How To Choose A Charcoal Grill

It's impossible to beat food cooked over charcoal. Gas and electric are fun and easy, but charcoal is hands down the best for outdoor taste.

If you want real outdoor flavor, then you'll need to go with a charcoal grill. While gas and electric grills are convenient and easy to use, they do not produce the same, classic flavors that charcoal grills deliver year after year. Charcoal grills never go out of style, because they do cook up the ultimate taste treats. Toss a hamburger over gas and then one over charcoal and taste test. No comparison. Charcoal can't be beat.

Another plus to going with a charcoal grill is that the prices are considerably lower than gas or electric. Low end hibachi grills can go as low as $10 while the deluxe models rarely exceed $100. There are some super deluxe models pushing $300, but you're very uptown with a charcoal grill in the $60 and up range.

If you want to test drive charcoal, then a very inexpensive grill is fine for hot dogs or thin hamburgers. The small open grills basically flash cook, since they do not offer any regulation options. Light the coals. Let the coals burn down to a white color with no jumping flames. Put the meat on. Watch carefully.

Since charcoal cooked food is so tasty and since most cooks are hooked once they go with the old-fashioned, outdoor, charcoal method, it makes sense to invest a little more and get a good charcoal grill. Though it is possible to turn out some decent foods with a low end grill, it is certainly harder to get consistent results. More difficult foods like chicken and ribs are next to impossible to master with a cheap grill lacking in features.

A kettle shaped charcoal grill with a lid and vents top and bottom is worth the extra dollars. A good one will last for years and years while a low-end, charcoal grill typically holds up for a season or perhaps two. It's far better to invest $50 and use a grill for ten years or more than to end up buying a hard-to-use bargain and then replace every year when the sun shines hot.

The kettle shape on the better grills allows the heat to circulate under the coals. This makes it easier to start and maintain a fire and also produces a circulation that smokes the food with charcoal flavor. The domed lid allows smoke to envelope the food and both cook and flavor the grilled items. Kettle cooking is really the way to go with charcoal.



Vents on the bottom and top help regulate the fire, heat, and smoke. When the grill is heating low, open the bottom vents and let the air feed the coals. If fat dripping from the meat causes flares and high levels of heat, close the bottom and top vents. This puts an immediate damper on the flames and cuts the heat levels back. Vents allow for excellent regulation of the fire and the temperature. Be sure to look for vents both on the lid and the base.

Another feature worth considering when buying a charcoal grill is the ash pan. This is located under the grill base and catches any coals dropped during venting. When bottom vents are opened, it's common for small pieces of charcoal to drop down. The pan can also be used to catch ashes when cleaning the grill. An ash pan is both a safety and convenience feature. A good grill should include the ash pan.

Handles are also a consideration. Various materials are used in the handle areas. Wood is common, since it does not heat up like other materials. Though wood handles tend to discolor over time, they are nice. It's still a good idea to use gloves even if the handles are made of wood. It's easy to slip and touch the metal when taking the lid off or putting it on.

Some grills include a work space area. It's nice to have a place to put the food both before and after cooking. Since charcoal cooking is high heat cooking, it's not always practical to use space right beside the grill. Generally it's better to plan on using a small table to the side of a charcoal grill. Most outdoor stores have inexpensive folding models. These are really handy when charcoal grilling.

As far as size, go with a larger model if possible. You may think that you don't need a grill that holds more than six hamburgers, but you may find that you enjoy adding vegetable packs on the side. Potatoes with onions sprinkled with seasonings and wrapped in foil round out a meal and mean that the kitchen is not needed to complete a meal. Toss some buttered French bread with garlic on the grill right before serving the meal, and you have a real feast and all outdoors.

When you're buying your charcoal grill, also consider the accessories. Long handled cooking utensils and gloves will make the experience safer and easier. A vegetable grill wok expands the possibilities. Toss squash, green peppers, or even bananas in the grill wok for an extra taste treat.

Cooking outdoors over charcoal has remained popular over the long haul, because it's simply impossible to get the same results using other cooking methods. Charcoal grills are quite economical, and the good ones last for years. Invest in a tradition and make your own memories. You won't be sorry.

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