Well - first of all, forget anything you've heard about gas grills. There are lot of myths out there, and I'd like for you to really think about what I am about to pass on to you. It will make sense when we are done, and hopefully you can make a great gas grill purchasing decision.
First, you need to decide how you like to cook on a gas grill. Do you like putting your meat on the grill and walking away until it is done, or do you like cooking things fast and hot? Do you cook directly over the flame, or indirectly? Once you have figured out what you want out of a grill, you're ready to go shopping.
A lot of publications out there say to set your price point and then shop. That is not the way you should do it. First of all, you may not have any idea what grills cost these days. Second, you get what you pay for.
As Benjamin Franklin used to say, "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." If you follow my guide lines, you will make a more educated decision in buying your next gas grill.
Let me walk you through a typical grill purchase. A person goes into a mass merchant store and looks at a huge grill that has big warming racks, high BTU's, and a list of many other impressive features. They are trying to impress people with this list so that the basics that are required for a great grilling experience are passed over. Sufficiently impressed, this person purchases the grill. He/she gets it in a box, takes it home, and spends most of the day on Saturday cursing and putting it together. Then he/she fires it up to cook... all of a sudden the grill looks like it is on fire! Startled, he/she dumps most of his/her beer on the grill, trying to douse the flames. Frantically trying to save the food, he/she tries to turn the heat down, only to realize there's really not any heat control. So, all of the food has to go on those large warming racks.
A year later, that person has to spend $70.00 to $90.00 dollars to replace the parts that went bad on a $200.00 grill. The average mass merchant grill needs new parts every 14 months. So in three years, $400 to $600.00 dollars have been spent on a grill that never satisfied the customer in the first place. He/she could have spent just a little more in the beginning and been much happier. To avoid the same old traps a gas grill buyer needs to look for the following:
- Make sure the manufacturer has a good warranty. This should keep you from having to spend money on parts that shouldn't have broken in the first place.
- Make sure that the burner is a good, proportional size to the grill. A lot of grill manufacturers make a large, impressive looking casting with a little burner - that means lots of hot and cold spots.
- Check out the flame taming devices and make sure they cover the entire burner. The salt and grease from the food you cook causes most of the damage to the grill. The more exposed the burner is, the faster it burns out. Always make sure the flame tamer is directly over your gas grill burner - not to the side like some grills do. They put lava rocks to the side of the burner, and it defeats the purpose. To get maximum vaporization, you must have a good, even heat. Stay away from lava rocks. They are irregularly shaped, and do not hold heat evenly. That's why most grills with lava rocks are a flare up nightmare.
- Meat grids. Whether they are made from stainless, porcelain coated or cast iron, most will work well as long as you know how to clean them properly. For example, most mass merchant gas grills with porcelein coated meat grids tell you brush your grids off when hot. This is wrong. Porcelain is at its most fragile state when hot. Brushing it at that time will cause it to chip. Once chipped, they will rust extremely fast - and most grills only have one year warranty.
- Most grill housings and frames are pretty good and are usually the last thing to go. Just keep this in mind - your climate plays a big part in determining how well your grill will hold up. If you live on the coast, almost everything you buy is doomed unless you buy copper. Even stainless will rust. It just takes longer, and that's where the good warranty comes in. If you live in a high humidity state, then stainless or a thick aluminum normally will last longer than most of us.
- Temperature. If you like steaks, the grill needs to reach at least 600 degrees. You need to get that steak on and off the grill as soon as possible so it does not dry out.
- Consumer Reports. Don't believe everything you read in the Consumer Reports. Although it is great for cars, they only grade mass merchant specialty products. Step up a hundred bucks or so and buy a gas grill that will last for many years.