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Barbeque Grill Shopping

Updated on January 23, 2010

No matter the season, most of us can attest to how much we love grilling-or at least grilled food. We order grilled chicken on our salads, have grilled burgers at our favorite burger stand and salivate over grilled pieces of plank salmon or tuna described on menus at our favorite upscale restaurant.  Yet many of us have no idea how to buy a grill or what to look for when buying one to ensure it is the best result for us. Even if you’ve had a charcoal, electric or gas barbeque before and actually used it, prior to investing in a grill a consumer should know what to look for – and not only to save themselves future hassle, money, and grief.  Different grills work better for different grillers and knowing the options will make your match to a grill more successful and fun. Here are the grill basics to use when buying a grill for your home needs, to make the whole process easier and more convenient while also helping you to make a smart decision.

Weber gas grills come in a variety of sizes and styles.  Aluminum is used to construct the firebox.  Stainless steel burners, cooking grates and flavorizers inside the firebox.
Weber gas grills come in a variety of sizes and styles. Aluminum is used to construct the firebox. Stainless steel burners, cooking grates and flavorizers inside the firebox.
Propane burns clean but must be used outdoors with good ventilation.
Propane burns clean but must be used outdoors with good ventilation.

Grilling fuel for cooking heat.

1. Electric, Gas, or Charcoal: Though you may already know that there are three kinds of grills to choose from when selecting a bbq you may be unaware of how they vary. This is crucial to your decision process as it should be characteristic of your whole bbq experience. What fuels your barbeque grill will largely affect cooking time, efficiency and taste. Some people prefer charcoal to gas and electric for the smoky flavor the charcoal briquettes give their food. Charcoal barbeque cooking is best with wood and nothing comes close to generating better flavor; although many consumers do not enjoy the longer cooking times and ashes to clean-up. Many customers prefer gas for its speed and ability to cook a variety of different types of food. While gas BBQ grills are convenient, most models waste a lot of moisture and flavor because of the dry gas heat. Electric barbecues and grills are available. Electricity is a natural energy and heat is easily controlled within mid-ranges of cooking temperatures. Most of my electric barbeque customers live in condominiums where gas is not permitted. A good rule of thumb when trying to figure out which grill you would prefer is to consider what your priorities are in grilling: is it fast cooking? Is it the flavor? How does your choice of barbeque cater to your preference?

Infrared and Convection Alfresoc gas grill is 42" long.  Infrared gas grill burners will go over 100 0degrees within a inute
Infrared and Convection Alfresoc gas grill is 42" long. Infrared gas grill burners will go over 100 0degrees within a inute

Grill Materials for Longevity and Performance.

Material or Construction: The next thing you should know when seeking a grill is manufacturing material. There are a whole host of materials that manufacturers use to construct grills which add benefit in both the cooking and aesthetics of your grilling experience. The most popular choices are: stainless steel, cast iron, sheet metal, and aluminum. Most people who have a preference buy stainless steel grills as it is very attractive, is helpful in insulating the grill’s heat for maximum grilling power and – depending on the type of stainless – can be very durable in the harshest weather. Cast iron is sought for its ability to transfer heat but iron will oxidize quickly in a humid environment. Cast aluminum is popular because aluminum will not rust or corrode outdoors but cast aluminum is not pretty while sitting in the grill store showroom.

How much food will barbeque depends on both the temperature and the size of the cooking surface of the grill.
How much food will barbeque depends on both the temperature and the size of the cooking surface of the grill.

Does BBQ Grill Size Matter?

Size: You also consider how large you want your grill to be. Grills come in a wide variety of sizes that range from something two feet wide to a full outdoor kitchen. You should have a good idea of how much cooking surface you want and why. Is the cooking surface for parties, because different foods need to be cooked simultaneously or to fit a space on the patio? How will you store your grill when/if you need to put it away. As technology makes gas grilling more efficient, size matters less for cooking space. An infrared grill that will be 1500 degrees at the cooking surface in three minutes is using the best performance-enhancing technology on the planet. A 27” infrared grill will be through cooking for six in the time a common barbeque needs to reach cooking temperature.

What About BTUs?

BTUS: When it comes to buying a gas or electric grill, you need to know what kind of btu range will suit your cooking needs: in short, how much power will you need for your grilling needs? If you have ever bought a large appliance, such as an air conditioner, you have heard the term before but perhaps you are unsure as to what it means and how this might affect your grill buying decisions. In general higher BTUs mean hotter grills; but it does not necessarily mean that they will offer more heat, as they could be larger in size. While the textbook definition of a British Thermal Unit refers to heat output most barbeque manufacturers measure BTU by the volume of gas burned. This is actually a measurement of caloric heat but calling it a BTU allows the assumption that the volume of gas burned has an effect on heat output. If a grill uses briquettes or some other conduction material to add to heat radiated at the cooking grid, more heat is available than indicated by the volume of gas burned. There are a lot of other examples of similar inconsistencies so be cautious of using British Thermal Units in your buying decision. The temperature and time are much more pragmatic. Make sure you review all possible grills in the types, sizes, and materials that you prefer to see how a range of BTU power can differ-and what this might mean according to your grilling use.

Custom outdoor kitchens can accommodate any type of barbeque grill and as many accessories as you need to create a perfect kitchen.
Custom outdoor kitchens can accommodate any type of barbeque grill and as many accessories as you need to create a perfect kitchen.

Remember: You Will Get What You Pay For.

For years when I needed a barbeque for my family I would go to the nearest gigantic retail “everything” store and get whatever fit my price and size.  Today after working with some of the best manufacturers of cooking and grilling appliances on the planet I have realized there are tremendous differences from one type of barbecue to the next.  If you are unsure of what to purchase, ask a professional.  Cheap barbecues will always be cheap but good quality does not have to be more expensive than it is worth.  Back when I bought whatever was available I could count on one hand how often we dined outside.  Today I can count how often we don’t cook and eat outdoors.  It sounds a little funny and dramatic but my choice of gas grill and my choice of charcoal grill has completely changed how our family experiences dinner, holidays and hosting guests.  I hope I can help you make a small change with big results in your own life.

What BBQ Do You Have? Why?

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    • grillrepair profile imageAUTHOR

      grillrepair 

      8 years ago from florida

      not-so-funny story: i built a Huge outdoor kitchen with a dcs 36" grill in it. Within a week of installation, they were cooking when it was very windy and the wind forced the heat to stay under the hood. No ventilation. The knobs, electrode wires, module, everything melted. Unfortunately, wind is not covered under the warranty of any grill; i got dcs to cover the parts but What A Mess!

    • sbyholm profile image

      sbyholm 

      8 years ago from Finland

      I have noticed when using a gas grill with little conductive material that the wind can have a large impact on the heat. There should be a wind resistance rating on gas grills.

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