The 10 Best Grills
It's Getting Hot In Here, I Hope
Whether direct or indirect, a grill requires radiant heat to cook. That's right: sweet radiation. But rest assured, there's a big difference between char broiled and Chernobyl.
With your basic charcoal grill, the coals themselves radiate upwards of 2,000ºF, and all you have to do is get them burning.
When you're working with gas, the flames might reach temperatures around 3,500ºF, but since so much less radiant heat is given off, they don't do much for the grilling process. Instead, many newer gas grills utilize some kind of intermediary, like lava rocks, ceramic plates, or the "flavor bars" on some Weber models.
These intermediaries absorb the heat of the fire beneath them and radiate it up towards your precious pieces of meat or vegetable. A lot of the time, that intermediary also makes it difficult to see whether or not the fire has actually started, which, if you're careless about your investigation, can lead to some BBQ related catastrophes.
If you're wondering about infrared grills, well these are just a specific kind of gas grill that uses as an intermediary long metal or ceramic grating with extremely tiny holes in it. The amount of space between the fire and this grate, and between the grate and the cooking surface, is drastically diminished to cut down on any dehydrating effects that dry air could have on your food.
The Pyramids Are All Made Of Charcoal
I grew up cooking on gas grills: London broil, grilled sweet onions, grilled pineapple for desert, etc. Those were the best days of the summer. When I got to college, it was all charcoal as far as the eye could see. A man's worth was measured in the speed and alacrity with which he could construct a viable aerated charcoal pyramid and get it burning.
There's a certain satisfaction to both ways of cooking. My senior year in college, my housemates and I got a small gas grill that allowed us to more safely conduct 3 a.m. barbecues on the front lawn in the middle of a snowstorm. Honestly, that winter, it was a life saver.
Where you're at in your culinary life and what your cooking needs are shouldn't be too tough for you to determine. If you're cooking for more than two or three people, it's going to save you a tremendous amount of time and energy choosing gas over coal. Getting that large an amount of charcoal to an evenly burn requires a little finesse.
Furthermore, if you're interested in getting a good sauce going along side your meats, one of those side burners could prove indispensable, just be aware that they prevent you from collapsing the side table itself, so the grill's footprint is consistently a little larger.
So, let the number you're regularly cooking for influence your decision, without forgetting your ambitions as a host. After that, consider the space you've got available to you. Beyond that, your decision can be based on bells, whistles, and style.
Come On, Baby, Light My Ancient Fire
Archaeologists and anthropologists place the advent of cooking somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000-40,000 B.C.E., as evidenced by carbon dating at a variety of hearth sites unearthed during expeditions. The one pictured, from an Israeli cave, is believed to be closer to the 300,000 year mark.
However long ago it started, we certainly aren't very far removed from it either culturally or socially. Just take one look at a group of men gathered around their grill and tell me they aren't actively channeling their deep ancestry.
Even the methods employed in these early hearths resemble the techniques around which modern grills are made. Those first fires warmed stones that radiated heat more directly than the fire itself could as it slowly became its own pile of useful coals. It's the same stuff they teach kids in Boy Scouts, along with that other ancient activity: helping old ladies cross the street.
Sure the firing mechanisms have made it easier to get the grill started, and features like fuel gauges, thermostats, and extra burners have come to be expected on higher end grills, but the ritual is much the same as it's always been. Remember that each time you flick that easy starter switch and lick those prehistoric chops of yours.