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It is unlikely that there is anyone who doesn’t like grilled food – be it grilled meat, vegetables, or even fruits. Most people who live in the suburbs or countryside would have grown up having grilled foods on weekends, outdoor parties, or camping. There is something mesmerizing about watching that fat juicy piece of meat cook over searing flames of a grill as the fat drips down over the burning charcoal with a hiss.
If this is your first time buying a grill, or you need to understand the types and which ones are the best, or if you have developed a love for grills & outdoor cooking, continue reading for all you need to know about outdoor grills.
What Are Outdoor Grills?
All types of grills use radiant heat for cooking food; therefore, they need to burn hot and cook fast. Outdoor grills have a generic build – a firebox that contains the source of heat such as charcoal, wood, gas flame, or an electric heating element. A grill grate is suspended over the burning fuel over which the food items to be grilled are placed. Most grills also come with a top lid and a vent that allows smoking meat over the grill.
What makes outdoor grills different from indoor grills is that they have a much larger cooking area and can handle higher grilling temperatures so that you can grill the food to the desired extent. The flavor of the grilled food item is also strongly influenced by the source of heat. Charcoal and wood give a strongly smoked and flavored result, while gas and electric grills add little to no inherent flavor.
Types of Grills and How to Use Them
A lot of factors need to be considered before you pick a grill that works well for you. Consider conveniences such as portability, ease to turn on and off, simple maintenance, and even faster cooking times. If you have a particular fondness for coal-fired grills because it brings back great memories, then that would be the one for you. Gas and electric grills are more popular because of their ease of use, and electric grills are particularly preferred for their safety. Here are the 4 types of outdoor grills that you need to know about:
1. Propane/Gas Grill
The propane outdoor grills are the most widely used type.
- Propane grills use propane as the fuel source and are the most popular grill types available in the market because of their ease of use. You can also convert most propane grills to use natural gas with modification kits.
- For outdoor use, the grill comes with a refillable 20-pound propane tank that fits into the unit. The tank supplies the gas through a regulator valve and a simple hose that connects to the burners. The flow of the gas can be controlled using the regulator to increase or decrease the flame.
- Lighting the grill is also simple – open the hood fully to avoid gas from accumulating in the grill, and the burner closest to the igniter is turned on to full. At the same time, the igniter switch is pushed to light the burner instantly. The rest of the burners are then turned on and lit in the same way. The lid can now be closed, and the grill is allowed to heat up for 15 to 20 minutes before reaching cooking temperature.
- Utility and simplicity of operation are why most homeowners love the propane grill. The controls are stove-like, and it comes with several additional features such as side burners and a second warming rack. Some models also have handy attachments such as utensil holders, internal thermometers, and LED lighting.
- The one major drawback of a propane grill is that the tank can run out of gas without warning, and anyone caught outside camping will have to drive back to a hardware store to get a refill. Additional tanks can solve the problem but also take up extra space.
- Safety precautions are essential when using propane grills as they cause more fires than other types of grills. It is important to ensure the gas lines and valves are in good condition without leaks and the components do not have any rust.
2. Electric Grills
Electric grills are gaining popularity, and here is why:
- These grills are perfect for people who do not have all the space they need for large gas & charcoal outdoor grills. Electric grills have a relatively smaller cooking area and are chosen for their safety. The grills are available in two forms: a classic stand-up propane-type grill with an electric heating element and the second, a table surface contact grill.
- Both the grill designs perform outstandingly and are simple to use and maintain. The grills use a high-capacity heating element to heat the grill to high temperatures, similar to a coal or propane device. Along with excellent and even distribution of heat, they also give the desired grill marks on the foods.
- Electric grills are as simple as electric fryers to use. The grill gets turned on until cooking temperature, and the food is laid on the grill grate. The table surface grill design comes with a nonstick coating that stops the food from sticking to the surface. They are also surprisingly easy to clean and reuse whenever needed.
- Electrical grills are great for both outdoor and indoor use. However, they are not as efficient for camping as they consume excess power.
3. Charcoal Grill
This Classic Grill is famous because:
- Charcoal grills have been around for decades and are a favorite for people whether grilling at home or camp. Being around for long, there are many grill designs and consist of everything from the simplest ones with premium grills with extra features such as a combination with gas.
- Most charcoal grills are designed with a rounded grill body mounted on a set of wheels to move it around easily. The grill can hold enough charcoal to give about an hour’s worth of cooking time. Some models have additional vents on the side to increase airflow.
- Charcoal grills are most popular for their nostalgic effect and the additional smell and flavor it adds to the food. The grills also have to be cleaned well after every session as there is plenty of ash leftover to dispose of, and it is quite a bit of work to scrub away the charred remains of the foods.
- Lighting the charcoal and bringing it up to cooking temperature takes 15 minutes or more. There are three main methods to get the fire going. The first is the chimney method, where the charcoal is held in place with a metal chimney and lit to get the fire going. The second method involves stacking the charcoal into a pyramid and using lighter fluid to set it on fire. The charcoal will eventually settle in hot and red. The third method is using matchless charcoal that works with an accelerant to generate the ignition temperature. The charcoal is piled up, and the accelerant is poured on it. The ignition happens without a match, and the charcoal will be ready in 15 minutes.
4. Wood Grills
One of the oldest grilling methods.
- Wood has been a fuel source for grilling food for thousands of years until the 1900s, when charcoal was introduced. Wood is still a favorite of many, especially when they are out camping.
- Wood grilling still maintains its popularity because of the great smoky flavor it adds to the food. What is more amazing is that no two kinds of wood add the same flavor. Therefore there are lots of different varieties to try when experimenting.
- While different wood adds a different flavor, not all are suitable. The most popular ones include walnut, oak, ash, hickory, and other hardwoods. It would be best if you avoided softwoods and resinous woods, such as pine, as they add an odd taste to the food. It’s also important that the wood is well seasoned and not wet.
- Wood grills are very similar to charcoal models and work on the same operating method.
Dos and Don’ts for Outdoor Grilling
Whether grilling indoors or outdoors, it is imperative to adhere to safety measures to avoid accidents. This is especially true when grilling outside or in the woods, where there are sufficient dry flammable materials for a fire hazard. Here are some of the safety do’s and don’ts of grilling:
Here are the best practices of using outdoor grills:
- Outdoor grills are large and burn hot; therefore, you must only use them outdoors in a well-ventilated space.
- All flammable materials, including fuel sources, must be kept away from the grill when it is in operation.
- The grills should be mounted on a stable surface far away from wooden structures, bush or gardening materials.
- Read the operating manual carefully before using the grill. This is especially important for propane grills as they are more prone to accidents when misused.
- Propane tanks must be stored upright when in use. The regulator valve must be turned off when in storage to ensure no gas flows to the grill.
- It is essential to inspect all gas hoses periodically to check for leaks and corrosion. The hoses must be replaced once every 2-3 years if the grill is extensively used.
- Only use the recommended igniter fluids for the purpose. Flammable liquids used for other purposes pose the hazard of vapor accumulation that can result in an explosion.
- Always have a fire extinguisher on the side when using the grill.
- Always keep the lid fully open when lighting the propane grill to ensure proper ventilation and dispelling the trapped oxygen, preventing any explosions.
Here is the list of things you should not do with a grill:
- Always have someone at the grill when it is in use; never leave an operational grill unattended.
- Do not allow kids or pets to get close to a working grill.
- Never spray flammable liquids over hot coal or flame.
- Do not store the grill inside until it has cooled fully after use.
- Do not buy propane tanks that are damaged or dented.
- Never try to extinguish a grill fire with water, especially when the flare-up is caused by oil ignition.
- Avoid grilling after moderate consumption of alcohol.
Outdoor grills are great for cooking large batches of meat or other food when having a bigger gathering. While propane and electric grills are very convenient, charcoal and wood-fired grills add extra flavor to the food. The choice of grill depends on the result of the flavor desired.