BBQs are big-ticket items. When you purchase one, you hope that it will last for years and years, seeing you through countless lazy weekend cookouts, important milestone celebrations, and everything in between.
That’s why, like any other substantial purchase, you want to invest in quality. This way, you’re getting the greatest peace of mind—and value for your money. Whether you’re looking for a simple compact and portable BBQ or a huge grill that will anchor your outdoor entertaining space, there is lots to consider, including a wide array of features and options.
We spoke to Paul at JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre in Guelph about the brand-new Genesis Line, grills vs smokers, and the finer points of BBQ, such as charcoal, wood chips and pellets.
When looking for a BBQ, you’ll need to decide which type you want: Propane, natural gas, pellet, electric or charcoal.
Propane BBQs let you turn up the heat. Many grill masters prefer propane to natural gas because it burns at a hotter temperature. A portable propane grill can be a really convenient option because you can move it around, i.e. closer to the poolside or safely away from any outdoor activities.
Propane barbecues come with multiple burners so you can easily cook an entire meal all on the grill. If you’ll be cooking for larger gatherings, look for a grilling surface of 550 to 650 square inches. It’s also a good idea to look for one that comes with large side shelves so you’ll have lots of convenient workspace; these are great for side dishes and any sauces you might make. Another great feature are shelves that come equipped with hooks so you can keep your BBQ accessories close at hand.
Portable gas grills can also include a number of handy features, such as an electronic ignition for quick and reliable start-ups, middle and side burners, rear rotisserie burners and a secure tank storage cabinet.
A propane gas grill is ideal for deck and patio use. They heat quickly for fast, weeknight meals. The propane tanks themselves are portable, widely available and easy to refill. These grills feature individual temperature controls to regulate the amount of heat different foods receive. They’re also environmentally friendly; they produce water vapor and carbon dioxide with low greenhouse gas emissions. Last, they have a small carbon footprint.
Natural gas barbecues
A natural gas grill connects to the outside of your home quickly and easily. If your home already has a natural gas line, this is a great choice as it offers several cooking and grilling options. Just be sure to check the size of your home’s natural gas connector, to ensure the grill you purchase will be compatible.
If you grill often, this type of barbecue is perfect. For the average family of four, look for a cooking surface of 450 to 500 square inches.
Some models have patterned cast iron cooking grids that are ideal for searing meat and locking in flavour. Many come with griddle-style side burners, which are great for cooking vegetables and any other side dishes.
There are lots of fun bells and whistles too. You may want to consider buying a grill that has an automatic push button igniter, multiple burners, a rotisserie burner and lighting.
The benefits of having a natural gas barbecue include the quick start-up and the constant flow of fuel, which allows for uninterrupted grilling. They also produce less smoke, so there’s better air quality for your family and guests. Natural gas is generally less expensive than propane and there is no need to worry about having to refill a tank. This type of BBQ also has a small carbon footprint.
If what you love most about barbecues is that wood-fired flavour, consider a pellet grill. Pellet grilling works by exposing wood pellets to intense heat so that they combust and emit heat and smoke; an internal fan then distributes that heat throughout the grill.
Pellet grills do require electricity to run. They have digital control boards that ignite the grill, as well as a dial that controls the temperature readings.
The convection heating in a pellet grill makes it incredibly useful. You can bake, roast and smoke, cooking everything from ribs to wood-fired pizza to homemade apple pie.
The actual wood pellets themselves come in a variety of flavours and each adds its own unique accent to dishes. Choices include alder, apple, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak and pecan.
Pellet grills offer low cooking temperatures (from about 82°C to 260°C) for smoking and the fan-forced convection cooking eliminates the need for a rotisserie. Many also come with meat temperature probes.
If you’re at all nostalgic about the way BBQ used to taste, a charcoal grill is a must. Nothing beats a charcoal grill for that authentic, rich, barbecue taste.
The fuel source is charcoal briquettes, which are easy to find and simple to use.
A charcoal barbecue is great for portable grilling and it’s also an inexpensive option. You can find them in compact, tabletop models, which are primarily used for picnics, tailgate parties or camping trips.
When shopping for a portable charcoal grill, look for a no-rust aluminum vent so it will be durable and last long. You’ll also want ash catchers for a quick post-cook clean-up. If you’ll be moving your grill—from the beach to the cottage, for example—make sure it has all-weather wheels.
Charcoal grills reach temperatures up to 370°C. Their portable design is ideal for those who want to have a grill they can take camping or on picnics in the park. There’s also less risk of flare-ups, as any drippings that fall onto the charcoal end up simply converting into flavour-infusing vapours.
Those who live in smaller spaces also want to be able to barbecue! The solution? An electric grill. If you live in an apartment or condo, all you need is an electrical outlet.
An electric barbecue requires no fuel or prep time and heats up quickly. They come in portable and space-saving tabletop models. You’ll especially love it on those days when it’s too hot to use the oven.
Electric barbecues are ideal for patio or balcony grilling. They heat up quickly and cook food evenly. They’re also environmentally friendly. For 1-2 people, look for about 200 square inches of cooking space.
Smokers use both heat and smoke to cook food, providing that distinctive smoky flavour to meats, seafood and vegetables. You can slow-cook meat from 3 to 12 hours, which results in extreme tenderness.
You can find smokers in charcoal, gas, wood or electric models. They usually contain a basin where you place wood chips or pellets, which provide that smoky flavour.
If you really want that authentic, smoky taste, charcoal and wood smokers are the way to go. Beginners will find electric and gas smokers easier to use. Experiment with some of the delicious flavour options, including cherry wood, maple, mesquite and charcoal.
Outdoor fryers cook in less time than a traditional grill rotisserie. Having one means you can save your oven space for any side dishes, as your fryer will expertly cook your turkey, chicken, fish or other kinds of meat.
If you’re the kind of cook who likes to use dry rubs and seasonings, an outdoor fryer is ideal. A meat thermometer helps you achieve the optimal cooking temperature and there is no need to worry: there is no lingering fried foods smell.
Tools and accessories
Your grill can actually fade due to sun exposure and rust due to rain. To protect your grill and keep it looking its best for many years, be sure to pick up a barbecue cover. A good cover can even stop birds and insects from making their new home in your BBQ! For the best protection, look for covers made from durable, water-resistant materials that have Velcro closures to ensure a snug fit, and rubber handles, which make it easy to remove.
Keep an extra propane tank on hand for your barbecue so you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel mid-cook. Tanks are crafted from high-grade steel and come with a powder-coated exterior; they are pre-purged and ready to fill.
Just be sure to store any propane tanks in a well-ventilated area—preferably outdoors. They must also be kept upright.
For more information about barbecues and grilling, visit JL’s Home Hardware Building Centre or call 519-822-8230.