Get the Most Out of Your Grill with These Optional Additions
Courtesy of Capital Cooking
Smoking boxes and rotisserie rods are two popular grilling accessories.
To get the best use out of your grill, consider these optional additions:
A rotisserie rod mounted near the top of your grill lets you roast meat slowly and evenly. Great for large cuts of meat like leg of lamb and pork roast.
A smoker box, located at the bottom of the grill, is a metal container that holds flavor-infused charcoal or wood that when heated, gives off a smoky aroma. These are primarily used in gas grills.
A side burner is perfect for when you need to use a pot to boil a side dish but don't want to run into the kitchen to monitor its progress. The same materials you'd find in a typical grill grate are what you'll want to look for on a side burner. Side burners are typically found on gas grills.
A thermometer can help you gauge how hot your firebox is heating. For the best cooking results, look for a grill with a built-in thermometer.
Utensil holders or drawers make keeping track of your spatula and tongs a breeze.
Some grills are featuring lights built into the unit to increase visibility at night, but light attachments are also available for older grills that don't have this feature.
Weber's attachable grill lights help for nighttime grilling.
To get smokier flavor and convection heat with a gas grill, try using one of the following inserts, which have the added advantage of protecting your burners from corrosion:
Lava rocks heat up quickly and diffuse heat throughout the grill's interior. Lava rocks are porous and must be replaced often to avoid grease build-up.
Ceramic briquettes are more expensive than lava rocks but last much longer. Any food residue that might accumulate simply bakes off.
Heat plates or bars are made of metal. When juices hit the metal, the rising heat disperses a savory smoke, much like a convection oven would.
The Cost of Grilling
Courtesy of Viking
Extra features are typically found on more expensive grills.
Grill prices can range from $50 to $10,000, with factors like construction materials, fuel and size playing a big part in how much you'll pay.
If you want a charcoal grill, prices start at $50. Anything north of $200 is usually considered high end. Charcoal grills are normally either freestanding or portable; however, some are connected to a work station unit. Those models, as well as charcoal grills that come in exotic shapes, usually cost between $200 and $500. While you'll typically see charcoal grills constructed from aluminum, cast iron or porcelain enamel, ones that have stainless construction can be priced in the low four-figure range.
For gas grills, $200 is usually the starting price for full size units. Between $200 and $500, you'll find gas grills with plenty of options: construction that ranges from aluminum to stainless steel, Btu outputs up to 50,000, as much as 700 total square inches of space, side burners and rotisserie rods.
When it comes to grills in the $500 to $1,000 range, don't expect options to be better across the board. For instance, if space is what you want, there are grills in this price range with nearly 900 square inches to cook on. Others will have four or more burners and around 75,000 Btus. Options like side burners, rotisserie rods and smoker boxes will be available. Expect better construction in this price range, usually marked by high-grade, stainless steel parts. You'll also find grills with warranties of 10 or more years.
At $1,000 and up, you'll start finding grills with lifetime warranties and even higher grade parts. This price range also has more custom options, like infrared burners or laser-cut grates. Some models can be built into outdoor countertops, while the cart models feature more storage space and butcher block cutting boards on the side. Burners on these models can provide more than 100,000 Btus and over 1,000 square inches of cooking space. High-end grills are often built-to-order, not mass produced on an assembly line, and this is reflected in the price.
Choosing the Right Sized Grill for You
A spacious grill is great when cooking for large groups.
To determine what size grill you need, start by looking at the main cooking surface, which is measured in terms of primary square inches. A weekend griller of hamburgers and hot dogs will be fine with about 360 square inches (24 inches wide, 15 inches deep). A more adventurous griller or one with many mouths to feed will want a grill with at least 400 square inches. Grills can run up to more than 1,200 square inches (about 48 inches wide and 26 inches deep).
For a gas grill, the number of burners is also an important factor when considering size. Two burners is pretty standard; four is ideal if you grill often and five to six burners are perfect if you have a large family or you entertain often.
Primary burners are used for direct grilling.
Side burners are for pots or pans you might be using to heat or boil.
Back burners are reserved for rotisserie cooking.
If you add a warming rack to your grill, the cooking-or warming-space is called secondary square inches. This unit can be a quarter to half the size of the main cooking surface.
For each additional accessory you have, consider the space you'll be adding on, particularly when it comes to width. A side burner, infrared griller or wok cooker will add on at least another 15 to 24 inches of width per burner accessory.
Don't forget, grills typically need at least 2 feet of clearance on each side, a level surface to sit on and plenty of room for smoke to dissipate. They also shouldn't be placed under combustible construction — an eave or a breezeway — without a ventilation hood. These location requirements may affect the size of the grill you purchase.
Building Your Outdoor Kitchen
Courtesy of Viking
Outdoor cooking has gone above and beyond standing over the grill and waiting for your steak to reach the perfect point of tenderness.
A growing number of homeowners throughout the United States are bringing the indoors outside by building outdoor kitchens that include everything from refrigerators to warming drawers. These fully functioning kitchens include places to cook, cool and ventilate; the only thing you'll have to worry about is keeping Uncle Bob from stealing a hot dog off the grill.
When choosing appliances for an outdoor kitchen,look for models rated by Underwriters Laboratories and specified for outdoor use. "Appliances UL-rated for the outdoors are preferred because they are built for the humid and dusty conditions found outside," notes Ann Porter, the owner of Kitchen Studio of Naples. Nearly all outdoor appliances are made from stainless steel.
Clearing the Air
Use a ventilation hood in your outdoor kitchen if the grill is in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space.
Your indoor cooking system needs ventilation to whisk away hazardous fumes and keep your working area free of smoke and grease. Your outdoor cooking system is no different. In fact, some gas grills generate as many as 100,000 Btus.
If you put your grill in an uncovered area, where the walls of your home don't block the smoke, you probably won't need extra ventilation. But if you've placed it in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space — such as under a portico or gazebo for shade and protection from rain — you should look into an outdoor ventilation hood.
Not only will a ventilation system keep you from setting the roof on fire, it prevents the accidental smoking out of family members, guests and neighbors.
"The most overlooked thing in an outdoor kitchen is ventilation, particularly in a covered space," says kitchen and bath designer Martha Kerr, CMKBD, of Neil Kelly Company in Portland, Ore. "When you enclose the space, the smoke can't freely go off into the air."
She adds: "Many of these grills can generate up to 80,000 Btus. In essence, if it were totally enclosed, it would require some sort of commercial ventilation system."
Designed specifically for outdoor use, these ventilation hoods come in island and wall versions and cost between $1,250 to $3,000, depending on size and power.