There’s a reason grilling takes center stage in summer. The weather demands it ― who wants to be cooped up indoors with all that glorious sunshine outside?
Aside from that, I doubt there’s a barbecuing man or woman in town who doesn’t feel that his or her barbecue prowess kicks hiney over even our best barbecue eateries.
To do it right, though, you need the right equipment and, if you’re in the market for a new grill (or even your first), read on for some shopping tips.
Gas or charcoal?
Or, maybe both? It’s not unheard of for the serious griller to own one of each. If, on the other hand, you don’t have a preference, maybe it’s time to learn about the differences.
Gas grills are faster and easier. You won’t need to deal with the charcoal, the fluid and then waiting for the coals to heat up. You will, however, need to ensure you have a full gas canister before the cookout begins.
Charcoal-cooked food, on the other hand, tastes better. The charcoal smokes, adding the barbecue flavor we all crave.
Consumer Reports claims that most of the gas grills we buy cost less than $300 and we use them for an average of three years. When it comes to replacing parts, expect to replace the burners. They wear out the quickest.
While charcoal grills are typically less expensive than gas grills, you can end up spending a couple hundred dollars for a large one with all the bells and whistles.
Now, charcoal and gas aren’t your only choices. George Foreman makes a lean, mean electric grill (as do other manufacturers) and there are even wood-burning grills on the market.
For the casual griller, gas or charcoal are the typical choices. If you want ease-of-use and have a need for speed, choose gas.
Which features do you need?
Of course, your budget will dictate the features you’ll find on your new grill, but there are some that are must-haves, at least for some chefs.
These might include a rotisserie (for cooking whole turkeys, chickens or roasts), lighted knobs for nighttime grilling and even alarms that let you know you’re on the verge of burning your meal.
Some are a bit extravagant but there are many features you might find quite useful. Shelving is indispensable for the serious griller. They’ll hold all of your ingredients so they are within easy reach as you cook.
A built-in thermometer is nice as well. If you really want to go all out, look for a gas grill with an infra-red burner. It’s ideal for searing meat to give it that crusty exterior and for locking in the juices.
If you’re just interested in turning out a juicy steak or burger, you don’t need all the fancy and expensive features. A basic charcoal grill will do the trick. The classic Weber kettle-style grill costs about $80 at the big home improvement stores and you can often find them on sale for even less.
Other things to think about
Don’t buy a grill without a decent manufacturer’s warranty. “This should keep you from having to spend money on parts that shouldn’t have broken in the first place,” cautions Chef Tony Matassa at BBQGuys.com.
He suggests looking for a gas grill with a 10-year burner warranty. And, speaking of the burner, Matassa reminds us to ensure that the burner size is proportional to the overall size of the grill.
“A lot of grill manufacturers make a large, impressive looking casting with a little burner – that means lots of hot and cold spots.”
Finally, he suggests that if you grill a lot of steaks, and insist on using gas, look for a gas grill that heats to at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Barbecue season gets underway soon, so get out there and fill that empty spot in the backyard with a new grill.