In my line of work, being surrounded by gadgets is an occupational requirement. On any given day, my home office looks like someone bust open an electronics piñata, with its guts spilling 360 cams, wireless dongles, fitness trackers, jumbo battery packs, and USB DACs all over the place. I thought, therefore, that no new gadget could surprise or delight me unexpectedly — until I got a George Foreman five-portion family grill.
A friend bought this for me (mothers count as friends, right?), convinced that I needed more and better kitchen equipment. My immediate reaction was one of frowning cynicism, as I'd heard of George Foreman's Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines before, and I was content in my prejudice that they were a lame marketing gimmick. Then I gave the grill a low-risk test drive with some chicken and was wowed. This thing cooks meat faster and better than any other method I've tried. It's frankly ridiculous.
I want my food fast and easy, and this thing makes meat fast and easy
Ask George Foreman what makes his grill special, and he'd offer you a two-word answer: "it works." And he's right. I've now been using the former boxer's grill for two solid weeks and my enthusiasm for it is only growing. Today, for example, I cooked a perfect tuna steak — which I haven't been able to achieve in years of trying via the means of steaming or searing. I say "cooked," but it was more a case of "deposited the slab of fish onto the grill, waited seven minutes, then extracted it." This thing's so simple that it literally has no buttons, and the same process counts as the "recipe" for cooking lamb, poultry, beef, pork, and whatever other meat you could imagine plopping down on an electric grill.
This grill makes cooking easy and uncomplicated. It works so quickly that even my millennial attention span can keep track of it. Some might see that ease and efficiency as a downside — I'm not kidding, many kitchen products have been rejected by the market because they felt like cheating — but I'm not too proud to admit that I want my food fast and easy and my washing up kept to a minimum. Usually, that means eating tuna straight from the can, but I think I can get used to this better class of cuisine and accept the small tradeoffs.
Cleaning this grill does require a bit of care and attention, as does using it. It's a small miracle I haven't seared any of my own flesh just yet. I'd also not recommend it for grilling vegetables, which tends to take a great deal longer than meat, and makes the grill's 1,630W power draw something of a budgetary consideration. And since tuna steaks aren't cheap either, I'm having to adapt to my better cooking also being more expensive.
Vegetarians might want to look elsewhere
Let me stress that I'm only endorsing the particular model of George Foreman grill that I got. There are other variants with adjustable temperatures, removable plates, and other creative flourishes that I have no time for or interest in. I don't know what those are like to use and I don't wish to endorse the entire George Foreman brand. The appeal of the particular grill I got is exactly the same as the appeal of the Pebble smartwatch: it does a few jobs very simply and very well. Not having options or settings to adjust is liberating.
I was, of course, right to be skeptical about this line of celebrity-branded grills. For every Beats by Dre success, there are dozens upon dozens of Sync by 50 pretenders. Before my George Foreman grill, I owned an Antony Worrall Thompson blender, and that thing was a plastic nightmare that at least had the decency to break down after a few months. Another red flag for me was the fat-reducing claim made with these grills, as fat consumption has now repeatedly been shown to be a good rather than a bad thing.
Ultimately, I have to come back to the definition of what a gadget is, or should be, and the role it should perform. For me, gadgets are fragments of technology that provide shortcuts or efficiency improvements. At their most basic, something like a lighter saves you a few extra motions and the burnt residue of lighting a match — but once they grow more powerful and sophisticated, they can transform some aspect of your life. Well, George Foreman's grill has certainly transformed the act of cooking for me, turning it into a fun and rewarding experience where the effort is repaid exponentially by the result.