Outdoor Grills

14 June 2023

Outdoor grilling can become more of a way of life than a method of cooking, especially in the summer months. If your current grill has seen better days, you need to upgrade to a larger model, or you are just dipping your toes into the adventure, there are many things to consider when you are shopping for an outdoor grill.

Gas Grill

A basic gas grill can handle a number of different proteins and vegetables. For larger pieces of meat like ribs or roast that will take a longer cook time, look for one that rates high in indirect cooking tests. Grills rated with higher BTUs don’t necessarily guarantee faster preheating.

Burners are probably the part of the grill that are replaced more often. Those grills that offer a greater time for the guarantee will probably last longer than others. Infrared burners tout that they can sear a steak quicker than regular burners, but that is not necessarily so. Read reports by independent testing agencies before you make a decision.

Go for the most solid construction. That includes the cart, wheels, and lid. Welded joints will last longer than those assembled with nuts and bolts. Wheels on all four corners are easier to move and a full axle are prefered to those bolted. Avoid sharp edges. Grip the handle to be sure your knuckles will not get too close to the hot lid.

Charcoal Grill

This is old school, but many people still prefer it. Charcoal grills regulate heat with air. More air and the coals will burn hotter and your food will cook quicker; less air and you get low and slow. With that in mind, be sure the grill has a lid that fits tightly so that you have options of cooking style.

If you are using this for a gathering, you will probably need to add coals to keep the heat coming. The best choice would be a grill that has a separate door that will allow you to put more coals into the grill as well as stoke them from time to time. Kettle shaped grills will have deeper beds and allow you to move the coals from a concentrated area (for more heat) to spreading them out for a lower cooking temperature. Adjustable grates are also nice since food will sear nicely but then you can adjust the grate so that you can finish the cooking at a more reasonable temperature.

Unlike a gas grill, there is a safety factor that surrounds a charcoal grill. Flames can be higher and less able to be controlled. Always keep a fire extinguisher close; choose one that is good for wood, electrical and grease. Use long-handled tools and use caution when children and pets are around.

Pellet Grills

This is a hybrid of a grill and smoker. They all look the same with a large metal bin where you add pellets that are made from compressed sawdust. You can buy these pellets at hardware store or big box facilities and they come in a variety of “flavors” like hickory and mesquite.

A pellet grill is ignited with an electronic starter. The hopper or bin size will dictate how many pellets can be accommodated, and thus, when you will need to add more. For smoking foods, keep the temperature below 225° F. For safety purposes, a pellet grill will have a heat deflector across the cooking area to help reduce the chances of flare ups and fires. However, this also makes it more difficult to get a good sear on meat. Some models come with a searing section, but they still can’t compare with the grill marks from either a gas or charcoal grill.

Now you have a lot of information to deal with and you get to start shopping.

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