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The grill has long been a staple of a complete home. Nothing brings family and friends together like a cookout. And no other appliance has sparked such a long and “heated” debate: gas or charcoal? Given the array of culinary options, from burgers and dogs to vegan entrees, grilling clearly takes all kinds. The trick is finding the grill that works best for you.
Charcoal. These grills use charcoal briquettes, wood or a combo of both as their cooking agent. The coals give a more intense, smoky flavor to your food. This specific flavor is the shining reason behind purists who will never cook with gas.
But in order to gain this distinctive flavor, charcoal grills suffer a few drawbacks. Cooking requires much more time than a gas grill. Maintaining a steady cooking temperature is spotty, with air vents as the only means of temperature control. The fire burns much hotter than a gas grill, so chefs must be very attentive. Charcoal also turns to ash, which must be cleaned and properly disposed.
Due to these inconveniences and the somewhat primitive fuel source, charcoal grills are much more affordable than a gas grill.
Gas. Gas grills excel in all areas where the charcoal grill falls short. They typically use tanks of liquid propane, which give up to 20 hours of cooking time per tank – opposed to one hour with charcoal. Some grills use natural gas. Natural gas grills are connected to a direct gas line, eliminating the need to refuel tanks and the frustration of running out of gas mid-frank.
Gas grills ignite quickly with push-button or dial controls, and burn cleaner and less expensive than charcoal. Cooking temperature is easily controlled with rotary dials. Even though the flame is almost instantaneous, please allow at least 10 minutes to preheat the cooking grid. The use of burners also eliminates the messy chore of cleaning ash after the cookout.
Most gas grills provide side burners to cook accompanying dishes. For this convenience, and those described above, gas grills run more expensive than their charcoal counterparts.
Gas grills also offer several ways to enhance your food's flavor.
Other Options. Electric grills are great for the BBQ enthusiast who lives in an apartment that doesn't allow charcoal or gas grills. While not offering the same flavor as gas or charcoal, new design advances – and your creativity – can produce a variety of tasty dishes.
For cookouts of epic proportions, you might want to invest in a smoker. Smokers can hold up to 50 pounds of food at any given time, and have very spacious cooking surfaces. These grills are available in charcoal or electric models. Be warned, the special flavors from a smoker come from very slow cooking.
If you're traveling or tailgating, portable grills are also available for a quick meal. There are also grill/smoker combos that can prepare quick burgers and slow-cooked barbeque ribs at the same time.
You don't have to buy the mother of all grills to have a great cooking experience. A smoker isn't necessary for a family lunch. And you might have a hard time at a pig roast with the standard charcoal grill. Figure out your perfect size by factoring what you intend to cook, the amount of people you're cooking for, available space and the projected frequency of your grilling.
After you find the perfect grill, you'll want to equip it with the necessary accessories. Start with the basics like a cleaning brush, spatula and fork. Then pick up specialized items that fit your favorite foods:a rotisserie, skewers, etc.
Depending on the size of your BBQ, you may need a little extra space to fully work your grilling magic. Building a grill buddy can solve your lack of countertops and storage. The project also gives you a great DIY excuse to spend more time grilling.
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