Whether you’re the charcoal champion that grills all year-round, the city slicker looking for seared perfection, or the midnight smoker twelve hours into your award-winning brisket, you know the importance of a good barbecue. Smokers, electric grills, and gas grills all have their own unique benefits from flavor to convenience to control. Whether you’re cooking eggplant or spareribs, you can find the right gear to get the job done.
Smokers are renowned for imparting food with a tender texture and fantastic flavor, but you don’t just fire up the grill at five-thirty and plan for dinner at six. Although smoking takes more time than almost any other cooking process, your tastebuds will tell you it’s worth the wait. Business Insider found that the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker was the best overall smoker on the market today. The main selling point for this titan are the six cooking grates that can support a total of 150 pounds and a cooking capacity of 1,890 square inches. To put that into perspective, the classic Webster barbecue your dad probably grilled on only has a cooking space of 363 square inches. In addition to its sheer size, the smoker has an efficient ash management system and easy smoke control.
For people without a big space to grill out, electric grills are an apartment-friendly option with benefits that should interest even the most dedicated flame-enthusiasts. Electric grills don’t require materials like propane, charcoal, or woodchips—they’re as simple as plugging-in and flipping a switch. The Chicago Tribune claims the best value electric grill is the George Foreman GGR50B Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill. A portable, apartment-friendly grill, this bad boy is also powerful enough to take to any sporting event and keep the fans fueled all day long. The 240 square inch cook space can turn out over 15 servings at once, and it’s even dishwasher friendly.
Hit The Gas
A good gas grill speaks for itself. They’re known for their immediate heat and instantaneous control, making them a great option for anyone looking to feed the whole family. Cnet’s tested a variety of grills and found the Weber Spirit II E-210 was the best overall gas grill. Part of their decision came from the 10-year warranty on all the grills parts, but the ease of use, durability, and iGrill compatibility (a Bluetooth temperature probe) made their decision easy. The Char-Broil Commercial Double Header was the best for large-capacity cooking, and thanks to its four burners, double fireboxes, and side burner, it feels like you are cooking in a professional kitchen. With this colossus, you could roast a turkey in one firebox and grill a salmon in the other.
No matter what you’re grilling on, cleaning it will make your food taste better, make your grill last longer, and keep flare-ups from burning off your arm hair. Taking the grill apart will allow you to clean the whole inside but first make sure it’s cool enough to handle. Once the grill is back together, turn it up to the highest setting, and tackle the grill panels with a bristle-free brush. If you don’t have a brush, you can cut a raw onion in half and run the cut-side down along the grill. The onion’s organic compounds will help breakdown grease.
An experienced griller always has enough charcoal, wood, or gas to get through the cookout, but make sure you double-check before the big day. A handy way to check propane levels is to pour a cup of hot water on the side of the tank and feel for a cool spot. That spot shows you how much propane is left in the tank. Apply a layer of non-stick so you can keep those perfect grill marks. If you’re out of spray, you can chop a potato, stick it on a fork, and run it along the entire cooking surface.
When cooking more than one type of food, it’s important to know the benefit of indirect and direct heat. Direct heat will get you those grill marks, but you might burn your food to a crisp trying to get the center cooked. Bank coals to the side or turn off half the grill to create zones of direct and indirect heat. That way everything comes out hot, cooked, and ready at the same time.
Tools Of The Trade
The right grilling tools can be a game-changer no matter your skill level. Grill combs offer an alternative to skewers that let you access the middle without pulling everything off. You can add a substantial smokey flavor to anything on the grill with a stainless-steel smoker box, and a good pair of grill gloves will help protect your hands and give you the grip you need over the open flames. A large grilling basket makes it easy to barbecue all kinds of veggies, and the same nonstick fish grilling baskets common in Spain make searing seafood effortless. However, the best weapon in the barbecue arsenal is a good thermometer. It takes the guesswork out of grilling and tells you exactly what’s happening inside your food.
Knowledge is just as important as the right tools, and grill items have many different ways they can and should be cooked. Low heat for a long time will turn something tough like a beef brisket into a succulent, tender morsel. Other foods like fish and shrimp have a narrow window between ready and overdone, so it’s important to research methods of cooking. Fuel is the most important factor for controlling heat, meaning more charcoal on the grill will mean more heat, just like more gas will increase the temperature. No matter what you’re cooking, it’s important to have a good handheld thermometer so you can check the exact heat of the food you are grilling. If you find the temperature is getting too hot, closing the air vents slightly should bring down the temperature.
If you are smoking something, you want a high-fat content and lots of connective tissue like spareribs. If you lift a rack of ribs and see the rack flexing, then you know there’s the perfect amount of fat and tissue to turn this into a mouthwatering, falling off the bone delight. A fat content of around 30% creates the juiciest and most flavorful burgers, but more lean meat will result in a healthier burger. With fish, it’s important to choose a sturdy, meaty species like salmon or swordfish over sole or flounder. Of course, you can throw on a lot more on the grill than just meat and veggies. Cheese like mozzarella and gouda are often smoked to impart unique, delightful flavors. Grilled pineapple and pears provide complex sweetness to food like burgers or ice cream. Even pound cake can go right on the grill for a beautiful presentation and remarkable caramelized flavor. With the right grill, tools, and you’re sure to be a jack of all flames.