The gas grill is at one end of our spectrum because it is possibly the most
convenient way to start a fire and get cooking right away.
If you have a natural gas or direct connection to a large propane tank that
supplies gas to your house, then you don't even have to worry about your
cylinder running out at a critical moment.
If you are like me then you have a spare tank that you try to keep full (see it to
the right ?) in case of poor planning.
Just as the grill lights easily and is ready to go quickly, so does it achieve high
heat in a hurry, which can be important for cooking some foods, such as for
searing a steak. Just how high you can get the temperature will depend on the
ratio of burner to grill space.
There are a few important variations among gas grills. Some are obvious, like
stainless steel finish on the outside versus paint, side burners versus plain shelf,
etc. For the most part we are not going to discuss the pros and cons of these - I
figure that you already know that if you have a side burner you can cook on it,
and if you don't have one...
So we will try to cover some of the more subtle differences.
First, does it have one? Not all grills do, or they
may have one that does not read actual degrees,
instead referring to heat as low, medium, high.
Cooking at the right temperature is one of those
critical techniques that is discussed in more depth
in another section, so suffice it to say that you
need to know what temperature you are cooking
at. Also, as you develop your own techniques, and
you have a really good barbecue experience, you
will undoubtedly want to repeat it some time down
the road, right? In order to do that you have to be
able to repeat your cooking temperatures along
Now, if you do not have a grill with a gauge, and
getting one that has one is not in the budget, we
suggest getting a reliable, but decidedly less
expensive, oven temperature gauge that can rest
on the cooking grill and give you at least a
baseline to relate to each time you cook
This is where the meat will sit while cooking and
there are different types.
Cast Iron - just like the venerated frying pan,
these types of grates season over time into
almost a non-stick surface that adds a little flavor
to the meat, something you may or may not
desire. They also provide a consistent, high heat
to grill on, and are excellent for seating a steak.
We recommend "pre-seasoning" these grates
(we love bacon grease!) just as you would the
skillet, to get the process started right.
Just like the cast iron skillet, the grates tend to
heat evenly and help to eliminate cold or hot
spots on a grill.
Because the do pick up and retain some of the
grease from the meat they do tend to flare up a bit
if a marinade or juice gets loose in the grill.
Cleaning them with a wire brush will tend to
scratch and roughen the surface, possibly even
causing pitting to occur where food will lodge. We
recommend using some sort of non-scratch
And remember, if you wash these with soap the
soap will get into the cast iron, unless you rinse
profusely, but even then you will lose your built up
seasoning effect as the soap dissolves it and
washes it away.
After washing with plain water, be sure to heat
them back up in order to completely dry out the
water - this will help prevent them from rusting.
Porcelain Coated - these type of grates in our
experience tend to be non-stick right away, and
are fairly easy to clean off as a result. They won't
add flavor, and we do not recommend using a
wire cleaning brush on these either - the big
advantage of porcelain is that it is smooth and
even heating, so scratching them with a wire
brush will eventually eliminate those attributes.
Stainless Steel - These are very common grill
surfaces. They are very strong yet lightweight,
and relatively easy to clean as well. They tend to
not heat as evenly as cast iron, though this is
usually a minor inconvenience. Virtually no
transfer of flavor to the meat occurs with stainless
steel. When properly cleaned they do not usually
contribute any taste to the dish either.
Lighters - As you move up the scale on grills, an
integral lighting mechanism becomes more
common. If you have the wherewithal, electronic
ignition systems are nice - you just push the
button in and hold it - the spark is generated
continually while the button is pushed in, so you
don't have to keep pushing the button like you do
with the manual systems.
None of the lighters work very well in windy
conditions, so we always recommend having a
long barrelled portable lighter handy. Try to find
one that fits easily between the grill slats, and that
reaches all the way down to one of the ports in the
burner, so you can most safely light the gas as it
comes out. Remember to start your lighter
BEFORE you open the gas valve - nothing kills an
appetite quicker than the smell of singed hair or
Grease Collection - meat is going to drip juice as it cooks, and grills need a way of collecting those
drippings so they do not run out onto the surface below your grill.
Some are as simple as a wire holder that you place an empty can in to catch the grease. Others have
pans that can slide out for emptying and cleaning.
Since most people don't relish handling this clean up part of the process, put some thought into the
system your new grill will use and make sure it is something you do not mind doing too much. A dirty or
full grease pan/can can cause some problems, anything from smells and stains to critters and bugs
that find the hardened grease to be a culinary delight.
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