When people refer to barbecues they could be referring to a cooking appliance, a type of food or a method of cooking. Low heat over a long period of time is referred to barbecuing. Grilling is using high heat over a short period of time. There are gas, charcoal, and infrared grills.
Gas barbecues are powered by either propane or natural gas. With the propane models you will have to buy the propane cylinders. Natural gas models can be hooked up to your house’s gas line. Gas barbecues will usually come in one fuel source or the other, however, it is possible to buy a converter kit. The obvious advantage will natural gas is you don’t need to worry about running out of fuel while in the middle of cooking. Gas barbecues usually come in a cart design with side shelves that can include extra burners.
Flattop grills powered by gas have increased in popularity over the last few years. These grills do not have the usual grates. Instead, the surface is like a griddle and the food is not exposed to flame at all.
- Much larger compared to charcoal grills;
- Easy to start when using natural gas;
- Possible to buy models that come with a rotisserie or smoker box for a variety of cooking options.
- They are not traditional;
- Don’t work with low heat very well, which makes it difficult to follow the “low and slow” barbecuing philosophy some follow;
- Need to make sure you’re stocked on propane.
Charcoal grills use either charcoal briquettes or lump coal as the fuel source. The charcoal turns into ember, radiating heat to cook the food. People who use charcoal claim that it can produce a rich, smoky flavour that gas is incapable of. There are a wide variety of configurations of charcoal grills, some are small and portable (like the kettle grill) while others like the ones made from ceramic are larger and capable of smoking, barbecuing, and grilling.
- Wide variety of styles that will let you cook food in new and interesting ways;
- Charcoal burns at a lower heat making it better for traditional barbecuing;
- Possible to experiment with different types of charcoal.
- Grilling surface is usually smaller than gas;
- Requires more attention that gas.
Invented 30 years ago, infrared grills are relatively new compared to gas and charcoal. Ever wonder how steak gets cooked at a restaurant? There’s a good chance they use infrared. These grills are usually combined with gas where there is an infrared element under the grate. The gas will heat the infrared element which then radiates the intense heat onto the food. This will sear the food and help lock the juices in.
- Intense heat will help get restaurant-like results;
- Take less time to heat up;
- When juices drip they vaporize instantly, reducing flare ups.
- Due to the heat being much higher you will burn your food the first time you use it;
- Burning and charring your food could create cancer causing substances.
The barbecue you go with should be based on lifestyle, number of people you cook for, and budget. In a perfect world you’d be able to get all three. No matter your choice remember to have fun and enjoy the summer.
By Ian MacNeil