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Outdoor Grill Buying Guide

A comprehensive outdoor grill guide that will give you all the imformation you need on how to buy a new gas or charcoal grill.


Getting Started

Finding the perfect outdoor grill, although sometimes difficult, can lead to hours of memorable family time with perfectly cooked burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and more. As the technology of barbecue grills continues to evolve, the challenge of deciding which unit is right for you transforms into an endless search through rotisseries, infrared burners, BTUs, and dozens of other things you have never heard of.
Size
As you begin your search, think about how much power and space you are going to need. Will you be grilling for a family of four, or a team of 20? Do you have a large space for the grill or do you live in an apartment or condo, more suited for a smaller, portable grill? Take all these spatial restrictions into account when shopping for a new grill.
Construction Materials
Make your sure you note what the grill is made of; ceramic, stainless steel, cast aluminium, or cast iron. Stainless steel is the preferred material of professionals, but is also the most expensive. Once you find a material you like, check the entire grill, body and frame, to make sure the construction is solid. The truth is, cast aluminium will typically outlast any quality of stainless steel. A recent trend, ceramic grills like the Big Green Egg, are gaining popularity and offer a unique grilling experience.
Cost
A higher price tag doesn’t necessarily equate to better food. Besides the actual cost of the unit, the cost of fuel must also be considered. Natural gas grills have a higher short term cost but the long term cost of fuel is less than charcoal. There are grills to fit any budget.
Help, Support and Maintenance
Taking care of your grill will extend its life and performance. Inquire about the clean-up and maintenance procedures of the grill. Picking a manufacturer with a quality customer service program can save you hours of frustration down the road. Several manufacturers offer customer service on anything and everything grill related and will happily coach you through any process. Abt’s award winning customer service stands behind all of our grills. Our specialists are ready and available to help you through you entire purchase.

Size

Are you cooking burgers and hot dogs, or racks of ribs and pork shoulders?  The primary square inches of the grill is the measurement of main cooking surface and is first, and foremost, the most important size consideration when buying a new grill. The secondary square inches is the amount of workspace available.

If you’re looking at gas grills, make sure the grill has enough heat production and surface area to meet your demands. Don’t pick a grill because it has the highest BTU’s.  Compare that number with the size and shape of the grill. Smaller, more compact, grills can have higher cooking temperatures with fewer BTUs.

Type

Charcoal
Charcoal Grills
The classic choice, a versatile charcoal grill is easy to use and adds an authentic barbecue flavor of classically grilled food.  Compared to gas grills, there aren't as many moving parts to distract you from achieving those perfect grill marks but, the heat isn't as easily maintained and controlled. Charcoal grills are comparably harder to light and take a little longer to heat up. Charcoal grills tend to have a higher long term fuel cost, but basic pressed briquettes are easy to find at any supermarket. There are also lump charcoal options made from chunks of hardwood from many sources. Lump charcoal is one of the best ways to add unique flavors to food and improve your outdoor cooking experience.

Best For: A grilling purist that wants an authentic, smoky flavor. The higher temperature (compared to gas) allow for easier seared meat. Anyone who desires the romance of charcoal grilling that is lacking from modern gas grills.

Disadvantages: The set up and expense of charcoal. It can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes to get a charcoal grill started and even more time to clean the grill and dispose of the ashes. The cost of purchasing charcoal eventually rises above the cost of gas.
Electric
The electric options are perfect for those constrained by fire regulations such as condo and apartments. Grill-masters that want to avoid violating any codes, but enjoy a perfectly cooked brat or burger can still cook out with an electric grill.

Best For: City dwellers, apartments or other areas that can't use charcoal or gas.

Disadvantages: Loss of authentic BBQ flavor.
Natural Gas
Propane Grills
Natural gas grills require the installation of a dedicated gas line, and while more expensive to install, tend to have lower fuel costs over time.  Cooking food on a natural gas grill is a two-step process. First, the natural gas is burned and heats coal or porcelain briquettes that transfer the heat to the cooking surface of the grill. The briquettes also vaporize the “drippings” and add a barbecue flavor, similar to a charcoal grill. As an added bonus, a naturals gas grill’s utility extends beyond that of a traditional grill. You can roast and braise food, or bake, fry, and stew food using Dutch ovens in the natural gas grill.

Best For: Impatient chefs looking to quickly fire up the grill and get to work without having to worry about preparation or clean up.

Disadvantages: Loss of authentic BBQ flavor. Higher price tag and installation cost (if you need to run the dedicated gas line).
Propane
Propane Grills
One of the most popular choices, a liquid propane grill is easy to use and has significantly less clean up than charcoal grills. Simply turn a knob, press a button, and you're ready to go. Propane grills also come with several options that aren’t available on charcoal grills. Users can easily adapt their propane grill for natural gas, and have access to features like side burners and infrared burners. While quick and simple, propane grills require a readily available supply of propane. Having to haul around tanks of propane and find a place to refill them may be a hassle, and becomes an even bigger problem if you run out of fuel before you’re done grilling.

Best For: Anyone looking for an easy to use grill with a selection of features, without the extra expenses of natural gas and charcoal. Quick and easy set-up and clean up make propane a good choice for inpatient grillers who enjoy properly cooked food but don’t care about authentic flavor.

Disadvantages: Propane loses the authentic wood smoked flavor of charcoal. Also, the threat of running out of propane before the job is done, and the hassle of maintaining replacement fuel tanks can make propane a more tedious alternative.
Smokers
Smokers are a specialty item for slow cooking foods with unique and rich flavor. Smokers bathe food in waves of rich smoke to add an intense succulent, savory smoky flavor. Designed for long, slow cooking at low temperatures, smokers take patience but ultimately lead to an amazingly authentic taste.  Smokers aren’t as versatile as the alternatives; their design is focused towards certain foods and loses effectiveness on other types of barbecue or grilled options. Smoking can also be accomplished on a good gas or charcoal grill set on low, indirect heat, using smoking wood chunks to add flavor.

Best For: A barbeque naturalist that wants a true, authentic, natural, rich smoky flavor. Good for anyone who wants to get the process started and sit back and let the smoker do the work.

Disadvantages: Smoking food is a time investment. It is not as versatile as alternative cooking methods.  Also, smoking can be accomplished with a good gas or charcoal grill as well.

Features

Each grill comes with its own selection of features to improve, and add-on to, your outdoor grilling experience. Consult the list below and determine which features are "must-haves" and which you can sacrifice in the long-run in favor more preferred characteristics, like price.
Burners
The more burners available, the more control one has over the heat. Burners facilitate direct and indirect heat, and may also come with screens to protect the grill from spiders and insects.
Favourite Bars (Weber)
Favourite bars, a term coined by Weber, convert the flame output of the burners to infrared energy and protect the burners from direct drippings.
Grates
Cooking grates come in two forms: stainless steel and enamelled porcelain. Stainless steel resists rust and other types of hard-weather corrosion. Porcelain enamelled grates protect the steel skeleton from rust and heat damage. Porcelain is also a good insulator, helping the grill maintain higher temperatures.
Infrared Burners
Infrared burners are the newest technology in outdoor cooking for perfectly seared foods every time. Heat is directed from the gas burner to a ceramic tile. The heat, converted to infrared energy, is then radiated onto the food. Infrared burners achieve extremely high heat and allow for quick searing of meat to lock in juices.
Electronic Igniter
A modern day match for your grill, a push button ignition quickly ignites the grill with the touch of a button so you can begin cooking in no time.
Primary Square Inches
The amount of grilling/cooking surface the grill has.
Rotisseries
Rotisseries move the food around the heat to create generally juicier meats that are self-basted, and slow roasted.  Rotisserie cooking requires a lot less heat than traditional grilling techniques.
Secondary Square Inches
The amount of work space on grill including warming racks and side burners.
Side Burners
Used for sauté pans, cook pots, or other items that aren’t grilled, but require heat. Side burners help you cook a full meal on the grill rather than split between indoor and outdoor kitchens.
Slide Out Tray
Slide-out bottom trays funnel grease and cooking juices into a catch pan for quick and easy clean up.
Thermometer
Used to monitor cooking temperatures, they can be found on the grill's body or hood. Some grills come with a multipurpose thermometer that can be removed and used to probe the food and gauge food's interior temperature.
Warming Racks
Warming racks, or warm up baskets, attach to the inner housing of the grill and add space to keep grilled foods warm.

Accessories

Brushes
Left over drippings and grime grills can deteriorate the grill's structure and ruined the taste of the foods grilled. Grill brushes make clean up into a quick and easy. Scrape away leftover food and grime, reach those hidden spots, and extend the life of your grill with a quality grill brush.
Carts & Drawers
Grill carts and drawers add extra utility space to the grill. They can be simple, mobile carts, or premium models that add several storage compartments, work surfaces, shelves, and more.
Cookware
Specialized pans, holders, cutting boards griddles and more. The right choice of cookware can make all the difference between an amateur and professional grilling experience. Whether you are grilling pancakes, shish kabob-ing meats and veggies, or creating a grilled pizza, the right cookware will compliment your perfect grill.
Covers
Protect your grill and keep it looking new. Covers keep your grill safe from corrosion caused by outdoor elements. A proper fitting grill cover will extend the life of your grill and can even be stored in a built-in compartment when the grill is in use.
Drip Pans
Drips pans collect all the grill run-off and localize it to one, easy-to-remove, location. They double as great pans for preparing grilled side dishes.
Grates
Replacement/upgraded grill grates and bars can improve your grilling experience or reinvigorate an old grill. Favourite bars protect burners and specialized grates can be added to hold charcoal or adapt your grilling experience to certain foods, like jalapenos.
Grill-Ware
A professional grill master should look the part. Specialized gloves keep your hands safe from the high heat and aprons keep your barbecue-best looking that way. This Weber apron even incorporates a built-in bottle opener so you never have the leave the grill.
Tools & Gadgets
Geeks and grill masters unite with a collection of grilling gadgets that accentuate any grilling experience. Gadgets can monitor temperature, convert propane connections to natural gas, and add LED lights for nighttime grilling.
Rotisseries
If your grill doesn’t come with a rotisserie feature, and you crave the slow-roasted, extraordinary flavor they produce, a peripheral add-on will perfectly roast your chicken, duck, pork, or tribal intruder.
Side Burners
A peripheral side burner will give you more grilling room so you can prepare sides like vegetables and potatoes alongside the main course without a separate range or grill. Some burners also feature rotisseries.
Utensils
Da Vinci didn't paint The Sistine Chapel with a fork, and you're not going to grill the perfect burger without the proper tools for the job. Forks, tongs, spatulas, and sauce brushes make sure your masterpiece comes out the way you intended it to.

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