THE GRILL GUIDE
The ultimate grill guide for both the beginner and those looking to take their grilling to the next level. Find resources below to help you find the right grill, upgrade your existing grill, tools of the trade, and much more.
Table of Contents
What is Grilling?
Grilling is cooking food on a grate over a high heat source. Since high heat is used, grilling is done quickly which differs from smoking or barbeque which uses low heat to cook slowly. The most popular fuels for grilling are propone, charcoal, and wood fires.
This “hot and fast” grilling is one of the most common across the US with propane being the most used fuel. Foods typically grilled are proteins (beef, chicken, and pork) but also include vegetables such as corn, asparagus, peppers, and zucchini.
Types of Grills
The oldest grilling method on this list is the charcoal grill. A stable that is time tested by backyard grillers. Charcoal grills use briquettes consisting of heated wood with some additives that burn hot and for long periods to evenly cook food.
Charcoal grills have remained a favorite of grillers looking for that “char-broiled” flavor. Unlike other types in this grill guide, it’s much easier to introduce wood and other flavors to your food using charcoal grilling. Also, if prepared properly, charcoal can apply a hotter, more even heat than a gas grill including many different charcoal arrangements to achieve different cooking styles. All that, plus charcoal grills are very budget friendly!
While charcoal for grilling isn’t going away anytime soon, its cons typically lead buyers looking for a laid back grilling experience to gas grills due to a few drawbacks. Charcoal can be difficult to light and requires a bit more attention than gas or electric. Also, cleaning up (and set up) can be a messy affair as charcoal leaves black dust on anything it touches. However, many manufacturers have added countless accessories to minimize these cons. If you want that char-broiled flavor with minimal effort, check out our article on charcoal accessories.
As the name implies, gas grills use a flammable gas, typically propane or natural gas, as the fuel source. Gas grills have become the most popular grill out there by far. Their popularity is well justified as they have many great qualities. Gas grills are reliable, cheap, gas is inexpensive, and they are very easy to use. Great for a quick cookout with very little prep work to set up.
Gas grills do have some cons such as it is difficult to introduce wood flavors to the food, most propane tanks don’t have gauges to show fuel level, and igniters often need replacement. These are all minor items and the benefits of a gas grill far outweigh any downside.
That said, not all gas grills are made equal. Due to their popularity, they are mass produced with some having serious quality issues. If you’re looking to buy a gas grill, take a look at our article comparing the best gas grills to buy.
Electrical grills use electrical currents which are cycled through a cooking element to heat the food above. Electric grills tend to either have a solid cook surface like a griddle or George Foreman style cooking surface or have a heating element just below the grill grates like in an oven.
This type of grill is the newest, relatively speaking, compared to the other type of grills. Electric grills are gaining in popularity due to their similar benefits to the gas grill such as the ease to operate, very cheap fuel source (electricity), and clean up is fairly simple. Also, electric grills typically have the best temperature control when compared to other grills.
However, that is where the similarities stop when comparing gas vs electric. While becoming popular electric grills have a few cons not found with gas or charcoal: they require an outlet to operate, there is no open flame for searing, can have trouble keeping temperature in cold weather, and lack any added grilling flavor to proteins (smoke, wood flavors, etc.).
Check out our full list of the types of grills including pros/cons for each.
Before jumping into setting up your grill, it’s important to make sure to brush up on how to grill safely. Most of us are guilty of taking safety for granted with basic household items like a grill, however, nearly 11,000 house fires and more than 19,000 ER trips PER YEAR occur in the US according to the NPFA. Better safe than sorry! So keep in mind the safety tips below to stay safe while grilling:
- Keep grills a safe distance from your house, deck railings, and other structures.
- Be sure to periodically clean your grill. The grease, fats, and burnt food in the bottom of the grill can easily start a fire.
- Avoid wire brushes or at least use them with caution! Wire brushes can leave bristles on the grates and get stuck in your food.
- If using gas, check for leaks often. If you are unsure how to do this, the NFPA has a quick video for how to find gas leaks.
- Follow the guidelines that came with your grill to light or start. Remember to keep the lid open when igniting a gas grill.
- Keep pets and children away from the grill when hot. Don’t leave the grill unattended.
- Avoid using too much grease, oils, or butter. The excess can drip into the flame or hot surface and cause a flare-up or grease fire. Grease fires are difficult to put out. At the worst they can cause an uncontrolled fire and at best they make your food taste burnt.
Preparing Food for The Grill
One more step before you start cooking, don’t skip proper food preparation! There are two key areas to properly prepping your food for the grill:
Food Safety – Avoid Getting Foodborne Illnesses
Everybody loves summer cookouts! However, no one likes food poisoning. The good news is food poisoning can be greatly reduced by using correct food handling techniques:
- Avoid cross-contamination: keep meats separated during storage and prep.
- Wash your hands!
- Don’t thaw meat at room temperature. Use the refrigerator or cold water.
- Don’t reuse marniates. Marniates are a once and done deal!
- Store food at the proper temperature. Avoid leaving uncooked meat in the sun.
Food Prep – Get the Most Flavor & Doneness
While we agree that a minimalist approach of adding some salt and pepper then throwing the steaks on the grill is perfectly acceptable, there are a few tips you shouldn’t skip when prepping your food.
- For a more even cook, “take the chill off” your red meats by leaving them (covered) at room temperature for 15 minutes before grilling.
- Don’t forget the butter! Add a light glaze of butter or oil to your proteins before grilling. Not only does this add some flavor, it will also prevent food from sticking to the grill grates.
If you want more detail on how to best prep a steak, check out our article on the most skipped food prep steps.
Clean Up & Storage
One of many reasons grilling is the most popular outdoor cooking method is its ease of clean up! However, “easy clean up” shouldn’t be interpreted as “no clean up”. Grills still require some minimal care to extend the useful life and keep them safe to cook on. Apply these quick tips below to keep your grill in top shape:
- Clean your grill periodically. You don’t have to restore it to new every time! However, take the time to remove burnt food, grease, and any foreign material (animal, bugs, etc.) from the grill. Most importantly, be sure to clean and rub the grates with some vegetable oil. Check out our quick step-by-step guide for how to clean a grill.
- Store your grill under cover. When possible store your grill under cover especially during the winter months or what not in use for long periods of time. A garage is preferred by a shed, patio, or carport will work too.
- Use a grill cover. The elements can quickly wear down even the best made grill. It’s always best to use a grill cover for your grill.
- Don’t leave food bits on the grill. Food attracts animals and insects. Goes without saying that nobody wants a burger from a grill covered in animal droppings.
Now that you’ve finished the grill guide, check out our Ultimate Guide to Barbeque! (yes, there is a difference between grilling and barbeque).