The chief disadvantages to charcoal are that they’re dirty to work with, you have to clean up ash, they’re slower getting up to the heat you want than a gas, and there’s no knob to turn to control the temperature.
Gas grills in the modern sense have what seems to be more marketed gadgetry than digital cams do.
Multiple burners? Yes, they’re a necessity
For a gas grill to be good and not just okay, it must feature two burners at the very least. If you’re cooking in 2 zones, this is mandatory. There’s no other technique to learn that’s more important if your outdoor cooking is going to be successful.
With burners, the more the merrier. While some burners are situated front to back, others are going to be side to side. If they’re side to side, you can have one side turned off, using the indirect zone for slow roasting over, and using the direct zone (also over) to crisp. The direct zone can also be utilized to put the meat in to be held. When the cooking surface is bigger, the flexibility you get will be more.
The burners are arranged the best when they’re lined up from side to side for the majority of grilling. Cooking rotisserie style is better when front to back. If the front holds the knobs, that’s one sign (a good one, usually) that the configuration of the burners is side to side. Now, if the sides feature the knobs, then there’s more a probability that the burners align front to back.
Keep your eye out, multiple burners may be featured on some of the infrared grills new on the market, but the heat they deliver is so even that getting a cool and hot zone is near impossible. These you’ll want to avoid.
Burners made of quality stainless steel, brass, or cast aluminum are going to be the best. They’ll go years and still last. Steel burners or stamped (thin) aluminum easily corrode and replacing them is often needed every several years up to five.
A Lid- Do You Really Need One?
Some grills, even ones that are expensive, don’t come with a lid. Not having a lid puts a big strain on the cooking types that are possible. Having a lid allows two zones to be set up. If one isn’t featured, two zones will be impractical, and you won’t have any other option than to grill from one side only with direct heat. This works fine for dogs and burgers and several thin meat cuts, but you won’t be able to get turkey, ribs, thick steaks, or even chicken to cook properly. The lid on some grills has two layers, which helps with retention of heat.
Infrared or Convection?
You can divide gas grills two ways, infrared and convection.
The system that’s standard of burners? Convection grills, tubes usually, but holes within them that are positioned with the grates below where the food resides. Between the grates and the burners are ceramic briquets, lava rocks, or drip deflectors (inverted V shaped). The transmission of the heat (generated by the burners) leads to drip protectors and then primarily to the food circa the flow of hot air (thanks to convection). The method most efficient for heating is conduction, and that’s the reason brown (dark) marks are made by the grates on your meat (the Maillard reaction causes this).
Infrared- What’s the fuss?
If you look back several years, a handful of gas grills have touted how better they are because of the “infrared” cooking they use. Well, if science was one of the classes you took in high school, you might not have forgotten that when you break down the wavelength continuum into sections (which goes around us), one of them is simply an infrared section, just north from visible light and south from the radio of the vehicle by you.
A special surface is used in infrared grills with the flame below it that allows the heat to be absorbed, which gets radiated to the meal. These infrared surfaces can be one of three types of plates: metal, ceramics, or special glass. When you hear a manufacturer say a “sear burner” is featured in one of its grills, they’re referring to the grate (a section of it) that has a radiant plate within a burner to amp up the heat.
Compared to infrared heat, the disadvantage of convection is that it is less efficient, it doesn’t get as hot (convection’s range is often within 500-700F), and there is more motion of dry air (which means more moisture in the food is evaporated). Those convection temps are steakhouse certified, kids. As well, the food is usually just near the radiant surface so incinerating marinades or juices dripping get taken by the meat back right up into. This adds flavor minus the flare ups.
Is infrared worth being featured?
Yessir. Particularly if you like your browning to be good (and not just okay). And you should, since flavor is created by browning. If your cooker lacks infrared, you can get GrillGrates added to it, a real good product that serves to replace the grates of the manufacturer or otherwise sits over them and wonderfully does what they’re designed for. One more option (if you want to do some searing) is to get a secondary grill that’s charcoal based. Or use a frying pan or griddle coated thinly with oil. Get it hot to the point it’s scorching, either on the grates or the side burner, or indoors. Coat it lightly with oil, and get the meat seared in the pan or griddle. Somebody might think it’s cheating, but it’s actually a technique that’s real useful.
Have you Decided what Factors are Most Important for your BBQ Grill?
It’s going to be fueled by something: gas, rocks, coal, or- this might surprise you- electric?
What size, what shape?
If gas, will a propane tank be needed or can you hook up the natural gas line of your home to it?
Does a portable grill really have enough portability?
A hibachi is… what again? (Example here.)
Which of these is the thing made of: porcelain, aluminum, stainless steel?
Do you know what you already want? I’ll give you a nudge. How about a barbecue that’s standalone, one that you can fire up quickly, use, with minimal hassle of cleaning it afterwards. Look for a portable that you can stick in your backyard- where “around” it rolls- and can easily be stored. It should be sturdy and durable enough to last a year (at least) of grilling regularly.
Be realistic of the price.
You shouldn’t expect a grill that’s $200-$300 to hold up a lifetime. You’ll want it to evenly grill veggies and meats with a real good control of temperature. If you look through some of my articles on grills, you’ll know that some of the best in that price range are made by Weber.
$1,000 grills and up are those higher-end units, and can surpass 10 grand easily. The average person will want a grill that’s more modest, and perhaps with a cooking area large enough to handle 10 to 20 in a party.
You’ll find hibachi charcoals priced on the lower tier of the spectrum. They aren’t always the bench warmer in a guy’s barbecue fantasy. Some of the portable and electric hibachis take the spot as really good tools for camping. But you might be looking to be the backyard host of a get-together. Then you should be looking for a gas grill, because a charcoal will be too much of a mess. For fuel, propane gas will fit the bill. And remember, getting your natural gas line hooked up to (say, your stove), is farfetched if you live in an apartment.