Pop’s Guide to Buying a Grill
The following is me rambling about grills. The short of it is
- Buy a grill
- 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:
It’s simply a tray that catches ashes that fall through the grill. The Gold, however, has the following 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.
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.
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.
So many memories. *sigh*
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:
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.