Q: What’s your favorite grill to use, and why?
I have a few propane grills in my collection: a Broilmaster P-3 and a Charbroil Heatwave among others. I also have a few charcoal grills… a couple of Weber kettle-style grills, a Cobb grill and some smaller “camping” grills.
For ease of use, gas grills are the way to go; turn on the gas, hit the igniter and let it go. Dials on the front of the grill control the temperature, but multiple side-by-side burners can be used as indirect cookers. If the burners are in the front and rear, it’s very difficult to use the grill for indirect cooking.
If you prefer to do the “man thing” with charcoal and fire, use a charcoal grill but you’ll have to wait a half hour or so before the coals are ready and you can begin cooking. Temperature regulation on a charcoal grill is a bit trickier… you’ll need to adjust the dampers to control the temperature and bank coals to create two-zone cooking.
The Broilmaster is an open-flame grill while the Heatwave uses infrared technology so there is no open flame in contact with the food. Each has their benefits: the Heatwave is great for indirect cooking (you can add wood chips to the smaller burner for smoke-cooking) and for regular direct grilling; the Broilmaster is a workhorse for grilling hot and fast but with adaptation it also does pretty good smoke-cooking.
Grill selection is a very personal thing. My advice is to purchase the best grill you can afford. Less expensive grills will last only a few years before needing replacement while more expensive grills will last a lifetime. (I’ve had my Broilmaster for 15 years and only replaced the burner once.)
Some things to consider when purchasing a grill:
How many people do you usually cook for? The more folks you feed, the larger the grill’s “primary” cooking area should be. (Grill advertisements often include the space used for warming shelves when describing grill size. The “primary” cooking area is the actual size of the cooking grate.)
What kind of food are you cooking? Burgers and dogs take a lot less space than pork shoulders and slabs of ribs.
How often do you plan to use the grill? If it’s only a couple of times a year, go for a less expensive version. If you’re becoming a backyard cooking fanatic and want to cook on the grill three or four times a week, spend more money for a better-quality and longer-lasting grill.
If you’re using propane, it’s a good idea to have a second tank so you don’t run out of fuel in the middle of cooking. A standard grill tank (called a 20-pound tank) holds 4.7 gallons of propane and will fuel a 30,000 BTU grill running at full tilt for about 15 hours. If the grill is rated at 20,000 BTUs, a full tank will last about 22 hours.
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Mike Stines is a professional chef and the Grilling and Gadgets Editor for the Burn! Blog. Mike holds a “Doctorate of Barbeque Philosophy” (Ph.B) degree from the Kansas City Barbeque society. His book—Mastering Barbecue (Ten Speed Press, 2005)—has been called the “go-to” book for BBQ knowledge.