Anyone for Barbecue? Grill Buying Basics

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

After a long winter in many parts of the country, it’s finally grilling season! Grilling represents the casual outdoor lifestyle we long to experience when the weather allows. Grilling not only keeps the heat of cooking out of the house but imparts distinctive flavor and provides a variety of cooking methods. Are you in the market for a grill this year?

Pick Your Fuel

The two major grill categories are gas and charcoal. In general, the difference between them have to do with convenience and the flavor they impart.

Gas grills – Gas grills operate on either propane or natural gas. Propane grills need to be hooked up to a propane tank; natural gas grills need to be connected to a natural gas line. Apart from the source of their fuel, they operate the same – lighting and heating up quickly and easily – and maintaining even temperatures. To ensure high-quality construction, look for gas grills made entirely of stainless steel or of cast aluminum.

Charcoal grills – These grills burn charcoal to produce cooking heat and flame. When using a charcoal grill, you must allow enough time to light the charcoal, then allow it to burn until it turns white, indicating proper cooking temperature. Charcoal grills impart a smoky flavor to foods cooked on them, making them preferable to gas grills to some people. Stainless steel charcoal grills are the highest quality and longest lasting.

Once you’ve decided between gas and charcoal, determine how much you’re willing to spend on a grill. Generally, the more “extras,” the more you’ll pay.

Choosing Among Grill Features

Address these issues and features as they pertain to your preferences and grilling habits:

  • Cooking space – This refers to the total cooking area. The larger the quantity of foods you cook regularly, the more space you’ll want to have available.
  • Storage of grill – Where will your grill “live?” Will it always be outdoors, exposed to the elements? Will you wheel it into a protected area after each use? This will determine whether you choose a grill with wheels or a heavier, more stationary model.
  • Cooking grate material – Heavy cast iron grates are the most durable and hold heat extremely well. High-quality porcelain coated cast iron is a suitable, albeit chippable, substitute.
  • Ignition type – Many gas grills – and some charcoal ones – are equipped with a convenient electric ignitor which lights the grill with the push of a button, eliminating the need to use a lighter.
  • Warming rack – This raised surface of your grill allows you to keep already-cooked food warm or to allow it to cook via carryover heat while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  • Thermometer – This tells you the temperature inside your grill for more accurate cooking conditions.
  • Rotisserie – It’s a rotating “skewer” for cooking larger cuts of meat, like whole chickens, legs of lamb or pork roasts. If you plan to use your grill for hamburgers, steak, kabobs, vegetables and chicken pieces, a rotisserie isn’t an extra worth getting.

These are features to consider for gas grills only:

  • Number of burners – The more burners, the more different temperature zones you can control for different cooking heat requirements.
  • Side burner – This extra adds a burner to your grill’s configuration. Determine if a side burner is really something you can see yourself using before assuming that you need it.

Like with any big-ticket item, it’s best to assess your needs and learn what’s available (and for how much) before hitting the marketplace. Buy the highest-quality grill you can for your budget and get cooking!

What features are important when you grill?

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