Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Lean, mean and handy

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 Lean, mean and handy I used to chuckle at the George Foreman grill (as seen on TV!) ... until a serious chef showed me a thing or two.
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George Foreman Grill
Order the George Foreman Family Size Plus Grill from for $39.95, half the $79.95 list price. (Does anybody buy retail?) Or use this link to view all George Foreman grills on
Lean, mean and handy

Like most serious "foodies," I'm generally skeptical of kitchen gadgets advertised on late-night television, and doubly so when they come with a celebrity's endorsement attached.

I've managed to cook thousands of meals and millions of calories without ever succumbing to a trademarked Veg-O-Matic or Salad Shooter, for instance, and "As Seen on TV" is not a promotional slogan that works for me.

So naturally I've always snickered at the widely advertised George Foreman grill, billed as the "Lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine." Hah! If I want to reduce fat, I'll trim it off my lamb chop before I sear it on my inexpensive, no-moving-parts black iron skillet.

Or so I thought until one day a couple of months ago when I first stepped into a small local fish market with a built-in six-seat lunch counter. The restaurant (Seafood Connection in St. Matthews, a Louisville suburb) was unexpectedly fine, with a skilled chef, Mike Hungerford, cranking out modestly priced but impressive seafood lunch dishes ranging from the traditional fried-fish on rye to crab cakes and a tongue-in-cheek Reuben made with fresh wild salmon in place of the usual corned beef.

Much to my surprise, one of the kitchen tools that Chef Mike uses most often is a family size George Foreman grill. Mike saw me chuckling when I spotted it, and he slapped down a boneless salmon steak, closed the lid, and just a few moments later opened it to reveal a perfectly cooked, attractively grill-striped portion. I snarfed it up, too busy eating to laugh.

Hearing Mike's testimony, I came home and checked it out, found one on for half the purported "list price," and put in my order, hoping it would arrive in a plain, unmarked box so the UPS guy wouldn't laugh at me.

I've had it for a couple of months now, and nobody's laughing any more. I use it fairly regularly, and probably would do so more often if it wasn't a little too big to leave it out between uses.

Would I recommend it? Well, yes, with some caveats. I'm not sure that I fully buy the enthusiastic claims that Mr. Foreman makes about its life-changing low-fat capabilities, but this much is true: You don't need to add fat to grill on its nonstick surfaces, and a lot of fat drips off burgers and fatty cuts, dripping into shallow oval bowls provided so you can catch and discard it.

Speaking of discarding, I also pitched the slim "cookbook" that comes along with it. Its simple recipes aren't really aimed at advanced home cooks or restaurant professionals. All you really need to know about the grill is how to use it: Open it, plug it in. Wait for the light to indicate that it has preheated. Then put your chunk of protein on the lower plate (no bones, please!), lower the top to cover, and position the fat-catching bowl beneath. Wait a few minutes - you can safely open the lid to check progress or turn your item from time to time - and lift the lid and serve the dish when it's done. Five minutes seems to be enough for a medium-rare burger or chicken breast.

I've tried it on burgers, boneless chicken breasts, fish fillets and grilled-cheese sandwiches and found it handles them all very nicely, requiring almost no attention from the cook, thus freeing you to finish the rest of dinner while George does the work on the meat course.

It's relatively easy to clean, the good news being that the surfaces are non-stick, the less-good news being that you can't submerge the device to soak it. We've found that it helps to put a damp paper towel between the surfaces and close it with the power off to dampen and loosen any residue while it cools; later you can wipe it mostly clean and finish up with a little detergent on a sponge and a quick wipe with a towel.

Will the grill change your life? Probably not. And I don't see it having much immediate effect to make me thinner. But set it up in a handy place on a counter, and you've essentially added a fifth burner to your range top, one that produces tasty grilled fare in a hurry with almost no effort. That's not a bad thing at all, especially for half-price.

If you like the sound of that (especially with the holidays coming up), I've set up a link to buy the family-size model from for $39.95, which is one-half the purported $79.95 list price:
As always, purchases made using this exact link will return a small commission to, for which we'll be grateful.

There's a smaller, less expensive model available, but I passed on it because it appeared too tiny to cook more than one or two burgers at a time. To check out other sizes, shapes and styles, you can use this very long link to view them all:

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about today's article or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our online FoodLovers Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic.

Today's column is also cross-posted in the Food & Drink section in our Netscape/CompuServe WineLovers Community,

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at

Want a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of this recipe, suitable for printing, online at

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Seafood risotto (Nov. 9, 2006)

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If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition and recipe, please drop me a note at I really enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail if I possibly can. And of course you're always welcome to join the conversations with fellow foodies on our online FoodLovers Discussion Group,

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Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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