Tips for buying a new grill
Due to the sheer number of variety of grill type on the market today, buying a new grill can be an unexpectedly daunting process.
So, consider and answer these questions before you go shopping for a grill.
1. How will I use the grill? Will it be cooking tool for just your family or a few friends?
2. Do I plan to grill frequently?
3. Will I grill for large gatherings like family reunions?
Keeping the answers to these grilling questions in mind will help make selecting the right size, the type of fuel and the accessories much easier.
Grill and fuel costs
Grill prices can range from about $50 for a smaller quality charcoal grill to several thousands of dollars for large gas-fired grills with multiple burners and accessories.
Most grills use either charcoal briquettes, which can be purchased at most retail stores, to propane gas that’s sold in refillable metal tanks. Some grills, and smokers, can also utilize wood or wood chips as a fuel source.
For some larger gas grills, including grills that are built in to a large outdoor kitchen area, a more convenient option may be running a natural gas line to the grill, which would eliminate the need to refill or purchase new propane tanks. However, keep in mind that installing a new gas line is a job that may be best left to a professional plumber.
Pros and cons of grill types
Charcoal grills are generally much less elaborate than gas-fired grills, which means they’re also typically less costly.
Although they’re simpler to operate, controlling the temperature and cooking time on a charcoal grill isn’t as easy as with a gas grill.
Because there’s no knob or way to adjust the heat short of manipulating the charcoal briquettes, cooking on a charcoal grill requires more constant attention to ensure food is cooked evenly and thoroughly.
The temperature on a charcoal grill is adjusted by using vents, which allows the grill to retain heat or allow it to escape.
Gas grills feature temperature controls and some models include thermometers and other features that can make the cooking process much more precise. For the average amateur grill master or occasional backyard cook, a gas grill usually is much easier to operate and use for consistent quality.
Sizing up your grill and its heat production
Cooking surfaces on grills are important choices, as the surface or its coating will determine how easily food is removed from the grill and how the food may be cooked or eventually taste. Many grills feature chrome-plated steel grids, while higher quality models may feature ceramic-coated steel grates, which are easier to clean and more durable.
When selecting a new grill, keep in mind that a cooking surface of about 2.5 square feet is generally sufficient to cook for small groups of guests. If you’re cooking for larger numbers of people, consider getting a grill with a larger cooking surface.
As well as cooking meats on the grill, there are also vegetables you may want to roast or hamburger and hot dog buns you’ll want to toast using the cooking surface. Plan the size of your ideal grill by the maximum number of items you’ll want to cook, not the minimum.
Another measure of grill performance is BTUs, which are short for British thermal units. The number of BTUs advertised on a grill indicate the grills temperature output. Since BTU measures the total amount of heat output by all the burners per hour, the more BTUs a grill features, the faster it will be able to cook. The average gas grill can produce between 15,000 to 60,000 BTUs
Since charcoal burns at a slower rate than gas, similarly sized charcoal grills will produce relatively fewer BTUs than gas grills.
With charcoal grills, igniting the fuel source is performed simply by lighting the briquettes, using lighter fluid, matches or lighter. Another option is using a charcoal starter chimney, a smaller separate device that holds charcoal in one place for easy lighting and even heat distribution.
Gas-fired grills typically feature a push-button ignition system that provides a spark to ignite propane coming from the burner. Some rely on batteries to fuel the spark, while others produce the spark via mechanical friction. Some models may also feature electrical ignition that relies on the grill being hooked up to the household electrical system.
When selecting a grill, one feature that many consumers may overlook is testing the sturdiness of the cooking platform. A quality grill should be supported by sturdy legs that are well-attached to the grill shell and braced. A grill that wobbles, leans or twists can be unsafe.
Other indicators of a quality grill include a solid lifting handle that’s not loose, welded seams on the grill shell and, if equipped, heavy duty rollers that can help you move the grill easily. Finally, test out a grill before you buy it. A grill’s control knobs and handle that stay cooler during grill operation offer a safer option.
How to get clean a gas grill
If you're missing out on prime grilling time because your gas grill is a mess, follow these simple steps to get your barbecue back in order.
1. Protect your patio
Grab some cardboard or tarp to protect the patio or other areas surrounding the grill. Place it underneath and around the grill to catch any grill debris that may fall out.
It's also a good idea to wear gloves.
2. Remove the cooking surface
Take out the removable cooking grid surfaces from the grill. Soak them in warm water with dish soap and scrub them with a heavy sponge or steel wool.
Once clean, towel them off and let them air dry.
3. Take out heat angles or lava briquettes
Place them on the tarp or cardboard box. Inspect them for deterioration and replace them with new items if necessary. If still operable, clean them off with warm, sudsy water.
4. Scrape it out
Using a wire brush or a paint scraper, clean out the upper and lower castings of the grill shell. However, use extra care when working around the burner assembly, as it's easily damaged.
5. Remove the burners
If possible, remove the burners and clean them. Depending which type of grill you have, this may be difficult. If you're not sure how to remove them, consider hiring a gas grill repair professional to perform the work.
6. Clear out the spider webs
When you're not using your grill, it's common for spiders to nest in the venturi tubes, which regulate the mixture of air and gas that is combusted by the burners. Run a small brush through the inside of it to remove debris, obstructions or spider nests, then vacuum out the grill and the burner assembly.
7. Spray it down
Once you're done cleaning the interior components, give the exterior a good spray down with a garden hose, removing any spider webs, leaves or other debris.
8. Reassemble and start cooking
Reassemble the grill with your now-clean or new grill parts. Test the grill for proper fit and operation and get cooking!
According to the Consumer Safety Product Commission, an estimated more than 20,000 Americans were injured by barbecue grills, stoves and other equipment in 2010, the latest year available for statistics.
To make sure you don’t become a part of this statistic, check out these eight tips from the CPSC to prevent injuries from using your grill:
Know how to protect yourself from an avoidable grill injury. (Photo courtesy of Todd Selby)
1. Before using your gas grill, be sure to check over the tubes that lead from the gas tank to the burners. Look for any blockages from insects, spiders or grease. Use a pipe cleaner or a length of wire to clear out any blockages.
2. Inspect gas line hoses for cracks, brittle sections, holes, tears or leaks. Also ensure there are no creases or kinks in the hoses.
3. Check to make sure that gas hoses aren’t in close proximity to hot surfaces or areas where hot grease may drip on to them.
4. If you smell gas when you hook up the gas tank, check for leaks according to the grill manufacturer’s instructions. If detected, shut off the gas and don’t light the grill until the issue is resolved.
5. Don’t smoke or light matches or lighters near a grill with a gas leak.
6. Never use a gas grill indoors and make sure the grill is at least 10 feet away from buildings or other structures when in operation.
7. Never operate a charcoal grill indoors or inside vehicles or tents.
8. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when operating a grill.
Signs your grill needs repair
If you're intimately familiar with how your gas grill works - and how well it cooks - you may notice signs that indicate your grill's performance is fading or that professional repairs are required.
Some gas grills, especially more affordable ones, may not warrant repairs since
Take a look at some of these common signs you may want to call a gas grill repair professional to service your grill:
1. Uneven cooking surface
An uneven cooking can indicate that the burners are not burning gas at an even rate, which could be a symptom of malfunctioning burners or the gas lines being obstructed.
2. Temperature controls or handles are hot to the touch
If you notice that grill surfaces that used to be cool are now hot to the touch, it could indicate problems with the grill's thermal insulation, deteriorated heat shields or that the burners are not operating correctly.
3. Gas flame is mainly orange or yellow, as opposed to blue
If the flames coming from the burners are more orange or yellow than blue, it's a sign that the gas isn't being fully combusted. The problem could be a blocked gas lines due to spiders or insects, or a blocked port.
4. Flame sputters, grill is hard too light or flames originate from areas other than the burners
These are additional signs of blockage between the gas tank and the burners. However, if flames are burning in areas other than the burners, it could indicate a leak in one of the gas hoses or tubes - the grill should not be used until the leak is repaired.
5. Smell of gas when grill is used
This is an indication of a gas leak. There are a number of areas where a leak could originate, including a bad fittings at the gas tank, holes or crack in the fuel supply hoses, or cracks in the burner tubes.
6. Electronic components don't work or don't work properly
Electronic components on some higher end grills, including electronic ignition controls, digital thermometers or temperature controls, can and will fail over time. If it's worth investing in the repair, call a highly rated gas grill repair company.