|Gas Barbecue Grills
I replaced our Weber Genesis I, propane fueled, grill last week after
it served faithfully and honorably for 18 years, enabled by one complete
overhaul and the wearing out of three protective covers. It will
labor on at the Pleasant Grove Church, despite a burner array that is corroding
The local Home Depot Expo Center has a very complete selection of grills
ranging in price for $300 to $5000. I looked at them all and discovered
that, from a cook's point of view, many of the grill manufacturers know
a lot more about bending metal than about designing a well fired grill.
Here are my requirements for a good outdoor grill:
· The grill enclosure and burner arrangement should be designed
to enable efficient grilling by direct fire (grilling) and
indirect fire (barbecuing).
o For direct fire grilling, this requires
a burner configuration that provides an even distribution of fire throughout
the enclosure so product can be grilled along and across the entire grill
expanse (the grate). Most grills met this requirement, even those
with only two burner arrays.
o Indirect fire barbecuing requires
a burner configuration that provides fire around an unfired
center so that product (poultry, veggies and the like)
can be gently barbequed (roasted). Some grills don't
do this well (two burner grills and those with briquettes
that heat evenly). Others, including at least one
big buck grill, align their burners with the short dimension
of the grate rather than the long. Never mind whether
it has 3, 4 or even 5 burner arrays. What good is a grate
surface 40 inches long if the burners are 20 inches long?
The best configuration is a three-burner array aligned along
the length of the grate surface. Thus configured,
the center burner array can be turned off and the others
throttled to produce the desired level of enclosure temperature.
· The grate should be of metal stock heavy enough to absorb
and hold a high temperature. What's grilling without seared grill marks
on the burgers and steaks? Most of the grills have lightweight stamped
metal grates. Too light to retain heat. This makes grill marking
difficult and impossible if the cook flips a product and plops it back
down on the same spot.
The more expensive grills favor heavy weight stainless steel grates.
They should do a good job if the welds hold (one top of the line Weber
grill on display already had a broken weld). However, nothing holds heat
as high and tenaciously as cast iron. Surprisingly, I found only
one grill that featured a cast iron grate. Weber offers it only on
the medium low priced Genesis Silver model. This is undoubtedly because
manufacturers consider cast iron grates only marginally superior to their
heaviest stainless steel grates and because they have found that folks
won't take the time or follow the instructions to “season” cast iron.
(I read in the Washington Post only last week that the Lodge cast
iron cookware people now offer “factory seasoned” products and that they
are selling well.)
|TIPS. 1. When turning product on the grate, always move
it to a fresh hot spot. Never flip it back in place. 2. Turn
the product only once. Repeated flipping breaks up the product, slows
the cooking process and messes up nice grill marks.
· The burner array configuration and fat dripping deflectors
should inhibit flare ups. Grills with briquettes and/or flat plate deflectors
should be avoided in favor of grills that feature spaced deflectors and
a deep pan, below the burner arrays, to run off the fat.
· The grill should have a good fitted rain cover, albeit
available at extra cost. I'm convinced that a cover pays for itself
by protecting the pizzo-electric starter and the switches from the elements.
· Consider a rotisserie feature. It's fun to spin
a big roaster hen now and then.
· The grill should have a table-like working surface big
enough to hold tools and plates.
· Side burner? Nice to have if you'll use it and
don't have to pay extra for it. Keep in mind that the side burner feature
enlarges the footprint of the grill.
· Fuel? I gave up on charcoal years ago and on propane
this time around. The new grill is fitted to the house natural gas
supply. (Ya, I know that burning charcoal produces only carbon dioxide
while gas produces carbon dioxide and water vapor and is therefore not
as hot or dry as charcoal.)
So, I bought the updated version of our old Weber Grill, now called
the Genesis Silver B, with a cast iron grate, natural gas, cover and fittings
that accept our old rotisserie. We'll be very disappointed if this
one doesn't last 18 years like the old one.