Pros: Removable grills = easy cleaning, Can cook in flat position, Well-made
Cons: Cannot think of any.
We have owned our Hamilton Beach Meal Maker Express Contact Grill 25285 for at least 4 years, and I can safely say it has withstood the test of time. I noticed this on the homepage of Epinions today, and decided to write this review based on several years of use.
After a lot of research, and because of our budget at the time, my wife and I chose this grill over the George Foreman grill, which was fairly new (or at least not as widely known) then. The Foreman grill was what we actually wanted, based on recommendations from several friends, but the Hamilton Beach was about $20 cheaper, at about $60 where the Foreman was about $80. Because Hamilton Beach was a name we trusted, we decided to give it a try knowing that the department store from which we purchased it would happily allow us to return it and exchange it for the Foreman model. We were very happy, though, and never considered returning it.
We were, and are still, very happy with the Hamilton Beach grill, which we used almost daily for the first year, and then maybe once a week for the following 2 years, and now we only occasionally use it, only occasionally cooking meat these days. (Im a vegetarian and my wife is slowly turning into one). For vegetables, these days, we now favor our steamer and for the occasional meat or fish cooking, we now favor our outdoor barbecue grill (the Weber model we own is reviewed here, if youre interested: http://www.epinions.com/content_154084871812).
Easy to clean. The grill plates are coated non-stick (Teflon coated) and the drip cup removes easily for cleaning, too. They also provide a plastic scraper that has grooves to fit the waves in the grill plates, so you dont scratch the plates with other utensils. The Foreman model we were comparing to this one required the use of a separate cup to catch the drippings, and seemed to us a messier approach to the problem.
The biggest PLUS to the Hamilton Beach grill, which I will call the grill from this point on, which the Foreman grill did not have at that time, is having removable grill plates. You can remove the cooking surface plates from this grill and wash them THOROUGHLY, where the Foreman grill did not have that feature. I do not know if newer models have added this ability, but having to clean one of these without being able to remove the plates would be an unwelcome chore in our home - especially, if youre grilling meat or something greasy.
The plates snap in and out easily, and the mechanism has never failed after all these years of use. We normally leave the plates soaking for a couple of hours before wiping and drying them, ready for their next use. The drip cup is dishwasher safe, but weve always cleaned it the same way as the plates.
A nice feature is the ready-light, which lets you know when the cooking surface is hot enough to put your food in. You dont have to guess, and it only takes a few minutes to heat up. Once heated you can start cooking and the wind-up timer has settings for up to 15 minutes. If you are cooking anything that requires more time, youll have to re-wind, but that rarely ever happened to us, even thick meats were cooked enough after 15 minutes on this grill. Included, which we have never looked at, is a recipe book and cooking guide that teaches you the approximate times necessary to cook different types of food. We have always been happy to experiment on our own without resorting to the booklet.
Another nice feature of the grill that the Foreman model did not do is opening up so that you could use both halves (normally top and bottom) to form a larger, flat grill. We have never actually had occasion to use the grill in the open position, but imagine it would make someone happy. Its a cute idea, and could probably replace a bbq for someone not cooking more than a couple steaks, burgers, and hotdogs at once.
Another reviewer of this model complained that hers did not cook evenly on both sides and that she had to flip her food to cook it evenly, but we have never noticed any difference between either side of the meat we cooked. We believe the grill does a perfect job of cooking evenly on both sides. The only time we ever flip our food is to try to get that criss-crossed set of lines (grid) on the meat.
The grill measures about 11 wide by 8 deep and about 4 tall with rubber feet that wont scratch your countertop or shelf. The grill weighs in at about 8 or 9 pounds, and stores easily, with a built-in place for the cord to wrap around. Ours is black, but I believe it also comes in white.
For a long time we used this grill instead of our oven/broiler and even after we got our bbq (which we LOVE) we still continued to use this grill for a long time, until we slowly got away from eating meat. It was nice not having to heat up the entire kitchen, or to have to go outside to use the bbq, in order to cook meat right on the counter.
The hinges are still going strong, the grill plates still lock-in firmly, and we have had no problems with this unit whatsoever. I would highly recommend this grill, which has definitely withstood the test of time. I think you can buy this model for about $40 nowadays, but even at $60 (what I paid) it would be a worthwhile addition to any kitchen.