Choose Your Fuel
Before purchasing a grill, you need to decide whether it will be powered by gas, charcoal, or electricity. First, check out any regulations that govern you choice; condominium owners, for example, are sometimes barred from installing natural-gas lines, and apartment dwellers might not be allowed anything other than an electrically powered grill on their balconies.
Once you know the types of grills allowed, ask yourself how you like to cook. Is presiding over an open flame and a quick-cooking steak your style? If so, a charcoal grill might be the way to go, as your presence during the cooking process will usually be necessary. On the other hand, if you’d rather join your guests while a whole chicken turns gently on a rotisserie, gas is probably for you; precisely calibrated thermostats free the cook to fix the salad and mix the drinks. Outdoor chefs who long for the best brisket on the planet often opt for electrically powered water smokers, good for slow-cooking a side of beef for several hours and flavoring it with aromatic wood and herbs. Cooks who want the fire ready instantly choose gas, while those who don’t mind waiting 45 minutes for the grill to heat seen happy with charcoal.
Does one fuel impart flavor that’s superior to another? Cooks who prefer charcoal insist they know the answer: Meat juices drip down and mingle with the briquettes to create a superior smoke that permeates the food. But the opposition claims gas grills offer similar flavor. Gas grills use ceramic briquettes, volcanic rock, or steel bars to convert gas to radiant heat and to collect flavorful juices. (Because of flare-ups caused by accumulated grease, many gas grill owners prefer steel bars.)
No matter what fuel they use, the best grills come with a long warranty (10 years is good). The grill’s legs shouldn’t wobble, and construction should be of heavy-gauge aluminum or heavy sheet metal finished with baked-on enamel. If you plan to use your grill near saltwater, a rustproof stainless-steel model offers a sound investment.
When shopping for a gas grill, check out models with two or more separate burners so you can control the heat more easily. No matter how many burners the grill furnishes, be wary if it requires extensive home assembly. You might find yourself cursing and waving a wrench, instead of serving up your first lamb kabobs or teriyaki chicken.