Which is better? Contact grill or electric grill?

Contact grills and electric grills are two of the most popular types of indoor grills. Although a contact grill is technically a type of electric grill, the term electric grill is also often used for open grills or surface grills. In this article, I will show you the differences between the two types of grill so that you can find the right model for your kitchen.

What is a contact grill?

This type of grill has two hinged grill plates for grilling: One at the top and one at the bottom. The top cover helps to retain moisture, reduce cooking time and avoid turning the food. Some contact grills have a floating hinge that allows them to adjust to the thickness of the food. When opened, the cover can be used as another grill plate like a surface grill. You can find a comparison of many models in our contact grill test!

Although many contact grills look very similar, they can be equipped with different functions:

Power: Contact grills are available in a variety of power versions. Most of them do not require fixed wiring. As always, the more powerful a grill is, the faster it should heat up and cook food. Some of the most powerful contact grills may require two separate 13A plug connections.

Adjustable grill temperatures: Depending on the food you plan to cook, most contact grills come with adjustable grill temperatures. Some even have cooking programs that allow you to choose the type of food you want to grill.

Floating grill plates: Because floating grill plates sit more naturally on the food, you’re much more likely to achieve even grilling results. Contact grills with standard hinges can sometimes over or undercook areas.

Drip tray: Most contact grills have a drip tray that allows fat to run off the food.

Non-stick grill surfaces: To ensure that none of the food sticks to the grilling surface, most contact grills also have a non-stick coating.

Depending on the model, the contact grill is available as a tabletop grill and a stand grill.

What is an electric barbecue?

The term electric barbecue refers to all barbecues that use an electrical element to supply a constant heat source. As no flames are generated, other fuels such as gas or charcoal are not required. The grid of the barbecue on which the food is placed is located above an electric element. The drip tray is located at the bottom of the appliance to catch the excess fat and juices that drip from the food as it cooks. Although a contact grill is considered an electric grill, many also use the term electric grill to refer to ‘open grills’. Open grills or surface grills are grills with heating coils that are located underneath the food.

Open electric grills have the same features as contact grills. They have non-stick coated grill plates, adjustable temperatures and removable fat drip trays. Many surface grills also come with covers to contain the smoke and steam. Unlike contact grills, however, the cover is made of glass or aluminum and does not touch the food. There are many different types of electric grills, such as table grills, floor grills, indoor and outdoor grills.

What is the difference between a contact grill and an open electric grill?

Cover: This is the main difference between a contact grill and an electric grill. Contact grills come with a floating grill plate, while open grills include a lid.

Cooking time: Contact grills take less time to cook than an electric grill as you don’t have to keep turning the food over. The floating lid means that the food can be cooked evenly on both sides at the same time. You only need to preheat for 10 minutes, place the food on the grill and it will be cooked in less than 15-20 minutes. With electric grills, on the other hand, the cooking time can take 30-40 minutes, depending on the power of your grill and the type of food you are grilling. You will also need to turn the food over several times to ensure it is cooked evenly on both sides and to prevent burning.

Steak slices
Both contact grills and electric grills allow you to cook a wide variety of food.

Grill flavor: Using an electric grill is the closest thing to a real outdoor flavor. It can give your food that unique grilled flavor that you are only used to from charcoal grills. The contact grill, on the other hand, allows you to cook your food evenly. Thanks to its smart features, you can also be sure that nothing will burn.

A variety of foods that you can grill: A big advantage of an electric or surface grill is its ability to cook a wide variety of foods. With contact grills, it is almost impossible to grill vegetables and beans because of the top cooking surface. A surface grill will grill any type of food that an outdoor grill could cook – including shish kabobs and shrimp.

Cooking surface: In general, electric grills have a larger cooking surface than contact grills. The reason for this is that contact grills are heavier because of their 2 grill plates (top and bottom). If the grilling surfaces were made wider, the weight of the grill would increase considerably, so manufacturers opted for smaller surfaces.

Grilling experience: With electric barbecues, you have the feeling that you are grilling outdoors, as you have to keep turning the food. Thanks to the lid, you can also create the smoky barbecue flavor that you normally only get with charcoal barbecues. However, if you want less work, a contact grill is better. All you need to do is place the food inside, set the program, close the lid and the appliance will automatically grill it for you.

Smoke: Both grills produce a small amount of smoke, but there are many tabletop grills (open and contact grills) that are equipped with airflow technology and a hidden fan that reduces smoke. This way, you can grill all your food indoors without the smell of smoke polluting your entire apartment or house.

Features: Aside from the standard features like drip tray, non-stick coating and adjustable temperatures, contact grills usually include more features than a regular electric grill. Some of them can measure the size and thickness of the meat and automatically adjust the temperature to get the perfect grilling result. You can look out for different features on your contact grill for the perfect steak. Some are also equipped with “Automatic Sensor Cooking” technology, which allows the grill to instantly recognize the number of items on the grilling surface. There is also an indicator light and a beep system that allow direct monitoring for high-precision cooking. This allows you to cook the meat exactly the way you like it. Apart from this, many contact grills have universal setting options. Some offer a gratinating function, while others allow you to use the opened contact grill as a surface grill. An electric grill may not have as many settings, but its heating coils can generate higher temperatures than a contact grill. They are therefore better suited to grilling thicker pieces of meat.

Cleaning options: There are mixed opinions on cleaning between the contact grill and an electric grill. Some will argue that a contact grill is more difficult to clean because it has two grilling surfaces, both of which require attention. Others will say that an electric grill is more difficult to clean because the grilling surface has nooks and crannies. To make the choice easier, you should simply choose a contact grill or electric surface grill that has removable and dishwasher-safe grill plates and drip pans. I recommend that you also look out for models with a non-stick coating. This ensures that leftover food doesn’t stick to the grilling surfaces, which makes cleaning up even quicker. Find out more about cleaning a contact grill!

Flexibility: Both contact and electric grills can be used very flexibly. They are both available as table-top grills, free-standing grills, indoor and outdoor versions. You also don’t need any other fuel sources such as charcoal or gas, just electricity. The weather is not a problem either, as you can use them indoors. If you want to take them somewhere, you can simply pack them in your car. They are not as heavy and large as normal charcoal barbecues. There is also no risk of fuel leaks like with gas barbecues.


Contact grills and electric grills are two of the most commonly used grill models today. Not only are they affordable, they also offer the opportunity to bring grilling into your kitchen. Apart from that, they have many similar features: removable grill plates, grease drip tray, non-stick coating and adjustable grill temperatures. Despite these similarities, they also have many differences. A contact grill, for example, has two grilling surfaces, while an electric grill has a heating coil underneath the grilling surface. An electric grill often also has a lid, which can be used to recreate a traditional barbecue flavor. It also offers a larger grilling surface.

Although a contact grill is smaller and cannot grill some vegetables, it offers a faster cooking time and a lot of smart features. With a few pushes of a button, it regulates the temperature to achieve the perfect grilling result. Even if it cannot copy the unique grill taste of outdoor grills, it grills the meat very evenly. There is no need to turn the food often and stay next to your grill the whole time.

We have tested several electric grills from the Severin brand. You can find the electric grill comparison here!