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Buying a Grill

There are so many types of grills: small portables ones for traveling or picnics, electric grills, charcoal grills, and gas grills. Then there is a multitude of features from making pizza to an attached sink. How do you decide what is the best option is for you?

A portable grill allows you to travel or picnic and bring along the taste of BBQ, so your homemade food tastes great even away from home. A portable grill is the same as a regular grill, only smaller. It works the same way. They are simple appliances, with only 4 basic parts; a body, a grill or grate, a lid, and air vents. If you close the lid, you can control the temperature somewhat by adjusting the vents.

You have a choice of two styles, a barrel type - rectangular with 4 legs - or a pot-type – shaped like a large pot with 3 legs).

A portable grill can cook for about 4 people at one time and can weigh up to 40 pounds. Some come with a cover. The most common portable grills are charcoal but propane gas models are also available. Purists like the charcoal version because of the smell of the wood chips that infuses the food and because it sears the food hotter. But, on the other hand, gas is easier to use and requires very little preparation because unlike charcoal there is no waiting for the coals to heat up. And, when you are done, there is no charcoal to dispose of.

Electric grills do not infuse the food with the same flavor as charcoal or gas. Also, they don’t get hot enough to get red meats to a dark brown surface without overcooking the interior. Electric grills are basically for use in buildings where gas and charcoal are not allowed.

Charcoal Grills come in a wide variety of sizes, from small tabletops to large drum grills with 1400 square inch cooking surface. So, choosing the size depends on what you plan to grill. Do you plan to grill burgers and steak or will you also indirectly grill whole chickens and roasts? For indirect grilling, you need plenty of space to build a fire on one side and still have room for the food on the other.

Another important factor that is often overlooked is airflow control. To be able to hold a set temperature the grill needs to be able to be closed up tight so that the vents are the only way for air to get in and out of the grill. A good charcoal grill can be shut down when you are finished cooking to put out the fire and save the remaining charcoal for the next cookout. Charcoal grills last longer than gas grills and give you that unique barbecue flavor. But they do take longer to start up and lack the convenience of a gas grill. As for cost, charcoal grills usually cost less than gas grills but the cost of the charcoal is higher, so the cost of both types usually balances out in the long run.

Gas Grills have the major benefits of easy setup, easy cleanup, faster to heat, and the temperature is controlled by the turn of a knob. So, having said that, here are the factors that will influence your decision of what to buy:
Multiple burners:
A basic grill comes with at least 2 burners. This allows for basic grilling and also indirect cooking. You can turn one burner on and one burner off and slow roast the meat on the Offside, then move it to the ON zone to crisp it. The bigger the cooking surface, the more flexibility.

Look for stainless steel, brass, or cast aluminum burners. They are more durable and have a longer life expectancy.

To properly sear a steak on a gas grill, you will need a Sear Burner. Some grills come with infrared burners. They deliver evenly distributed heat, but if you want indirect cooking that is almost impossible to do because there is no hot and cool zone. You can choose between liquid propane and natural gas when purchasing your gas grill. A propane tank can weigh up to 40 pounds when full. It’s a good idea to have a full backup tank handy so you don’t run out of gas while preparing your food. A natural gas burning grill must be attached to a gas line and that means that your grill has little room to be moved because the line is a finite length. In cold weather, the natural gas grills are more efficient because the gas is delivered to the grill in the correct state whereas the propane tank gets cold and the gas inside turns to liquid. The grill is working hard just trying to turn the liquid to gas so it can create the heat needed to cook. Some grills can be adapted to switch from one type of gas to the other, via a special kit that must be installed.

Every grill advertises the total BTU (British Thermal Units per hour) that its burners can produce. But, that just indicates how much fuel it burns, not how much heat is generated. A grill with higher BTUs doesn't necessarily produce more heat. It is a factor of the heat created, the size of the grill, and how well it holds and distributes that heat. Don't buy a grill just because it has a high BTU number. Compare that number with the size and the shape of the grill. Another thing to consider is the material the grill is made out of. Stainless steel is the preferred material but the most expensive. It should be noted that not all stainless steel is the same. So, look over the whole grill to see how it's put together – the frame and the body. Cast aluminum will usually last longer than almost any stainless steel. And, don’t be afraid to shake the grill to see if it appears to study.

How Big should the Surface Be? Calculate about ½ inch between items and think about what you plan on grilling to see if you have enough room. Some manufacturers add the upper “warming grate” when calculating square inches of cooking surface. Note that the “warming grate” is only about 50 degrees lower than the lower grate, so your food will cook almost the same. The only difference would be that it wouldn’t brown as easily. When igniting the grill, it must be with the lid opened. If there is no flame, the gas will collect inside the grill, and hitting the igniter can cause an explosion.


Sear Burner
Infrared Burner
Warming Rack
Stainless Steel Body
Stainless Steel or Ceramic Burners
Electronic Igniter
Storage Area
Side Burners