AFter our 20-year-old Presto electric griddle died recently, I spent a lot of time reading reviews on just about all of the sub-$50 electric griddles on the market. The biggest problem reported in this size range is a lack of even heating of the griddle surface, probably because of the combination of a thin cooking surface (the current products, including Prestos, have thinner, lighter surfaces than our old Presto did) and the "single loop" style of heating element (that tends to leave a cooler area in the middle of the surface).
As this Oster griddle was sold by Target, I decided to check a local store to see if one was in stock, so that I could see how it was constructed. There was one in the store, and imagine my surprise when I saw that it had a serpentine heating element--something I hadn't seen at this price point in well over a decade (what can I say--I'm an engineer, and I love to make pancakes, so I tend to look at these things). The cooking surface seemed a bit small, but I decided to give this one a try (for $5 less than the Amazon price; and, as it turns out, the size was the same as our old Presto).
There were things that I really liked about this griddle: The front-mounted heat control, the nice handles, the non-skid pads on the feet, the removable griddle surface (machine washable, though I'd always wash it by hand; as you'll see, machine-washing probably won't get it clean).
Ultimately, though, there were too many draw-backs:
* Even after pre-washing the griddle surface and seasoning it with vegetable oil (as directed) and pre-coating with a vegetable oil spray, the non-stick surface performed poorly. Food release was OK, but bacon "scum" couldn't be easily scraped off with a nylon spatula, and clean-up was a chore--it seems that either the oil or the bacon grease wanted to bond to the surface. My wife complained about the amount of effort it took with a non-stick scrubber sponge to clean the griddle surface, and finally had me take over (and it was still a bit of work for me, too).
* The heat distribution on the griddle surface did seem to be more even than on our old Presto, but the cooking temperature was way off from what the heat control said--I doubt that it ever got above 300-325 degrees, even after preheating at 400 for 20 minutes (as directed in the manual; and yes, the cooking surface was latched down as tight as it gets). Consequently, it took forever to cook both bacon and pancakes--my wife says easily twice as long as on our old Presto. I guess that having the removable surface with the heating element separate (the heating element is part of the base) just doesn't allow for an efficient thermal transfer from the heating element to the cooking area.
Consequently, unless you're (1) cheap like me, (2) very patient, (3) obsessed with having an even heat distribution, and (4) fond of spending time at the sink after breakfast, this griddle is a "fail." Too bad, as I think that Oster's really on the right path with the serpentine heating element--I wish the other manufacturers would follow suit (only without separating the heating element from the cooking surface). As for the non-stick surface: Oster, how hard can it be to get this right, after 50 years of non-stick technology advances? This was like a trip back to a non-Teflon knock-off back in the 60s!
FYI, we ended up purchasing a Hamilton Beach Premiere Cookware Electric Griddle; see my review on that model for a comparison.