Contact grill purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • The most important facts in brief
  • Sandwich grills are electric grills that heat the food from above and below at the same time.
  • Many models can also be opened up and used as surface grills.
  • A height-adjustable and lockable lid ensures flexible use.
  • Expensive models have different programmes, for example for vegetables, meat or fish.
  • It is particularly practical if the temperature of each grill plate can be adjusted separately.

The two-sided grill expert

Quick and delicious: for most, a cheese toast or Cuban sandwich is an easy and delicious supper. But it takes time on the open grill or in the pan. What’s more, you have to apply pressure from above, for example with a plate. A sandwich grill makes your life easier in such a case. All you have to do is place the sandwich on the griddle and fold down the lid. The sandwich is now grilled evenly and quickly with the necessary pressure.

Sandwich grills – also known as contact grills – are a type of electric grill. Unlike open electric grills, they consist of two grilling surfaces that are folded together and thus heat the food from above and below simultaneously. Among the most popular dishes prepared with such grills are sandwiches, which are pressed together to grill the bread crispy on both sides and melt the cheese. For this reason, the appliance is called a sandwich grill, although it is possible to prepare much more than just sandwiches on it.

The first official sandwich

The idea of eating food like meat and vegetables between two slices of bread or other pasta is not new. However, the name “sandwich” was first given to the meal in the 18th century when John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, ordered his meal as a sandwich so as not to have to interrupt his passionate card game.

Fast and even grilling is better

Contact grills are extremely compact. When folded up, they can be stored in a space-saving way. Many models allow users to open the grill and use both grilling surfaces separately, for example to separate meat and vegetarian food. Such models cover the range of functions of an open surface grill. In this case, the grilling surface is twice the area when folded. If the sandwich grill is used as such, the food cooks faster and more evenly between the two grilling surfaces, as it does not have to be turned over.

Pro points

  • Compact
  • Double grill surface when open
  • Quick
  • Even cooking


  • Sometimes cannot be used open

Construction of a sandwich grill

Sandwich grills are very similar in construction to sandwich makers and waffle irons. The housing is made of plastic or metal and is usually equipped with a covered handle to prevent burns during operation. Some models have buttons or a dial to adjust the temperature. A red-green light usually indicates whether the sandwich grill is already at operating temperature. Non-slip feet are often available as well.

Probably the most important component of a contact grill are the grill plates. These are usually either ribbed or smooth. On many models, they are removable to make cleaning easier. Removable grill plates can also be changed to convert the appliance into a waffle iron, for example. Underneath the grill plates are the heating elements that provide the heat.

sandwich grill steak is prepared on grill

Some sandwich grills have a fat collection tray into which the fat flows. This prevents it from sticking to the grill plate and burning, which is not only unhealthy but also makes cleaning more difficult. The fat collection tray can be removed after grilling and cleaned separately.

Grill plate: The right support surface

Special attention should be paid to the grill plates of a sandwich grill, as they make contact with the food and are decisive for the result. Removable grill plates provide more flexibility. Grill plates with a non-stick coating are also particularly practical. If this is present, you do not have to grease the grill before each use and can therefore grill healthier. As a rule, the grill plates of contact grills are made of light, inexpensive and heat-conducting aluminium, but some models also use cast iron or ceramic.

Although there are many different attachments for the grill plates of contact grills, the devices are equipped with either a smooth or a ribbed grill plate when purchased. On smooth plates, you can prepare sandwiches as well as fried eggs or pancakes, just like in a frying pan. However, smooth grill surfaces are not ideal for meat or fish. The fat cannot escape, so the steak stews in its own juices. As a result, it is not as crispy. On a grooved plate, however, the fat flows through the grooves into a fat collection tray and the steak becomes crispy. However, the grooves are sometimes not so easy to clean. Both grill surfaces are suitable for sandwiches.

sandwich grill meat slices and spits on grill

Other purchase criteria

In addition to the grill plates, it is important to pay attention to the range of functions of the appliance. With a versatile appliance, you can prepare different dishes and even do without the use of other kitchen appliances. An adjustable lid and temperature control make the sandwich grill a flexible all-rounder.

Range of functions

Sandwich grills that can be opened to an angle of 180 degrees and used as simple electric grills are particularly practical. This expands the range of uses and you don’t have to get another grill, unless you want the classic roasted aroma. Only the charcoal grill can do that.

The adjustability of the grills varies greatly. The simplest models do not even have an on-off switch. The grill heats up as soon as the power is connected and only switches off when you unplug the cable from the socket. What is common, however, is an on-off switch with a light to let you know that the appliance is working.

Some premium appliances have different programmes and functions. For example, grills are available with programmes for defrosting as well as grilling different foods such as sandwiches, steaks, fish or vegetables. The renowned Optigrill series from Tefal is even equipped with a light that uses different colours to indicate which stage of the cooking process the food is in. The colour tells you, for example, whether your steak is “rare”, “medium” or “well-done”. Some grills even sound an acoustic signal to let you know when the food is cooked, even if you are in another room or not looking at the grill at the moment.


The lid or the upper grilling surface is crucial for the adjustability of the sandwich grill. It is important, for example, that the lid is height-adjustable. Otherwise, the food will not be pressed together evenly because the two grilling surfaces are not positioned parallel to each other. Height adjustability is particularly important when preparing thick grilled food such as a baguette sandwich, so that the top grill plate sits evenly on the bread and exerts pressure.

Another practical feature is a lid with a spacer, i.e. a lid that can be locked at any height. This maintains a certain distance between the two parallel plates. If the upper grill plate does not touch the food, the grill simulates the top and bottom heat function of an oven. Sometimes the lid is simply too heavy for the food to be grilled. By using a spacer, you can make sure that the steak, for example, is not squeezed too tightly, causing all the juices to escape from the meat.

sandwich grill double grill on white table


Sandwich grills with adjustable temperature offer more control when grilling. After all, not every food should be grilled at the same temperature. Grills that allow you to adjust the temperature of the two grill plates separately are particularly practical. This way, when opened, you can grill at a high temperature on one side and at a low or medium temperature on the other. Some appliances automatically detect the thickness of the food and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Depending on the contact grill, the minimum temperature is usually between 150 and 220 and the maximum temperature at least 250 degrees Celsius. However, particularly powerful models can even reach 300 degrees Celsius. For this, the appliances usually only need three to five minutes. Most contact grills have an output of between 1,500 and 2,000 watts. However, lower-power models with around 1,000 watts are also available. Moreover, the wattage does not necessarily correlate with the maximum temperature.


When handling hot objects, safety must be ensured. To ensure safe handling, a heat-resistant sheathing of the handle is necessary, as the housing can become very hot, depending on the material. Rubber feet ensure that the hot grill does not slip.

Size and weight

Contact grills are one of the most compact types of grill, especially when you consider that you have twice the grilling surface when opened up. As a rule, contact grills are between 25 and 40 centimetres wide. Their depth is between 20 and 35 centimetres when closed, and double that when opened. The height of a closed sandwich grill is 10 to 20 centimetres.

The weight of the appliances varies considerably. Particularly light models weigh only 1.5 kilograms, while the heavyweights can weigh a whopping 8.0 kilograms. Most contact grills, however, weigh between 4.0 and 5.0 kilograms.

Useful accessories

Contact grills are surprisingly versatile appliances. The reason for this is that most grill plates are interchangeable. With many models, it is possible to exchange them as required, depending on the area of use. It is ideal if as many plates as possible are included in the scope of delivery. With a sandwich plate that divides your toast into two triangles, you do not need to buy an additional sandwich maker. The same goes for a waffle plate, which makes the waffle iron superfluous. Even casserole dishes are available for contact grills. The mould is placed on the grill and the upper grill plate or heating element provides the top heat. A grease drip tray is also advantageous so that the liquid grease from the grill surface can escape without spilling any of it on the kitchen counter.

sandwich grill grill plate types
1. smooth, 2. fluted, 3. sandwich maker, 4. waffle plate, 5. oven dish.

Beyond the sandwich

Of course, you can prepare usual barbecue dishes on the contact grill, such as sausages, sandwiches, vegetable skewers, grilled cheese or herb baguettes. It gets more exciting when you let your imagination run wild. A quick online search leads to numerous contact grill recipes that at first glance are not associated with a grill, such as cakes, pizza rolls, chips or casseroles.

In the following YouTube video by Der OptiGriller, a chocolate cheesecake is baked in the Tefal Optigrill:

Notes on cleaning

Cleaning a sandwich grill is quite uncomplicated. According to the manufacturer, some grill plates are dishwasher-safe, but it is advisable to clean the plates gently by hand. It is important to avoid sharp cleaning agents or hard sponges such as steel wool so as not to damage the grill plates. Make sure that the grill has cooled down completely. Simply wipe the housing with a damp cloth. If necessary, remove the grease drip tray and clean it. Then remove the grill plate and soak it in a little water and washing-up liquid. Finally, you can wipe the surface with the soft side of the pot sponge to remove the last impurities.

Image 1: © Юлия Клюева / | Image 2: © martina- / | Image 3: © daseaford / | Image 4: © FinalCheck