Like indoor cooking, outdoor cooking requires the right equipment. When you're just learning to grill, you only need a few key pieces. But as your repertoire expands beyond burgers and steaks, you may want to add additional accessories for cooking fish, pizza, vegetables, and ribs. Lucky for you, there's a tool to help you cook just about any food on the grill from a cumbersome whole chicken (use a vertical chicken roaster) to delicate halibut steaks (use a silicone mat).
Not all tools are created equal and for that reason, we've included information on what to look for when shopping and listed our favorite product in each category.
We start with the most important piece of equipment, the grill, and offer tips for determining what kind of grill suits you best from a basic model for $159.70 to a $7,495 luxury version with an extra side burner and an infrared rotisserie system. Then we move on to the absolute must-have accessories, followed by a list of extra, but not essential, pieces. Unless you consider a pizza peel essential, that is.
Tips for Buying a Grill
The first step in purchasing a grill is to determine if you want to use gas or charcoal. Both produce great-tasting food and nowadays there isn't much of a price difference between the two, so deciding which is right for you comes down to how you want to grill. Below, we've outlined some key tips for purchasing a grill, and on the following pages, we've provided our picks for basic and luxury versions.
A Lid Is Essential
Always look for a sturdy grill that can stand up to strong winds and has a lid. A lid is required for indirect grilling (this means heat is on either side of the food rather than directly below it) and smoking with wood chips. Plus, closing the lid helps air circulate, providing for more even cooking.
Bigger Is Better
Consider buying a larger grill than you think you need or want. The more you grill, the more you'll want to grill-you may even find you'd like cook large racks of ribs and whole turkeys on your grill-so it's a good idea to invest in the equipment to accommodate your ambitions.
When it comes to accessories such as side burners and rotisseries, think about what you'll really use before paying extra for them. Be aware that extra shelves may not be removable and could prevent you from grilling larger pieces of meat.
Charcoal grills are portable and easy to move. They require building and maintaining a fire as well as disposing of ashes and regular cleaning. It takes 25 to 35 minutes to get a charcoal grill ready to cook on. The flame can be very hot, but inconsistent. Charcoal grills often cost less initially, but they require purchasing charcoal for each cookout.
Weber-Stephens One-Touch Gold Kettle Grill
This classic kettle-style grill has a 22.5-inch diameter cooking area with two hinged side openings that allow you to easily add additional charcoal. The sturdy, all-weather wheels make this grill easy to move and the high-capacity ash catcher prevents ashes from blowing around during cooking
Primo Oval XL Grill
Made of insulating ceramic that keeps heat in and air out, the Primo Oval is extremely good at delivering consistent heat. The oval shape provides 400 square inches of cooking surface, which is more than most charcoal grills.
Kenmore711-square-inch Total Cook Area Gas Grill
This freestanding grill has a 28- by 19-inch cooking surface, which allows you to grill (or smoke) larger cuts of meat. Four individually controlled burners make it easy to configure the grill for both direct (heat is directly below the food) and indirect (heat is on either side of the food) grilling.
Kalamazoo450GS Gas Free-Standing Grill with Side Burner
This deluxe gas grill features an infrared rotisserie system, an integrated smoking box for easy smoking (no need to use an aluminum drip pan), and heavy-duty cooking grates that provide instant searing and excellent grill marks. The cooking grates can be configured to suit your personal cooking style and customized with your initials.
Check out our line up of must-have grilling accessories and cool extras.
Grilling expert and cooking teacher Elizabeth Karmel is the author of Taming the Flame: Secrets for Hot-and-Quick Grilling and Low-and-Slow BBQ and Pizza on the Grill: 100 Fun & Fabulous Fire-Roasted Recipes. In 2001, she founded girlsatthegrill.com. Grill Friends, her line of grilling tools and accessories, is available at bbqproshop.com.
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