Friday, June 4, 2010

Selecting a Grill for Outdoor Cooking: Part One

Today, I'm presenting a special guest post from the handsome and talented Papa Diva - who, incidentally, is in the market for a new grill himself. He has graciously offered to share his thoughts on the various types of outdoor grills ... for those lucky enough to have outdoor space in which to grill! This post is the first in Papa Diva's Out Door Grilling Series. Enjoy!

Papa Diva is aware that not everyone lives in NY City, some of us actually live in the provinces where cooking outside is a requirement; along with lawn mowing and mulching. I thought some thoughts selecting and using a grill might be in order as we near the official opening of the potato salad season.

First, we need a glossary of terms:

Barbecue or barbecuing: You will notice that I avoid the use of the term barbecue. That actually refers to a method of very slow cooking of inexpensive cuts of meat. Southerners wince when we Yankees refer to grilling as barbecuing.

BTU: Stands for British Thermal Unit. One BTU equals the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one (1) degree Fahrenheit. Many gas fired grills are rated in BTU's/hr. It is usually best to buy a grill with the highest BTU rating your budget allows. We will tell you why that's important when we talk about grilling steaks.

Fuel: You can buy a grill that burns charcoal, charcoal briquets, natural gas or propane gas. There are also electric grills.

Natural Gas: Natural gas is a utility delivered to your home through pipes in the street. It does not burn as hot as propane. The purchased grill must be set up for burning natural gas. It requires a different nozzle than a grill specified for use with propane gas.

Propane Gas: This is the most common grill in the Northeast. Grillmiesters in the South and Southwest think we are barbarians for cooking with gas.

Charcoal: This is the stuff for real grillmiesters. Real charcoal (often called lump charcoal) provides the hottest fire of all fuels. This is very important for searing steaks and such. If you are the Diva Hubby, who likes his steaks black on the outside and red on the inside, searing is important. The Diva Hubby is actually a certified grillmiester. A temperature of at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit is needed for searing. A charcoal fire will yield a temperature from 850 to 1,000 degrees. Real charcoal also imparts a smoky flavor to the food that can't be duplicated by any other fuel.

Charcoal Briquets: Made with charcoal, some fillers and some chemicals to facilitate faster lighting. Less expensive than real charcoal. Will not add the same flavor as real charcoal. Some Southerners thing it adds a chemical flavor.

At least one company, Brinkmann, makes a duel fuel grill that has a charcoal grill on one side and a propane grill on the other.

Brinkmann also makes a model with a separate sear burner. You sear the steak on the sear burner and then move it to the regular grill surface to complete cooking. Unless you are the Diva Hubby, in which case you are through cooking when the sear is complete!

What to buy? It all depends on what you're looking for; ease of use, availability of fuel, cost, etc., are all important factors. A grill set up to burn propane gas will be the easiest to find, and the easiest to use. Once ignited, you will be cooking in ten minutes, or less. A charcoal grill will not be ready to cook on for approximately 30 minutes after lighting. Weber makes a grill that uses a small propane tank to light the charcoal (or briquets) so can begin cooking in 10 to 15 minutes with a model such as this.

Many gas grills now include a side burner, usually rated at 12,000 BTU's. The side burner is useful for boiling water for the ears of corn that go well with seared steaks.

Stay tuned for Part Two in our series, as we have not exhausted this complex subject!

So, what sort of grill do you fancy? Hungry Diva family wants to know! And, if you have any questions for Papa Diva, shout them out in the comments.

Happy Grilling!


Mo Diva said...

as a NYer my grilling options are limited. that was a very informative post on grilling and i was an ignorant yankee cuz i called it BBQing... but im informed.. well informed now!
and with my newfound knowledge I am going to add that my apartment has allowed me little to no grilling... unless my george forman counts... and im guessing thats a NO. :-)

The Diva on a Diet said...

Mo Diva - yeah, you and I are in the same boat. I'm BFF with my grill pan! LOL

Anonymous said...

Great info on grilling, I will forward to my parents who are looking into buying an outdoor grill now.

Lola said...

I use a gas grill at home and have a smoker box for hickory wood. It's definitely the way to go for more flavorful meats.

We use a charcoal hibachi type grill for camping. When we camp, cooking is more laid back and we use the time it takes to get the coals going to prep the food. Clean up is a breeze because we just dump the spent ashes into the fire pit.

Suzy said...

I got my Weber charcoal grill last year after many years with gas, and I can't believe how much better it is! Much hotter temps, and the flavor is soooooooo good. Even plain old hamburgers are something special when cooked on a charcoal grill.

Our good friend bought a Big Green Egg last THAT is a serious grill! Also very good for smoking.

Christina said...

Thanks for sharing with Friday Firsts!

Right now we have a Weber chargoal grill b/c bf did a bunch of reading on what is "best" before I moved in and decided on this. I like it, but to be honest it's more work than I'm used to and isn't convenient. In the future I think I'd prefer to also have a gas grill. It'd be so much easier to light up just half of it to grill chicken breasts or a few hot dogs. Right now we can't do that w/ the charcoal one b/c it's just such a pain to load it up, wait for it to get hot.. etc. So I wait until we have a big day of grilling - or I make sure to grill everything on the plate!

Wilma said...

Question for Grampy Diva...
When can I come over for some of this grilled meat??

Great post Grampy!!

The Diva on a Diet said...

5 Star - thanks! Papa Diva will be glad to hear the post was timely for you parents. I wonder what sort they'll choose?

Lola - sounds like you know what you're doing! I've always been curious about those smokers. Some friends of mine have an indoor version that they've used to good effect. I'm not going to try it in a NYC apartment though! LOL

Suzy - I've heard about the Green Eggs too. Very cool! Thanks for weighing-in in favor of the charcoal ... now save me one of those burgers! :)

Christina - being the lazy sort of Diva I am, I would opt for the gas grill for the very reasons you state. 'Twould be so nice to just decide to grill and then be grilling minutes later. I do recognized the flavor benefits of charcoal though.

Wilma - if all goes according to plan, I hope will be grilling at Papa Diva's house next Sunday! :)

Nisrine@Dinners and Dreams said...

Wow, there is so much I didn't know about grilling. I learned a lot. Thank you.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Lots of good advice. I think its time to get my steak on ;)
Have a wonderful weekend daaahling.
*kisses* HH

stephchows said...

awesome :) I'm a gas grill girl... I'm way too impatient for charcoal :D

Lazaro Cooks! said...

Congrats on winning Natasha's smoothie contest. I thought yours was the clear winner.

Look forward to following you here.


Sophie said...

Thanks for the info on grilling & all of the tips!

Many kisses from Brussels, Belgium!

pixelgal said...

My unsophisticated pallette says dogs and burgers taste good any way you cook 'em. And I'm with the ones who say charcoal takes too long to light up. Weber has been good to us but I think we're about to depart from the usual in favor of a 'sear' burner! We'll
let you know how it goes. And Wilma, if you can get by your overprotective parents, meats will be waiting!

Katherine Aucoin said...

Tara, oh how I've missed visiting you. Wonderful post!

Since I don't believe cueing or grilling is just a "man" thing, I'll give you my female perspective.

A gas grill is my "go to" outdoor cooking source everyone should own if they can. I love using it almost every day to keep from heating up the kitchen.

Cooking over charcoal and/or a on smoker is not just for inexpensive cuts of meat. It's a method of cooking low and slow and infusing your food with smokey flavor. Believe it or not many people can tell the difference between hickory, mesquite, pecan, etc. smoked meats. Unfortunatley, I'm not one of them.

This is such an interesting versitile subject to learn!

You go girl!