The weather’s warming up and the scent of grilling burgers and chicken is in the air. It doesn’t matter if it’s a first-timer looking for a new high-tech grill, or a steak-charring veteran looking to replace his rickety rusty grill. Either way, it is important to understand what certain grills offer, the different cooking methods, and a price range.
Whether it’s a juicy surf n’ turf like chorizo and and shrimp skewers or plain vegetables, grilling is a relaxing, rewarding activity that requires being informed about the equipment.
Charcoal or Gas Grill?
Last year, almost 70% of Americans who purchased a grill chose gas. Why? A gas grill is easy to start and heats twice as fast as charcoal (ten minutes compared to 20-25). Gas grills can run on natural gas or propane, but propane is the most popular option because it is easy to set up and is drier than natural gas, providing a better sear on meats. The upside of natural gas is that is is a lot cheaper and cleaner than propane. Gas grills run anywhere from $100 to almost $10,000.
Most grill buffs choose charcoal because they don’t mind spending more time and effort for a better BBQ flavor, integrating smoky, rich, woody flavors into meat. Charcoal grills also tend to be smaller and are usually much less expensive than gas grills. These run as low as $30 to over $6,000.
When it comes to size, it is best to buy a grill that is larger then you need so you can grow into it. Plus, they are great for entertaining large groups of people at holiday BBQ’s.
Understand the Grates on Your BBQ
Grill grates can be replaced for as cheap as six dollars, and the material it is made of is up to you. For nice sears, go for stainless steel and grates that are at least 1/4 inch thick. For the least chance of meat sticking, choose porcelain-enameled cast iron. For longevity, go with bare cast iron.
One of the most popular materials for grills is stainless steel, not only for durability but also for appearance. Other safe bets include cast aluminum and porcelain-enameled steel. Keep in mind though that with porcelain, small chips can encourage rust to set in easily.
For The Gas Grill Enthusiast…
- Decide what features are most important on a grill. Some include a rotisserie to turn meat for a crispy evenly cooked crust, or a smoker box to add wood chips to add a rich smoke flavor to meat. Many inexpensive grills currently offer side burners to cook side dishes, heat sauces or keep other items warm. On the other hand, side burners take up valuable work space on a grill side.
- Avoid grills with an H-shaped burner or flat bars made of sheet metal, since these can burn through when grease drips and become ruined.
- Make sure the grease pan is about one inch deep at least.
For the Charcoal Aficionado…
- Make sure the grill has at least two grates on the bottom and top, so the air circulation isn’t blocked. Vents should be on the top and bottom, or left and right , to move the smoke around the food.
- Look for a grill with a tight-fitting lid to keep heat in. Also, the firebox (the area where the fire is) should be almost ten inches deep at least so the flames have room to be separate from the food.
- Choose a shape. Charcoal grills range from circular designs (more even heating), and oblong shapes (ability to separate the coals from the food at a further distance for slower cooking).
- Pay attention to the design. Hinged lids are easier to work with. Grates that can move up or down like oven racks helps control the temperature. Ash catcher help prevent ashes from being blown around in the grill.
- When using grills for the first time, preheat it for about 20 minute to get rid of that new smell. Try cooking something fatty with a strong flavor in it for the first time, like bratwurst, to help break it in. Check out the guide to cured pork for some more tasty meats.
- Every time before cooking, preheat the grill for about 15 minutes then scrub the grates with a grill brush to clean thoroughly. Use an old rag to wipe oil on the grates.
- Every year, give the grill a complete cleaning. For gas grills, scrub the grate and put it in the dishwasher and clean out the grill box. For charcoal grills, wash out the ash catchy in soapy water and scrub the grates.
- Must-have grilling tools: a grill brush (go for brass bristles, as steel can scratch a finish), a wide-head spatula, tongs, a basting brush that is dishwasher friendly, and an instant-read meat thermometer.
Grilling is a major activity during warm seasons, when BBQ days and parties are abundant. Impress guests with skilled grilling, and an even more skilled grill set-up with these helpful tips.