Choosing a gas grill
Gas grills are winning the gas vs. charcoal contest at the moment, garnering
about 60 percent of sales. Surveys also show that owners are more likely
to use their gas grills than are owners of charcoal grills -- many even use
their grills in the winter. Gas grills are more expensive than charcoal models
but they're easier to light, and heat up faster and more precise.
ConsumerSearch covers charcoal grills in a companion report.
Here's what the experts say to look for in a gas grill:
- Porcelain-coated cast-iron or stainless-steel
grates are superior for even heat distribution. The best grills heat
evenly across the cooking surface, so food that isn't directly over the
flame reaches the same degree of doneness as food that is. Ceramic briquettes
and vented metal plates also distribute heat evenly.
- Look for a grill with variable temperature
settings. The more control you have over temperature, the better your
barbecues will be; you'll be able to grill, sear and slow-roast foods.
Some inexpensive grills don't allow for individual control over burners,
but higher-end models often do. Some have marks to help you identify temperature
settings; others are continuously variable.
- Don't worry too much about British
thermal units (BTU). Pros say you shouldn't pay much attention to this
measurement of heating power, which has little bearing on practical grilling.
A grill's strength has more to do with its heat-distribution mechanism,
size and geometry. However, judging from user reviews, a model that's rated
below others in its class in terms of BTU may heat slowly or inadequately.
shelves and warming racks create extra workspace. Nearly all full-size
models -- and some portable models -- feature side shelving and warming
racks. Side shelves are convenient for chopping, basting or mixing sauces,
and they give you a place to set a plate down while you're working at the
grill. Warming racks are nice for toasting buns for keeping food warm;
on smaller grills, check to see whether the warming rack gets in the way
when you're trying to cook other food.
- Decide whether you need a side burner. This component allows you to cook side dishes like rice or vegetables
without having to run back and forth between your grill and the kitchen.
Side burners are also great for heating barbecue sauces. However side burners
have less heating power than the main burners, and some experts say few
people actually use them.
- Rotisseries are popular, but consider
whether you'll use one. Rotisserie attachments usually don't come standard
on full-size grills. If you don't think you'll ever cook a whole rotisserie
chicken or turkey on your gas grill, consider skipping this feature
and the extra cost it represents.
- Budget for a liquid propane (LP) tank
and accessories. Few grills include liquid-propane tanks (*Est. $30),
so you'll have to buy one. Few grills have a gauge to let you know when
fuel is running low, so purchasing a fuel gauge or having a spare tank
on hand can be helpful. Other essential accessories include a cover (if
the grill will be stored outdoors) and a wire brush. You'll also need basic
grilling tools like tongs and a spatula if you don't already have them.
Some gas grills use fake briquettes or wood chips in a smoker box to impart
a charcoal-like barbecue flavor, and gridded wire boxes for grilling fish
and small vegetables help prevent those foods from falling into the grill.
- Infrared heating is
popular in high-end grills. Many restaurant grills use infrared heating
to generate enough power for perfectly seared steaks. Infrared heat cooks
food by interacting with its molecular structure; it doesn't rely solely
on hot air. However, some expert reviewers find no improvement with infrared