Home > Product Reviews > Pop’s Guide to Buying a Grill

Pop’s Guide to Buying a Grill

The following is me rambling about grills. The short of it is

  1. Buy a grill
  2. Buy a charcoal grill b/c it’s awesome

If you’d like to read me using 5000+ characters to conclude the above (w/ pictures), click below.

A recent visit to a Home Depot reminded me that now’s the time when people buy grills, as grills of all shapes and sizes were on display outside. Now I’m no marketer, but I think people would buy grills much more impulsively if they pumped some BBQ scents into the air. Speaking of which, why do air fresheners usually come in flowery scents? What man wouldn’t want their home smelling like bacon, BBQ or grilled meat all the time? Even my daughter loves the way I smell after coming in from grilling/Q’ing: “Dad did barbecue. Dad smells good,” she told me this past weekend.

Getting back to the topic on hand: gas or charcoal? This is usually the first question people ask me when they find out I’m a grilling/BBQing enthusiast, and I usually tell them, “It’s up to you.” Most charcoal enthusiasts would probably cite me for blasphemy, call me Benedict, and slow cook me in effigy for this, but I really don’t think charcoal adds that much flavor for most purposes.

Typically, grills are used for cooking relatively thin cuts of meat over a very high heat. As a result, most items are done in under 20 minutes. While using charcoal or wood would impart some flavor in that time span, it doesn’t render something grilled over gas completely inferior. If however, you tried to slow cook a thick cut like pork butt or brisket over several hours, the difference is undeniable.

If you want to grill in the winter time or in the rain, get a gas grill. If you plan on trying your hand at smoking meat, get a charcoal. If you generally only have an hour to get dinner ready, gas is the way to go. If you hate running out of propane in the middle of a very important cooking session, charcoal is your friend.

So for me, the debate doesn’t center around gas vs. charcoal; it’s on why grilling/BBQing is superior to any other cooking method and why, if you live in a home that allows a grill, it’s a travesty not to own one.

First, grilling requires little cleanup. I hate baking b/c of all the dishes you have to do. And not just dishes, but dishes covered with butter and other oils that are a pain to wash. But for an outdoor grill, cleanup is as simple as brushing the grates and clearing the ashes. And unlike dishes, you don’t have to clean your grill to the point where it’s not oily at all. In fact, old, uncleaned bits add character and flavor to your grill; on other cookware, it just looks gross.

Second, grilling will have a minimal impact on your utility bills. If you cook/bake indoors, the temperature in your home will rise, and then you’ll have to use an air conditioner or fan to cool the house back down. For grilling, all the cooking is done outdoors, so the only time you affect your home’s temperature is coming in and out from the yard. Additionally, you won’t need water to do any dishes, unless you plan on reusing the trays you put the meat on.

Third, I’m a carnivore, so for me, meat comes first and veggies come second. Pan-frying meat simply does not compare to the juiciness and wonderful colors a grill can produce. Yes, grilling vegetables without one perilously falling through the grates is a challenge, and roasted/pan-fried veggies are great, but vegetables are secondary.

So if you don’t have a grill, what are you waiting for? If you’re concerned about waiting for the winter/off-season for the prices to go down, you may end up saving $20 or more, but then you lose an entire season’s worth of grilling.

If you’re intent on getting a gas grill as your primary grill, I recommend spending at least $200. At lower price points, you’re looking at really cheap grill grates and gas lines. If you’re like me, you’ll end up getting a charcoal grill and perhaps a cheaper gas grill later for crappy weather days or grilling in the winter. If that’s the case, I recommend the Weber 22.5″ One Touch Gold charcoal grill. I bought mine 5+ years ago and it’s still going strong. I also have an 18.5″ One Touch Silver that my parents bought in the mid-90’s that has a wood handle. Weber’s customer service is extraordinary – very short wait times on the phone, knowledgeable staff, and when you call back, they actually have all the notes the previous person took and can even transfer you to the same representative.

Now you may be tempted to buy the One Touch Silver as it’s nearly half the cost of the Gold, but trust me…that extra $60 is well worth it. There are two main differences: 1) the grates – the Gold comes with hinged grates that cover close to the entire area of the grill; the Silver has massive holes on the ends near the handles where food can–and will–fall through. 2) The ash catcher. Here is the ash catcher on my old model:

One Touch Silver ash catcher

It’s simply a tray that catches ashes that fall through the grill. The Gold, however, has the following ash catcher:

One Touch Gold ash catcher

It usually fills up after 2 or 3 grill-fulls of charcoal. To clear the ashes out of the silver, I usually have to turn the entire grill upside down; for the Gold, I simply remove the ash catcher and dump the coals. And if you don’t clear the ashes out of the Silver, your fire won’t be very strong and your coals will probably die a quick death since there’s very little airflow, esp. if you place the lid on; the Gold allows you to go at least 2 cooking sessions without having to clear ashes and still get good airflow.

So get the One Touch Gold if your budget allows. Weber also has the Performer, which touts the best of both worlds: convenience of gas with the flavor of charcoal. $329 seems a bit steep to me since using a chimney starter is an easy way to get the coals going.

Besides the lower initial costs, I love charcoal grills b/c replacement parts are easy to obtain and relatively cheap. Here is my charcoal grate I’ve had for 5 years that originally came with the grill.

5+ years of holding up charcoal

Despite being badly warped, it still got the job done, but I figured it was time to upgrade. So I ordered the 7441 off of Amazon for $11.

New Charcoal Grate

Nice and shiny.

I also figured it was time to replace my grill grates. Like my grill brush, it was still very much awesome and it was terribly hard to say goodbye.

3+ Years of Imparted "Flavor"

So many memories. *sigh*

Old but still good

I decided to order the stainless steel grates from Weber for $29.99, which is $11 more than the nickel-plated ones available on Amazon. I also got replacement grates for my smoker and they shipped it all for $7. Although I love my old grill grate, look how shiny and perty the new one is:

New Stainless Steel Grill Grate

Beautiful! From any angle, she’s exquisite.


So for $48, I essentially have a brand new grill. Yes, the bowl of the grill is old, but remember it’s like well-aged cast iron cookware, and it doesn’t touch the meat and other food stuffs, so it’s not a big deal. And judging by the above picture, I really need to rake the leaves.

In conclusion, buy a grill! And buy a charcoal grill while you’re at it.

  1. the buck
    March 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I hope you are planning to frame and hang the old grill grates in your kitchen. Name her Sally.

    When I moved into my house, my real estate agent offered to buy us any grill we wanted. I went with the $300 Performer over a $600 gas grill and am both proud and happy with my decision.

    • Pop
      March 23, 2010 at 11:17 am

      the buck :

      I hope you are planning to frame and hang the old grill grates in your kitchen. Name her Sally.

      That idea was vetoed. Instead, we have cutesy kitchen art. 😦

      I would have had to unfriend you had you gotten a $600 gas grill chingoo.

  2. southamerica
    March 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    And if your friend doesn’t have a grill yet, buy him one. Thanks Pop!

    • Pop
      March 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

      Hey…what are friends for? 🙂

  3. Skewer It
    March 24, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Great tips! Thank you. Darryl

  4. Keefe
    May 29, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Sounds very nice! I think you got me settled on getting charcoal no doubt. The only thing now is actually figuring out if I want to go with the GOLD, or find something similar to having a smoker/grill. Brinkmann makes one nice smoker/grill.. I’m trying to see how well it does as both.. not really strong on the grill side since I dont know how the charcoal is elevated up to the top half of the unit.

    The other notion that I’m looking into is hot-smoking meat using the Orion Smoker. Many rave about it (in fact, 2 of my coworkers have it and I like to say it’s pretty awesome as the meat is excellent and clean-up looks pretty simple (but not as say converting the weber one-touch gold into a smoker as well). I did see expansion rings for the weber 22.5″ bowls, which is good to know that I can spend that kind of extra money to make it happen, it just wont be that easy to add more coal or water into the drip pan if the meat poundage gets up to the double digits at one go..

    we’ll definitely talk more, as a townhouse owner, there’s only so many places I can store the darn thing out of the way.. but I guess that can also be handled with a simple cover and slide the darn thing out to the upper deck concrete porch.. we’ll see how “wonderful” it is to carry a couple pounds of ash down a flight of stairs through the house and into the garage.

  5. Carl D'Agostino
    June 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Instead of spending a fortune as you suggest to return to the Stone Age of cooking despite all the struggles and wars and things it has taken us to reach the present age, you could just get an abandoned shopping cart from the side of the road at the edge of town and put some charcoal under it (not too close to the wheels though, because they will make the meat smell like stinky rubber if they catch fire or merely heat up) and wheel this food to any part of the house or yard and this portability is great for the beach, that is if you live by the beach like I do in Miami and you get to watch the oil leak destroy everything that God created so people could drive a car and will have to ride an ox when the oil runs out ox((which won’t be available if you’re eating all the poor critters’ ribs). And shopping carts are not steel plated but solid stainless steel which is very sanitary and easy to clean by soaking it in the water at the beach from the oil leak.

    • Pop
      June 16, 2010 at 11:27 am

      lol I’ve seen some pictures of shopping cart grills on the web. Pretty funny stuff. Thanks for the comment!

  1. May 7, 2010 at 11:43 am
  2. May 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

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