Thinking about investing in a grill? There’s no better way to cook up tasty, healthy foods and grow your culinary portfolio. Just like any piece of cooking equipment, the grill you choose will have a major impact on your results as a budding patio chef. Before you drop a pretty penny on a high-tech cooker, make sure to consider the following factors.
Here Are Seven Things to Know Before Buying a Grill
1. Not All Grills Use the Same Fuel — Grills cook food on a rack over a heat source, but how that heat is sourced varies from style to style. You probably already know the difference between charcoal grills and gas grills (one is heated by charcoal, the other propane), but there are more grill styles to consider. The pellet grill is quickly becoming one of the most popular among beginners and amateurs alike because of its unique ability to smoke, grill, roast, sear and more while infusing food with an irresistible smoky flavor. Make sure to consider the differences between pellet vs. charcoal vs. gas before settling on a grill type.
- Pellets are small pieces of hardwood that have been compressed into pellets for slow, steady smoking and heating. Depending on the hardwood variety, pellets can impart various flavor profiles onto food.
- Charcoal is the residue produced from heating wood. When used to cook food, charcoal infuses a rich, smoky, charred flavor that tastes great when cooking all kinds of foods, especially classic barbecue foods and meats.
- Gas typically refers to propane when used in grills. The beauty of a gas grill is that it lights up fast, gets hot quickly and doesn’t flavor your food. This is a good choice for those who don’t like charred or smoky flavors.
2. Some Grills Do More Than Standard Grilling — In addition to fuel, you need to consider exactly what kind of grilling and cooking you plan to do with your new appliance. While virtually all grills will grill food — meaning they allow you to cook food over hot grates — not all grills can smoke food. If you love the delicious, smoky flavor of classic barbecue and slow-cooked meats, a gas grill is probably not your best bet. For smoking, it’s best to choose a kamado grill or a pellet grill. If you want to be able to use your grill as one big outdoor griddle, a gas grill with a griddle is a better choice than a smoker or standard gas grill.
3. Some Grills Require Electricity — Before you purchase your grill, consider where you want to set it up. If it’s someplace far away from an accessible electrical outlet, you need to make sure you choose one that doesn’t require electricity to run. Many gas and charcoal grills run without electricity, whereas most pellet grills need to be plugged in. Kamado grills are a good happy medium for people who want to be able to smoke foods, but don’t have convenient access to electricity.
4. Some Grills Are More Portable Than Others — If portability is important, such as if you want to store your grill in the garage and wheel it onto the patio for use, make sure to choose a style with sturdy all-terrain wheels. When they have wheels, gas grills are especially portable because they don’t require access to electricity. However, due to the added weight of the propane tank and other elements, they tend to be heavier than pellet grills and charcoal grills.
5. Not All Materials Are Created Equal — When browsing different grill types, make sure to pay close attention to the materials used. Heavy-duty stainless-steel grill grates are a good sign that the grill is of high quality. While cast iron grates do an excellent job at cooking and can even add extra iron to your food, the material tends to rust, which makes it less than ideal for outdoor cooking. Stainless-steel is equally as reliable and easier to clean while being much less likely to rust.
6. Size Matters — Just like any other cooking appliance, grills come in a range of sizes to suit your needs. When considering size, make sure to think about where the grill will go. Small balconies and patios probably aren’t the best place for large gas grills, for example. You also want to consider the size of the crowd you’ll be feeding. If it’s just you and a few others, a smaller grill will work just fine. If you plan to feed a large crowd or cater parties, a larger style is better.
- Gas and pellet grills typically have rectangular cooking surfaces that range from 350 to 700 square inches of cooking area. Many pellet grills have several cooking areas or shelves to accommodate a larger crowd.
- While there are exceptions, charcoal grills tend to be smaller and typically have a round or rectangular cooking surface. Standard charcoal kettle grills measure about 22 inches in diameter or 363 square inches.
- Kamado grills also come in different sizes and often feature round cooking areas that range in size from 133 square inches to over 600 square inches. They may have multiple cooking surfaces to accommodate more food.
7. Some Are High-Tech — Appliances that connect to your phone are becoming the norm, and that’s true when it comes to grills, too. One great thing about high-tech grills is that they often integrate with an app on your phone so you can monitor temperatures and control them remotely. This may seem like an unnecessary extra, but it’s surprisingly handy, especially when you’re smoking something for hours at a time and need to keep your eye on the progress as you go about your day.
One last thing to consider before settling on a grill: most modern styles are designed to be user-friendly. While exploring different varieties and considering different features can feel overwhelming and intimidating, the reality is that grills are mostly designed to be easy to master. So long as you choose the right type for your preferences and needs, you can expect to master the grill fast.