The time to find the biggest savings on a new barbecue, gas grill, smoker or outside oven is at the end of the summer, namely August and September, when retailers clear out their inventory to make room for winter products.
However, with barbecue season starting not everyone will want to wait to buy or replace their barbecue until summer is over so they’ll be pleased to know that June will also offer some good bargains.
Below are the most common types and features to be found at retail outlets.
Buying a Barbecue:
Barbecues have come a long way since the little Hibachi grill. I checked out a few at a home improvement store and found barbecues in all sizes, from small portable ones that are perfect for balconies or to take along on day-trips to extra large ones that are fancier and more involved than the most up-to-date kitchen appliance. But no matter the choice, there are certain things to consider before buying.
Choosing the right heat source is one of those things to think about – do you want convenience, flavour, easy start, fast heat, etc.?
- Electric (great for apartment or condos)
- Natural Gas (need to be hooked up by a professional – easy start, even temperatures)
- Propane (easy start, even temperatures, can be converted to Natural Gas)
- Charcoal (said to provide the best flavour but takes longer to get started and heat up)
- Smokers (requires logs – slow cooking)
- Pizza Ovens (very expensive – limited use)
Each of the heat sources provides a different flavour but whether it makes enough of a difference to pay more for any particular heat source is not something I’m convinced about. Other than the smoker, which would definitely give a unique flavour, I doubt most of us could identify the heat source in a blind taste test.
The size of the grill matters. Unless you do a lot of entertaining it is recommended you choose a size that meets your normal requirements – how many people will you normally be feeding? What size meals will you be cooking? What type of meals? Looking at the grill you should be able to picture how many burgers, chops, steaks or other food you’ll be able to barbecue at any one time. A grill that’s too small will turn out to be time-consuming, a grill that’s too big will waste fuel.
All grills, no matter the size or heat source, should accommodate the different heat temperatures requiremed for searing, cooking and finishing.
Do you need a side burner? I have one on our barbecue and wouldn’t do without it. It’s used for all kinds of purposes, frying onions, cooking corn on the cob, heating chili to making soup. The side shelf is another convenient feature that I wouldn’t want to do without as it holds everything within easy reach – from tools to dishes to condiments.
Grates: Here you want to know how well and even grates hold heat, how easy they are to clean and how well they will stand-up under normal use. Grates are available in:
- Cast Iron – long wearing as long as they don’t get damaged – holds heat well to ensure even cooking.
- Porcelain Coated Cast Iron – most popular- food doesn’t stick, heat is evenly distributed, and these grates last longest of all the grate types.
- Porcelain Enameled Steel – food doesn’t stick to grate – must be carefully handled because they may chip. They will also erode over time. It’s recommended that hard scrapers not be used on these type of grates.
- Stainless Steel – may not stand up well unless coated with Teflon or porcelain.
- Stability – how stable is the unit?
- Access – how easy is it to access the tank on a propane barbecue? To add logs to a smoker?
- Starting – what’s involved in starting the unit?
Most barbecues are not assembled when you buy them so it’s important to receive clear instructions as to how the unit goes together. I checked 12 barbecues – 7 were manufactured in the USA and 5 were manufactured in China. The instructions that come with the ones manufactures in the States are pretty clear. However, ours was manufactured in China and the instructions were impossible to follow. We ended up guessing what went where which took a great deal of time along with some strong language. Do yourself a favour and review the assembly instructions with the sales person before you leave the store.
Finally, a note of caution. Do NOT buy a cheap barbecue brush. The bristles may come loose and attach to food, causing serious injury if swallowed. This is one area where you truly don’t want to skimp.
If you’re in the market for a new barbecue, I hope this information will help you find the unit that perfectly meets your needs.
Talk to you again next week,