The desire to grill doesn’t always coincide with barbecue weather. However, barbecue flavour is delicious all year round, and now you can bring the experience indoors. In fact, the OBH Nordica Optigrill+ promises to cook food automatically, so your steak is always cooked the way you want it.
The Optigrill+ is marketed as an electric tabletop grill, but it looks more like a toaster. In reality, it’s a mix. It clamps down on food in the same way as a toaster, but it’s packed with automatic functions centred around grilling favourites.
You can set the machine to cook either hamburgers, chicken, sandwiches, sausages, steak or fish. All automatically and at the desired temperature. Of course, you can also use it manually.
The cooking surfaces are non-stick and can easily be removed and put in the dishwasher. They are inclined so that liquid runs down into the included drip tray. A series of small studs rise up from the cooking surfaces so your food doesn’t slide off the plate.
On the front of the Optigrill+ you’ll find a curious-looking eye. With changing colours, the eye indicates either the temperature of the grill or how far you have progressed in the selected programme. You will, however, need to consult the manual to understand the meaning of the colours, sounds and buttons.
Construction and performance
With most ingredients, it’s not necessary to actually clamp the food, just close the lid. But a sandwich or panini often requires a solid pressure and the Optigrill+ feels unstable – it doesn’t stay put and it’s easy to accidentally jerk the grill. We wish it was heavier or that the feet had more friction. The metal also feels pretty thin, which isn’t a definite problem, but it doesn’t feel like a premium product, as the price would suggest.
Despite the underwhelming construction, performance is top notch. The Optigrill+ gets really hot, really fast. The heat is perfectly spread across the grill plates, so you can fill it from edge to edge without worry. However, you have to be very careful that all your food is of equal thickness. Otherwise, some of your food will be missing the beautiful grill marks. This is, of course, due to the laws of physics and not a fault in the product.
The bevelled surfaces, on the other hand, are the product’s fault. Your food will slide down easily. There are a series of little studs on the top of the grill grooves that are supposed to stop food from sliding down, but it doesn’t always work. Gravity will pull everything towards the bottom, so be careful not to put the heaviest items on top. You can’t place food at an angle either, as it will end up sliding flat to the bottom no matter what. This is a challenge with both meat and vegetables. If the grill plates were filled with small studs, it might keep the food in place, but right now they’re mostly a small barrier where the food stops.
It’s not a big minus, but sometimes the food ends up in the drip tray. We would also like to be able to make nice, slanted grill marks.
Automatic, but not intelligent
The big selling point of the Optigrill+ is the automatic programmes that promise perfect cooking of a wide range of meats. The idea is simple. You select the meat you want to cook and the machine heats up. The grill reads the thickness of the meat and adjusts accordingly.
When the machine is hot, it beeps and you throw the meat on the grill. It then flashes different colours to indicate the internal temperature. When the colour matches your preference, you remove the meat.
This works best with a steak. The meat gets nice grill marks and the core temperature is just about right. However, we’re not overly impressed. The sear crust wasn’t very impressive.
Had we used the manual setting, we would have given it maximum heat initially and then turned the heat down. The automatic function seems to use the same temperature all the way through. This means that the redder the meat you like, the less crust you’ll get.
The core temperature was about right, but you can only choose between red, medium and well done. It’s a wide range and we wish we could tailor the temperature more precisely.
The chicken setting is completely hopeless. Chicken breasts are hard to cook perfectly, so an automatic setting is a good idea. But you can’t specify whether by chicken you mean breast or thigh. Chicken breast became bone dry with the automatic setting. We’d go as far as to say it ruined the meat.
There are no automatic settings for vegetables, so if you’re cooking the whole meal on the grill, you’ll have to learn to use it manually anyway. Fortunately, it’s competent as a grill that way, especially for vegetables. Cooking squash and aubergine on both sides at once is efficient and delicious, resulting in a credible grilling experience.
Whether you call it a table grill, toaster or panini iron, the Optigrill+ is a versatile cooking tool. Vegetables in particular come out crispy and tasty. However, you pay for a lot of automatic features that unfortunately don’t work optimally. You really have to be new to the kitchen to be outperformed by the Optigrill+. A less fancy countertop grill might be the wise choice.