As we get away from dark skies, the snow and ice, and high heating bills, we begin to feel the effects of spring fever. Folks get the urge to plant something green, to feel the grass underneath our feet, to enjoy blue skies, longer days, warm sunshine and yes -“A Time to Grill”. With spring fever comes spring clean up, and some decisions to be made. Do I clean up the old grill, maybe putting a new burner or cooking grids in it or is it time to pull the trigger on that shiny, new gas grill I have been eyeing through the cold of winter. If you decide to go the second route and purchase a new grill there are some simple tips that can make the process easier. Most of these tips are really answers to questions that we are asked everyday at The Hearth and Grill Shop.
Tip Number 1 has nothing to do with BTU’s, grilling area, or any other technical information. The first tip is really a question that only you can answer: “What are my grilling needs?”, “ How many people do I normally cook for?”, “ Do I like to entertain and have friends over to outdoor grill out?”, “ Do I prefer searing a steak or do I cook more hamburgers and chicken?”, “ Do I have space for a built-in island grill or is a freestanding grill better for the space available?” All of these questions factor into the size, shape, and type of gas grill you will need.
Tip Number 2 ties in closely with the first and that is, “What is my budget?” None of us would go out looking for a new car without an idea of how much we can or are willing to spend. Grills are a discretionary purchase – none of us must have a grill to survive, so a budget can help narrow the choices. Having a budget will help put in to focus the “must have” categories versus bells and whistles.
Tip Number 3 is a little more technical, but a simple one for most people. Will I be looking for a propane grill with a tank or will I be looking for a natural gas grill to hook up to the gas in my home? The advantage of a propane grill is that it is portable. If you decide to move, you can carry it with you. You can take a propane grill to the lake or camping. The disadvantage of a propane gas grill is that you seem to only run out of gas about two minutes into grilling the perfect steak. Even if you have a back up tank the moment is lost when you have to change the tank out and start over. The advantage of a natural gas unit is that, is an endless supply of gas and you never have to swap out tanks during the middle of cooking. If you have natural gas established at your home The Hearth and Grill Shop can run a gas line for a natural gas grill. Every gas grill purchased is set up for one of these two gases. Some grills like FireMagic and American Outdoor Grill are field convertible, but they are initially set up for one gas or the other. A common question is which gas is hotter or cooks better. The answer is that they perform the same.
Now we get into the meat of it with Tip Number 4. What material is my new outdoor grill made of and what is the quality of that material? Grills with aluminum housings are typically the most affordable. Cast and Sand Cast Aluminum housings are better and still very affordable. The adage “You Get What You Pay For” really applies at this point. The heavier the housing – the longer the grill will last. Just like the car door test, there is the lid test for a gas grill. Open and close the lid on a prospective gas grill. Does the whole grill shake and feel like it is coming apart when you open and close the lid or does it feel sturdy, balanced, and durable? What are the burners made of? Most manufacturers are using stainless steel at this point for burners. The thickness and grade of stainless steel burners are going to have a lot to do with how well the grill performs and how long it will last. The cooking grid material should also be a factor in choosing a grill. The material and thickness of that material will have a lot to do with the way it performs and holds up. We prefer stainless steel cooking grids to steel coated in porcelain enamel or cast iron.
At this point, Tip Number 5, it is a good idea to start asking about warranties on the parts that count. The parts that count are the parts that are essential to keeping your grill functioning properly and efficiently. The parts that count are the housing of the grill, the burners, and the cooking grids. Buyer beware – if any of these parts have a 2 year or 3 year warranty, that is probably how long they will last. The rock grate, briquettes, and igniters are relatively low cost items and can easily be replaced if they go bad, so the warranty on these parts is not as high of a priority.
Tip Number 6 is a statement! “All that glitters is not gold” and “All that is shiny is not Quality Stainless Steel”. Everyone likes a shiny, big, new stainless steel grill; however, just because a gas grill is stainless steel, does not mean that it will last or keep from rusting. If you are interested in a stainless steel gas grill, settle for nothing higher in grade than 304 stainless. Most manufacturers that produce quality stainless steel grills readily offer the grade of stainless steel used, but if the grade of stainless steel is not evident on the grill you are interested in, try the magnet test. Take a simple refrigerator magnet and see if it will stick to the grill in question. If it is stainless steel and the magnet sticks, it is NOT a grade of stainless you will want to purchase for the long run. 302 and 304 stainless steel have enough nickel in them that a simple magnet will not stick, they will not rust, and this is the material you are looking for. Again, “the get what you pay for” rule applies here as 302 and 304 stainless steel are not inexpensive materials and if you think the deal is to good to be true, it probably is.
Now that the outside of the grill has been discussed, Tip Number 7 deals with the interior of the grill. A good rule of thumb is that the more BTU’s or heat that a grill can produce, the heavier the components on the interior should be. High temperatures with lightweight material equals having to replace the burner/burners and cooking grids within a couple of years of purchase. Examining the warranty on the burner and cooking grids ahead of time should be a sign of the quality of the materials on the inside. Brands, such as, FireMagic and Broilmaster produce high temperature grills for searing steaks, fish, etc, but also have lifetime warranties on the burners and cooking grids. The American Outdoor Grill is also a high BTU grill with 15-year warranties on the burner and cooking grids. All three are excellent examples of combining performance with durability.
Tip Number Eight. After choosing your grill, have it professionally installed and then routinely serviced by a certified technician. Propane grills obviously do not need to be installed, but proper assembly and set up is important to the grills performance. Natural gas grills do have to be installed and may even require a gas line being run. The warranty on the grill may also improve by having the grill professionally installed and you can be sure that your investment will be working at maximum performance and efficiency. Having the grill routinely serviced will keep that grill performing at peak levels and increase its longevity. The Hearth and Grill Shop not only sells the best grills on the market today, but we also install and service everything we sell.