Whether you're planning a picnic for a special occasion or simply celebrating the summer, it's time to get fired up about outdoor grilling. What you grill is just as important as what you grill on. But the grill you buy can be the key to a sure-fire success at the table.
Which grill should you buy? It depends on what you're doing. Are you going to be using your grill every weekend? If so, you want to get something that is sturdy, something that is going to last you a long time. But if you barely use the grill, you don't have to get one that is as expensive.
In general, what are the advantages of gas vs. charcoal? People like the taste of charcoal-grilled food, and charcoal grills are very flexible. They're easier to move around; you can take a charcoal grill anywhere. They are also a lot cheaper ($40 to $60). On the other hand, gas grills are easier to clean and have more cooking power.
You have to do your homework before buying a grill. You can't jump at the first one you see.
Talk to your neighbors and co-workers who have grills. Ask around and see what would work best for you. Go on the Internet. Look at the grill's manual before you buy it. If you're an avid griller, you want to make sure you get as many functions as possible. If you're just going to the park and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs for an hour or so, get the small one. If you spend the entire weekend as an outdoor chef, get a bigger grill.
Make sure the grill has a rubber handle instead of metal, and that it has side supports to put plates down. The propane tank should not be wobbly.
Some grills come unassembled; you may have to put it together yourself. Stores will do it for you, but at an extra charge.
Certain grills that are pricier feature different levels, so you can cook different things at different times. Be aware that different foods are cooked at different degrees.
Cooking surface: Porcelain is the most common and least expensive. Cast iron provides better heat distribution and temperature control.
Heating: Ceramic briquettes are excellent and can be turned over and used twice. A steel flavorizer bar provides slightly more consistent temperature.
Burner type: A gas grill with more burners allows you to vary temperatures in different areas of the grill when simultaneously cooking more than one type of meat.
Side burner: Handy for corn, beans or clams; this can be done on the grill.
Rotisserie/back burner: Great for slow-cooking meats with indirect heat.
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