As we welcome summer during the month of June, we’re exploring topics that get you ready for this sunny, steamy season. Earlier this month we talked a bit about saving energy during the summer, and one of the suggestions we made was avoiding using the oven during the hottest months. Many families depend on this mode of cooking quite heavily during the summer; it’s not unusual for some households to “grill out” for days on end.
But not everyone has joined the backyard revolution – and for many, it’s because the overwhelming number of choices when it comes to buying a grill can be more than a little baffling. If you’ve put off buying a grill because you don’t know where to turn, grab a pen and paper to take some notes and read on!
Grills fall into three basic types. If you go back a few decades, you’re sure to remember the type of grill almost everyone had…the charcoal grill. The lovely, smoky flavor is one of the reasons these old standards are still very popular today. Nothing matches the taste of meat grilled over charcoal! They also don’t use your normal household energy sources; the fire you light provides all the power you need. While these grills take a bit longer to warm up, sometimes delaying your dinner, many people won’t consider anything else. The ashes that remain after the briquettes burn themselves out require clean-up, but the lower price of a charcoal grill makes this choice very appealing. While there are a few high-end exceptions out there, most charcoal grills cost less than $300, with many, many choices under $100 for a larger models that can feed a hungry crowd.
Gas grills are increasingly popular among homeowners due to their adjustable temperature, infra-red cooking and easy clean-up. They come in a wide range of sizes, so if you’ve got a big deck to fill or a relatively small patio in a tiny yard, there’s a grill to fit your needs. Prices usually vary by size, durability, number of burners and the amount of heat from each burner. Typical backyard gas grill prices range from $300 to upward of $5,000. Some gas grills have a wide variety of “extras” and “bells and whistles”…but be sure not to spend extra on a grill with features you’ll never use. Gas grills can be powered by propane tanks, or, if your house is powered by natural gas, you can install a line dedicated to your grill. Another thing to consider…smaller portable gas grills are often sold in the box, with some assembly required, while larger, more stationary models are often sold pre-assembled.
Electric grills are popular because they’re the most convenient type of grill. You don’t have to purchase a special fuel source of any kind, and their lack of open flame makes them the safest type of grill to operate. Just plug the grill into an available outlet and you’re good to go! Electric models are great for grilling when the weather takes a nasty turn, because they’re suitable for indoor use as well. The even heat produced by electric grills provides a consistent end product every time. Smaller, portable models can be had in the $50-$75 range, while larger models can run up to $1000 plus, depending on the features of the unit.
After you’ve decided on the type of grill you want, think about where you’ll be using it. If you plan on parking the grill in your yard and never moving it, you’ll choose a very different model than if you want to grill at the park, at a friend’s house, or during a tailgate party. Speaking of parties…you’ll also need to consider how many people, on average, you’re cooking for most times you use the grill. If you typically cook for a family of four, a huge grill with six burners will expend a lot more energy than you need to get supper on the table. However, if you normally cook for a large crew, a smaller grill will require you to cook round after round of food. You’ll never get to sit down and relax with one of your own burgers!
And don’t forget a few necessary extras…a grill cover to protect it from the elements is a must if you’ll be leaving it outside. Unless you’re choosing a very small, portable grill that you’ll be taking on the go, make sure you get a good sturdy cart with shelving on the sides if you choose a model without a built-in unit. It’s also smart to get a restaurant-quality set of tongs and spatula – you won’t regret it!