Must-Have Barbeques: How to Choose a Grill
How Big to Go When Choosing a Grill
The barbeque – a term derived from the languages of the indigenous Bahamian people and the Timucua Indians of northern Florida, from who we received el barbacoa, “the sacred fire pit.” The word barbecue has many origins and stories. As James Boo, a freelance journalist says, “the geographic variations remains in the eyes of the engorger.”
Many people elevate barbequing to a near dogma, with loyal devotees pursuing their own meticulous flavors and practices: Texas style, Memphis smoked, Louisiana blackened and Carolina sweet. While the traditional barbeque season fires up around Memorial Day, true diehards are at it all year. The act of barbequing can range from a basic survival necessity to a passion so deep that it has inspired the likes of BBQ ice cream, que cologne, and the BBQ scented man candle.
Choosing a Grill
One of the most important aspects of barbequing is the grill. But with so many choices on the market, what do you need? These six steps for choosing a grill can help you pick the right one. Grills can range from a $10 self-contained disposable grill to gold plated ranges (you know, for when you have an extra $50K lying around not doing much).
Below are a few simple questions to ask in determining the right grill for you and your budget.
How Much Will I Use This Grill?
How much grilling do you do now or are you going to do in the future? The answer to this question is controlled, in part, by your demographics. Do you live in a condo where the fine wisps of your roast suckling pig on Sunday night will go unappreciated by the four floors of vegetarian neighbors who live above you? Or do you have your own backyard refuge to host your Saturday BBQ banquet and safari? Maybe you only have a small lanai or back porch. Don’t fret: as far as actual cooking goes, size does not matter. A small grill can cook a small amount of food well. A big grill can cook a large amount of food well, but it will need more heat capability.
Condo hibachis can produce the same quality steaks as a high-end 55,000 BTU (british thermal units) gas grill. But, if you are looking to get everything cooked in one strafing run, start with the industry standard of about 72 square inches (half a square foot per person) of cooking area, per person.
When you’re comparing gas grills, the three magic letters are “B-T-U.” BTUs, or British thermal units, are a measure of energy. One BTU is the amount of energy required to cool or heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The bigger the grill, the more BTU capability you will need to get it hot enough to cook properly. A good rule of thumb for a standard size grill is about 50,000 BTUs.
Gas vs. Charcoal
Gas vs. charcoal is as hotly disputed as Tabasco vs. Frank’s Red Hot or Ford vs. Chevy. And throw in a couple more choices, because you can add pellet, electric, smoker and even infrared, for those taking their ribs to the final frontier.
We’re essentially talking taste here. With most meats, the average person probably won’t notice much of a difference between charcoal and gas. It is only when you get into serious smoking or gourmet steaks and flavoring does it become a factor. On the practical side, novices tend to throw lots of lighter fluid on briquettes, which imparts an oh-so-delicious-petrochemical-waste-spill-in-my-mouth taste.
The use of lava rock, ceramic tiles or metal plates in a gas grill often catch drippings as much as charcoal can, and create a comparable smoke and moisture condition inside the grill during the cooking process. Therefore, you may want to err on the side of gas.
BBQ Grill Prices
Cost is another important factor in choosing a grill. Gas grills generally cost more than charcoal ones do initially, but factor in the operating costs and moderately frequent usage and they tend to equal out.
Charcoal costs, on average, a dollar a pound. A good rule of thumb is about five pounds for an average picnic meal with one grill. Gas, on the other hand, uses only about 20-30 cents for the same use. Gas can quickly start saving you big bucks the more frequently you use it.
From a practical perspective, you will also be carrying a lot more charcoal for the same amount of cooking you’ll receive with a gas grill. Gas offers a “light up and go” convenience, which makes using a gas grill every day to cook dinner quick and easy. Charcoal needs time to get going and produces that nice, even heat required for cooking. Charcoal also doesn’t shut off right away, something to consider if you are not planning to share your four-alarm chili in the company of firemen.
Hopefully these tips point you in the right direction to purchasing the right grill for you. Enjoy your search.
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