Buying a grill. How hard can that be?
Well, there are hundreds of choices (and options beyond that) and it's something you'll live with for a decade or more. So I dug in and researched.
I was replacing an 18-year-old Weber gas grill that still worked pretty well but needed some work. So I donated that and went looking.
Your first decision: Gas or charcoal power? That turns out to be a religious issue so I will direct you to these guys, who are brave enough to go there:
If you're a charcoaler, it's pretty easy: The Big Green Egg or a Weber.
The Egg, favored by Foodgal's hubby, MeatBoy, and my grill-obsessed friend Mark, is a kamodo-style cooker, made of pottery and massively heavy. It will be almost $1000 after you add the accessories you want but I suggest it for two reasons. One is that it's one of very few ways to get a grill and a smoker in one unit without compromising either the grilling or smoking performance. The second reason is that everyone who owns one l-o-v-e-s it. I mean, everyone. The BGE is not available via Amazon anymore but when it was, every review was five stars.
A Weber charcoal grill will run you a few hundred dollars and any model will work well and last forever. The reviews seem to favor the Weber Original Kettle Premium 22" Charcoal Grill).
Whatever you choose, get the Weber brand chimney starter. Trust me on that — it's under $20 and is the best way to light charcoal (other than a manly choice like a roofing torch or a Looftlighter.) If you use stinky charcoal lighter fluid, you are not allowed to read further. Go away now.
There's also a Weber charcoal grill with a built-in propane-powered starter. The reviews say it works well and is handy and clean. I won't refuse pork chops made on that.
This is where the choices become overwhelming. I'll start with a few basic criteria: For me, a grill is a frequently used tool and I am not looking at $250 gas grills. Had one once, dumb idea. On the other hand, you can spend $2500 (or even $5000) on one and I'm not that insane. At least, not yet.
Next question: Size. That one's pretty straightforward. Partiers need bigger grills. I went mid-sized.
Next thing to do is choose your features. My list:
- Well-rated gas grill with great performance (which means even, controllable heat)
- Stainless steel grates
- But I don't care if it's stainless outside
- Searing burner
- A rotisserie
- Three burners are plenty
I went into this biased toward Weber. They're somewhat expensive but the quality is beyond reproach.
Consumer Reports and other reviews used to heavily favor the Weber but many less expensive brands have joined the Weber models in their recommendations. Amazing Ribs boasts that it's the only place that employs someone to test grilling gear full time and I trust Meathead (he runs the place). So you want to go there. But I stayed true to my bias and only briefly considered others.
A word about stainless steel. It's pretty but on an outdoor appliance, it's hard to keep it pretty. But because it's in fashion, many grills come with a stainless skin. Stainless varies in thickness and composition. It's not necessarily better.
But inside is where stainless steel shines. I am so tired of replacing cast iron or porcelain coated grates and moving food around the rusting spots. Stainless innards are on my must-have list.
I homed in on the mid-sized Weber, the 300 series. The searing station requirement moved me immediately to 330. I was looking at the E-330 and the S-330. The E model is color exterior, with iron grates and flavorizer bars (under the grate), while the S model is all stainless.
My thought was to buy the E-330 and upgrade the grates and the bars. But then I learned from somone on the Amazing Ribs discussion board that Weber has a little-known model called the EP-330 which comes in colors with stainless innards. Ah! Exactly what I wanted. Originally developed as a special model for Weber's authorized dealers, it's also offered in custom colors.
A better deal
I could not find this locally. I went to Amazon and found several for the right price and with free shipping, from pretty good vendors. The vendor with the highest rating, Acme Tools, curiously, did not have the color I wanted so I checked their own site. Interesting. They carry the full line and could sell it to me direct, for the same price, free shipping, and no sales tax — a significant difference, at this price.
Big box. BIG box.
Ten days later:
One thing you need to know when you buy a grill via the Internet is that it comes in a box. About a 4x4 foot box on a shipping palette. 210 pounds.
And it comes in pieces. A lot of pieces. Plan on several hours of nuttin' and boltin'. Happily, I love nuttin' and boltin'.
Weber's instructions are terrific, like IKEA on steroids:
That's one side of a two-sided roadmap. As I said, lots of parts.
And then, there's the big box
You should also know that when you are done, you still have a big box, and a surprising mountain of cardboard. It took me four weeks of recycle toter-filling to get it all dispatched.
Finally. I love the "Fuh!" of a gas flame coming to life.