Choosing a Barbecue Grill: The Gas or Charcoal Question

With summer just around the corner, there is no better time than the present to think about purchasing a Barbecue Grill. They come in many sizes, styles and shapes; there is bound to be one that will appeal to you and suit your needs.

Gas vs. Charcoal

The age old question of which is better, gas or charcoal, comes up when you are thinking about a grill.

Gas Grills

A natural gas or propane grill is much easier to get started and keep going. It is also more reliable as to temperature and when you turn it off, it’s off.

There are several sizes of gas grills to choose from. They are rated by the amount of heat they produce in BTU’s. The more BTU’s the bigger the grill. They will range anywhere from whole outdoor kitchen size, to the little table top size. The one you choose should not only fit your patio, but also your lifestyle. If you entertain frequently, then the outdoor kitchen may be the answer. If you are on the go and setup to grill anywhere you are, then the smaller table top model may be what you are looking for.

However, if you have a moderate patio, and a small family, a medium size grill, (one to three burner varieties) may work for you. These have about 10,000 to 15,000 BTU’s and work very well as an all around grill.

No matter what size gas grill you choose, they will all be ignited by a spark of some kind. Either by a built-in igniter, or a hand held model. You would turn on the gas and click the igniter. Then the burners would blaze to life. You can adjust the length of the flame, for the desired temperature and after a moment or so, you can start cooking. When the food is done, turn it off, and you are done.

Charcoal Grills

A charcoal grill takes a fine hand and a lot of patience to get it going. If you don’t have enough coals, your grill can go cold before the food is done. You have to wait for it to burn out, before leaving it alone. But, the taste makes the trouble worth it.

As with the gas grills, charcoal grills come in many different sizes to choose from. They range in size from the 18 wheeler tanker truck grill where the heat can be felt for blocks, to a single use foil pan of briquettes. These grills are categorized by the size of their cooking surface in square inches. A large grill will typically have 600 to 800 square inches of cooking surface. Again, the size you choose should fit your space and lifestyle.

If you have a moderate patio, and a small family, the medium size “Cajun microwave” may be right for you. This style is patterned after an oil drum, with an offset fire box. This is where you would put wood, if you were to want a smoky taste. You can also bypass the fire box and just put charcoal in the bottom. Either way will create a wonderful grilling experience.

No matter what size or style you choose, you will need to have enough charcoal briquettes and thus, pre-heated coals to cook on. Coals are started usually with a match, or a long lighter. Before setting them ablaze, you may want to put a little charcoal lighter fluid on them. Be careful with this and do not put it on coals that have already been lit. A better alternative is the Match Light variety, which start as soon as you set a match to them, these don’t need lighter fluid. You should start your coals at least a half an hour to an hour ahead of the time you wish to begin cooking. The coals need to be a nice cherry red, all around, before they are ready. The heat is regulated by the amount of coals you have. The more you use, the hotter it is. If they die out before the meal is done, you can’t add more. If you have too many, the meal will burn. Getting the right amount of coals takes practice and it is an art.

Grill Safety

The size, type and style of grill you choose should be in relation to the space you have on your patio or deck that is away from overhanging roofs or trees. It is very dangerous to use a grill under a covered patio, inside a house, or under overhanging trees. The best place will be in the open away from these things. When you are done with the grill, leave it in place until it is cool. More than one home owner has found that a hot grill can cause major damage to his house.

Be sure to consider the number of people you will be cooking for regularly, before purchasing your grill. If there will only be a few of you, don’t purchase a gigantic grill, you will end up only using a small portion of it, and wasting energy unnecessarily.

Whatever grill you choose, enjoy your time outside. Happy Grilling.

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