill, and he was very skeptical. He likes his steak cooked to perfection, and if the Optigrill is exactly what it says, he would be extremely impressed. As a technical person who looks at anything electronic (including toys!) with a technical eye, that isn't very easy to achieve!

It took me a while to write this review up because I was trying to test as many things as I can with it (we couldn't try them all, but have at least tried everything we would use it for), and had problem with the last thing on the list - peaches (surely the Optigrill can make desserts as well as savoury dishes?). I'm absolutely terrible with judging when they are ready. I wasted a few peaches already because they turned mouldy, and at the end the one I used for the test was still too raw. At least that's ticked off the list, and I can finally share with you what we think about Tefal Optigrill.

Basic Information:

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Right: Dedicated Programs and Cooking Advice Card for quick access
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Top left: Removable, lightweight cooking plates    Top right: Large drip tray that can click into the bottom of the Optigrill
Bottom left (patched 2 shots together): Power button, menu and LED light indicator. Also comes with sound indicator
Bottom right: Cooking plate release button
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Tried to capture the LED indicator changing colour
Tefal Optigrill (RRP £149.99, now approximately £100 at a lot of places; 2000watts) comes with:

The Tefal Optigrill
2 removable non-stick die-cast aluminium cooking plates (replaceable for £12.62 each)
Drip Tray (replaceable for £4)
Instruction Manual
Quick Start Guide
International Guarantee
Tips Card
Dedicated Programs and Cooking Advice Card

First Impression (before cooking anything):

- It is a fairly big grill, so you do need to find a space for it. But with the generous cooking space, you can cook for at least 2 (depending on what you are cooking) at the same time.

- The Optigrill is very fancy looking, and we love the look of the menu/ handle bar

- The Optigrill is very light. We have to open it while holding the bottom down, and close it gently

(We were worried at one point that the grill isn't heavy enough to press the food down. It was fine!)

- The cooking plates are extremely lightweight! I wouldn't be struggling to wash these by hand. The grill grooves are fairly deep though, so brushing off burnt bits and washing them might be a problem

(using kitchen towel to wipe between the gaps between each cooking is easier than I thought, and washing the plates aren't too difficult either, simply rinse with hot water first, then use a soft sponge to wash as it can squeeze between the gaps)

- It's very easy to remove the cooking plates for cleaning, and they click right back to the Optigrill without effort. The top and bottom cooking plates aren't interchangeable, but it is logical that the one with pins sticking out is the bottom plate (to keep the food in place I assume)

- Thumbs up for the drip tray that clicks into the bottom of the Optigrill, so that it stays put while cooking! It's also very big so it can hold all the yucky bits while you cook a feast for the family

(Just a warning that I will have a picture below showing you all the gross bits, which the Optigrill saved us from consuming!)

- The Tips and Cooking advice cards are really handy for a quick check on how to cook your food

- The light indicator (after turning it on) is so pretty!

- The Optigrill beep (chirp) is adorable and can be clearly heard. 

The Test:

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Manual cooking setting for toasties and paninis
First press the power button to turn the Optigrill on, select the menu then press OK to start preheating
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
So gorgeous!
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Hubby's French Toast
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Reheating leftover chicken wings and pizza!
The first thing we used Tefal Optigrill for are toasties. We haven't had proper grilled toasties for ages and we heard that the Optigrill makes the best ones! Normally we would spread butter outside the toasties for a crispier and golden result, but judging from the test, where I only buttered outside for one of them, it is safe to say that we don't need all that extra butter in us anymore for an amazing toastie! I do find brown bread makes better toasty as well, it's crispier than white or even half half.

Hubby then made something I have never seen him making before - French Toasties. I haven't tried because the last time I had egg soaked toasties I wasn't keen (and I like my toasties salty), but he was very happy with it.

Since we had the Optigrill on (this is actually quite bad haha, we ended up cooking more food than we needed because it's just so convenient!), hubby decided to reheat leftover fried chicken wings and pizzas for brunch! We heard the wings sizzling happily, and both wings and pizzas were fresh again (we don't need the oven for reheating junk food anymore!).

We were really happy with the Optigrill at this stage, and hubby was definitely having fun testing our new "gadget" out. We both agreed though, that the real test comes when we grill steaks and meat on bone (this was actually not recommended by the Tips Card because of possible uneven cooking. I learned recently, after our trial, from someone who is doing a cookery course, that bones are actually great for distributing heat into thick cuts of meat, and meat will always taste better when cooked on the bone, which could be the reason for our chicken legs test result)

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Abby loves her potatoes so I made more
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Grilled marinated courgettes
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Texture and flavour were perfect!
We ended up munching on them while waiting for the steaks to cook so there wasn't much left for dinner!
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Beautiful Rib-Eye Steaks
The Optigrill recommended thickness is less than 4cm, these steaks are no where near though
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Left: My medium-rare steak   Right: Hubby and the kids' Medium steak
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
The tiny amount of splatter found at the back of the Optigrill.
We were exacting much worse because of our old grill!
That was a well enjoyed dinner!

We grilled the courgettes first (marinated with a bit of cooking oil, garlic, dried basil, salt and pepper) as we thought that they were going to be quick. Following the cooking advice card, we cooked them using the Sausage option, and it surprisingly took quite a long time to cook. But when we kept checking it at different stages, they were cooked only when the Optigrill said that they were! I guess it has to do with the temperature at that setting, and although they were sliced, we did overload the Optigrill. It took half the time for the Optigrill to cook the second smaller badge of courgettes. Isn't it clever?!

So you should not overload the Optigrill (the chicken thighs is another proof), even though the food will still be cooked. It might be quicker if you cook in small batches. This is the time when you can preheat your oven just to keep the food warm.

One thing I struggled with is, since the cooking plate is tilted downwards (7 degrees) to drip excess oil and fat off the plate, food like courgettes and peaches that has less grip are harder to place on the grill, so you have to place them gently and steadily while trying not to think about the heat loss when the grill remains open (I assume it will lose heat).

We then reheat the Optigrill using the Steak option, and started to keep a very close eye at them. The Optigrill light indicator will change colour at every stage, but it only beeps when it reached Rare, Medium or Well-Done (and when preheat is finished as well of course). So for me who likes a medium-rare steak, I have to look at the light indicator and remove my steak before it reaches medium. This requires practise of course but I think we didn't do too badly!

I removed my steak first but realised that it was still too rare, so I put it back in and removed the second steak on the grill, which was grilling while I wasing poking at the first steak. The Optigrill hasn't beeped for medium yet, and my steak came out perfect (although some will say bloody, it was perfect for me!). So we continued cooking the first steak and gave it a bit more time on the grill (because it was removed), and it came out medium!

The second batch was much easier as we wanted both steak to be medium. We just have to wait for the chirp and they all came out perfect. You can hardly see any blood for the medium cooked steaks!

From this test, we know that it is possible to cook 2 steaks with different results at the same time, though it is more fiddly (we were worried about keeping the grill open for too long as well). We also know that the Optigrill is very clever indeed and can cook a mean steak! Hubby was a bit upset as the Optigrill has beaten him on one of his best cooking skill, but when I asked him if he'll grill steaks himself next time, he said no, the Optigrill can do it! 

We had discussed about wiping the cooking plates before reheating the Optigrill again for a second batch of food, but we decided not to (out of laziness and we couldn't wait to cook the next batch). It was a mistake, and you should always wipe the bits off before the next batch, just so that the second batch won't smell/ taste of burnt bits, and it makes cleaning afterwards much easier as well.

We also noticed that you can't change a cooking programme in the middle of cooking or even preheating. You do need to cancel the cooking, reselect the menu and then start preheating again. At least the plates are already warm so it doesn't take too long to preheat the Optigrill.

Before we tried grilling chicken, I went for something easier - Bratwurst sausages. The sausage option probably have a lower temperature setting because it really took quite longer than I wanted it to be. Or it could be because I was assuming that a grill is always fast cooking and seeing that these fat sausages took quite a bit longer than expected, I became a bit impatient.

It does show another advantage of having Optigrill to do the cooking though, I don't have to turn the sausages and both sides will be cooked at the same time (same for the steaks of course)! 

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Left: Cooking in smaller batches would probably be quicker and ensure that all of them are cooked.
So better not overload the Optigrill
Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Top left: Chicken thighs (left and right thighs are cooked but not grilled properly because of overloading the Optigrill
Top right: The chicken thighs with bones have cooked through
Bottom: whole chicken legs, beautifully grilled
The chicken thighs and whole chicken legs on bones are the messiest cooking we did with the Optigrill. We of course kept the skin on because we like a good crispy skin, and are glad that the Optigrill has melted away all the fat below it so that we can enjoy it without worrying too much about our health. But it was soo messy (we love the sizzling sound though)! Below is a picture of the cooking plates and drip tray for different cooking (it is gross, sorry!):

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill
Top left: cooking plate after grilling toasites, French toast, chicken wings and pizza (they left nothing in the drip tray)
Top right: 4 chicken thighs and 2 whole chicken legs later...
Bottom: Drip tray and cooking plate after cooking 2 batches of courgettes (they didn't left much around) and 2 batches of steaks (without wiping in between batches)
Aren't we glad that we grilled these chicken! The result was extremely crispy skin with minimal grease and juicy meat! I'd definitely grill chicken again!

I think grilling meat on the bone is quite ok, but to make sure, I butterflied the thighs and legs to thin them down a bit. There was no raw bits at all, even for the chicken thighs that are located a bit too close to the edge of the Optigrill, although I would definitely cook meat in smaller batches next time for better results.

Do you think grilling a whole butterflied small bird will work?

Tefal Optigrill, perfect steaks, indoor grill

As I couldn't wait any longer, I decided to grill these peaches even though they aren't ripe enough. I was hoping that the heat will soften them further, but maybe because I used the manual setting instead of Sausages, I think it is much hotter and my peaches started to burn before they were ready. I have to try again in a couple of days when the peaches are more ripe, but I can't wait to post this review up. You might be able to see the result on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter soon though!

This is the first time ever that I've grilled fruits, and OMG why didn't I make them sooner? Oh wait, it's because I didn't have an awesome grill! I'm definitely going to make these more often because they were so delicious (even though very crunchy), and with the right spices, they are the perfect, and I really mean perfect, pudding for a cold winter/ Christmassy night!

All you need is a mixture of ground warm sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or even orange zest and anniseed etc), golden caster sugar (Demerara sugar are too grainy) and vanilla essence, coat the halved and pitted peaches with them (I only coated the flesh side) and grill until cooked through. Serve it with really softly whipped Chantilly cream (cream, caster sugar and vanilla essence) or yogurt for a healthier option. The spiced cream and soft fruit (okay, my fruit wasn't soft, but I will get this right!) is such a dreamy combination! I think I'll leave the kitchen extractor fan off when I grill these next time so the whole kitchen will smell of warm spices!

Anyway, back to Tefal Optigrill. We are thoroughly impressed with it! It has certainly lived up to expectation, and whatever we put in (we also grilled microwavable burgers in it. They are so much better than them being microwaved!), they came out perfectly cooked. I like it that it can cook a lot of different food, and actually cut the cooking and cleaning fuss any indoor grill should do (our old one didn't). We used to have to clean the floor every time we grill steaks, but the floor was grease-less with the Optigrill. 

I love the big drip tray that doesn't run off, the light weight cooking plates that doesn't kill my arms when washing them, and the stylish design. It is mostly quiet (apart from some yummy sizzling sound), and I welcome its chirping sound (reminds me of droids or robots in some movies!). It is really handy, and I'm willing to give it a space on a kitchen worktop so that I can get to it quickly when I need it.

Now we can eat crispy food that aren't as unhealthy as frying or baking them!

Thank you Tefal for sending us the amazing Optigrill to try!