HOW TO BUY A BARBECUE
It's that time of year again . . . the days are longer, the air is warmer, and the smell of a good barbecue can get just about anyone's mouth watering. One of the best ways to enjoy the warmer weather is to soak up the sun, fire up the grill and invite friends and family over for the first cookout of the season. If you're in the market for a new barbecue, now is the time to purchase and take advantage of the grilling season as early as possible. But don't make your purchase in a hurry, an outdoor grill can be a big purchase and ensuring that you buy what you need (and maybe a few extras that you don't) will translate to a barbecue you can enjoy for years to come.
The first thing to consider is your budget; how much do you realistically want to spend or how much can you afford? There are options for every budget so buy what suits your needs best without going overboard. Get the most out of your budget, whatever it may be, and look for a grill with sturdy cart construction, stainless steel or ceramic grates with rounded bards, heating element configuration, gas gauge, drip pan and thermometer. These are some basic features that no barbecue-er should be without.
The next factor to think about is convenience. Do you want charcoal or gas? The three main options are charcoal, propane and natural gas grills. Charcoal grills can be messy to use and require a lot of attention in order to create the perfect temperature and grilling environment. If convenience is your biggest concern, opt for a propane or natural gas grill that you can simply turn on, warm up and throw on the burgers. "Keep in mind that a natural gas grill can burn a bit hotter than a propane grill," warns Chef Lea McIntosh, co-founder of Nesting Newbies television program and magazine. "Cook with a little more caution to ensure your dishes turn out just right." Additionally, lighting a grill needs to be uncomplicated and easy, so look for an ignition system that you are comfortable with. After all - it is playing with fire!
A third item to take into account is your grill cooking area. What kind of grill area do you need - small or large? This will depend upon how many people you will be grilling for on a regular basis and also how much space you may have for the grill. Dacor offers gas grills in 36" and 52" widths.
Another option to take into account when selecting your grill is whether to go for a built-in outdoor grill or a grill that rests on a cart. A built-in grill makes your barbecue a permanent fixture in your outdoor landscape, while a grill cart gives you more mobility. Once you've decided on the basics, there are some extra features worth considering. McIntosh is from the San Luis Obispo, California area and recommends a smoker box, explaining that folks from that area take their grilling very seriously and rarely pass on a smoked tri-tip! Side burners and warming drawers are two options that Dacor offers on its 36" and 52" outdoor grills which allow you to operate like a real restaurant and can turn your grill into a fully-functional micro kitchen. Lastly, if your budget allows, a grill with a rotisserie is a great option to provide even more diversity to your barbecue's cooking options.
Another more technical detail to focus on is your barbecue's BTU rating. A BTU is short for British thermal unit and is a meausre of heat energy. Essentially, it's the amount of gas coming out and affects the size of the flame. Jesse Cool, owner of Cool Eatz Restaurants and Catering in Menlo Park, California, recommends going for the highest BTU rating available. For professional cooks, this allows you to sear food, and as she points out, you always have the option to turn the flame down if necessary. With up to 109,000 available BTUs, Dacor outdoor grills provide the high BTU ratings necessary to prepare foods with professional-grade grilling power. Dacor also offers an optional 20,000 BTU sear Burner with patent pending SearControlTM Technology. From low temperatures for chicken and fish, to high-intensity heat for searing steaks, Dacor ensures that your backyard kitchen turns out culinary materpieces.
Every good barbecue needs some key tools of the trade to ensure their dishes are grilled to perfection. If you're new to grilling Chef Lea advises having a complete BBQ tool set, which typically includes tongs and a grill brush or scraper.
Maintaining your barbecue is critical to getting as many years out of it as possible. Jesse Cool recommends treating the grill with an oiled cloth and says that selecting a grill that you can clean easily and thoroughly after each use is key. Additionally, invest in a quality grill cover or grill cart cover to protect your barbecue from the elements.
Once the barbecue is purchased, set it up in a location that will allow you to use it as much as possible. Some areas will not allow for year-round barbecuing, but positioning it in a convenient location, out of the weather, will allow you to enjoy some good, old fasioned barbecue meals well into the cooler months.
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