So you’re in the market for a new grill?
Before you get blown away by BTUs or rotated with rotisseries, there are a few things to consider. It’s true that the barbecue is now a more prominent fixture in our personal kingdoms. Today’s grills have side burners, warming racks, storage and in some, refrigerators; all of which means a bit more research and understanding as a consumer before we lay down our hard-earned cash.
We’ve come a long way from our father’s charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid fireworks. Men still rank highest in wielding the tongs – 64 per cent of us rule those 12-square feet of space directly in front of the stainless meat kiln, drooling over the aroma of a perfectly grilled T-bone. Heaven help the wayward neighbor who sticks their hand too close.
This season, as we anxiously watch the last of snow melt away from the corner of the yard, barbecues remain functional, practical and efficient. A recent consumer study revealed that 91 per cent of us use gas when it comes to powering up the ‘cue; 84 per cent with a liquid propane tank. Outdoor living is the chance to relax, socialize and recharge the batteries. In fact, a 2009 study showed that almost three-quarters of Canadian men see grilling as a perfect stress-buster after grinding it out all week at work.
Infrared gas grills
Probably the biggest movement in gas grills – while not entirely new to 2010 – continues to gain momentum: the introduction of infrared technology.
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, infrared grilling is “Hotter, faster and the future of grilling." The intense heat of infrared technology brings “at-home cooks the taste of restaurant-quality grilled steaks and meats to their own backyard."
Reaching over 500°C (900°F) in matter of seconds even without closing the lid, this type of grill actually uses the same propane or natural gas source. The only difference is that instead of heating food with hot air, they burn the metal grate or porcelain-enameled cooking surface to produce thermal radiation.
SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE BUYING
Price vs. performance and number of features (ignition system, side burner, utensil holders, etc.)
Effectiveness of power rating and evenness of heating across the cooking area.
How frequently will you use the grill? Ease of use, cleaning and maintenance.
Versatility (can it use both propane tanks and natural gas? Can it roast, have a rotisseire? etc.)
Portability (is it easy to move/mobile for that tailgate?)
Durability and availability of replacement parts.
Trends on the Grill
Thanks to a number of restaurants taking up plank grilling for mainstream menu items, the trend continued to gain momentum in our own backyards. The addition of the wood flavour adds a new dimension to a number of meats, and makes grilling fish almost as easy burgers.
2 Lean Times
Almost one-third of Canadians say they are looking to leaner meats on the grill this year. And Quebecers lead the nation – 42 per cent – in tossing the veggies on the grill.
3 New Food Faire
Most of us admit there are two things we’d like to be better at when it comes to grilling: pizza and roasts. In the meantime, we also cling to the traditions: 72 per cent favour burgers as the easiest item, with the least amount of prep.
EXPERT TIPS FOR BUYING A GRILL
Author, grilling expert and teacher Elizabeth Karmel offers these tips for buying a grill. The first step in purchasing a grill is to determine if you want to use gas or charcoal. Both produce great-tasting food and nowadays there isn’t much of a price difference between the two, so deciding which is right for you comes down to how you want to grill.
✔ A Lid Is Essential
Always look for a sturdy grill that can stand up to strong winds and has a lid. A lid is required for indirect grilling (this means heat is on either side of the food rather than directly below it) and smoking with wood chips. Plus, closing the lid helps air circulate, providing for more even cooking.
✔ Bigger Is Better
Consider buying a larger grill than you think you need or want. The more you grill, the more you’ll want to grill – you may even find you like cooking large racks of ribs and whole turkeys on your grill – so it’s a good idea to invest in the equipment to accommodate your ambitions.
✔ Don’t Over-accessorize
When it comes to accessories such as side burners and rotisseries, think about what you’ll really use before paying extra for them. Be aware that extra shelves may not be removable and could prevent you from grilling larger pieces of meat.
Tip➙ Your grilling gear should include an instant-read thermometer and a timer. These inexpensive accessories will take the guesswork out of when your grilled food is cooked to perfection.
Baffled by BTUs?
Gas grill manufacturers are aware that people tend to look at the BTU (British thermal units) rating as a sign of power. But while the number of BTUs that a grill generates contributes to the maximum heat that a grill can reach it is not the only factor. It’s difficult to determine the heat output of a grill from just the BTU rating. Size, materials and design all play a role in how much heat is generated.
Compare the advertised number of BTUs to the square inches of primary grilling area to get an idea of how well a grill might heat. The broad rule is that 100 BTUs are required for every square inch of cooking space. In other words, if you purchase a grill which averages 300 square inches, then the BTUs must be roughly 30,000 to generate enough heat.
Also keep in mind: the higher the BTUs, the more frequently you will be getting your tank filled.
The higher the BTUs, the more frequently you will be getting your tank filled.