Grill Basics


The Basics: Information on Features, Accessories, and Materials


      Many of you have probably noticed that outdoor gas grills have become increasingly feature packed and complex over the past few years.  There are so many parts, options, accessories, and materials put into them these days it’s hard to sort out the important features and parts. The basics below will help you decide and understand just what items and materials you need in your outdoor grill and what type of model or design will suit your needs best.  After all, with grills ranging in cost from a few hundred, to several thousands of dollars, over ten million units sold per year, and hundreds of different models available, it’s important to choose the right one for you.  Below are the all the basics.


Fuel Type


Grill Basics Fuel Typre Image      The first choice in selecting a new grill is to choose a fuel type. There are benefits of both gas and charcoal fuels, however, gas grills win over many buyers on convenience and simplicity.  They are quicker, healthier, and give greater heat control.  Gas grills are also much better for the environment and cleaner burning.  Charcoal is quite a polluter; in fact, almost a million tons of briquettes are used each year. The only thing you don’t get with gas is that charcoal flavor, however, with infrared burners and smoke trays this is now almost a thing of the past.


Propane or NG 


Grill Basics Propane Tank Image      If your new model is gas, you’ll have to make the tough decision of choosing between a propane and natural gas grill. While propane and natural gas both cook and perform almost the same, natural gas is always available and will never have to be filled up.  On the other hand, standard propane tanks come in 20 lb. bottles and will last about 10 hours of use. If you are an outdoor grilling enthusiast, you could go through a bottle every couple of weeks. At this frequency, propane is about 3 times the cost of natural gas, and can add up.




Brill Bacis Grill Size Image      While most people rarely need to cook forty hamburgers at the same time, there are occasions where large grills come in handy. Once you throw on some side items, vegetables, and a few steaks, space can become a premium.  Most gas grills offer a primary grilling area as well as a warming area or rack.  You can determine the size of your unit by multiplying the length times the width.  Small models range from 300 to 500 total square inches, medium from 500 to 700, and large grills are above 700 square inches.  Most people will find that a medium sized unit is sufficient.




Grill Basics Grill BTU's Image      The term British Thermal Unit is just a fancy name for something that is really quite simple.  Also known as BTU, this is the word to describe how much heat a grill can put out in one hour at full output.  The higher the BTU, the more power and heat your grill will deliver and the more fuel it will consume.  While BTU’s are not the only important aspect of how your grill performs, it is at the top.  It is an important specification to review, but you don't have to overly focus on BTU's, many design features such as steel thickness, hood design, and burner depth can counteract a lower BTU output. 



Grill Basics - Grill Grates Image      In addition to BTU, the types of grates can affect cooking performance. There are three common types of grates. They are porcelain coated, stainless steel, and cast iron. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Porcelain coated grates are easy to clean, but can chip. On the other hand, stainless steel shares all the benefits of porcelain grates, but is more durable. Lastly cast iron, which is probably the hottest and best performing cooking surface, is not as durable as stainless steel. The choice is usually a matter of preference, but stainless steel is usually the best choice.




Grill Basics - Grill Burners Image      Burners are essentially the heart of the grill. They deliver gas and flame to your food and have to be able to stand up to high temperatures, moisture, and grease. Burners are usually made of stainless steel, brass, or cast iron and have tiny holes through which the gas flows. The quality of your burners are very important in choosing a grill, as the heat and moisture will cause the more inexpensive burners to deteriorate quickly.  Generally brass burners are the most desirable, with 304 stainless steel coming in at a close second.




Grill Basics - Grill Rotisseries Image      Some food items are just too large to cook on a flat surface. Items such as roasts or whole chickens are perfect for a rotisserie system. A rotisserie will allow these large meats to be cooked perfectly even, at low temperatures, and over a long period of time by slowly rotating your food over the heat source.  Many newer systems have infrared rear burners specifically for your rotisserie.  It is important to look for a rotisserie system that can hold at least 20 pounds without flexing or bending.   Most rotisseries run on an electric motor and will require an electrical outlet to be used.




Grill Basics - Grill Steel Image      One of the most important aspects of choosing a grill is the quality of the parts and steel that it is made of.  There are dozens of low quality stainless steel models sold and odds are that with this type of grill, replacement parts will be needed in only a short time. There are two main types of steel used: 430 stainless and 304 stainless. Don’t let the name fool you, 430 stainless steel is the same type of steel that cars are made of, and it will both rust and discolor. If you choose a grill with 430 stainless, extra care will be required to keep it looking its best.


Read more on:  Small Gas Grills, Propane vs Natural Gas, and Gas vs Charcoal.









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