Indoor grilling has become a widely popular cooking trend in recent years, and especially so during the pandemic as citizens have been cooking more and dining out less. One simply needs to prepare the ingredients, plug in the electric grill to enjoy freshly cooked food right off the grill, saving time from cooking. However, the Consumer Council tested the performance and safety of 11 electric grill models on the market and found various safety issues in 7 models with the risks of scalding or electric shock during use. The most severe model emitted smoke and flames during the simulation of malfunction of thermal control and abnormal use according to the test standard, posing fire hazard and showing dissatisfactory safety performance. The Council urges the relevant manufacturer to correct the problem promptly. Meanwhile, consumers should take extra care in using, especially those with children or pets at home, to avoid scald injuries resulting from accidental contact with the grill. As for the grilling performance, the average maximum temperature after preheating was found to vary by as much as over 200°C amongst models, while it was also common that the heat distribution in different locations for the same model was uneven, amongst which 3 models had a highest temperature difference of over 70°C, which might affect the food-grilling performance. Besides, consumers should not overlook the amount of cooking fumes emitted from grilling foods when using the electric grills indoors, as it could permeate furniture and clothes leaving a greasy smell, and degrade the indoor air quality and pose potential health risks.
The 11 electric grill models tested ranged from $359 to $2,499 in price, with rated power of 900 watts to 2,200 watts. All were compact models which could be placed on the dining table to grill food. 4 models were contact grills with a top plate that could be opened to grill food on one side, or closed to grill food on both sides. 3 models claimed to be smokeless grills with a built-in electric fan to suck cooking fumes into the base of the grill. 5 models needed to be filled with water, claiming to help collect cooking fumes or make it easier to clean.
1 Model Emitted Smoke and Flames During the Test
The safety test was conducted according to the latest version of the international standard IEC 60335-1 and IEC 60335-2-9. One of the tests simulated the abnormal operation of the electric grill, in order to see whether other protective devices could operate normally in the event of the malfunction of some internal parts to avoid abnormal condition from happening. During the simulation of malfunction of thermal control while operating with a 1.15-time input power, 1 model emitted smoke and flames causing the internal plastic material to melt, posing potential fire hazard to users. For another model, the test pin could be inserted into the thermal control connector to touch the internal live parts, reflecting insufficient protection against access to live parts.
Nearly Half the Models had Excessive Temperature Rise
5 Models with Insufficient Insulation Distance or Unsatisfactory Construction
Product safety is a basic consumer right. Therefore, according to the international standard, the temperature rise of all parts of the electric grill should not exceed a specified limit to prevent scald accidents resulting from overheating. However, the test revealed a key concern that the temperature rise for 5 models in some parts, such as the handle of the grill plate, thermal control or table top, exceeded the limit by 6.9K to 27K (1K represents 1°C). The Council alerts consumers, especially children or the elderly, to pay extra attention to the surface temperature of the electric grill during use to avoid scalding.
The electric circuits of appliances should be kept at a designated distance to avoid posing risks such as short circuiting, arcing, electrical leakage and overheating. However, 3 tested models had an insufficient insulation distance between the live parts and the surface accessible by the user, with the measured distance falling 0.4mm to 2.5mm short of the standard requirement. Besides, the length of the earthing conductor of 1 model was insufficient. In the event of accidental tugging of the power cord or failure of the stabilising device, the earthing conductor might be the first to become loose thus affecting the protection of the earthing terminal. Additionally, 1 model had small perforations at the base which allowed the test pin to be inserted to touch the internal parts, posing potential risk of electric shock and reflecting that its construction required improvement.
Grilling Performance Affected by Varying Preheat Temperature and Uneven Heat Distribution
In the performance test, the models were preheated according to the instructions of the user manual. It was found that the average maximum temperature after preheating vastly varied, with the grill plate of some models showing an average temperature of over 250°C. After preheating simultaneously for around 5 minutes, the average temperatures of 2 models were measured as 283°C and 113°C respectively, a difference of 1.5 times. When compared with another model that did not provide preheating instructions and had an average maximum temperature of 315°C after preheating for 13 minutes, the maximum temperature difference amongst test models exceeded 200°C. Therefore, users should be mindful of the temperature after preheating, and adjust the preheating time and temperature based on the type, size and amount of ingredients, so as to avoid over-grilling and affecting the cooking performance. Manufacturers should also clearly label the electric grill’s cooking temperature range and temperature after preheating to allow consumers to adjust the right temperature accordingly.
The grilling performance could also be impacted by the evenness of heat distribution after preheating the grill. The performance of the models drastically varied in the test, with the temperature difference between different locations ranging from 23.4°C to 82.6°C. Amongst this, 3 models had a maximum temperature difference of over 70°C, reflecting drastically uneven heat distribution, meaning that the same ingredient would have different degrees of doneness when cooked on different locations of the grill plate.
The test evaluated the models’ grilling performance by cooking burger patties. After the models were preheated according to the instructions, the patties were then grilled to assess the evenness in temperature of the food when cooked on different locations of the grill as judged by the centre temperature and brownness of the patties. The results revealed uneven temperature amongst the burger patties, with the difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures ranging from 2°C to 18.7°C. For 3 models, the centre temperatures of the patties varied by more than 10°C, including the most expensive model ($2,499) which had a 15°C variance between the patties, reflecting uneven heat distribution and mediocre performance. On the contrary, the cheapest model ($359) showed a relatively even temperature amongst its cooked patties with a difference of merely 3.5°C, once again reflecting that price and quality are not always proportional. Consumers can still pay less for well-performing products.
Cooking Fumes Released Could Affect Indoor Air Quality
Indoor grilling would release a large amount of cooking fumes, which could pose carcinogenic risks if the interior is not well ventilated. The test on the emission of cooking fume was based on the average amount of cooking fumes released when grilling 1 piece of burger patty, with 5 points being the highest, indicating a lower level of cooking fume emission. 2 models were only rated 2 points, including 1 which claimed to be a smokeless grill. The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization has already classified cooking fumes produced by high-temperature frying as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A). Common ingredients with more juice and fats, such as steaks and bacon, produce more cooking fumes when grilled at a high temperature.
When purchasing or using electric grills, consumers should pay heed to the following:
- Some electric grills have a higher input power, possibly as high as 2,200 watts, and should not share a power outlet with other electrical appliances that have high power consumption;
- Avoid touching the surface of the grill during cooking to prevent scald injuries. As the surface temperature of metal lids can be rather high, use a dry cloth or oven mitts to carefully lift the lid;
- It is recommended to use wooden or silicone utensils instead of metal utensils when cooking on a grill, and never scrub the grill plate with stainless steel scrubbers to avoid scratching the non-stick coating;
- Some models come with a lid. Cover the grill with the lid during cooking to prevent cooking fumes from permeating the home interior. Be mindful of indoor ventilation to reduce inhaling the cooking fumes, as well as preventing the smell from lingering in the house;
- Refrain from consuming large amounts of meat when grilling. Pair the meal with vegetables, don’t overeat, and remember to maintain a balanced diet.
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