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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 away.

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. 
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 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.) 

·  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. 



 

 

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