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Taste the meat not the heat: Picking a grill

TracerBulletTracerBullet SpacemanRegistered User regular
edited May 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I love to cook. That's the long and short of it, I love to cook to such a degree that I put money away from my paychecks every chance I get, and keep it squirelled away if I find myself out of work, just so I can have money to buy cooking supplies/gear.


I get excited over teflon pans.

And, right now, my roommates and I are looking at expanding our cooking abilities by purchasing a grill, there is only one question we have as to buying one.


Charcoal? Or propane?

So I figured I would come to the PAers to see what their take on it is. What's the best way to grill? Using charcoal, or using, what Hank Hill would call, God's Gas? Is there even a noticeable difference?

TracerBullet on

Posts

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I prefer the taste of charcoal, however it'll take you 20-30 mintues before you can cook (the coals take that long to get ready).

    With propane you can basically cook within 5 minutes, just need to scrape and light the grill and let it heat up.

    Propane is also easier to keep at a given temperature, whereas charcoal needs more tending (coals added, airflow adjusted) to keep at a certain temp. This only really matters if you're smoking/bbq-ing.

    Do consider the size of the grill if you plan to bbq for parties. Also you can get nice features like side burners (for pan/pot cokking) on propane grills.


    What do you plan on cooking and how do you plan on cooking it?

    Djeet on
  • MutilateMutilate Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    If you have the option either get both or a combo unit. I have a standard 3 burner gas grill and my wife got me a smoker for xmas that obviously can be used for charcoal grilling as well. I use both of them but for different things now. If thats not an option then it really is going to be a matter of what you prefer. I know a lot of people say they prefer the taste of charcoal vs gas but at the end of the day a well seasoned and well cooked piece of meat will be great on either type. Hope that helped.

    Mutilate on
  • TracerBulletTracerBullet Spaceman Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    My initial plans are I'll be cooking various meats on it; chicken, steak, sausages, as long with vegetables when the mood strikes me (corn, etc). As well as kabobs for parties. Also, being able to smoke would be awesome, though not a requirement.

    I'm not really worried about set-up time or maintaining coals, I'm really solely interested in taste


    Edit: and thanks for the tips. Basically I've grown up with charcoal grills, and I was really just wondering if propane grills really effect the taste much at all

    TracerBullet on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I also prefer to use charcoal, but only because I have good access to cheap-but-good lump charcoal. the briquettes are pretty lame, IMO. Charcoal can typically get hotter, temperature-wise, and you can smoke things on it (instead of baking, which is what you'd get by reducing the temp and lowering the top of a gas grill).

    Gas is easier to use overall, though, and you can cook a larger quantity of food due to the larger grills available. It takes practice to use charcoal correctly and you can either burn or undercook food relatively easily if you're inexperienced.

    Gas & taste: Grilling is still grilling, and letting the fat & moisture drip off the meat or veggies will end up with similar results on either type of grill, and that's largely what you notice when you grill (vs. other kinds of cooking). In a lot of ways, I see gas grilling as similar to broiling, which is why I'm pro-charcoal. If you're used to charcoal then I'd say do that -- I bounced ideas off my dad when I was first grilling for myself and it helped a great deal.

    EggyToast on
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  • RuckusRuckus Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I recommend a propane 2-3 burner grill with Cast Iron grill surface.

    Most of the cheaper bbqs use porcelain coated steel, which is an inferior cooking surface, in my opinion.

    Ruckus on
  • DirtyDirtyVagrantDirtyDirtyVagrant Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I say charcoal, but not briquettes. Actual charcoal, started in a chimney (no lighter fluid allowed).

    For the most part, grills are kinda redundant though, because for my money, a good cast iron grill pan or...pretty much cast iron anything, does a better job on steaks, chicken, and pork chops than a grill does.

    So that pretty much leaves you hamburgers, legs of lamb, kabobs, and grilled corn/veggies.

    I say, if you can (if you must), try to find some combination of a charcoal grill and a smoker. Otherwise, go to your kitchen supply store, pick up a $15 cast iron skillet, go home, cure it, and profit.

    DirtyDirtyVagrant on
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    My initial plans are I'll be cooking various meats on it; chicken, steak, sausages, as long with vegetables when the mood strikes me (corn, etc). As well as kabobs for parties.

    You could easily do those on either charcoal or gas grills. If you said you wanted to smoke whole briskets, or whole racks of beef ribs, or 5 racks of pork ribs at a time, or multiple pork butts, then you need to think about how the grill is setup and will you have space and good airflow.

    For a first time grill you could do worse then a 22.5" weber kettle charcoal grill. I like the grill tops that have lift top sides that let you add coals and chips, and there are a fair number of useful accessories available. You can also set it up as a smoker, though if you're serious about smoking I'd get a purpose built smoker (water smoker or barrel style). I've done a full brisket on one of those (edit: a 22.5" weber kettle), tight fit though.

    I'm looking to pick up a propane grill in addition to my smoker and my weber charcoal grill. Because I live somewhere where it's nice enough to cook outside 9+ months of the year and I want something that lets me get started quickly after work. You can smoke on a propane grill too, you might want to get a metal smokebox for the chips.

    Djeet on
  • ArtereisArtereis Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Anyone have any experience with infrared grills? I'm pretty interested in one when I can purchase one, but I haven't spoken to someone who's actually used one.

    Artereis on
  • RaynagaRaynaga Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Artereis wrote: »
    Anyone have any experience with infrared grills? I'm pretty interested in one when I can purchase one, but I haven't spoken to someone who's actually used one.

    Infrared will use roughly 40% less propane than a traditional grill and is great for things like steaks and burgers; it sears the meat which seals in the juices resulting in a better tasting meal. Soemone who works for a company like Weber would tell you its not as good as a traditional grill for things like pork chops, chicken, etc. There's some truth to that, but it isn't a monumental difference. Only other real difference is you won't have flame-ups.

    As for a grill for someone who can't decide which type, I usually recommend this.

    789792050508lg.jpg

    Its built like a battletank, has charcoal and propane sections, and retails for 299 which is pretty cheap for a decent grill. You can even spend an extra 60 bucks and get a smoker side-box.

    EDIT: Regarding Weber, they are really hard to beat in terms of quality but you definitely pay for it in terms of price.

    Raynaga on
  • NoquarNoquar Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I personally have never noticed a real taste difference between the two, it has come down to more of an ease of use. I find propane grills much easier to deal with when you start trying fancier recipes on grills like using indirect heat that needs to remain constant for hours.

    I will say, from personal opinion - no matter which one you get, I would recommend getting one with as large of a top rack as you can. I cannot stand the grills that give you the dinky little rack you can barely fit a burger on.

    Noquar on
  • CliffCliff Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    My initial plans are I'll be cooking various meats on it; chicken, steak, sausages, as long with vegetables when the mood strikes me (corn, etc). As well as kabobs for parties. Also, being able to smoke would be awesome, though not a requirement.

    I'm not really worried about set-up time or maintaining coals, I'm really solely interested in taste


    Edit: and thanks for the tips. Basically I've grown up with charcoal grills, and I was really just wondering if propane grills really effect the taste much at all

    Definately stick with charcoal. The only reason people use propane instead is for ease of use. Charcoal cooked always tastes better.

    Cliff on
  • KidDynamiteKidDynamite Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I want to say it's not that propane affects the taste, it's that charcoal has a better taste. Does that make sense?

    Personally, I run a propane grill. It's just easier, heats up quick, and I know that when I turn it off, it is off.

    Weber is a great brand. I've got a smaller propane weber that has been A+ for years now. I want to get a bigger one for when company is over, but it still cooks great.

    Just remember that you can grill crappy food on either if you overcook it, or let the flames get too close (charred meat is only sometimes good)

    Don't forget a good set of tongs, and if you are just starting out a meat thermometer. Steaks and such are easy, but I always fret over chicken and porkchops, the thermometer will tell you when it's safe.

    KidDynamite on
  • 3drage3drage Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I'd go with a dual grill. If you have to have just one, I'd grab propane and use a smoker box for your favorite flavor of wood. You can't beat the diversity of having a dual-purpose grill though.

    3drage on
  • November FifthNovember Fifth Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    If you are looking for something small or med sized, I would go with charcoal.

    If you are looking for something larger that you are going to be using more than once a week, I would probably go with propane.

    369885d2-21a2-4552-8b11-a9265b7557aa_400.jpg

    I got this infrared grill last year on sale. While, I'm not convinced of this brand's quality, this has been a great grill for me so far. I probably use it twice a week or so, and I have been happy with the 3 burners + side burner. I was even able to salvage X-mas dinner on it after the power went out.

    I will say that I have not been able to get the infrared up to really high steakhouse temp's. So if you are hoping to cook above 500, look elsewhere.

    November Fifth on
  • soxboxsoxbox Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I get excited over teflon pans.
    For the most part, grills are kinda redundant though, because for my money, a good cast iron grill pan or...pretty much cast iron anything, does a better job on steaks, chicken, and pork chops than a grill does.

    Seriously, get a good cast-iron skillet. My BBQ has sat languishing in the corner of my yard since I got a good grill skillet - it still comes out when cooking for big groups, but I haven't got the urge to put any smaller meals near it for a long while.

    If you're looking for something to use for group outdoor cooking, definitely go charcoal. A propane cooker doesn't allow you to do anything you couldn't easily do on a stove-top.

    soxbox on
  • DrunkMcDrunkMc Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Raynaga wrote: »
    Infrared will use roughly 40% less propane than a traditional grill and is great for things like steaks and burgers; it sears the meat which seals in the juices resulting in a better tasting meal.

    Alton Brown of Good Eats actually busted that myth. Searing actually causes more juices to leave the meat, so it won't make it juicier, it just adds flavor. And trading a bit of jucies for more flavor is not a bad thing, but it doesn't lock in juices like most people (me, before I saw him prove it wrong) believe.

    I enjoy charcoal, I think it just adds to the grilling experience, but gas grills are just far easier since you don't have to deal with chimneys, hot spots, cold spots, cleaning out old burnt coals, etc., All that work, but I still love nothing more then grilling on a nice charcoal grill with a beer in my hand.

    Edit:
    Lots of Good Eats is on YouTube, I believe this is the episode where he checks if searing meat locks in juices or not:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW9npAc2Sgw

    DrunkMc on
  • GungHoGungHo Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I like the dual purpose grills, myself. There are times where I want speed because the guy who was gonna bring the steaks was dragging ass, and there are times when I wanna take my sweet time and have the delicious taste of a forest fire.

    GungHo on
  • VoodooVVoodooV Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    more Alton Brown grilling goodness:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQMRyHKCuQQ


    Bought myself a weber grill recently. still waiting for the cover that I had to special order because they didn't have it in stock before I take it outside.

    VoodooV on
  • AresProphetAresProphet Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Weber. Kettle. Propane just doesn't compare.

    Natural lump charcoal + chimney starter + hickory chips (presoaked) = tasiest barbecue ever.

    Yes, it's a pain to fire it up for, say, hamburgers. But that just means you need to select burger toppings and sides that you can grill while the meat's doing its thing. Hell I've even grilled romaine on the damn thing. It's one of my favorite dishes, not least because people don't believe it's possible let alone delicious.

    If you have the scratch (like $500+) then get a separate propane grill for cookouts and such, but if you're intent on making the best grilled meal possible (often out of super-cheap cuts) then charcoal is the only way to go. Thing to remember is that with charcoal you get smoke, from 3 sources: the meat juices, the charcoal itself, and wood chips. You get a lot of flavor with minimal prep out of a good peice of charchoal-cooked meat.

    AresProphet on
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  • PheezerPheezer Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited May 2010
    I feel personally that the only two ways to do meat are on a charcoal BBQ or a cast iron pan. Propane is fine, but it really adds nothing and doesn't give you the sear you get from the cast iron. So it's essentially third choice for me.

    Charcoal obviously, way more flavour and you can get charcoal to be absurdly hot if you really care to. Cast iron won't give you the added flavour, but it's not hard to get a cast iron pan to around 500 degrees (or higher depending on heat source!) and once they get that hot, they contain so much energy that slapping a room temperature slab of steak on 'em doesn't even put a dent in the amount of heat they're putting through. Makes for a wicked good sear, very even cooking.

    Once you know where the hot spots and cold spots are on your cast iron, you can basically cook a steak by use of a timer. I wouldn't, but I'm a nervous person that way.

    Propane is nice for vegetables, but charcoal is still better.

    Pheezer on
    IT'S GOT ME REACHING IN MY POCKET IT'S GOT ME FORKING OVER CASH
    CUZ THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE MIDDLE AND IT'S GIVING ME A RASH
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