T-Fal® Optigrill Review
Model Number: GC702D53
Manufacturer’s Suggested Price: $249.99 (Click To Check Prices)
I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of counter-top press grills. The ones I’ve tried in the past tended to smash all that yummy, flavorful juice from the foods right into the drip tray. I was pleasantly surprised with this T-Fal® Optigrill. The sensors seem to calculate just the right pressure to reach a happy medium. I’ve tested it with boneless pork steaks, strip steak, sausage, burgers, and bacon. I’ve found the sensor to be very accurate with regard to the doneness factor. As with any appliance, there are pros and cons (which you will see below), but overall, I deem this current model a success. I’ve also shared some of my tips to help you get started.
The Bottom Line: If your checkbook can afford it and you have the storage and work space, go for the T-Fal® Optigrill. Recommended.
• 14-1/2 inches long
• 13-1/2 inches wide
• 6-1/2 inches tall, when closed
• 17 inches tall, when fully open
• 12- x 8-inch cooking surface
• The top of the Optigrill is attached to the framework with a spring-loaded center axle. Unlike some counter-top grills/presses, this allows the top grilling surface to apply equal pressure over the top of the food for more even cooking.
• Preheat time: about 5 minutes. There is a flashing purple indicator which will will turn solid and beep when the grill has properly preheated.
• Foods cook fast due to cooking from both sides at once. Most foods will be done in a matter of 5 to 15 minutes.
• Cooks foods from a frozen or thawed/fresh state.
• Sensors detect the doneness factor for you. The easy-to-read dial indicates the progress of the cooking process, from rare to well-done. As the food progresses through each of the cooking stages (rare, medium, and well-done), a beep will sound. You may easily remove the food at any time, such as medium-rare or medium-well.
• Preset program buttons are included for burgers, poultry, red meat, sandwiches, fish, and pork, sausage, or lamb. The program selects the temperature and senses the doneness factor automatically.
• Foods may be cooked from a frozen state by combining the frozen button with the preset program buttons.
• If the programmed options are not suitable, there is a manual mode. The manual mode runs at a fixed temperature, without the use of the doneness sensor. This mode may be used to grill vegetables and fruits, but you’ll have to watch and gauge doneness yourself.
• The design leaves appetizing grill marks on the cooked food.
• Once the cooking process has reached the end of the programmed stage, the grill switches into a warming mode and will beep every 20 seconds to remind you. Get your food off of the grill if you don’t want to risk overcooking.
• The generously-sized, dishwasher-safe plastic drip tray slides under the machine and stays in place. No need to worry about accidentally dislodging it.
• The non-stick, cast aluminum grill plates are removable and lock into place on the appliance. A simple release button makes them easy to remove, but let them cool first.
• Clean-up is easy. After all, the grill plates do have the patented T-Fal® coating. The grill plates are completely removeable from the appliance, unlike most grill/panini presses. Allow 1 hour of cooling time before you wash them. The grill plates are dishwasher-safe. However, if you are anal about your non-stick cookware like I am, skip the dishwasher. They wash up easily in warm, soapy water using a non-abrasive scrub sponge. As with all non-stick cookware, do not use sharp or metal utensils on the grill plates.
• A 32-page recipe booklet is included, along with a quick-start guide, tip chart, and manual.
• This test unit has hot spots. The left and right sides of the grill are hotter than the center, so keep an eye on the foods on either end or they may over-cook.
• As with most grills of this type, 2 to 3 servings is the most you will get per use, unless you plan on batches. Too much hassle for large families.
• Pricey. Suggested manufacturer’s retail price is $249.99, but I did find some bargains online as low as $170 for new and $150 for used. (If you’re ready to buy, this would be a good time to use your Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon!) When buying used or at a deep discount, check the model number to be sure you are getting the newest model. (See my Notes below.)
• There is no timer or automatic shut-off so you will need to pay attention to the beep indicators in order to prevent the food from becoming overcooked. Be aware that food will continue to cook as the grill cools down into the warming stage, as well as during the warming stage, if ignored.
• If you open the grill to remove some of the food, be sure to close it again as soon as possible. You have about a 60-second window of time to leave it open. If you leave it open too long, the program may be disrupted, in which case you’ll have to unplug the appliance and let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes to reset, and start anew.
• Food thickness is limited to 1-1/2 inches. The appliance will not work with thicker foods. Very thin foods will require you to manually push the OK button to begin.
• Although cooked meats will have grill marks where the raised parts of the grill touch the meat, the rest of the surface may look grayish or undercooked, depending upon the doneness factor chosen. Hence, no full-surface sear. However, although the meat may not look properly cooked, lean toward trusting the sensor. You will learn to judge your preferred level of doneness with a little practice.
• Bone-in foods may need longer cooking times than the programmed options. If you find this is happening, use the manual mode.
• Although food cooks quickly, the cool-down time will not have you out of the kitchen fast. A 1-hour cool-down time before washing is recommended. Do not remove the grill plates until the appliance has cooled down.
• Exterior surfaces get hot while the appliance is operating. Do not attempt to move the appliance when hot.
• It’s large and bulky (see dimensions above). Storage space may be an issue for some people. If you will be using this grill on a counter-top with over-hanging cabinets, be sure to measure the space between your counter-top and the bottom of the upper cabinets to be sure you have enough room to open the appliance all the way. (I have mere millimeters of spare headroom when it’s fully open in my kitchen configuration.)
• When using the program buttons, resist the urge to peek. Opening and closing the top can disrupt the sensor. If you need to peek, use the Manual setting.
• The top must be opened completely in order to enable the sensors. If you open it half-way to slip in your food, the program will not begin after preheat.
• Although bone-in foods may be grilled on this appliance, it performs best with boneless cuts.
• For optimum results, choose foods that are of a uniform thickness, no more than 1-1/2 inches thick.
• When cooking multiple batches, remove the first batch at the desired doneness. Press the OK button, then preheat again for the next batch.
• Wipe the grill plates with oil using a paper towel, making sure to remove any excess. I do not recommend spray-on oils (such as Pam), because they tend to build up a gummy residue.
• To get nice grill marks on steaks, pat them dry with a paper towel before putting them in the grill.
• To cook foods to two different levels of doneness at the same time, simply remove the least rare one once it reaches the proper level and continue to cook the second to the desired doneness. However, do it quickly so as not to disrupt the programmed cycle.
• Remember that meats will continue to cook during resting time, so remove them a little sooner than the sensor doneness indicates to allow for resting time.
• This grill makes great bacon! I like my bacon crispy, and it did a super job on my thick-cut bacon. No problem with splattering, the bacon stays flat, and the grease runs right into the drip tray. I use the manual setting, and put the bacon on before turning it on to preheat. It should take around 2 to 4 minutes for 4 slices, depending upon how crispy you like it.
• Do not use aluminum foil in this appliance.
You should be aware that earlier models (circa 2013-2014) received a lot of complaints about the programmed buttons ceasing to work, sensor over-cooking foods, and the grill plates coming loose and falling out. It is my understanding that these issues have been corrected in this model (GC702D53, received July 2015). I have not experienced any of these problems to date. I will further update this review as my testing progresses.
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Disclaimer: Review sample for testing was provided by the manufacturer.