Some Food for Thought When Deciding on a Barbecue
If your first experience of “barbecue” was cooking over an open campfire as a Girl or Boy Scout, then buckle up. Barbecue grills have grown up since then. If you’re in the market for a new grill, do your research. There is no one best grill for everyone.
It’s important to know how much room you have to dedicate to a safe and accessible cooking area. Don’t worry if you’ve only got a small balcony or even if you have to rely on traveling with your grill. Portable tabletop grills and small kettles can fit any small space. If you have a large patio area, consider a built-in grill or even a full outdoor kitchen.
What kind of food do you like to cook, and do you like it seared, smoked, baked or nearly burnt? Charcoal and pellet cooking give you more options for searing than gas grills.
Understanding the Features
You will also want to consider available features such as side burners, which are convenient for heating gravies and side dishes. Look at the size of the heating surface and the number of burners, too. Will this accommodate the average amount of food you prepare? Of course, the price needs to be in your budget.
Cook Your Way
With a charcoal grill, you build the fire with briquettes or lump wood charcoal. You need lighter fluid or another substitute to ignite the fire. Then, you wait until all the fuel is burning evenly and without a visible flame Lump wood charcoal is purer than briquettes, which have added binders. Wood chips can be added for smoky flavor.
Gas grills are fueled by a permanent natural gas line or portable propane tank. Many gas grills have convenient igniter buttons to light the burners when you turn the knobs on. The grill tends to heat up quickly and evenly for easy cooking.
Electric griddles cook with heat but no flame and have the advantage of being able to be used both indoors and out. The biggest disadvantage is that you need a nearby electrical outlet. While pellet stoves also require electricity, back-up systems can keep it running in a power failure. Pellet stoves use compressed wood pellets (food grade pellets), flavors are optional, and can be set to automatically maintain cooking temperature without the chef needing to stand over the grill.
Barbecue smokers, like kettles and kamado grills, cook food at low temperatures so that they are imbued with the smoky flavor. Kettles often have a small cook surface; their tripod design and small footprint make them ideal for small patios. Smokers have a large variety of shapes and sizes. All use covers to keep the heat in while the food cooks to a tender and juicy state.
Different sources quote slightly different lists as “Best Grills for 2021” so take the time to discover what you want out of your grill.