For the few that don’t just like grilling; but love it (enough), you’ll want to ensure that you have an appropriate spot for an outdoor BBQ when searching for your next apartment, condo, or what have you. Don’t just settle for an old, run-down propane grill that came with your deck. There’s more out there than that, especially if you’re a charcoal devotee.
Away with your kiddie model, time for a big-boy BBQ
Gear shopping is almost always harder than you’d want it to be- for those that have used more of it than they’d like to admit and seen so much in their waking hours, well, their standards are almost impossible to reach. Look, buying a grill doesn’t have to be a meticulous project of consumer-focused research.
If you take enough time to look around, you could just get a Big Green Egg (if you shy away from the variables of a DIY grill and aren’t ambitious to begin with).
Starting with a Grill that Won’t Break the Bank
But, if you’re up for the task, buy and acquaint yourself with one of those Weber Performers (heard of them??). There’s no higher-end version of any of the venerable Weber kettles. The kit is a piece of wonder: insulated nicely for steel of single-walled construction, and just well-made. The side table is resistant to heat, making it a really good area for staging, and the weatherproof bin (for charcoal storage) takes care of a problem that’s all too real. But, don’t make the mistake of paying a bit more for the ignition Touch-n-Go system, which gets your coals started by using a propane jet. You’ll be wanting more oomph from that little trickle of propane to do at least something with it. Take that money you saved by listening to my advice, and instead put less than $20 on a (perhaps hackable) charcoal chimney.
What about the Temperature?
Now you have a kick butt base. But you’ll need to figure out how to get that temperature regulated. The grilling forums big buzz the past couple of years has been focused on a smaller gadget branded as the BBQ Guru. Similar to the cooling fan of a computer, this fan (coupled with a set of temp-reading probes) allows the mercury to be measured in both your meat and the grill.
The focal point of the unit is a logic (fuzzy, it is) controller that keeps a monitor on how the fan effects your grill’s inner temp from its pulses of little air. It’s killer, and one of the big reasons why it hadn’t been in my possession before is because they weren’t cheap- up to around $400 ($300 at the low end) when what’s in the package to assemble are the probes, the fan, the controller, and the adapter that makes it possible for the thing to be fitted on your Weber or what have you. A bit too pro for my needs.
The hurdle in price dropped several years ago when the brand brought out a product known as the PartyQ. They kept down the cost by scaling it down- removing the probe that previously measured the meat’s temperature. What’s only overseen by the gadget is how warm the grill grate is. And really, that was ok with me- not to mention the PartyQ was just a hair under $140 (which included the adaptor). It’s this price right now.
After you’ve mustered up the courage, drill a hole in your spankin-new grill, and get the thing installed.
The ‘Frankengrill’- What’s Missing?
What we have so far is the Weber Performer Deluxe and the PartyQ for temperature control. Awesome, now the temperature of the grill is kept constant, which is what you want for cooks that take longer (like a whole chicken or a roast). But you’ll want the grill to be used as a smoker, too. (Right?) The answer to that I found with a little Internet search: they call this gadget the Smokenator (BBQ names are fun) that I first came across while browsing the AmazingRibs website. The device is a genius little utility for those who have a Weber kettle: a steel (18 gauge) plate with your grill’s side snuggled up against it, holding a pan of water and your wood chips.
Now to the Other Stuff
Get the little cracks sealed up with some furnace cement (those crannies are typical for items like this produced in mass). Put it through two or three dry runs so the kettle is seasoned, and look to see if there’s any hot spots. If there are, but not significant, then start ‘er up!
Any tricks or tips you got? Get at me in the discussion field below, I can tell this DIY shenanigans will keep on going, and going, and…