Probably the biggest decision about purchasing a grill is whether you want a charcoal, gas or electric grill. You will need to weigh the benefits of each against the others and decide which one is best for your needs.
What are your options?
Charcoal grills tend to be the least expensive to buy initially because they have the fewest parts. Charcoal cooks food at very high heat to seal-in juices. Many people prefer the smoky taste and flavor that only charcoal grills can provide. However, starting up a charcoal grill can take some time, but more advanced models have incorporated gas ignition systems that reduce this preparation time.
Gas grills, on the other hand, are ready to cook within minutes, and can be fueled with propane or natural gas. Wood chips can be used to add smoky flavors. Gas grill parts are readily available to extend the useful life of your unit. Electric grills only need a regular outlet but do not get as hot as either charcoal or gas.
Size of the grill
Size is another important consideration – if you’re planning on the cooking for neighborhood parties, picnics, or family get-togethers on a regular basis, you’re going to want a much bigger grill with a large cooking area than if you’re only preparing food for one or two people. An indoor electric grill may be a better choice for you in that situation. Charcoal and gas grills can never be used indoors because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you live in an apartment building or high rise condo with a balcony, you may only have room for a small electric unit. House rules and regulations may also prohibit gas and charcoal grills. Electric grills heat up a little more slowly than gas, but are very easy to start. Electric is the ideal choice for indoor grilling or use on a balcony in an apartment building since they present minimal fire risk.
If you’re thinking small consider a hibachi, a small, portable charcoal grill you can carry anywhere to enjoy your favorite BBQ when you’re tailgating or picnicking at the park.
About BTUs (British thermal units)
In addition to the size of the cooking area the number of items you can cook at any one time is dependent on the heat output of the grill. Heat is measured in BTUs (British thermal units) and, higher ratings indicate a more intense heat output. For charcoal grills the BTU output is limited only by the size of the firebox and how deep you stack the briquettes. Heat regulation on charcoal grills however is very tricky.
Gas grills provide more precise temperature control for cooking food evenly and consistently. The new infrared gas grill models can heat up to 700 degrees, and even higher with the expensive models, to give you steak house quality results that everyone will enjoy. A family size gas grill should have at least 20,000 BTU rating. A portable gas grill should have at least an 8,000 BTU rating.