BBQ Buying Guide
If you're shopping for a new BBQ, sometimes it can seem difficult to choose. These BBQ buying guide videos cover the basics you'll want to consider when choosing a grill. We'll provide insights into everything from the key features to look for to the differences in BBQ cooking systems.
Now that you've watched the videos, this BBQ buying guide goes through even more details when choosing a grill.
First, think about how and where you'll want to grill. If you're looking for everyday backyard grilling or to grill for a crowd, you'll likely want to look at full-size grills. If you want something for picnicking or camping - or that you pack and store easily - a portable grill might be more convenient.
Full-sized grills have the greatest range of options. In portable grills, look for trolleys or stands, and handles or lockable lids for easy transportation. Remember you'll need to have your fuel source with you… which brings us to the next thing to consider.
Gas, Charcoal or Electric?
Charcoal grills have been used for generations, and infuse your meals with a distinctive char-grilled flavour.
Gas grills are one of today's most popular choices for their quick lighting and adjustable heat. Because of their popularity, they offer the greatest range of options and features.
Electric grills offer ease and convenience, plus the flexibility to grill in small spaces where gas is not an option.
Gas Grills – Including Propane and Natural Gas
Gas grills are popular because they are easy to use, letting you adjust your flames with a turn of the dial. They also are incredibly versatile, and offer a wide range of features. All these features mean more decisions to make -- but when you break it down to these key elements, finding your ideal grill can be easy.
Propane or Natural Gas
- If you have a gas line running into your home, consider a natural gas grill. You'll never have to run out for another canister of fuel again – but keep in mind this convenience requires the use of a natural gas line, limiting mobility. These lines must be professionally installed and can cost from $250 to $500.
- Propane grills offer you more flexibility, and are an excellent choice if you plan on transporting your gas grill to different events or to different areas around your home. Many gas stations offer propane filling, and many more offer pre-filled propane tank exchanges.
- BTUs (British Thermal Units) are a measure of the volume of gas a grill can burn when all of its burners are set to high. BTUs are not a measure of heat output or cooking power and shouldn't be used as a way of comparing grills.
- Since larger grills have larger cooking surfaces to heat, they also have more burner length in the grill and generally require more BTUs to heat the surface.
Take a close look at the construction of the grill. How solid are the materials? Consider the weight of the lid – heavier lids can indicate a higher grade of quality materials used in the construction of your grill. A heavier lid also boosts heat retention.
The basic cooking system of a BBQ is made up of three main elements: burners, heat distribution plates and cooking grates. The burner creates the heat, the heat distribution plate spreads the heat around, and the cooking grates deliver the heat to the food.
Know your Burners
In general, the more burners on a gas grill, the more even flame coverage relative to the surface of the grill, and the more control you have to create different heat zone.
But shape and type of burners impact flame coverage and, therefore, heat distribution.
- Tube Burners - The flames produced by this burner run along a straight line. Since the flame spread of this burner is centralized, more burners are required to evenly heat a large cooking surface.
- Double Burners - The double burner is roughly equivalent to two standard tube burners and increases the amount of burner in relation to the grill surface. The result is more even heat and fewer flare-ups.
- EvenHeatTM Burners - resemble a long pancake. These combine the coverage of a double burner with a continuous
- Heat distribution plates – often called flame tamers, heat tents or flavourizer bars are positioned directly above the burners, these plates promote even heating and prevent flare ups by stopping drippings from coming in direct contact with burners. By offering protection, they can also prolong the life of your burners.
This is one of the most important contributors to your grilling results.
- Porcelain-coated steel transfers heat well, and the porcelain prevents food from sticking.
- Porcelain-coated cast iron grates retain heat well and distribute heat more evenly.
- Stainless steel cooking grates offer excellent heat distribution and are also easy to clean and maintain.
To choose a BBQ that will light every time, pay attention to its ignition system. Manufacturers are developing increasingly dependable technologies, some backed by lifetime warranties, to ensure your BBQ lights every time.
There are two types of starters for gas grills: push-button and electronic ignition.
- A push-button, or piezo, starter generate a single spark at the push of a button. Although generally effective, it may require more than one try to get your BBQ to start.
- Electronic multi-spark ignition ensures your barbecue lights on the first try by using a battery-operated system to produce a continuous series of sparks, helping your gas light immediately.
Other BBQ Features
Whether you've narrowed your choices or are looking for conveniences, consider these other features commonly found in gas grills.
- Infrared zone - This can provide intense heat for high-temperature searing. It may be integrated into the grilling area, or incorporated as a side burnerwhich can be used as a traditional side burner when the heat is turned down. When infrared technology is incorporated on the side burner you you can sear foods without using up valuable grilling space used for other cooking.
- Infrared rotisserie burners are usually positioned along the back of the grill, This eliminates flare-ups from juices dripping from the meat, and ensures even heat. Large cuts of meat such as whole chicken, turkey, lamb leg, and beef roasts gain added flavour when slow roasted on a rotisserie burner.
- Fuel-gauge - This allows you to see how much propane is left in your tank, so you don't run out part way through preparing your meal.
- Storage cabinets, racks and hooks - Store all your grilling tools close at hand, while concealing unsightly tanks and cleaning brushes.
- Charcoal grills are renowned for their ability to impart food with the smoky flavours and intense aromas that so many people associate with the classic barbecue. These grills use lump charcoal or briquettes – both widely available.
- While many think of charcoal grills as an economical alternative, these grills can come with many features that make grilling a real pleasure. Look for quick starters, ash catchers, adjustable ventilation, height-adjustable grills, warming racks, and solid construction that will last you season after season.
Tip: A chimney starter can bring your charcoal grill to cooking temperature faster, without any additional fire starter.
- Electric grills are among the easiest grills to use, and offer unparalleled convenience. Just plug them into a standard outlet, wait for the grill to reach temperature, and you're ready to barbecue. You'll be able to control the heat with its adjustable thermostat.
- Electric grills are ideal for grilling on your balcony, since they won't break open flame regulations.
Other Outdoor Cooking
Grills aren't the only way to enjoy cooking outdoors.
- Smokers slow-cook meats, fish and vegetables, using smouldering wood chips or wood bisquettes to impart a distinctive smokey flavour to your food. Like grills, smokers are available in a range of options and prices. Charcoal may be considered more traditional by some. Electric smokers can include digital controls that require less hands-on time – a great benefit when slow cooking food.
Outdoor Propane Cookers
- Outdoor propane cookers are great for deep-frying turkey, heating lots of water for corn or lobster bakes, or for canning foods without electricity. They have very high BTUs to heat a large volume of liquid to high temperature quickly. You'll want to be sure you have a level area with plenty of space to set up and use these safely.