‘Tis the season for grilling! The sun is out, the grass is green, and the smell of freshly barbequed food is wafting through the neighbourhood. With that said, it is high time you get yourself a new grill. Whether replacing your old one or simply buying your first official barbeque, there are a few things you need to consider. In fact, the grill landscape has been under such a state of change that the classic debate over ‘which type of grill is better’ has only grown more complex. Here is your guide to grills and more for outdoor cooking.
Charcoal is a classic and favourite option among grilling purists who feel it is the more authentic way to grill food. Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, they use charcoal briquettes (sometimes mixed with wood chips) or lump charcoal as a fuel source.This produces a distinct, strong and smoky flavour when cooking with these setups. Cooking over charcoal does become somewhat of an art and requires practice to learn though. It is inherently slower and controlling the internal temperature of the grill is more difficult and less precise than other forms.
Despite the slow cooking speed, the time it takes to get the grill up to cooking temperatures, and the tedious cleanup they require, people say the flavour makes all the extra effort worth it. It is also worth noting that charcoal grills are usually pretty affordable, starting as low as $30. They come in a wide range of different styles as well like Brazier, Kettle, Barrel, Kamado, and Portable!
Gas grills used to be the other side of the classic grilling debate. However, now there’s a new debate between natural gas or liquid propane. Natural gas burns cleaner, is much cheaper to use, and you don’t have to swap tanks halfway through cooking. However, if you do choose to go with natural gas, your grill becomes a permanent installation. Liquid propane, on the other hand, has the convenience of portability; which may be why it is still the most commonly used. As a tip, if you have a gas link hook-up at your house, you may be able to purchase a conversion kit for a propane grill so you can enjoy both types of fuel.
The benefit to gas grills is ease of use and precision. It doesn’t take 20 minutes to fire up a gas grill; just turn on the gas, press the igniter and wait for it to reach your desired internal temperature! Cleanup and upkeep are much easier on gas grills too, with no ashes to dump. The main decision you’ll have to make when buying a gas grill is how many burners you’ll need or want. They generally start at around $90 for two burners, but can go well beyond for four- to six-burner grills.
Electric grills are generally much more compact and can sometimes be used both indoors and outdoors (be sure to check the instructions beforehand). Think George Foreman grills. However, there are dozens of different styles to choose from – countertop, pedestal, kettle, open face, cart, etc.
These grills are the easiest to start by far; just plug it into a nearby outlet and turn the control knob. Of course, as you would expect, this limits where they can be used as well as their portability because they can only move as far as their power cord will let them go. These are often a great alternative for apartment dwellers who aren’t allowed to cook with a gas or charcoal grill on their balcony. Like gas grills, electric grills lack the smoked flavour of cooking with charcoal but are an affordable and convenient way to cook; and they’re seeing a lot of improvements with time!
Pellet grills have actually been around for over 30 years but have seen a resurgence recently. One of the biggest selling features with these grills is that they can operate as a grill or smoker depending on your preference! With a pellet grill, there is a hopper feeder on the side of the grill that you fill with food-grade wood pellets for the fuel. An auger connects the hopper to a burn pot under the cooking grate and, as it rotates, it moves the pellets into the burn pot. Pellet grills also have a “hot rod” inside that ignites the pellets as they fall into the burn pot. This causes the wood pellets to burn and smoke, giving you that hardwood smoked flavour.
These grills are usually computer controlled to ensure the fire stays stoked and the rate of wood pellets remains perfect. This means you’ll have to be near a power source to use a pellet grill, but it also means this can be a “set and forget” option! This also allows for precision cooking as you simply flip the power switch to ignite and set a temperature. The negatives here being that, like the charcoal grill, you’ll have ashes to clean up after each use, and the pricing can get a little expensive for the bigger models.
Infrared grills look like any other cart-style gas grill. In fact, they’re usually powered by natural gas or liquid propane, but have the option to also be electric. The big difference for these grills is in how they cook. Rather than using radiant heat (warming the air inside the grill), they use an electric or gas element to heat a solid surface. This surface then emits infrared waves that heat the food. This means you get a grill that heats up in just a few minutes, cooks evenly, and has no flare-ups.
It’s also worth mentioning that infrared grilling is fast; often reaching temperatures of 370˚C! However, the true downside to infrared is the price. While entry-level grills have come down to roughly $800, the vast majority will set you back much more.
Smokers/ Pizza Ovens
If you have big fans of slow cooked brisket or ribs in the family, a dedicated smoker may be exactly what you’re looking for. These appliances are definitely worth the investment because they are excellent at maintaining the steady, low heat needed for true melt-off-the-bone barbeque. Or, if you’re on a quest to make the best possible homemade pizza, a dedicated backyard pizza oven should be on your wishlist. They can be expensive because they have to be made properly (these ovens are meant to get hot – really hot), but nothing beats being able to serve that expertly crisp yet chewy crust that everyone goes crazy for.
Ultimately, with so many options on the market, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Choosing the right grill for your needs depend on what you’re cooking, the convenience you’re after, your budget, and where you live. That being said, no matter what you choose it’s always a great excuse to grab some drinks, some food, and a bunch of friends to “test things out”. Be sure to check out SkyHomes for more information and tips!