Is Choosing a Backyard BBQ Grill Like Choosing an SUV?

Is Choosing a Backyard BBQ Grill Like Choosing an SUV?

Summertime and the living is easy. But choosing a backyard barbeque grill?

Maybe not so much.

Let’s Talk About Advantages and Disadvantages

Charcoal Grills

Pros: Wide variety of sizes and styles. Can be the cheapest to purchase and operate. Generally portable and easy to store. Versatile and capable of a wide temperature range. Easy to add wood chips to the fire for extra flavorings, such as mesquite or applewood.

Cons: Takes some work to start, particularly in cold or damp weather. Skill is needed to control the temperature well, especially over long cook times. Can be difficult to clean, and disposal of ashes is required.

Gas Grills

Pros: Wide variety of sizes and styles. Easy to light with internal sparker or extended handheld lighter. Immediate control of flame size and heat output. Can purchase with a variety of attachments. Available in durable stainless steel. Relatively easy to clean, with no ashes to dispose of.

Cons: Can be large and expensive. Large units are more difficult to move and require more storage space. Requires propane bottles or a connection to home natural gas supply. If using propane, the bottle can run empty during cooking, so having an extra full bottle on hand is advisable. Some believe these grills do not impart as much flavor as wood or charcoal grills.

Electric Grills

Pros:  Quick to reach temperature. Easy to clean. Generally portable. Tabletop models likely can be used indoors. No need to buy charcoal or propane.

Cons:  Electrical source is required. More expensive, and possibly higher maintenance with the electrical circuits and elements. The flavor profile may not please some users who are accustomed to charcoal or gas.

Investing in a Backyard BBQ Grill: As Complicated as Buying an SUV?

This question sounds silly – but consider the options.

Choose your energy source. Open flame, and if so, which type? Charcoal, propane, wood pellets? How about electric? Or hybrid fuel and electric, where you can cook with charcoal one day and gas the next?

What size? How many people will you serve regularly? Do you really need that third-row seat — or that fourth burner?

And what about features? Car critics often write that SUV’s come with a raft of features that prospective owners WISH they needed. The same is true of grills. Will you really use the electric starter, the smoker attachment, the side-saddle burner ring, the automatic temperature control, or the convection fan?

What about style? Huh? Style? This is cooking outside we’re talking about. Dig a pit, burn some wood, throw some rocks onto the coals and scorch some meat. Cave-person say “Ugg!”

Modern humans say, “Riiiiight.” Stroll through your nearest big-box hardware store and survey their offerings. They’ll have the basic saucer-shaped charcoal grill, with adjustable vents at the top and bottom. Nice enough. But what about that stainless-steel vessel over there, the one that looks like it was designed by NASA? Oooh, shiny! And what’s this? A giant enamel space egg, about to hatch a giant enamel apatosaurus?

OK, now your head’s spinning and you’re ready for a lunchtime margarita.

But Do You Really Need an Outdoor Grill?

Yes, every lifestyle magazine will likely contain at least one ad showing the beautiful set enjoying a trendy outdoor party, usually featuring the best and brightest in an outdoor cooking apparatus. Maybe a high-end gas grill with all the bells and whistles. Maybe a gigantic built-in suitable for the main kitchen in a French restaurant in NYC.

They remind one of the high-end SUV commercials where the mother or father drives through a hellish world to pick-up their kids from an elite prep school. And just as realistic.

But in the real world, an expensive outdoor grill set-up may find as little use as the typical swimming pool after the first year. If your climate is too hot, too rainy, too cold, too snowy for outdoor comfort ten months out of the year, will you really take your steaks and buns out there for the perfect sear?

What will the Future of Outdoor Grilling Bring?

If you’re waiting on the unit powered by plutonium, you’ll probably not want to hold your breath. But if you’re like many who buy into technology and the “Internet of Things,” you may look forward to a grill that can order your steaks, baking potatoes, and pre-made vegetable kabobs, and have them delivered via drone just as your party guests arrive.

Until then, enjoy the summer and happy sizzling!

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