How to Buy a GrillBy J. Wallace
Spring brings with it the urge to throw raw meat on red-hot outdoor cooking surfaces, filling the air with that distinctive aroma that proclaims “I am a carnivore. I am at the top of the food chain.” If you’re taking a look at your good-weather plans and realizing the one component missing is a quality grill, we have quite a treat for you. After the jump, you’ll get the GearCrave lowdown on buying a grill. Dump that battered old thing you don’t want to clean anyway, and set yourself up with some serious cooking power.
There are many ways to grill, your choice of fuel is the first hurdle:
- Natural gas
Charcoal grills come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but for most purposes try an egg-shaped or ball-shaped grill. This configuration focuses the heat and keeps you from losing heat to the outside. If you need to cook indirectly with one of these, build your fire on only one side of the grill and try placing the meat on the non-fire side.
Propane and natural gas grills can be as simple as a charcoal model, or you can go much more sophisticated, with multipe cooking zones, warmers, and other perks. Most people choose propane for its portability, but if you want a grill that’s a permanent fixture on your deck or porch, a natural gas grill is an excellent choice. You may need to connect a natural gas grill to your house’s existing natural gas system, so if you don’t have an existing line in, pay a pro to come out and install one. (One of the reasons some people just go with propane instead.)
Remember, if you buy a natural gas grill but change your mind, DO NOT just hook up a propane bottle to that natural gas unit. It will end in tears–and flames. Only use the approved fuel with your grill. When you go to buy a propane or natural gas model, check the following:
- Construction–stainless steel is an excellent choice.
- Multi-level cooking surfaces if you plan on cooking in volume.
- Side burner option–excellent for beans,veggies, and warming sauces.
- BTUs–more doesn’t mean better. How much cooking power in how large a space?
Small grills can get higher cooking temperatures with lower BTUs. A larger cooking area may require additional BTUs to heat and distribute cooking temperatures, but the same BTUs in a small grill could turn your food to nice, crunchy cinders if you don’t use the equipment properly.
When you compare models at the store take careful note:
- Is the support structure as sturdy as the grill itself?
- Does the showroom model have a wobbly feel to it? It won’t get any better at home.
- Is the entire structure stainless steel? Or is the grill stainless steel on top of less durable painted steel?
- Does the unit feel solid? Or is there a weak link somewhere that will get worse with age?
Finally, how much food do you want to cook at one time? A smaller grill may be perfect for three or four people, but if you like to have your co-workers over in large groups for beer, brats, and burgers you will want a large unit. A few steaks on the weekends won’t require massive cooking space. But a turkey? Size up your cooking needs ahead of time.
A grill is one of those purchases you really should see in person before buying-even if you plan to buy it online anyway, get down to your favorite Man Store and give a few models a good once-over. Then you can retreat back to the safety of the computer and buy with confidence. You’ll probably save a few bucks in the bargain, but don’t order one blindly if you can help it.
After you’ve purchased your new grill, be sure to drop us a line in the comments section about your new purchase, how you like it, how you singed your eyebrows off, or other backyard barbecue stories.