When the weather starts to get nice outside and the birds start tweeting, you’ll start craving some grilled food. During the spring/summer months, one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors is by gathering up friends and family. Cooking some amazing food over a nice grill. Just as technology continues to evolve, so do barbecue grills, making it even more challenging when it comes to finding the one that is right for you. There are a wide array of outdoor cooking units, like smokers, grills, pizza ovens and so on. If you are looking to buy your grill, this buying guide should help make the process easier on you.
A Buyers Guide to Outdoor Cooking
In this section of the guide, we’re going to introduce you to the different types of grills that can be used for outdoor cooking …
Types of Grills for Outdoor Cooking
These type of grills are at the top of many people’s lists, because they are easy to use and the charcoal adds that nice barbeque flavor to the food. Basically, they consist of big steel bowls that are capable of holding hot charcoal that is used to cook your food. Also they are affordable and extremely dependable.
Charcoal grills are capable of producing a large amount of heat. Great for searing steak and other types of meat. However, the downfall here would be the amount of time it takes to reach those temperatures. It can take around 20 minutes for a charcoal grill to fully heat up. Even then, the heat may not be evenly distributed throughout the cooking area. While charcoal is easy to get as you can find it at almost any store. These type of grills have a tendency to have a higher long term fuel cost.
Who are charcoal grills best for?
We recommend charcoal grills for backyard cookouts and for those individuals that want that smoky, authentic flavor. When compared to gas grills, the temperature offered is higher, making it easier to sear meat.
There are various disadvantages that you should know about. When it comes to charcoal grill, the setup process is more involves than with a gas grill. It can take up to 45 minutes, depending on the type of grill you have, before you can start with your outdoor cooking. Also, due to the ash that is created from burning charcoal, these grills will involve the most clean-up than any of the other grills on this list. Many apartments and condominium balconies do not allow charcoal grills because of the risk of fire from stray hot embers.
If you want to grill food on your terrace, you can do so through an electric grill. You will need to have a standard wall outlet available – it uses the traditional electric heating element in order to cook food. Like gas grills, they don’t really alter the flavor of the food that is being cooked. We like how the heat is evenly distributed and it is easy to control. However, electric grills usually aren’t able to reach the high temperature levels that gas and charcoal grills are capable of reaching. A benefit to electric grills would be the fact that they are the only type of grill you could safely use in an enclosed patio.
Who are electric grills best for?
Electric grills are best for city dwellers that have an enclosed terrace – those that aren’t able to use gas or charcoal as a fuel source. There are various disadvantages with the electric grill as well. They do not put off that authentic BBQ flavor that many of us love and they do not get as hot as a flame-producing grill would, making it hard to sear meat.
Natural Gas Grills
Natural gas grills require a dedicated gas line to be installed – this is something you will need to get a professional to do. They are more expensive to install in all honesty, but natural gas grills have a tendency to have lower fuel costs in the long-term.
When it comes to outdoor cooking on a natural gas grill, there’s a two-step process that is involved. First, you need to burn the natural gas in order to heat the coal. From there, the heat is transferred to the cooking surface on the grill. As an additional bonus, this type of grill may even offer a feature that lets you fry, roast, braise or bake your food.
Who are natural gas grills best for?
These type of grills are best for chefs that are in a hurry. If you want something that is capable of quickly heat up, then this is the grill for you. It’s also good for those individuals that don’t want to have to worry about preparation of cleaning up after they cook.
As with every other type of grill currently on the market, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of. With this type of grill, you’re not going to get that authentic BBQ flavor that you would get from a charcoal grill. You also have to consider the fact that the price tags and installation costs for a natural gas grill are going to be higher.
Oh yes, the good old propane grills – these are very popular. They are easy to use and they don’t require as much clean up as a charcoal grill. When you’re ready for outdoor cooking, all you have to do is turn the knob, press a button and you will be ready to go – yes, it really is that easy.
With a propane grill, you will have numerous options that you wouldn’t have if you were to use a charcoal grill. You may have access to features like infrared burners and side burners.
Who are propane grills best for?
Propane grills are best for those looking for a grill that is easy to use. With a wide array of features, and without it costing too much. These grills are quick and easy to setup also the cleanup isn’t as bad as the charcoal grills. It’s also a good choice for those inpatient grillers that would like to have properly cooked food, but don’t care too much about authentic flavor.
There are disadvantages with this type of grill as well. First, you have to haul that propane tank around with you. When it runs out, you have to replace it, have it refilled. The real disadvantage would be running out of propane while you’re on the outside cooking. You can combat this by keeping a second propane tank with you.
If you enjoy slow cooked food that has a unique and rich flavor, then you would like a smoker. Smokers bathe the food in waves of smoke. That adds intense smoky flavor that many of us crave. This type of “grill” is designed for slow and long outdoor cooking at low temperatures. They take patience, but the authentic taste they put on the food is well worth the wait.
Who are smokers best for?
Smokers are best for those individuals that are looking for that natural, authentic, true, rich smoky flavor on their meats. It is good for those that do not involve waiting for the smoker to do the work.
There are disadvantages to using smokers. This design is focused towards certain foods and it may lose effectiveness on others. Taking time to smoke food can be a major time investment. You should also consider the fact that smoking is something that you could accomplish on a charcoal or gas grill.
Wood Pellet Grills
Wood pellet grills are fueled by hardwood pellets. This may be the first time you hear anyone talk about wood pellet grills. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Basically, this is a new type of grill that offers many benefits of both gas and charcoal grills.
Wood pellet grills use a digital control system. That will automatically dispense the amount of wood pellets needed based on the temperature. An induction fan pulls in and circulates air from outside, creating a convection oven type cooking process. This technique makes for an even cooking surface – one that you would find on a gas grill. Since the pellets create smoke as they’re burning, the food will have a smoky flavor. With this type of grill, you get the best of both worlds, really.
Who are wood pellet grills best for?
Wood pellet grills are best for those individuals that are looking to gain benefits you would find in charcoal and gas grills.
Of course, there are disadvantages to using wood pellet grills. These grills tend to have a higher price tag on them and they’re not portable because they are dependent on electricity.
As the name suggests, ceramic grills are made out of porcelain glazed ceramic, which is really neat. These grills are beneficial and good for retaining both heat and moisture. Because of the ceramic material, as well as the dome shaped lid.
What are dampers?
In addition to the more advanced material and shape of a ceramic grill, they have dampers. Added in order to make it easier to control the internal temperature and airflow. It’s important that you properly use the dampers. If you want a higher internal temperature, keep them open. Otherwise, you need to keep them closed. Take note that the dampers on this grill will be very hot. So if you plan on many any adjustments to them, make sure you wear grill gloves.
Ceramic grills use charcoal. They are capable of providing temperature that range anywhere from 150 degrees to 700 degrees. For this reason, they are great for 2-zone system grilling. This means the coals are only placed on one side of the grill. So that the griller will have different coking zones. There’s one that offers indirect heat and one that offers direct heat.
Who are ceramic grills best for?
Ceramic grills are best for chefs that enjoy cooking different types of grilled food. They are a perfect match if you’re looking for food that has that authentic bbq flavor.
There are disadvantages that you should know about with ceramic grills. They have a tendency to be a bit more expensive than other grills on the market and they are on the heavier side, which means the portability is limited.
The Size of the Grill
When you start you search for the perfect grill, you must consider the size. Think about the power and space you will need for the grill. Are you going to be grilling for a small family, or for a large family? Do you have a small backyard with enough space for the grill? If you live in a condo or apartment, then you should go for a smaller one. Like a portable backyard grill. Just remember to take those questions into account when you’re out there selecting a grill.
Cooking racks of rips?
Do you plan on cooking racks of ribs or do you plan on sticking to old fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs? A manufacturer lists the primary square inches of the grill, meaning the size of the main cooking great. Choose a cooking grate that has a higher number of primary square inches. Therefore you will be able to enjoy your outdoor cooking with more variety. You may see “secondary square inches”. A term that refers to the measurement of the warming rack. Some grills have a warming rack in order to keep the food warm. Also great for cooking foods such as root vegetables and potatoes.
If you’re looking to buy a gas grill, make sure the grill is about to produce enough heat in order to meet your needs. Compare the BTU with the shape and size of the grill. More compact grills offer higher cooking temperatures with less BTU’s and are capable of preparing food just as good.
Outdoor Cooking Grill Features
Each grill will have its very own selection of features that will improve your grilling experience. Take a look at the list below in order to determine the features you must have and which ones you could sacrifice …
Yes, there are grills that have burners on them. When you have a burner available, you will be able to have more control over the heat. They facilitate indirect and direct heat.
Have you ever heard of a flavorize bar? This is a term produced by Weber – it is used in order to convert the output of the flame to infrared energy in order to protect the burner from direct drippings. Take note that you will only find these bars on Weber grills.
Grates you find on a grill come in 2 different forms. You have enameled porcelain and stainless steel. Enameled porcelain grates are great because they protect the steel skeleton from heat and rust damage. Plus, porcelain makes a great insulator. So the grill is able to maintain a much higher temperature. As for the stainless steel greats, they are also good as they are able to resist rust and other types of hard-weather corrosion.
This is the type of technology you will find on the newer grills. They are able to perfectly sear food each tired. Heat is directed from the gas burner straight to a ceramic tile. From there, the heat will be converted into infrared energy. The heat is then radiated onto the food.
Think of an electronic igniter as a modern match. Simply by pushing the button, the grill will quickly ignite and you can start with your outdoor cooking shortly afterward.
Rotisseries are great for cooking whole chicken – they move the food around in order to heat it thoroughly. This makes for juicier meats as they are self-basted and slowly roasted. Rotisserie cooking doesn’t require as much heat as the traditional grilling techniques.
Side burners are used for cooking pots or other items but shouldn’t be placed on a grill. If you get a grill that has a side burner, you will be able to enjoy a full course meal on the grill, without having to visit your kitchen.
Outdoor cooking on a grill is something we personally love doing, especially during the spring and summer months. Regardless of who you’re cooking for, surely they will love food cooked on a grill. Personally, we like the charcoal grill because it allows us to cook food with that nice authentic BBQ choice. Of course, the type of grill you choose is fully up to you.