Top Grill – Grill Buying Guide in 2020
The barbecue has always been a favorite activity for American families everywhere. Who doesn’t love hanging out on the porch while enjoying good company, the lovely spring weather while some steaks and burgers slowly roast on the grill?
Having a barbecue can bring life, and a whole lot of flavor and aroma, into any occasion or celebration. Even an ordinary meal can be made more special with an impromptu barbecue.
Barbecue or barbeque (with variants BBQ, Bar-B-Q, and Bar-B-Que) is the method of cooking food, mostly meat, over an open fire, smoking wood or hot coals and may include the application of sauces such as a marinade, basting sauce or spice rub.
The process of slow-cooking meat over the fire, smoking wood or hot coals dates back thousands of years. Various cultures around the world have their own variation of this method of cooking but barbecue, as we know it, originated from the southern part of the United States.
Here, purists consider the term barbecue as referring only to the indirect method of cooking over smoking hardwood. The more direct method of cooking is called ‘grilling’.
The process of grilling involves cooking the food on a grate placed directly over a source of high heat such as hot charcoals. On the other hand, in barbecue, the coals are dispersed to the sides or placed at a significant distance from the grate.
The origin of the term ‘barbecue’ is obscure but many etymologists believe it is derived from the word ‘barbacoa’ from the Taino people of the Caribbean. The word means ‘sacred fire pit’ and describes a grill, which consists of a wooden platform resting on some sticks.
The All-American barbecue originated in the late 1800s during the great cattle drives to the west. Back then, the cattle barons didn’t want to feed the good meat to the cowboys.
So other cuts of beef were used, specifically, brisket, which is a tough and sinewy piece of meat. But the cowboys discovered that by leaving the brisket to slow cook overheat of approximately 200 degrees over a long period of time (five to seven hours), the process tenderized the meat and imbued it with flavor, making it easier to eat, and certainly more delicious too.
The Barbecue Grill
The term barbecue refers not only to the method of cooking but also to the social gathering, typically held outdoors in the early afternoon, where the food is served. Basing on Wikipedia about Barbecue Grill, the word barbecue also refers to the apparatus used, also commonly called the “barbecue grill” or simply “grill”. The first barbecue grills were probably some sticks fashioned into some form of platform on which the meat can be cooked over the heat.
Through the years, the barbecue grill has evolved from these simple tools. The modern grills were first developed by E.G. Kingsford while George Stephen created the hemispherical grill design with cover. In the 1960s, William Wepfer and Melton Lancaster invented the outdoor gas grill in Arkansas.
Today, barbecue grills come in a wide variety of designs, styles, and sizes. Before buying a barbecue grill, you need to consider a number of things: features, ease of use, cost, size, and flavor. This way you will be able to choose and buy a suitable grille that will not be a waste of your time, effort and money.
To help you pick the right barbecue grill to buy, here’s a comprehensive and helpful guide. Educating yourself on the different types of barbecue grills can help you choose what’s best for your needs and could save you hundreds of dollars as well as disappointment.
Types of Barbecue Grills
A quick trip to your local supplier of barbecue grills and related products will most likely show you the wide range of choices available when it comes to grills. Grills are often available with various sets of additional features, such as rotisseries, side burners, and storage areas that make barbecuing easier. You will also see a wide array of designs.
And lastly, barbecue grills can range in prices, from the very affordable to the very expensive. Barbecue grills are often categorized according to the fuel used with them.
Here are the different types of barbecue grills according to fuel used, as well as the pros and cons of each.
1. Gas Grill
The gas-fueled grill is probably the easiest to use. The heat can be adjusted quickly and you can cook on it instantly. Gas grills typically use either propane (liquefied petroleum) or natural gas as a fuel source, sometimes with the option to convert from one fuel source to another. In gas grills, a gas-flame is used either to cook the food directly or heat the grilling components that then radiate the heat needed to cook the food.
Gas grills are available in a range of sizes: from small grills that can cook only single steaks at a time to industrial-sized grills that can cook enough to feed hundreds, often used in restaurants.
a. Propane Gas Grill – This type of gas grill uses propane or liquefied petroleum. The grill is fueled by propane gas stored in tanks or bottles. Propane is relatively inexpensive, readily available, and also easily transportable.
This allows the gas grill to be portable as well, making it a good choice for outdoor barbecues and picnics. However, the downside of propane gas grills is the need to go out and buy bottles or tanks of propane when you run out of fuel.
b. Natural Gas Grill – This type of gas grill uses natural gas readily available from your home’s gas line. The advantage of a natural gas grill over a propane gas grill is that you will never run out of fuel. However, natural gas grills are not going to be transportable, for obvious reasons.
Gas barbecue grills are available in various designs and sizes. Before settling for one particular grill, it is best to consider what you need from your grill, to whom you will be cooking for, in what area do you plan to do your cooking, etc. Most gas grills come in a cart design.
In this setup, the grilling unit is attached to a wheeled frame and platform that holds the fuel tank. The wheel frame often supports other features such as side tables.
Recent trends in gas grills include the addition of an infrared radiant burner behind the grill enclosure. This radiant burner further radiates heat across the burner making it suitable for use with a horizontal rotisserie. Another type of gas grill that is gaining in popularity is the flattop grill, which cooks food on a griddle-like surface. The smoker box is an accessory used in gas grills. It is a small metal box containing wood chips for the purpose of imparting a smoky flavor to grilled foods.
- Pros – Convenient, easy to use, ready for cooking, adjusts temperature instantly
- Cons – Relatively more expensive than other options, food cooked on gas grills are sometimes criticized for lacking that authentic barbecue flavor.
2. Charcoal Grill
This type of barbecue grill is arguably the least expensive and most widely accessible. Charcoal grills use either all-natural lump charcoal or charcoal briquets as fuel sources. When ignited and burned, the charcoal becomes embers that radiate the heat needed to cook the food. Because of this, charcoal grills need some time to set up. You need to light up the charcoal and work up a flame to transform the lumps of coals to embers. This makes charcoal grills not a good option if you want to cook immediately.
Using charcoal also creates smoke and is prone to flare-ups. So, if you’re looking at buying a charcoal grill, you should first consider where you would be cooking. Unlike in gas grills, it is difficult to control the heat with charcoal grills. Cleaning up afterward can also be quite messy when using charcoal grills. But there are some innovative features in new charcoal grills that help solve this problem. There are many different styles and configurations of charcoal grills, here are some of them:
a. Brazier – This is the simplest and most affordable type of charcoal grill. It typically consists of a cooking grid placed over a charcoal pan. The grill is latched on to the charcoal pan through a set of support legs. Moving the cooking grid over the charcoal pan controls the heat. The brazier grill does not include a lid or a venting system.
b. Kettle Grill – This type of charcoal grill is considered the quintessential American grill design. Since it was first introduced back in 1952, the kettle grill remains as one of the most reliable grill designs. It consists of a charcoal chamber that is shaped like a kettle (hence the name), a lid, charcoal grid, cooking grid, and legs.
The kettle shape allows heat to be distributed more evenly. The lid prevents flare-ups due to dripping grease and allows the heat to circulate over and around the food. Using the lid also holds in the smoke, which further enhances the flavor. The kettle design can also be adjusted for indirect cooking.
c. Portable Charcoal Grill – This is basically a more compact brazier or kettle grill, typically rectangular in shape, with features that make it easier to transport. It usually comes with legs that fold up and lock into place, making the grill easy to load into a car trunk. Most portable charcoal grills come complete with venting system and lids.
- Pros: The most affordable type of barbecue grill, best for slow cooking, imparts a smoky flavor to the food.
- Cons: Takes some time to prepare and ignite the charcoal, produces smoke so it’s not suitable for indoor grilling, clean up can be messy, prone to flare-ups.
3. Pellet Grill
This type of barbecue grill uses pellets of compressed hardwood and vegetable oil. These pellets are fed into a firebox under the grill and lit by an electric igniter rod that burns the pellets and transforms them into hot members. One advantage of using pellet grills is that it can be set on smoke mode which allows the pellet to burn at 100 – 150 degrees for slow smoking, 180 – 300 degrees for slow cooking meats such as brisket or ribs, or heated up to 450-500 degrees for low-temperature grilling. Another advantage is the availability of pellets using a wide variety of woods such as hickory, maple, mesquite, oak, etc. which can be used individually or mixed up to create the desired smoke flavoring.
- Pros: Convenient, imparts the most authentic smoky flavor to the food, can use different types of woods to create the desired flavoring, usually ready for grilling within 15 minutes
- Cons: Pellet grills are the most expensive type of barbecue grills
4. Electric Grill
This is one of the most recent innovations in barbecue grills. It is possibly the simplest and easiest to use since all you need is to plug it in and you can cook immediately. The heat can be controlled accurately. An electric grill is a good option if you want to grill without spending too much time and effort. It also does not create smoke or flare-ups, making it the best option for indoor grilling.
Some electric grills also offer artificial briquettes that impart the desired authentic smoky flavor to the food. Electric grills come in a range of sizes, from large grills that can be used in the backyard (as long as there’s a grounded electrical outlet within reach) to small and handy tabletop models that you can take out when you need one and store in the kitchen cabinet afterward. However, the need for an electrical power source limits the use of electric grills away from home.
- Pros: Convenient, easy to use, imparts an authentic smoky flavor, no smoke, easy cleanup
- Cons: Requires an electrical power source, usually more expensive than charcoal grills but relatively cheaper than pellet grills.
5. Hybrid Grill
This new product claims to be a gas grill, charcoal grill and barbecue pit smoker all in one. It is a stainless steel grill made from 3/16” thick panels. Combining the functionalities of gas and charcoal grills as well as a barbecue pit smoker, the hybrid grill is versatile equipment. It is even configured to use either natural gas or LP. However, the hybrid grill is probably too expensive for most people. It is also quite heavy and bulky.
- Pros: Versatile, three in one function
- Cons: Expensive, heavy and bulky
6 Useful Tips When Buying Barbecue Grills
- Before you decide on what barbecue grill you would like to buy, evaluate your skill level in barbecue first. Gas grills are the easiest to use; charcoal grills require more skill, while the pit smoker is more challenging to use.
- You should also consider the kind of barbecue you and your family prefer. For instance, charcoal grills and pellet grills add flavor and texture to the food due to the smoke produced. Smokers allow you to control the flavor of the food by changing the wood or wood chip you use. Meanwhile, gas grills are easier to use and faster to start up, but may not give you as much flavor as in charcoal grills.
- You should also consider how often you would be cooking and for how many people. If you cook rarely, then it is better to pick a small portable model. Meanwhile, if you love entertaining a large group of family and friends, then it is wiser to invest in a larger grill that can handle more burgers or chicken wings at once.
- Size is a very important consideration when buying a barbecue grill. Consider the available space you have, as well as the storage space. Charcoal and propane grills are better suited for smaller spaces like apartments and townhouses. You can choose larger grills if you have a large amount of space available. Bigger grills will also require more time to clean. Choose a smaller grill if you want one that is easy to clean. There are also models with drip trays that make clean up easier.
- Choose a grill with the features you need. Grills can come with a wide range of extra features. The most useful features you should look for are work areas at the sides of the grill that can accommodate plates and condiments. Shelves beneath the cooking area might also come in handy. Check if you really need an extra warming area or a side burner for heating up sauces or vegetables.
- For many people, the cost is an important consideration when it comes to buying a barbecue grill. If you plan to use your grill only a few times within a year, then pick a less expensive grill that still satisfies your needs such as a portable charcoal grill. If you plan to use your grill to entertain lots of family and friends in several events throughout the year, then it may be wiser to invest in a larger barbecue grill that can cost from $500 to $1,000
Having a barbecue grill at home provides boundless opportunities for fun and great food. With the huge array of choices available, choosing the right barbecue grill can be difficult. By knowing what the choices are, their features, their advantages, and disadvantages, picking the right one that fits your needs and finances is hopefully made easier.
Barbecue grills are available in various types such as gas grills, charcoal grills, pellet grills, hybrid grills and all the different configurations under each type.
Choose the barbecue grill that matches your skills, budget, the space available in your home, how often you cook and to whom, and your preferred type of barbecue.