Shopping for a new outdoor grill can be a daunting task, there are hundreds if not thousands of choices and even some recent advancements that are worth consideration. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves I want to set the record straight, there is a HUGE difference between grilling and BBQ’ing and I see the two terms interchanged far too often, almost to the point that it irritates me. BBQ’ing is done over a long period of time over a low heat, aka low and slow, grilling on the other hand is done with extremely high heat and very quickly. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages but most people use a gas grill for grilling and NOT BBQ’ing though they often say they are BBQ’ing when in fact they are grilling. Now that we have cleared that from the air let us proceed.
The idea for this post came about because Tiffany and I are shopping for a new Gas Grill, we both love the flavor and process that goes along with a traditional charcoal grill, such as the infamous weber charcoal grill, however it is often handy to have a grill that you can control easier and quicker. If we’re grilling a few hot dogs or hamburgers for us on a weeknight going through the ritualistic process of using a charcoal grill just isn’t in the cards, a minus to both of us having professional careers – bummer but all hope is not lost. You can grill extremely flavorful food on a gas grill, just don’t expect it to be something it is not.
Onto our quest, searching for the ideal gas grill for our lives. I think the most obvious first thing to consider is size, both physical size and number of burners, some really small gas grills only have one burner and enough cooking area for a large steak, this isn’t a problem if you are patient or single, but if there is more than one of you or if you ever entertain try to get a slightly larger grill so you have enough space to grill at least two large steaks at once. I think at least two burners is another good rule to follow, it will allow greater temp control, the ability to create hot or cool spots and in general be more consistent with your grilling than a single burner grill. Above I mentioned that you shouldn’t go too small, but also don’t go too large, do you really need a 10 burner gas grill that can fit a whole side of beef on it with room for baked potatoes? Sadly, no, though it would be really cool! The problem with the enormous “grillzilla’s” out there is often you’re cooking for 2-4 people and you have this behemoth to heat up, it will take up more space, burn through a lot more gas, be harder to master the way you can a grill that suits your needs better. So be realistic when purchasing, get a grill that is big enough for your needs, but not the grill that makes you the talk of the neighborhood, you want the grill that is just right.
The finish is totally up to you, some people like stainless steel, others prefer painted finishes, I think both can look stunning and it’s 100% up to you which you prefer. Often Stainless cost a little bit more, and look very pretty when new, but it’s a grill, most live outside and see all of the elements, experience enormous temperature fluctuations and get discolored within a few months of purchase so don’t base your purchase solely on the finish.
Another simple item that drives me crazy on grills is the direction the grill itself is situated, I greatly prefer a grill thats cooking surface goes away from me rather than perpendicularly to me. This I learned the hard way, modern grills typically have little nooks near where they hinge and it can be very tricky to flip items that get situated there, it’s a very awkward action to try to flip that way. So be cautious when purchasing, imagine flipping something on the grill, how natural does it feel?
Here’s where you have to start making some decisions, there’s been a development in recent years in the type of burners some grills have, you’ll notice a lot of infrared grills on the market and they are very interesting. It is still a gas grill, it still uses burners, but the burner is different, they are designed to have even grill temperature across the entire cooking surface of the grill, from corner to corner. That sounds really great, then I used one and while an interesting theory it did not seem to hold true. Below is an image of the infrared grill I used, it’s difficult to notice, but i you look closely, directly below the cooking surface you’ll see a perforated panel, that is what evens the temps across the grill – click the image to see in it’s original size.
I made wings, I happen to LOVE grilled chicken wings, beautiful crispy skin on the outside, juicy, tender white meat chicken on the inside and coated with whatever sauce happens to excite you on that particular day. On this day I made a classic Tim concoction, it was a sweet, hot and tangy sauce, made from raspberry jam, Sriracha sauce and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce mixed until I was happy with the sauces balance. I am notorious for not measuring I just keep adding until I get what I’m looking for by continually tasting. The wings were marinated in a little apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper and ground thyme. In any case the wings did come out beautifully as you can see below.
The problem was the grill didn’t cook them that evenly, there were hot spots, which I actually like on a grill but not when it’s supposed to have an even cooking surface. The real gripe I had was I grilled them most of the way and then sauced them in the last 5 minutes flipping continually to carmelize the sauce. What happened was between the chicken fat/juices that cooked out and the sauce it totally crusted up the perforated portion of the grill leading to very uneven cooking temps across the grill, flame ups and in general an unpleasant cooking surface for others to cook on – this was a party and there were at least two other batches of food cooked after the wings. To add insult to injury, the grill surface had to be disassembled and thoroughly wire brushed once it cooled. Apparently you are supposed to do this before you use the grill every time, and it just seems enormously time consuming for the limited benefits.
So with that digression out of the way, it may come as no surprise that we are leaning towards a more conventional gas grill. One trick you can use to extract more flavor from your gas grill is to soak wood chips in water, drain them and wrap them in aluminum foil, place them on the grill surface, under the cooking area of the grill or any place you are comfortable with them not catching fire and still adding the smokey wood flavor of a charcoal/wood grill. We are still shopping, but I think something in the 3-5 burner range will be on our patio in no time. I’ll be sure to follow up when we’ve finally made up our mind.