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A Man's Guide to BBQ and a Whole Lot of Drooling Over Meat
Setting Fire to Meat Since 400000 BC
Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? Smell that char broiled goodness emanating from your computer monitor? That's how awesome BBQ is. It's so awesome that mere words can evoke that signature sizzle, that fragrant aroma, that radiant heat glistening off the condensation on your beer. The boys loiter around you, half drooling over the burgers you're masterly manipulating with your spatula, talking about cars, women and other things hot to the touch, which is appropriate, you think to yourself, wiping the sweat of the afternoon sun from your brow. Even your dog is in a good mood, smiling up at you triumphantly.
Yeah it's summer time and that spot on your property where a grill ought to be is beckoning... beckoning to be given the attention it deserves. You've been waiting for the crappy weather to subside for months and now you've been good and you've saved your money up so that the dream can become a reality. Alas! What type of grill should you buy? I'm glad you asked, my stout, bearded friend. Let's examine your options!
Is This a BBQ?
Electric (a.k.a. George Foreman)
Hahaha... you've got to be kidding me right?
Ughh. To be honest, this is the most convenient, least expensive, healthiest way to heat meat but I'd hardly call it grilling. The essence of grilling is the notion of infusing your animal carcass with some form of unburnt hydrocarbons and occasionally singeing off your knuckle hair and you just can't do that with an electric heating element, can you? These things also tend to petrify the meat into a puck of indigestible rubber. Perhaps I'm exaggerating a little bit but it kills the BBQ spirit a bit too much for my liking. Can you imagine you and your buddies hanging out in the kitchen, drinking white wine and staring at a piece of muddy gray meat on an electric heater, sadly dying inside, wondering why life is so cruel? Would you want to?
A Practical and Functional BBQ
In-Line Natural Gas
Definitely the cleanest, most economic solution, installing a natural gas grill is the right choice for anyone wanting to avoid the hassle and mess of other types of grills. The fuel is literally on tap and is cheaper than propane or charcoal. Heat is distributed evenly through burners while being retained and re-radiated by lava rock or some other stone.
The main drawback with natural gas is the heat of combustion, which is rather poor. Natural gas is a lighter molecule than propane and the flow you get from your gas line often leaves much to be desired, especially if you buy a large grill with a lot of area. You may find that burners have difficulties lighting completely over time because the pressure is too low to reach all the outlets, which tend to constrict with soot. This can lead to hot and cold "spots" that you need to cramp your food around in order to cook them fully. With natural gas being the least potent fuel available for grills, you will also notice your food cooks slower and more thoroughly. That medium rare steak you were trying to cook will throw you off because you'll think it's still raw and you'll instinctively leave it on longer but when you finally think it's done, it's too done and comes out tough. If you cook with natural gas you have to adapt your cooking strategy somewhat to get the results you want and this can be a bit trying. Once you've figured it out, you can still make great tasting food on it but you won't get quite the professional grade results you were hoping for.
A More Powerful Gas Grill
Propane, to me, is the perfect compromise between practicality and quality. Propane is much "hotter" than natural gas and will not only cook food quicker, on par with most recipes, but will also give you nice grill marks and crusty coatings from an enhanced searing effect. This helps lock in the juices and produces best results when your crowd favors rarer steaks or when working with the more forgiving burgers and sausages. The great thing about grills is of course the fact that if you need a gentler heat you can always crank it down!
The downside, naturally, is the need to buy propane tanks and to refill them regularly. It's a bit of a hassle but if you like to grill, you aren't the type to complain about that sort of thing in the first place. Propane is also a bit more expensive due to the capital cost of buying tanks and the fuel itself is more costly but unless you're hosting parties weekly, it won't break the bank.
On the upside, propane barbecues are portable because the tank is portable. You can put the grill away in the shed or the garage for the winter if you're so inclined. Natural gas isn't so accommodating this way. As you can see, propane is quite popular for offering the most value, if you're looking for all-around convenience and quality.
The Ultimate in Grill Quality
Great toilet reading!
Mmm Mmm Charcoal :D
Let's dispel with the cons quickly cuz we all know how this is going to end ;)
Charcoal is messy. It's messy to buy, to handle, to burn and to clean up the soot afterwards. It's a pain to light and get a nice even heat across your cooking space because you have to nurse the coals for a while until they all spread evenly. They spark and sputter and burn sometimes. You have to buy lighter fluid. It's fun to play with the lighter fluid... but I digress ;)
Charcoal is a known carcinogen. Charring meat also produces carcinogens. Heck, barbecuing in general isn't exactly healthy but technically speaking, charcoal is the worst in this regard but ohhh how delicious it is to have smokey char-broiled meat fresh from the grill!
This is why charcoal exists fellas. It's because its taste is unparalleled. It infuses meat with a certain "je ne sais quois" quality. It makes it come alive.... err, dead-alive anyway. All that mess and preamble to get it running is well worth the smiling, grunting faces of your carnivorous brethren. It makes the difference between neighbors complaining about smoke billowing into their yard and the same neighbors coming over for a rib or two cuz they know you're cooking with charcoal! If that isn't enough of a reason, coal is dirt cheap alright ;)
As to the aforementioned health hazards, you needn't worry. Going to Cuba wouldn't be a vacation if you lived there right? Similarly, charcoal would lose some of its appeal if you ate it constantly so get 2 birds stoned at once and use charcoal sparingly. That way you can enjoy your vice without shortening your lifespan more than a couple of decades! Win-Win!
We'll Turn Those Vegans Straight Again With This!
Grilling is a Spiritual Journey, a Rite of passage
BBQ is iconic of summertime fun, culinary prowess and an adventurous personality. If you've been wanting one but haven't gotten it yet, stop wanting. Start grilling! Assemble your arsenal of seasonings and spices. Equip yourself with tongs, spatulas and other cooking artillery. Roll into your local hardware store with a flatbed truck, winch and 3 of your friends, even though that's completely overkill. Make it a memory to cherish.
Grilling is a lifestyle, an attitude, a part of who you are. It's unique like a fingerprint and when you cook the perfect steak, it's like no other feeling in the world. Revel in your BBQ glory. No matter what style of BBQ you choose (cough*not*electric*cough) take pride in your grill. Take care of it and it will take care of you and your home boys for a long long time.