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.