Almost everyone loves to cook outdoors as soon as the weather warms up. To be honest, some of us barbecue year round. This is especially true for those that live in the south and enjoy mild winters. True grilling enthusiasts might even tell you that they would barbecue during a snowstorm if the mood struck.
If you’re new to the barbecue craze, you’re probably trying to decide which type of grill to buy. There are many different brands and varieties on the market today; varying from a disposable charcoal model they sell in grocery stores for about five dollars all the way up to a gourmet stainless steel design that’s basically an outdoor kitchen complete with sink and refrigerator. You can easily imagine that they sell for much more than five dollars.
Five basic types of outdoor barbecue grills are manufactured today. There are charcoal grills, propane grills, natural gas grills, smokers, and multi-fuel grills. All of these grills have their advantages and you should choose one based on your needs and grilling habits.
Charcoal grills are the traditional barbecue grill. They started off as home-made barbecue pits that basically consisted of an outdoor brick fireplace with a metal grate over the fire pit. They could be made very simply or as elaborately as a person’s skill allowed. If you pay attention, you’ll still see a few of those around. There’s nothing wrong with a home-made barbecue grill, but most of us don’t have any brick laying skills. It’s lucky for us that there are all kinds of ready made grills to choose from. The advantage of a charcoal grill is that they are fairly inexpensive and do a great job. You can choose from table top versions all the way up to models that pull behind your pickup. Charcoal is cheap and readily available at most stores. It burns evenly and many people say there’s nothing like the taste of food cooked outdoors over charcoal.
Gas grills come in either propane or natural gas, basically different versions of the same thing. With propane, you have the option of hooking into your household supply or using portable tanks. You must have a household supply to use a natural gas grill. Gas grills are convenient because you just turn a switch and you have instant heat. There’s no getting the charcoal to start and waiting around for the grill to come up to temperature. No wasted energy either. As soon as you’re done, turn the gas supply off. With charcoal, it can be somewhat irritating to cook something quick like burgers or dogs, and then see those perfectly heated embers go to waste. On the other hand, it can be just as frustrating to run out of propane in the middle of cooking a tasty outdoor meal and not have a convenient place to refill.
Smokers come in both charcoal and gas models and can sometimes double as a regular barbecue grill. The difference is that smokers are designed to smoke food at very low temperatures. They also can come with an optional smoker box so that your heat is not under the food at all. The smoker box contains the heat source and only hot air and smoke go through to the compartment that contains the food. It takes a lot of practice to perfect this method of grilling, but many people swear this is the best way to barbecue ribs.
Multi-fuel grills are like two grills attached together and use gas on one side and charcoal on the other. They are like the best of both worlds if you have the space for them. Only on the market for the last few years, they are gaining in popularity every year.