Cooking out is a great summer activity. Even though most people associate it with summer, it’s great year-round, even in the snow. You can enjoy the fresh air while you prepare a fantastic meal. And that meal can be as simple as hot dogs on buns to steak or fish complete with sides.
One of the keys to enjoying your grilling to the fullest, though, is knowing what kind of grill you want. There is a wide variety available that can meet different needs. Both fuel types and cooking style can vary among the different kinds of grill. So let’s have a look at the pros and cons of different types of grills so you can make a better choice for your own needs!
Grills By Fuel Type
There are several ways to fuel a barbecue grill. Each one can offer distinct advantages. Some may offer a better taste, while others burn cleaner. You might want to make a choice based on how easy it is to start or clean up, how economical it is, or how consistent its heat is. Let’s have a look at the main types here.
Charcoal grills are the most traditional and basic models on the market. That also allows them to be smaller than most other types of grill since there’s no fuel source as part of the grill. Instead, you just have to head to your nearest big box store or even a gas station convenience store to buy a bag of charcoal briquets.
Many people prefer charcoal grills because they are simple to use, easy to transport, and create a sense of “roughing it.” Also, some people find that cooking over charcoal gives a richer taste. Since you’re getting real smoke from real burning coals, there’s something special about the taste.
Charcoal grills do require a lot more effort than other grill types, though. For some, that’s part of the appeal – to do it right, you have to know what you’re doing. It can be tougher to get the fire started and to achieve the right temperature.
Another disadvantage with charcoal grills is that you’re left with a pile of ash that you’ll need to dispose of. On a windy day, that ash can blow everywhere. Even on a good day, you’ll probably end up getting it on your hands and your clothes.
However, charcoal grills remain a favorite because of their simplicity and the chance to do it the old-fashioned way!
Probably the most popular contemporary type of grill, gas grills are incredibly popular and offer a great range of options.
Most gas grills use propane and are portable, at least to an extent. There are also grills that run on natural gas. The latter is only possible in a fixed location since it depends on a feed from the natural gas system. Some grills can be used as either, but if you choose a grill designed for only one, you can’t use it with the other.
Gas grills are easy to start. It’s also easy to regulate the flame on all but the most basic models. This is important to allow for cooking a wide variety of foods. Gas also burns cleanly with no residue (although with all types, there’s still a lot of cleaning to do after cooking).
On the other hand, some people claim that there is sometimes an odd aftertaste from the gas. There can also be a lack of the “character” that comes with cooking over charcoal or wood. However, you can get special briquets to add the taste of mesquite or other natural materials to the cooking process.
And of course, as we mentioned, gas grills aren’t very portable. Although propane grills usually have wheels, the unit itself is heavy even before adding a 25 lb. propane cylinder into the calculations.
Another alternative to gas or charcoal grills is an electric model. These are generally more compact than other types. If you’re limited by space or other reasons, this could be the choice for you.
In some areas, especially in condominiums or apartments, you might not be permitted to have an open flame as you’d get with either a gas or charcoal grill. Electric grills help you keep grilling as an option while staying on the right side of the rules.
However, you’ll get even less of a real smoky taste with an electric grill. If you’re serious about grilling, this is probably only an option if there’s no possibility of using gas or charcoal.
Also, while these grills are portable due to their size, you’re up against another obstacle: you can only use them where you can plug them in. So unless you have a generator or your campground provides electricity, they’re not going to work for your camping trip!
Grills by Purpose
Not only do grills come in a diversity of fuel types; there are also a variety of types based on the kind of cooking you plan to do. In your kitchen, you can’t use a frying pan to cook everything – you need a variety of types of pots and pans, and you may even need a deep fryer, pastry oven, pizza oven, and more. To be able to grill the greatest variety of foods, there are a wide variety of types of grill that are specialized for certain kinds of cooking.
The open grill is as simple as you get. Most of your charcoal grills are going to be open, but there are also open gas grills and other types. Of course, you can leave the lid open on other types of grill, too, so they serve for open grilling!
Open grills work great for foods that are going to cook quickly at high heat. They work on the principle of direct heat. The flame or heat source is right under the food and quickly accomplishing its task.
If you’re focusing on hamburgers or hot dogs, an open grill is perfect. They also work well for kebabs, fish filets, or steaks since these are thin cuts that don’t require a large amount of time to cook correctly.
As simple as it sounds, adding a lid to a grill also adds a huge amount of versatility. By trapping in the heat and smoke, it allows a far wider variety in what and how you cook.
Since the heat is trapped, you can cook larger items with a closed grill. You also aren’t relying simply on the flame to do the cooking. So foods that cook better when heated indirectly do better here.
A closed charcoal grill also is great for smoking food. Since a minimal amount of smoke escapes, you’re left with food that’s permeated with the taste of the burning charcoal or wood, creating a magnificent taste that’s hard to get otherwise.
Another great way to cook is on a spit. While some grills may offer an attachment for rotisserie cooking, there are also models specifically designed for it. These can include self-turning spits that allow for consistent rotation and free you up from the repetitive, time-consuming action.
If you’re looking to cook whole chickens or a rib roast, this is a great way to go. You can even cook a whole hog this way with a big enough grill! The food cooks over direct heat but somewhat off-center, so that you have the benefits of both indirect and direct heat.
When you’re really into smoking, a closed grill might not be sufficient to meet your needs. So it might be better to look at a grill designed specifically for the purpose.
Smoking meat is a slow process that will help make tough meats tender. It’s not the type of cooking to do when you’re in a hurry, but the wait will be worth it.
With smokers, there’s often a separate chamber where the wood or charcoal is burned. The smoke then passes to the cooking chamber. That way there’s no direct heat on the meat. Instead, it’s the smoke itself that does the cooking as it penetrates the cut.
Kamado or Tandoor Style Grills
If you’re looking for high-heat roasting, Kamado or Tandoor grills might work well for you. These styles use ceramic walls and radiant heat to do the cooking.
In some cases, flatbreads are cooked directly on the ceramic itself. Other foods may be cooked on a vertical spit rather than on a horizontal grill.
Grills of these types are great for The kamado grills can also be used for smoking.
Grilling can produce fantastic tastes no matter what you’re cooking. But when you want to master the art, it’s important to know what type of grill works best and what fuel sources are available. With the right knowledge and tools, you’ll become the grill master of the neighborhood in no time!