Grilling out is one of the many joys of the summer. First, when you use a gas grill, you don't have to heat up your kitchen – which causes the whole house to heat up. Second, you get that special taste that you can only get from the direct heat of a flame. Third, grilling out is a great way to entertain and socialize – from planned parties to impromtu gatherings of neighbors. All you need is quality food and a great gas grill.
I often use the terms “barbequing” and “grilling” as synonyms, but, in fact, they are not the same thing. The differences are in the type of heat and the cooking time. Grilling is done with direct heat, that is moderately hot to hot. The food is cooked quickly. This is the method you are using if you are cooking a burger or a steak on your grill.
Barbecuing, on the other hand, is done by indirect heat, often with smoke, and the food is cooked for a long time. If you are cooking ribs, or a whole hog, then you are barbequing.
Of course, there are regional variations for what each of these terms mean. In Britain, for example, the term barbecuing means the fast cooking process over high heat. And grilling in the U.K. is what folks in the U.S. call broiling. Sometimes, people use the terms barbequeing and smoking as synonyms. Even the spelling of barbecue is up for debate – barbecue, barbeque, bbq, barbie – are all variations.
One of the inventions that made grilling so ubiquitous was the Weber grill, which was invented in 1952 by George Stephen, Jr. By creating a cover for the grill, the food and flame were protected from the elements. Plus, the cover sealed in the heat and the smoke, which allows the food to cook evenly while soaking up that great smoky flavor.
Nowadays, grills range from very simple devices to complex cooking technology. I remember the cast iron hibachi that my family used to use. It was low to the ground and used charcol briquettes. You can still use charcol, or you can use propane or even natural gas. I think that having a grill where the cooking surface is elevated to waist height is the way to go. You can purchase a grill on a stand, or set a smaller model onto a fire-proof tabletop. The most imporant aspect of a grill is that it is sturdy. You don't want it to tip over. So, give the grill a nudge from several different angles. It should remain solidly in place. With safety in mind, also check out the handle. You want enough room between the handle and the lid so that your knuckles and fingers don't get burned.
Gas grill options are abundant. The main cooking surface is for burgers, hot dogs, and steaks. If you are planning to slow cook a chicken, then you will want a rotisserie burner. Side burners are excellent to use for keeping foods warm or slow cooking a side dish. Another option to look for is an infrared burner. This technology uses heated surfaces to radiate the heat to the food. While cooking with infrared burners takes some practice, Consumer Reports found that 63% of people who had grills with infrared burners used them regularly.
So, once you have chosen your gas grill, stock up on some long-handled grill tools, break out your favorite foods, call up some friends, and let the party begin!