Breville touts the Smart Grill Pro as the “ultimate” grill. It’s good, but it’s not cheap.
I’m a big fan of press grills, and you’d only have to look at the fact that over the last five years I’ve been through three of the things in my kitchen to show that.
This does highlight a problem, however, because very few grills are built with particularly heavy duty work in mind. If you’re just pushing a few sandwiches under them every once in a while they should last near indefinitely, but if you’re using them for other cooking purposes it can quickly wear them out.
As a busy working parent, there’s some genuine utility in being able to quickly throw a few sausages under a press grill and have them ready to serve rapidly and with at least a little of the fat drained away.
That’s what intrigued me about Breville’s Smart Grill Pro when I first laid eyes on it, because it’s pitched as a very high-end grill. To get the main problem issue out of the way straight away, this review is based on a Smart Grill Pro that I’ve spent my own money on. There’s always an issue of potential justification bias in any purchase (“I’ve bought it, and I’m not dumb, so it must be good… right?”), but I’ve approached this review the same as I would any other.
Part of the Smart Grill Pro’s particular selling argument is the inclusion of a heat probe on the side. If you’re cooking meat, it’s a simple process to select your meat type, heat the grill to your required temperature and then drop the meat in with the probe stuck in one side.
The Smart Grill Pro will then alert you when the meat is done to your preferred style, allowing for suitable rest time on a plate to finish optimally cooking. Having burnt more than my fair share of meat over the years, I was interested to see how well this worked.
The answer is that the Smart Grill Pro does mostly work well, although it’s still advisable to opt for more rare cooking temperatures, because you can’t “uncook” overly tough meat. It’s also understandably a little less forgiving with thinner cuts of meat.
One very welcome part of the Smart Grill Pro’s design is the fact that both heat plates are entirely removable and dishwasher suitable. Understandably given their size, they take up an entire dishwasher tray if you do wash them that way, but even a sink wash is easier than trying to run sponges across a regular grill surface, especially for the top ridged plate. The plates are titanium infused for a claimed longer lifespan. So far, I have no complaints, although that’s something that’ll need many months, and hopefully years of testing.
While the big advantage of using a press grill is that you can speed up cooking time by applying heat from two surfaces at once, the Smart Grill Pro also folds out fully flat, turning it into a small electric BBQ. It’s not as fast that way, but it can be useful if you’ve got plenty of food to cook that you want done in a no-mess way. I’m personally in a situation where I do have space for a full gas BBQ, but if you’re an apartment dweller with limited space this is a solid option.
The other reason to opt for a press grill is in the potential health benefits, because while you’re pushing down on your ingredients to make them cook faster, you’re also pushing out fats, especially for meat dishes. The Breville Smart Grill Pro does a decent job of fat removal with an adjustable height so you can add the right amount of pressure, but unusually its fat drip occurs with a slight backwards slant down to its drip tray.
It works, and there’s a decent amount of space within the Smart Grill Pro’s removable drip tray, but it does add a challenge if you’re cooking multiple items and planning on using the fat from one ingredient to help cook and flavour another less lubricated ingredient. The slight tilt can also be an issue for cooking smaller and lighter ingredients, as they’ll naturally slide towards the drip tray as well.
Like so many silver kitchen appliances, keeping the Smart Grill Pro surface clean can be challenging, as it loves to pick up dust, fingerprints and any other kind of kitchen-related smudge you’d care to think of, and probably a few that you’d rather not.
Then there’s the asking price. Press grills are, by and large, pretty cheap creatures, and certainly if you just want something to do very intermittent grills and melts, you can buy a perfectly adequate small press grill for well under $100. Breville’s stated RRP for the Breville Smart Grill Pro is a wallet-breaking $349. For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to find one for more in the $275-$325 price bracket, which is a little easier to deal with, but this still isn’t an inexpensive option.
As noted, I’m a heavy press grill user, and as such it should make more sense to buy one high-end grill to last five years than three or four cheaper ones that’ll break down. Or at least that’s the hope. If you’re only a intermittent press grill user, however, it’s overkill.