Gives food a smoky flavor
Side tables fold down to save space
Easy to clean
No handle for moving the grill
Not for indoor use
Thermometer placement could be better
When it comes to grilling, it’s often a trade-off between flavor and convenience. A hardwood charcoal grill gives you plenty of flavor, but it can be messy and inconvenient. A grill pan on the stove is easy, but the flavor will never match an outdoor grill. The Char-Broil 240 Patio Bistro Electric Grill may be the perfect compromise for folks who can’t have a charcoal or gas grill but don’t want to sacrifice on experience or flavor. It’s compact enough for small patios or balconies, but it offers ample room for cooking dinner for the whole family. It’s also safer than a gas grill in areas where live fire is a concern. We put the top-rated grill to the test to see just how well it performed under pressure.
Performance: Surprising smoky flavor
The Char-Broil 240 Patio Bistro Electric Grill packs plenty of functions, from high-heat searing to low-and-slow cooking—and we found it very easy to use. The grill tackled every task we threw at it, from warming tortillas and grilling steak and sausages to cooking vegetables and charring red peppers to peel. While it isn’t huge, we had enough space to toast a half-dozen tortillas, and we could have fit a few more if we let them overlap just a bit.
The brand’s infrared cooking system provides easily controllable heat while limiting hot air, which can dry out the food. When cooking fatty foods, we noticed just a few small flare-ups below the cooking grates as fat directly hit the heating element. Most of the time, though, we saw tasty smoke rather than flame.
While smoking isn’t something you’d think of when using an electric grill, the Char-Broil makes it possible, creating smoky flavor from juices hitting the heating element.
We enjoyed experimenting with smoking a few different foods, including salt, but we couldn’t get the temperature low enough to attempt smoking cheese.
Still not enough smoke? You can also use it as a smoker by placing wood chips on the free spaces of the grill grates. While it’s not quite the same as a dedicated smoker, we thought this grill worked surprisingly well; because the smoke is closer to the food, it’s a very efficient system.
It did take us a few tries to figure out the right heat combination for sustained smoke without completely burning up the chips. However, once all the chips were burned, all we had to do was add another small handful right on top to continue smoking for a little longer.
Even better, the wood chips don’t need to be soaked first, so you can decide on the spur of the moment to add extra hickory smoke to your burgers or mesquite smoke to your steaks. We enjoyed experimenting with smoking a few different foods, including salt, but we couldn’t get the temperature low enough to attempt smoking cheese.
Design: Built for function
This grill looks like an outdoor grill, with the typical stand, wheels, shelf, and side tables, so the first impression is that it’s a real grill and not a kitchen appliance moved outdoors.
Three notches on the front of the grill grate must be placed over the connection of the heating element for a proper fit. If this isn’t done, the grates will wobble, so it’s pretty obvious when the grate is positioned properly.
The placement of the thermometer on top of the grill isn’t optimum for viewing, but isn’t a deal breaker. This grill doesn’t have a top vent, so the smoke vents around the bottom of the lid during cooking. The lid gets quite hot, but the large handle is far enough from the surface of the lid, so it wasn’t risky to grab it without an oven mitt.
Because of the smoke this grill creates during cooking, it shouldn’t be used indoors, but we would feel comfortable using it below an outdoor overhang to protect the cook from too-sunny weather.
While it’s not quite the same as a dedicated smoker, we thought this grill worked surprisingly well; because the smoke is closer to the food, it’s a very efficient system.
The grill grates are worth a separate mention because of their design. At first glance, they look pretty typical, with top ridges where food rests. But upon closer inspection, we found that the valleys have less space between them than you’d see on a standard gas or charcoal grill. Because of this, you can cook small or thin foods without losing them through the cracks, and fats and juices will continue to flow through.
When we cooked asparagus, one slipped sideways into one of those valleys, but since it couldn’t slip through, we were able to save it from fiery destruction. While smoking, all but the tiniest chips stayed on top of the grill where they belonged.
The small space is also part of the infrared cooking system, which limits hot air from reaching the food from below while creating high heat from the grill surface.
Read our guide to the best charcoal grills.
Setup Process: Assembly required, but not difficult
After unboxing and laying out the parts, the assembly took a bit over an hour and required just a few common tools. The instructions relied heavily on drawings, with text for a few trickier steps.
To make things even easier, the parts themselves sometimes had L or R indicating the left or right side of the grill, or A/B designations to ensure the parts connected correctly. The screws, washers, and other small parts came in a blister pack labeled with the part’s letter and the quantity included, making them easy to identify. However, since the packaging didn’t specify the actual names of the various screws and bolts, it would have made it harder to purchase replacement parts if they vanished during assembly.
The grill came with a sticker on the front bottom, which we left in place during assembly. When we decided to remove the sticker after assembly, the double-stick tape that held it onto the grill was difficult to remove. It would have been much easier had we decided to remove the sticker before assembly, since we could have soaked then washed the part in the sink to remove the residue. Scrubbing off that adhesive was perhaps the hardest part of the assembly.
Setup for cooking is effortless. We simply plugged it in, turned the dial to set the temperature, and let the grill preheat before adding the food.
Features: Warming rack and illuminated knob
This is a fairly straightforward grill with one heating element that curves around to heat the entire grilling surface. With just one heating element, there’s no option for different grilling temperatures, but the warming rack above the grill does give another heat option.
We used the warming rack both for warming buns for sausages and for resting a steak while we finished cooking the vegetables. The warming rack is a bit small, which means it can be left in place during cooking and it won’t get in the way, but it may not be sufficient for burger buns for the whole family without some strategic stacking.
The control knob has markings for “off” and temperature settings from 1-5. A light around the knob illuminates as soon as you turn the grill on. While it’s not super bright, it can be seen from a reasonable distance, so we were able to look back to make sure the grill was off as we were heading away with our dinner. That light also makes it easier to see the grill temperature when grilling after dark.
Check out our guide to the best grilling accessories.
Cleaning: Not much effort required
The two major areas that need cleaning are the cooking grate and the grease tray. The suggested method for cleaning the grill is to turn the heat to high for 15 minutes to burn off any food stuck to the grates, then use a brush to take care of the residue, much like any other grill. However, since the grate isn’t overly large or heavy, it can also be washed in the kitchen sink, and the porcelain coating made it easy to clean with just dish soap, hot water, and a scrubbie sponge. The grease tray can also be removed and cleaned in the sink, along with the warming rack, if it was used. The interior of the base and lid can be wiped clean when needed. More thorough cleaning would be wise at the end of the cooking season, before storing it for the winter.
Portability and Storage: Compact but a bit awkward to move
The side tables are a generous size. They’re very sturdy when extended, and they fold down neatly and easily when they’re not needed, so the grill is actually pretty compact when not in use. A shelf under the grill gives a convenient space for storing supplies when you tuck the grill away at the end of the season.
One small quibble is that the back legs have large wheels, but there’s no perfect hand-grip for lifting the front legs off the ground.
At the back of the grill, a cord wrap keeps the power cord out of the way when the grill is not in use. This means you won’t be dragging it on the ground or tripping over it when you move the grill across the deck or into storage.
One small quibble is that the back legs have large wheels, but there’s no perfect hand-grip for lifting the front legs off the ground. Without a handle for easy lifting, it was a bit awkward to move the grill, particularly when we weren't moving in a completely straight line.
The grill should be stored in a dry location, which might be inconvenient depending on how far your storage area is from your favorite grilling spot.
Take a peek at our guide to the best small grills.
Price: Reasonable, mid-range price
With a price hovering near $200, the Char-Broil 240 Patio Bistro Electric Grill costs about twice as much as the least expensive grills in this category, but it’s also not the most expensive you’ll find. In the overall grilling space (including gas grills), this is very affordable.
While people who love the idea of lighting charcoal on fire might not give this grill a second glance, it is much easier to use, takes less time to set up for cooking, and cools off more quickly when cooking is done. Even better, you don’t need charcoal, propane tanks, or a permanent hook-up to natural gas. All you need is a convenient electric outlet, and you’re ready to grill.
The ability to add wood-smoked flavor to food makes this even more cost-effective. Since this grill is so easy to set up and use, it’s likely to see a lot of use as long as the weather cooperates. Considering all the benefits of this grill, the price seems reasonable to us.
Competition: Go with Char-Broil for a compact grill sans the flames
The George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Grill costs about half as much as the Char-Broil grill, and it has one distinct advantage besides the price: It can be used indoors, while the Char-Broil is outdoor-only. While that’s something to consider, the Foreman grill is also rather large for a kitchen appliance, and the cooking experience is more akin to using a grill pan than an outdoor grill.
In terms of flavor, the Char-Broil comes closer to outdoor gas grills. At not quite twice the price, the Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill offers about twice the cooking space, two temperature zones, and propane grilling, which won’t tie you to an electric outlet. Weber has a great name when it comes to building grills, and this one is no exception. We would happily recommend this grill to anyone who prefers propane. However, if live fire is not possible, and if this grill is too large for the space available, the Char-Grill is a great performer in a compact size.
While the Char-Broil grill can do some smoking, if that’s your primary goal you might want to consider the Masterbuilt 30” Digital Electric Smoker. While it costs about 1.5 times as much as the Char-Broil, the Masterbuilt offers over three times the cooking space on four racks, depending on how much vertical space you need. Masterbuilt is known for its smokers, and this one would be one of our top recommendations for electric smokers. However, while you could use the Masterbuilt like a large outdoor oven to roast a chicken with or without smoke, it’s not a grill, so if burgers and steaks are more your style, the Char-Broil might be the better option.
Great performance, great flavor
While charcoal grilling is a lot of fun and offers unique flavor, we have to give kudos to this electric grill for its ease of use, affordable price, and great performance. There might be a short learning curve when switching from charcoal or gas grilling to electric grilling, but we found that controlling this device was pretty intuitive. In fact, it was no more difficult than using a grill pan on the stove. The fact that it can be used for smoking is simply the cherry on top.
- Product Name 240 Patio Bistro Electric Grill
- Product Brand Char-Broil
- SKU 16601578
- Price $249.99
- Color Graphite gray, red, black
- Material Aluminum body, porcelain-coated steel grate
- Warranty 1 yr. for electric elements; 2 yrs. for firebox/lid