Different Types of Outdoor Grills
Outdoor cooking has been popular since prehistoric man discovered fire. Luckily for us, grilling food has evolved far beyond crouching over an open fire. In fact, there are so many styles of outdoor grills available, you might have trouble choosing the right one. However, breaking them down into the four main types, will make the selection process a much easier.
1. Charcoal Grill
Grilling purists will tell you this is the only way to go. This type of grill depends on charcoal to fuel the fire. If you choose a charcoal grill, you had better be ready to invest some time preparing the meal. But, for honest-to-goodness cooked outside flavor, nothing beats the low-tech simplicity of a charcoal grill.
When shopping for a charcoal grill look for hinged, plated steel or ceramic grates for easy charcoal access and quick clean up. You can choose from the popular kettle design, ceramic eggs and horizontal barrels, plus a variety of styles in between. Kettle grills are great for short grilling times. Egg-shape and barrel grills are often advertised as smokers designed for low heat, long cooking time.
Pros: For those of us who love the ritual of cooking over briquettes, nothing beats a charcoal grill. Charcoal heats to a higher temperature than gas. Those skilled at the art of grilling know the quickly searing meat over hot coals allows for a perfectly caramelized crust, which results in flavorful, tender meat.
Cons: Using a charcoal grill requires some advance planning. First, you need to make sure you have charcoal and a starter on hand. Next, you need to set aside 45 minutes to get the coals glowing. When the grilling is done, you’ll need to spend time cleaning up and disposing of the ashes so you’re ready for the next cook out.
Price: Quality charcoal grills can be had for as little as $100. However, most are priced in the $150 to $300 range. If you are so inclined, you can also find top-of-the-line models that are upwards of $1,000. The most expensive one I spotted online costs a mere $2,500!
A Unique Grilling Experience
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In Chicago, let Weber Grill Restaurants do the grilling for you!
2. Gas Grill
Of the 15 million grills/smokers shipped in North America during 2010, 57% were of the gas variety. Gas grill are either fueled by bottled propane or a natural gas line. If your home has a exterior natural gas spigot, most bottle grills include instructions to easily connect them to your gas line. This will eliminate the need to run out to get a replacement propane tank at the last minute.
Less expensive gas grills typically have black aluminum cases and are equipped with single or dual burners. For most weekend chefs, these models are more than sufficient. If maintained properly, these basic grills will easily serve you for 5 to 7 years.
Higher-end grills have gleaming stainless steel cases and feature 3 to 5 burners, plus exterior burners for heating side dishes. Grilling grates are made from easy-clean stainless steel or porcelain. You can also find models with warming shelves, rotisserie attachments, digital thermometers, heat zone separators and wood chip smoker drawers.
Pros: Gas grills can be fired up in minutes and are a great option for quick, delicious meals. No messy cleanup—all that’s involved is a scrub down of the cooking grates and emptying of the grease trap.
Cons: In lower-end models, smoke flavor is less intense when compared to charcoal grills. The price of propane and natural gas make gas grilling more expensive than charcoal grilling, so slow smoking isn’t really a viable option.
Price: You can find models that start at around $150 and go up to $10,000, maybe more.
What Type of Grill Do You Own?
While electric grills may not be huge sellers, they do provide a grilling alternative for apartment and city dwellers who live in areas where gas and charcoal grills are prohibited.
Electric grills are compact and work with heating elements that produce heat rather than flame. Food rests on a flat surface or actual grates while cooking. Electric infared grills are gaining in popularity. Infared technology is used to heat food evenly and prevent flare ups.
Pros: Ease of use. Don't take up as much room as conventional grills. Can be a space saver for apartment and condo dwellers. Safe operation with regard to electricity versus open flames.
Cons: Do not impart a smoky flavor to foods. May be costly to operate, depending on your local electricity rates.
Price: Electric grills range in price from $90 to $600. I also found a stainless built-in model for $6,000!
How to Clean Your Outdoor Grill
4. Portable Grills
Portable grills can create heat via propane, charcoal or electricity. The common factor is their small size, making them easily transportable. Look for grills that are sturdy and made from durable weather and heat resistant materials.
Pros: Great for camping, picnics and tailgating. Portable grills are reasonably priced. Better models are miniature versions of the big guys and do a decent job.
Cons: The obvious con is the size. You can only cook so many dogs and burgers at one time.
Price: These little grills will set you back anywhere between $50 and $300.
Grilling Books and Tools
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