Barbecuing is the process of cooking for a long time on low heat. The low temperature and length of cooking time allows for the food to absorb the smoke and rub or sauce flavors, and to become very tender and moist. Falling-off-the-bone meats like pork ribs are typically barbecued.
This is the more common method of outdoor cooking, hot and fast on your grill. Burgers, chicken, steak, seafood and vegetables are typically grilled.
Barbecue and grilling season is upon us, and if you’re thinking of getting a new grill, there are a lot of good options. Regardless of whether you use propane, gas, charcoal or electric, there are grills to fit every budget.
Things to look for in a good grill
- heavy metal parts, particularly in cooking grates
- small vents to control air flow
- high *BTU ratings (see below)
- a close fitting lid
- grill size (if you buy a large grill make sure it will fit where you want it)
- features such as side burner, raised rack, rotisserie burner or smoker box
- click models below for product details
If you have a natural gas outlet in your home, these grills are the way to go – no need to refill a propane tank or get charcoal. Because of this, many people convert their propane grills to gas when a hookup is available. They fire up quickly, and you are spared the extra preparation and cleanup when using charcoal. Although many prefer the smoky flavor from charcoal grills, much of the flavor of grilled food comes from the drippings hitting the heat source below, causing the oils, sugars and proteins to burst into smoke and flame, so you’re still getting smoky injected flavors. Click pictures for product details.
Propane grills are very similar to gas grills, but lack the convenience of a natural gas hookup. However, filling a propane tank is much less work than using a charcoal grill. Many propane grills have a natural gas conversion option, so if you do move to a location with a gas outlet, like I did, you can convert it and recover the cost of the conversion kit easily in propane savings.
I have the red Coleman grill pictured below, and love it. Its great for camping, with a large cooking surface, and easy to fold up to store either in the car trunk for outings to the beach, or in the storage compartment of the trailer. It also works with the small or large propane tanks. It doesn’t have a side burner but, since I rarely use my side burner, if I didn’t already have a grill at home I would find this one enough for both purposes.
The benefit to charcoal grills is the smoky flavor from the wood used for fuel that can permeate your food as you grill.While some gas grills have smoker boxes, nothing can match a charcoal grill for smoky flavor, assuming lighter fluid is avoided. The higher burning temperature of charcoal as opposed to gas allows for searing of meat. Food can also be smoked on some charcoal grills. Many grill masters are deeply attached to the whole process of charcoal grilling. The disadvantages are the preparation and preheating time and cleanup time, and charcoal is more expensive than gas.
Portable “Tailgate” Grills
These typically run on propane or charcoal, and are easily portable for camping or taking to the beach. They’re great for throwing on the tailgate of a truck if you’re at an outdoor event, in summer or winter, although the size of most of them make them unsuitable for cooking for a large crowd.
BBQ & Grilling Recipes
- Best BBQ Meat and Homemade BBQ Sauce
- Kansas City Rib Rub
- Build Your Own Shish Kabobs
- Perfectly Grilled Steak
- Best Ever BBQ Chicken
- World’s Best Grilled Steak
- Barbecue Ribs
- Best Grilled Pork Chops
Popular Barbecuing and Grilling Cookcooks
- Smokin’ with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue by Myron Mixon and Kelly Alexander (May 10, 2011)
- Weber’s Big Book of Burgers: The Ultimate Guide to Grilling Backyard Classics by Jamie Purviance (Apr 1, 2014)
- Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill by Jamie Purviance (Apr 3, 2012)
- Weber’s New Real Grilling: The ultimate cookbook for every backyard griller byJamie Purviance (Apr 2, 2013)
- How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques, A Barbecue Bible! Cookbook by Steven Raichlen (May 1, 2001)
Tips for Grilling Steaks
- allow meat to come to room temperature before grilling
- remove or slice through excess fat to prevent curling
- preheat grill to high for 1″ to 1-1/2″ steaks for medium for 2″ steaks
- lightly brush meat with oil and season just prior to grilling
- lightly oil the grill with a brush or using a piece of trimmed fat in tongs
- place steak on the grill for one minute
- turn and grill on the second side for an additional minute
- turn and rotate 45 degrees and grill for half the remaining cooking time
- repeat for other side and finish cooking
- to test for rare, medium or well done, press the steak with your index finger:
- rare steak will be soft (cooking time 6-16 minutes for 1-2″ steaks)
- a medium steak will be firm but yielding (cooking time 8-20 minutes for 1-2″ steaks)
- a well done steak will be firm (cooking time 10-24 minutes for 1-2″ steaks)
- for juicy steaks, let the meat rest for five minutes before serving
Tips for Juicy Burgers
- use freshly ground regular ground beef (lean is too dry)
- pull meat apart in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper before forming patties, tossing lightly with your hands to mix
- wet your hands a bit before forming patties
- aim for a quarter to a third of a pound of meat per burger to allow for shrinkage, they look much bigger in the kitchen than after cooking
- use a light touch when pressing patties, don’t over handle the meat
- press down on the center of the burger to make it a bit thinner for even thickness after grilling to allow for shrinkage
- keep patties very cold until grilling so they stay together and keep the fat in to preserve flavor
- preheat grill to high
- flipping only once allows for better heat distribution
- never press down on the patties, that only sucks the juices out that add flavor
- for burgers about 3/4″ thick cook 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done
Propane: 15,000 BTU’s per pound
Charcoal: 9,000 BTU’s per pound
Wood (dry): 7,000 BTU’s per pound
Gas grills come with a maximum BTU per hour rating. A 35,000 BTU gas grill would be putting 35,000 BTU’s out from all its main burners in an hour, using a little more than 2 pounds of fuel in that hour. This guideline is more an indication of how much fuel you will be burning as to how much heat is put out, although some may indicate the BTU per burner, much like a gas stove does.