In my role as a member of the Tefal Innovation Panel (check out my badge) I have been provided with a Tefal OptiGrill to try out.
This innovation was introduced to the panel at an event in London in early July. It's new to the market, and has proved very popular. Indeed, on paper and in demo, this is a very impressive product. It's a grill with 6 programmes depending on what you want to cook - meat, fish, chicken, bacon, sausages and a manual option for toasted sandwiches etc. At the demo day, there were some tasty looking vegetable kebabs knocking around. By measuring how thick the meat or fish you are cooking, using 'sensor technology', the OptiGrill can then make sure that your food is cooked for the correct amount of time- including differentiating between rare, medium and well done for your steak. Even more helpfully, the device then communicates this to you using an LED which changes colour, and a beep to tell you as the cooking is entering the next phase, or when it is done.
So there's the blurb. What actually happened when the Tefal Optigrill arrived chez Recipe Junkie?
Well, after unpacking and feeling quite excited, I texted the Husband - "Steak for dinner tonight!" - and hot (very hot, actually) footed it off to the butcher for some of his best ribeye steak. I had a quick debate with him about whether I should actually introduce the kids to the joy that is a beautiful steak, and in the end we compromised. He cut me 2 big juicy steaks for the Husband and I and 2 rather more modest ones for the kids. I came over all faint at the cost (or may be it was just the heat), but I've had his steak before and it is G-O-O-D. And it hadn't escaped my notice that in the literature that accompanies the OptiGrill, it does mention, casually, that "the results will vary depending on the quality, type and cut" when grilling meat. I felt it was only right to give the OptiGrill the best shot by making sure I bought good meat.
When the time came for the Husband and I to eat, I was a bit more prepared. I had already podded the peas and broadbeans while sorting out the kids' tea (probably why I got distracted), so I could concentrate on my LED and the beeps. The Husband came in while the OptiGrill was pre-heating
"Good grief! It looks like BattleStar Gallactica"
"That's the LED"
This time, it all worked. Once I put the meat in and lowered the lid, the LED did its thing and started changing colour. Pink tried to have a disco in the kitchen with it, but it was too hot to keep on dancing. She has high hopes for her next birthday party, though...
I got a little confused with the beeping, and had a moment of "When do I take it out again?" angst, but I whipped it out while the LED was on yellow (for rare), and had enough time while the veg finished off for the steak to rest a while.
It was delicious. Melt in the mouth, and as promised by the LED, rare. So a combination of great meat and a good grill. I'll admit to being a little concerned about the prospect of leaving the grill to 'tell' me when the steak would be ready, rather than using my own tried and tested method, but the fear was unfounded.
So, perfect steak dinner for 2 aside, what do I think about the OptiGrill?
As the Husband pointed out, is it really so much easier than cooking it on the griddle I normally use? Well, no. I'm pretty confident cooking steak, and use the James Martin test (for rare steak, the meat will feel like the ball of your thumb when you hold the tip of your thumb and first finger together, getting progressivley more cooked as you use successive fingers).
On the other hand, it didn't set off the smoke alarm as I am liable to do using the griddle, which in turn had the added bonus that we didn't have to eat our steak in a kitchen full of smoke. Actually we ate outside last night, but if we had eaten inside, well, you know what I mean... (I don't burn the steak, you understand, but the griddle pan has been well -used and tends to smoke rather once it gets good and hot)
It's a pretty big bit of kit it has to be said, and I'm not quite sure where I will keep it. On the other hand, it will do toasted sarnies & paninis, coffee-shop style, which I am keen to try out. We don't have a toasted sandwich maker any more. The Husband threw it out because it was "Crap" (he doesn't mince his words). Well, may be it was, but I do like a toasted sandwich, so I'm excited to have the means to make them again.
On the demo day, the nice people from Tefal also showed us how it cooked salmon, and it really was incredibly well cooked, which is another bonus, as I find salmon trickier than steak to get right. The OptiGrill can also tell you when bacon is lightly cooked, well done or crispy - and although I haven't tried it out, I'm pretty keen on giving it a go because our bacon tastes differ across that spectrum and if the OptiGrill can make it easier, well that'll be a bonus.
As I have said, I got confused a bit by all the lights and beeping, but I'd done my usual trick of only reading half the instructions and believing that I had remembered everything from the demo. With a little more practice, I reckon I'll have the measure of it.
The grill plates detach very easily for cleaning, but they are quite hard to get fully dry with a tea towel due to the ridges. The instructions recommend paper towel, but I'm afraid I'm a tea towe girl through and through when it comes to drying up. The plates are supposed to be dishwasher safe, but I can't quite trust that. I'm sure non-stick technology has advanced significantly, but in my experience, stuff like this just dies if you clean it in a dishwasher. This has nothing to do with the product, just my own outdated prejudices. May be I'll give it a go.
So there you have it - the Tefal OptiGrill. First impressions are that it's a pretty good bit of kit, but it may well be more for someone less confident with grilling/griddling than I like to think I am. It's quite big, and would need to offer pretty good results to warrant a space in most people's kitchens, but I think that if you eat grilled food a lot, the OptiGrill does seem to offer those results.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a TEFAL OptiGrill free of charge for the purposes of writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review.