FIRE GOOD: Tips to Buy a Grill

I know I talk about the “stereotypical guy” a lot, but that is mostly because I fit most of those stereotypes and it is easier that way. I like cigars, bourbon, scantily clad women and of course, a chunk of dead animal of some kind over an open flame. This is why I want to do the much overdue post on barbecue grills.

I am going to make a confession. I am not much of a cook. I am not one of those people who could mess up ordering a pizza, but outside of some pretty simple things like grilled chicken, burgers and steaks I am pretty useless. My one specialty is mashed potatoes, but I make them with a power drill and a potato gun, just because when I want potatoes, I want them now. But I digress in the interests of awesomeness.

So, to return to the point I am eventually trying to make, buying a grill can be a little nerve racking. There is charcoal, natural gas, propane, natural gas infrared and propane infrared grills. Many of us are familiar with the majority of these, but infrared is a relatively new technology that has just become available at home in the early 2000’s.

Infrared works similarly to a George Foreman grill, but powered with propane or gas. The air is not heated the way it is with charcoal or traditional gas grills, but instead the metal grate is. This can be a great thing or a bad thing depending on how you like your food. Many people claim that the food is juicier when it is done this way the cooking is usually more uniform, seeing as there are not “hot spots” like there normally are with charcoal or gas grills. However, on a downside you don’t get the same charcoal taste and it is easier to burn your food. There is even a degree of saving that occur with infrared.

For purists, charcoal and wood chips are the only way to go. Propane and natural gas don’t give you the same flavor as charcoal. You don’t get to pick up a cylinder of blue rhino propane with a hickory flavor, so your choices are limited. The biggest drawback of charcoal grilling is the time. Even though charcoal gets just as hot, it takes a long time for the coals to warm up and you cannot reuse the coals after they turn to dust. This slow cooked method, in my opinion, yields the best results. The question is whether it is worth the effort when you just want a hot dog or two on a SSaturday afternoon

Propane/Natural Gas can either be a happy medium or a choice that makes no one happy. It has the same heat disbursement problems as charcoal but doesn’t give you the taste that charcoal does. On the other side of the coin, the grill itself is usually cheaper that infrared (For comparable size) and gives you the quick fire-up you want that afternoon hot dog.

The decision is ultimately up to you, but I would personally go with either the Propane/Natural Gas grills or the Infrared. The reason being that I am impatient and do not notice enough of a difference in taste (blasphemy, I know) to cause me to wait a half hour for a grill to warm up. Sure, I will probably rent a large charcoal grill for big get togethers, but for an everyday grill Propane is the best choice for me.

I cannot choose your grill for you, but my suggestion is to avoid putting too much faith in brand names, particularly if you are buying charcoal. All of them have similar designs and engineering, plus the parts such as the burners are similar enough that spending an extra $150 on a grill to get the right name won’t really matter. Check instead that it is well built and won’t become wobbly after a few years. Invest your money in a quality grill cover to make sure the rain and snow does not eat away at your investment prematurely.

I know I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but compare prices.


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