How to find the grill of your dreams
Backyard chefs have an array of choices now, which can make the selection even more difficult. Here are some tips.
Nothing says "summer" like a cookout. In days past, the backyard grill was most likely a metal can on spindly legs containing kerosene-soaked charcoal, suitable only for cooking a few burgers and a couple of dogs. But these days a grill could just as easily be a $2,000 stainless steel behemoth capable of cooking half a side of beef in one area, vegetables in another, and sporting features like a warming tray, a steamer, infrared cooking, multiple controls, fuel and temperature gauges and lights.
Welcome to grills gone wild.
Outdoor cooking still works just fine with simple charcoal briquettes and a small, inexpensive grill. But if you've decided to step it up this year, here are some tips to find a hot deal on a cool grill. Let's start with a recent news story, then add a little meat to the bones on the other side.
Tips to finding your perfect grill:
- Don't fall in love with the grill next door. Forget those sexy grills your friends and neighbors have. Focus on what kind of cooking you plan to do, and don't buy more grill than you need. A grill big enough to feed 20 costs more to buy and more to use. Plus, the bigger the cooking area, the more difficult it is to evenly distribute heat, making it harder to cook on. Like everything in life from cars to refrigerators, avoid expense and complications by paying only for the features you really need.
- Beware of stainless steel. As you saw in the news video above, there's a big difference between cheap stainless and quality American stainless steel. Pure stainless will last longer, clean faster, look better -- and cost more. Take a magnet with you. If it sticks, it's not pure, high-quality stainless. But stainless, while popular, isn't necessarily best. A porcelain-coated grill is easier to keep shiny.
- Look for a grate deal. Porcelain-coated steel doesn't keep temperatures as consistent as stainless-steel or coated cast-iron grates.
- Shop before you chop. Check this article from Consumer Reports for some of their favorite grill features. There's also a list of their favorite grills in the June issue of Consumer Reports magazine. When you go shopping, keep in mind that, while home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot sell lots of grills -- they keep them near the front door in the summer so that men are like moths to a candle -- check Sears, Wal-Mart and Target, too. And don't forget your locally owned shops. They're members of your community and deserve the opportunity to compete for your business.
- Bing Shopping:Barbecue grills
- Pick a sturdy model. While you're shopping, test to see how well the grills are made. Do they wobble in the store? Not a good sign for what might happen later in your backyard. The sturdier the better.
- Don't go for the hottest grill in town. BTUs are a heavily advertised way to measure the ability of a grill to heat, but they're really not all that important. More important is evenly distributed heat. Also important is control. The more independently controlled burners a barbecue has, the more control you'll have and the more efficiently you'll cook.
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