This unit replaced a similar Black & Decker grill that gave up the ghost after a decade or so. Specifically, the heating wires in the unit started to break, and I got tired of taking it apart to re splice the wires. This unit has Calrod like heating elements instead of wires, and should be much more robust.
Recommend this product?
I looked at some similar units from Foreman, Wolfgang Puck and Villa. While they seemed to be better built, these units were twice the price. Additionally, the Forman and the Puck models lacked the ability to simply flip the plates to make waffles. They provided separate plates, which can add to kitchen clutter. There are also a number of other appliances that appear to be identical to the B&D unit from their photos. I did not inspect these grills. Since they were the same price as the B&D, I went with the B&D name for warranty purposes.
The instructions indicate that non stick spray should not be used on the plates. This surprised me, since I had used non stick spray for years, with excellent results. B&D recommends vegetable oil for some reason. I will use non stick spray, since I know it worked well, and is a lot less trouble than brushing the plates.
The non stick coating is very thin. For a fraction of a cent per unit, B&D could have used a better, thicker, coating. I noticed that there were a couple of "bald spots" around the perimeter of the plates, probably from wearing against the housing during shipment. The coating itself works fine, for as long as it will stay on the plates. Don't put the plates in the dishwasher, by the way. I suspect the water pressure from the dishwasher will loosen and finally remove the non stick coating. If the coating should flake off, I'll use non stick spray, period.
The shell of the unit gets very hot during use. Touch it, and you WILL get burned. Oh, yeah ... make sure you don't have the bread bag ( or any other plastic packaging )touch the shell. Therefore, it's off limits for your kiddie helpers.
I use the thing for sandwiches, pancakes, and waffles. For this type of cooking, it works very well. For waffles, I've found that preheating up to max temperature, until the lamp goes out, is the best temp for waffles. Once it's hot, pour your batter in, close the lid, and wait about 3 minutes. Don't give in to the temptation to peek on the cooking progress, because lifting the lid will guarantee ripped waffles, and a mess to clean up.
I would recommend this appliance, but B&D should spend a few cents per unit on better non stick coatings, and wrap the thing in a "cool touch" shell.
Amount Paid (US$): 38.97