Abby's Guide to Grills
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Grill Buying Guide

A new grill is a wonderful addition to your home. It allows for outdoor gatherings and entertaining, exciting new cooking options, and plenty of fun. However, you might have trouble deciding which one to get. After all, there are all kinds of options on the market, ranging from tiny charcoal grills at around thirty dollars to huge gas grills that cost up to a couple thousand. Which grill is right for you, and what should you know before you buy? Here's a look at what beginners need to understand before they decide on a grill.

Charcoal Vs. Gas
Volumes have been written on the issue of charcoal grills versus gas grills. Many people are firm fans of one or the other, and insist that only food cooked on their preferred grill is "real grilling." However, the issue is a very personal one, and it's really going to depend on your situation, your budget, and your preferences. Don't let anyone tell you that one type of grill is best and that you should ignore the other option. Only you can make this decision. However, this article can provide a few options to help you make it.

One important question about grills is local rules. If you live in a condo or apartment complex, you may be subject to rules against smoke and fumes that will force you to avoid the charcoal versus gas question entirely. In these situations, an electric grill is just about the only option. Other areas may have restrictions on smoke from charcoal, but not from the lesser emissions that come from a gas grill. Take a little time to find out what rules you have to follow, and what grills are permissible under those rules. It could keep you from getting into a lot of trouble.

Currently, about sixty percent of the market chooses a gas grill for its cleanliness and ease of operation. Another forty-five percent or so choose charcoal grills for their old fashioned feel and smoky flavor. The remainder opt for an electric grill. A not insignificant number of grill enthusiasts own both gas and charcoal grills, so they don't have to choose between the benefits of each. Charcoal grills do offer the benefit of being significantly less expensive, and can provide some fairly distinctive flavors. However, there's a good amount of evidence that the tasty charred areas that come from charcoal grilling are dangerous to our health, if we eat too much grilled meat. Take your consumption levels into account when you decide which type of grill to buy.

Environmental Issues
Think about the environmental impact of your grill before you buy. Charcoal grills emit smoke, as well as fumes, if you use lighter fluid to get things going. However, a charcoal chimney can reduce your dependence on petroleum. Charcoal is made of wood, which means that this kind of grilling also contributes to deforestation. A charcoal grill usually has fewer parts and is smaller, however. Less goes into making one, which is a consideration for those concerned about their environmental footprint.
Gas grills use a non-renewable resource to operate, but are more efficient than charcoal. More of the heat gets used to cook the food, and less goes up in smoke. Emissions from gas grills are significantly smaller than emissions from charcoal grills. The environmental cost of acquiring and transporting the gas should be taken into account, though. You should also consider the quality of the grill - lower quality grills will break more quickly and need to be thrown away earlier.

Electric grills are probably the most efficient, since the power used to run them is produced all at once, at your local power plant. However, electricity doesn't give you a real flame. This means that an electric grill is really more of a simulator for the grilling experience. The result won't be quite like food cooked on a gas or charcoal grill.

Charcoal gas grills make use of charcoal for the actual cooking, but use propane to light the coals. This actually gives them some of the problems of both types, but does eliminate the need for lighter fluid and prevents fussing with the fire. That means you'll waste less fuel and get started cooking a lot faster.

Do you want a popular brand or something that's cheaper and less well known. In most cases, a solid brand name with a history of customer support is the better choice. Be sure to look at the warranty, especially on high end gas grills. It can make a big difference in your grilling experience.

Decide how much you want to cook at once. Will you be making whole meals or just the occasional shiskabob? If you prefer to have large gatherings, choose a grill that offers four hundred square inches or more of cooking space. If you'll only ever be serving snacks or a few people, a smaller grill might be all you need.

Do you want a feature-laden cooking experience, or do you prefer to do it the old fashioned way? Choose convenience features that work for the way you cook and take the time to think hard about them. Don't buy too much grill just because you like the sound of all the features! Don't get stuck with a bare bones grill when you want more, though. Analyze how you cook and decide what will work best for your particular grilling situation.
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