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There are few things more enjoyable than a thick, juicy hamburger straight off the BBQ grill. For the grilling enthusiast, food just seems to taste better when it's prepared and enjoyed outside with family and friends. Whether you're the type to fire up the grill every chance you get or only once in a while, perhaps when you're in the mood for a burger or hot dog, we'll help you find the perfect grill suited to your exact needs. Charcoal grills, propane grills, natural gas grills, and electric grills help you prepare delicious food, and each presents a unique set of benefits and features you'll want to take into consideration. First, consider the following questions:
Grill Types, Tips and Features
The biggest decision you'll have to make when purchasing a BBQ grill is whether you want a charcoal grill, propane grill, natural gas grill or electric grill. Weigh the benefits of each against the others and decide which one best matches your needs. Size is another important issue – if you're planning to prepare large feasts for neighborhood parties, picnics or family reunions on a regular basis, you're going to want a much bigger grill than if you're only preparing food for a few people. If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, you may be limited to a small electric unit. Bringing along a hibachi – a small, portable grill – will give you the ability to enjoy your favorite foods when you're tailgating at the football field or picnicking in the park. Regardless of what you grill and where you do it, there are a few tips you can use to ensure flavorful food every time.
Charcoal grills tend to be the most economical and have the fewest parts. They cook food at high heat to seal juices in, and many people love the smoky taste and flavor that charcoal provides. Getting your coals ready to cook can take some time, but some advanced models incorporate gas ignition systems that greatly reduce preparation time. Propane gas grills and natural gas grills, on the other hand, are ready to cook within minutes and can be fueled with a re-usable propane tank or natural gas line. Heat is measured in BTUs (British thermal units) and, in most cases, higher ratings indicate a more intense heat output. Gas also enables more precise temperature control for cooking food evenly and consistently. Electric grills are incredibly easy to start. They are an ideal choice for use in small spaces, porches and patios since they present minimal fire risk. Dual-fuel grills combine the precision temperature adjustments of gas grilling with the convenience of electric grilling and the smoky flavor results produced by conventional charcoal grilling in a single unit. Dual-fuel grills also enable you to use heavy-duty metal pans and to light charcoal briquettes, natural lump charcoal or wood pellets without the ashes clogging or damaging the burner. Other features attributed to this type of grill include digital timers, halogen lights, BTU power ratings of 100,000 and higher, dual side burners and built-in sinks. Use the following chart to compare some features and other considerations of different grill types to help make your decision easier:
Grill Purchasing Tips:
When you're shopping for a grill, you'll want to consider its construction: will it stand up to the harshest weather conditions in your area and remain sturdy through years of use? Stainless Steel grill construction and cast-iron grates offer heavy-duty performance, while, if you plan to store your grill inside after use, lighter weight plastic should work fine for you. Do you entertain often? Plan for your grilling needs. You'll want to have enough room for your typical cookout as well as some flexibility should you want to invite plenty of guests.
Alternate Power Sources:
In addition to charcoal grills, propane grills, natural gas grills, and electric grills, there are a couple of other options. Dual-fuel grills provide both gas and electric power, combining the best features of both types into one unit. Infrared grills use infrared radiant energy to cook food quickly and thoroughly while preventing flare-ups. These grills may require a larger up-front investment but provide a wealth of attractive features and high-quality heating.
Smokers and Fryers:
BBQ Smokers give you the ability to slow cook turkey, beef and other savory meats to enhance flavor. Fryers are filled with oil and can be used to fry, boil and, in some cases, steam foods, sealing in their natural juices
BBQ Grills that allow you to incorporate a rotisserie give you the ability to cook your favorite meats to perfection by letting them slow roast in their own juices. They enable you to expand your choices in preparing poultry, shish kebabs, gyros and other delicious foods.
Timers alert you when grills are hot enough to cook, and indicator lights serve a similar function. Timers provide the added benefit of helping you keep track of cook time.
Indicators that monitor internal grilling temperatures help you gauge how long cooking items need to remain on the grill.
Grease can drip down from the cooking surface and create flare-ups, which can be dangerous. Look for a grill that has a deep, high-capacity pan to catch grease to prevent this from happening. Make sure it's simple to remove to make emptying it easy.
Some high-end gas grills include a separate side burner that allows you to prepare sauces, side dishes and other items for a complete meal cooked in the great outdoors.
A griddle located next to the main grilling chamber is perfect for wok cooking or serving pancakes, eggs and more right on your patio. This feature is typically reserved for higher end models.
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