Grilling on the barbeque is a sure sign summer has arrived. And now even more people are enjoying this way of cooking year-round.
Types of Grills
Propane Gas Grills
Propane is the most popular barbeque fuel source - approximately 85% of all of the BBQs sold in Canada are fueled by propane due to the fact that it’s safe, efficient and readily available across the country. Arguably the best feature of using propane as a BBQ fuel is that it makes your BBQ portable. So, if you don’t want to purchase two barbecues, such as one at home and one at the cottage, then a propane BBQ is a great choice. Portability also ensures that you have the option to simply move the BBQ around your backyard if you’re doing some landscaping or if you simply want to move it to a different location as part of a backyard redecoration.
Natural Gas Grill
Having your bbq hooked up to a natural gas line is a growing trend, since it provides you with an endless supply of fuel and eliminates the worry of running out of gas while cooking. A natural gas barbeque will generally cost more than a propane barbeque, but this is offset by the fact that you will not have to purchase propane tanks. If you buy a natural gas bbq, make sure it comes with sufficient hose length and the correct fittings to attach to the natural gas hook-up at your house. Also note that a natural gas hook-up needs to be installed by a licensed professional, such as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor or gas fitter.
Convertible Grill Kits
If you decide after your purchase of a propane BBQ that you would rather have a natural gas one, it’s possible to buy a conversion kit that will turn a propane BBQ into a natural gas version. So, if you’ve recently moved and there’s a pre-existing natural gas pipeline, or if you simply like the convenience of a natural gas hookup, then you have a viable and cost-effective option. A conversion kit is relatively inexpensive, and it definitely costs less than buying a whole new barbecue.
If you love the traditional smell and taste of grilling with charcoal, you have two choices. You can use the popular charcoal briquettes, which are made of compressed coal dust, charcoal, sawdust and woodchips, or natural charcoal, which is hardwood that has been burned until it is charred. Both work the same way; when they are ignited and burned, the charcoal converts into embers that radiate heat. Charcoal grills may take longer to heat up, but the smoky flavour they create and deliver to the food is well worth it to many cooks.
An electric grill is a barbecue that is powered via a regular electrical outlet, therefore it doesn’t require any supplementary heat sources like gas or charcoal. Electric grills are ideal for the home griller looking for a BBQ that is easy and convenient. An added benefit is the flexibility an electric grill provides - you can use it in small spaces where gas may not be viable. They're great for indoor use as well so that you can still get the great grill marks that barbecuing is known for.
Other Factors to Consider
How big of a bbq do you need? It should be big enough to handle the largest group of people that you expect to entertain on a regular basis. The general guideline is that you need 50 square inches of primary cooking space per portion of food, so a 400 square inch grill will accommodate 8 portions. Secondary cooking surfaces, such as warming racks or side burners, can be used to accommodate cooking for the occasional larger group.
The chart below can help determine what size bbq is for you.
Main Cooking Surface in Square Inches
Number of Portions
|300||5 to 6|
|400||7 to 8|
|500||10 & up|
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. For barbeques, BTUs measure the maximum heat produced when the main burners are on high. Scientifically speaking, it’s a measurement of how much energy it takes to raise 1 pound of water 1° Fahrenheit. On average, 35,000 to 62,500 BTUs is suitable for BBQing.
One word of warning: be careful when looking at the BTUs because it doesn’t really measure the cooking power of your grill, so you shouldn’t use BTUs alone as a way of comparing grills because higher BTUs don't necessarily produce more heat. Don't decide on a grill just because it has a higher BTU number. A much more indicative BBQ comparison is to look at the cooking surface.
Porcelain-coated wire cooking grids: These are the most popular type of cooking grids found on gas bbqs. Made out of heavy-duty steel wire, these grids have excellent heat retention.
Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grids: Cast iron grids capture and hold heat exceptionally well, leaving the hallmark deep, dark grill lines on food. No wonder they are a favourite of serious bbq chefs.
Stainless steel cooking grates: Usually found on top of the line grills, these grates conduct the heat evenly, won’t rust and are the most cosmetically appealing.
The burner is where the flames emanate from and consequently creates the heat. The heat distribution plate is located directly above the burner(s) and is responsible for spreading the heat around. Generally, more burners equal greater flame coverage which will help ensure even cooking and added temperature control. The type of burner you have will impact the flame coverage and, therefore, the heat distribution as well.
Tube burners produce flames that run along a straight line. Since these flames are centralized, you'll need more burners to evenly heat the cooking surface. Double burners are roughly equivalent to two standard tube burners and increase the amount of burner in relation to the grill surface. The result is more even heat and fewer flare-ups.
Burners are generally made of either stainless steel or cast iron. Both work suitably, although cast iron is rarer nowadays and maintenance is key because corrosion can clog the flame holes. Keep in mind that burners are a grill's most-replaced part. Based on your cooking needs, you may also want to consider a side burner, which is great for cooking side dishes, or a rotisserie burner for any number of delicious cuts of meat.
- Use your grill at least 15 feet away from any building, door, window or car to lessen the danger from fumes and accidental fire. Never use a grill indoors.
- Check all fittings, tubes and connections to ensure they are tight and do not leak.
- Check all tubes that lead into the burner for any blockages from insects, spiders or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner to clear blockages. This will also ensure even heat distribution for optimal cooking.
- Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If the hoses cannot be moved, install a heat shield to protect them.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Never store a propane tank in an enclosed space. Store them outdoors, in an upright position.
- When starting the grill, leave the hood open when lighting the match. Turn on the gas and apply the flame. Never use gasoline on any grill and do not use lighter fluid.
- No matter which ignition system you choose - push button, rotary or electronic - make sure to follow the instructions provided in the Use & Care manual to keep the igniter in good condition.
- Always season the cooking grids before using the grill for the first time. Seasoning the grids is necessary to help protect the coating, decrease sticking, and protect damaged or worn grids from rusting. Only use household cooking oils to season the grids.
- To clean grids, use a soft brass bristle brush on porcelain grids and a stainless steel bristle brush on stainless steel grids.
- Have your propane tank purged if it runs out of gas after only a couple of uses. Purging the tank removes any air, thus releasing space for more gas. Simply take the tank back to where you had it filled or purchased, and have them purge the tank properly.
- Keep your grill in top shape. Replace damaged or worn parts as necessary.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions that accompany the grill.
- When grilling in the winter, let your bbq warm up for an extra twenty minutes.