Know Different Types of Grills

Grilling is an easy method but it does involve a lot of science. It’s a process wherein food is placed on a grate and cooked in a way to obtain a charred flavor and look. The more you understand how the entire process works and the gradual changes which occur in the texture and composition of the food with temperature change, the easier it gets to master this technique.

3 ways in which food is cooked in any oven or cooker or grill :

1. Conduction: Heat is transferred when the food is in direct contact with a heat source or a heated surface. Grill marks are the easiest examples to notice.

2. Convection: Heat is transferred by the circulation of a heated fluid(air or oil) around the food being cooked. Examples being deep frying meat balls in oil or cooking rice in boiling water.

3. Radiation: There is no physical contact between the heat source and the food in this case. Waves of heat or light heat up the food directly. It finds applications in microwave ovens.h

Conduction Convection Radiation image

2 Zone Setup:

The 2-zone setup is one important concept in grilling. Different food components require different temperatures to get cooked. This system does exactly that. It provides for a much better temperature control while grilling. The cooking zone is divided into two parts- a)Direct zone, b)Indirect zone. The direct zone has high direct radiant heat whereas the indirect zone has no heat source. The indirect zone is heated only through indirect convection currents.

Roasting a whole turkey or chicken or pork loin essentially needs this kind of control. If you put them on direct heat, they are likely to get charred even before it’s done. Once they are cooked and tender on the inside(in the indirect zone), you can shift them to the direct zone to get a crunchy and crispy crust.This setup is also very helpful when you are cooking two different items with two different temperature needs.

While buying a grill, the needs and requirements vary from person to person. What cuts of meat you want to cook, the amount of space available to you, the number of people you want to cater to – everything matters. Also, one is likely to get overwhelmed with the numerous grill options available in the market. So, learn more about the products,do your research well and know exactly what you want.

Here’s a basic checklist to go through before you take the final call:

  • Budget

The price of a grill may range from a 200$ to a good 2000$. So it’s very essential to know how much you are willing to pay for a grill which will naturally narrow down your search. Your budget should also include a good digital thermometer since the ones fitted with the grills are mostly useless.

  • Fuel type

This is the most important factor to consider while making a choice. You can choose from charcoal(lump or briquettes), gas(propane or natural gas) or electricity. A charcoal one needs additional time to light up and clean, when compared to the others. So, if you are of the impatient lot, you definitely need an instant-lit gas or electric grill.While, if you like the traditional way of slow smoking, you can go for a charcoal one.

  • Food type

Thick meat cuts like pork shoulders, briskets, prime ribs, pork or beef tenderloins or even potatoes need slow and indirect heating. On the other hand, direct heat is enough for thinner stuff like vegetables, fish fillets, chicken breasts, etc. So, choose the one which suits your needs.

  • Additional features

Grills can come with a lot of other features like side burners, shelves, rotisserie options, carts and wheels, cover and many more. More the number of features, more would be the price. You are the best judge whether you actually need any of them. And if at all you take any, make sure to check its quality. How long do you think that shelf would last? Is the cover too thin? Check them all.

  • Quality

Grill made of cast iron or quality stainless steel is preferred. Regular steel will rust soon. Powder coated steel is also an excellent option. Check for any sharp edges. The hinges, the screws, the wheels – they should be sturdy enough. The metal body should be thick and strong.

You can go through the warranty offer.You can also consider the number of people you are going to cook for. If there’s a backyard party how many people do you usually invite? How important is portability? If you are a frequent tailgater or camper, then portability is absolutely necessary.

While buying a grill, you might also get confused with the BTU ratings of grills while comparing them. BTU(British Thermal Units) actually is a measurement of the heat produced by the grill but doesn’t effectively indicate that. One with a high BTU number doesn’t necessarily have to be a good grill.

This list goes long enough but your interests and needs are best known to you. So, decide wisely!

Grills can be classified on the basis of a number of factors like fuel used, place of origin or portability. Grills can be very broadly classified as indoor and outdoor grills. Food loving city dwellers with space limitations and fire regulations often opt for indoor grills, while people who have a backyard or a lot of open space go for outdoor grilling.

Below is a list of grills in decreasing order of popularity:

1. Gas Grills

These are either fuelled by propane or natural gas. Very easy and quick to light up, gas grills are perfect for people with a busy schedule with no time to fire up coal. Natural gas is more convenient and cheaper than refilling propane tanks.Natural gas grills require a gas line fitted to your grill.

Propane Gas Grill
Natural Gas Grill

2. Charcoal Grills

These grills use charcoal as their fuel for grilling. It is a preferred option for people who love the traditional way of smoking. You can choose from lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes. When meat is grilled with charcoal, its juices and marinade drip onto the coal,creating  a whirl of smoke. This is responsible for the smoky flavor of the grilled meat.

Using a charcoal grill is time consuming since it takes time to get the coal ready and there’s also the matter of clearing up the ashes when done.

Searing is another cooking method feasible only with charcoal grills or very expensive gas grills. Searing involves the deliberate browning of the meat surfaces especially steaks. A number of reactions lead to the formation of savory compounds on the crunchy crust.

Charcoal Grill

The Gas Grill vs Charcoal Grill

This issue always baffles buyers and leaves them confused as to which one to buy. Here’s an easy-to-read comparison of essential features to considerwhen choosing between the two:

  • Cost: Gas grills are mostly expensive when compared to a charcoal one.
  • Movability: The natural gas grills cannot be moved around your house as it is connected to a fixed pipeline, while the charcoal one can be positioned depending on your need. However, the propane grills can be repositioned when necessary.
  • Refilling: Using a propane grill requires time and again refilling of the fuel tanks and hence, frequent trips to the refill store. You can totally avoid this hassle with charcoal(briquettes) or natural gas grills(pipeline).
  • Smoky flavor: This is the single biggest difference in between these two options. You can never get that smoky flavor in your meat in a gas grill. Though gas grill manufacturers are trying to replicate the smoking concept in gas grills using flavor bars and ceramic briquettes, the absolute smoky taste is still missing.
  • Convenience: Gas grills are much more convenient and easy to handle when compared to charcoal grills. Gas grills can be fired up instantly as against the charcoal ones which take up about half an hour to be lit. Also, with the use of charcoal grills comes the clearing of burnt ashes when you are done. There is no such burden with gas grills.
  • Heat production: Charcoal grills produce much more heat when compared to gas grills. Charcoal ones are preferred for searing.

3. Electric Grills:

Electric grills are possibly the easiest to use. Just plug in and you are good to start, no waiting for the fire to light. They are perfect for indoor use. However, its portability is restricted to the availability of a power supply nearby. It cannot be used for camping purposes. Food cooked in an electric grill also lacks the smoky flavor of a charcoal fired grill.

Electric Grills

4. Portable Grills

These could either be charcoal or gas(propane only) fired. The option of portability makes it perfect for camping and tailgating activities. It comes with a size restriction though. These are not meant for large cuts of meat or even grilling for a large number of people.

Portable Grills

A few other varieties of grills are also mentioned below:

  • Rotisserie Grill– Even cooking is ensured when the meat is rotated in rotisserie leading to a crusty exterior and a juicy interior.
Rotisserie Grill
  • Ceramic Grills– Not very popular among manufacturers, this grill uses radiant heat within an enclosed chamber to cook the meat. It manages to hold the heat inside the vessel for longer periods of time.
  • Open Pit Grills– It’s the traditional method of roasting whole pigs, lambs or goats in a campfire pit.

Knowledge is essential to master anything, even grilling for that matter. So, keep learning, keep improving and keep grilling!