Home & Garden

Cookin’ with gas

Time to fire up the grill.

But what size? How much will it cost? And do you really need infrared heat to sear?

This month’s Savvy Shopper looks at what you need to know to shop for a gas grill.

— compiled by Megan Sexton

How long will a grill last?

“Look for longevity,” said Tracy Gillespie of Bart Fireside Casual Living on Broad River Road, which sells a wide range of grills, most of them higher-end.

Inexpensive grills typically will last a season or two; higher-end grills have lifetime guarantees on parts.

What’s it made of?

For longevity, stainless steel is the most durable. Look for 300-series stainless. Consumer Reports suggests shoppers take along a magnet, which will stick to lower grade metals.

Stainless steel cooking grids, burners and parts don’t rust and last longer. The cooking surface should be stainless steel or porcelain-coated cast iron. Grills with heavier stainless-steel or porcelain-coated, cast-iron grates are better at searing than thin steel.

What will it cost?

Gas grills can run from $100 to more than $5,000. The most popularly priced grills sell for $129 to $299, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Prices vary depending on the size, quality and features of the grill.

How big is big enough?

Grills are measured in square inches of cooking surface. If you have the space, consider looking for a 30- to 42-inch (or larger) model. Consider how many people you typically will cook for before deciding on the size of your grill.

What’s on the menu?

Do you plan to use your grill for hamburgers, hot dogs and steak? Then you probably don’t need the side burner and the rotisserie features. If you’re a more adventurous griller, those extras make sense.

How hot is hot enough?

Many grills are advertised by the number of Btu (British thermal units per hour.) That figure indicates how much gas is used, not grill temperature. Thus, a higher Btu number does not guarantee faster heating. The ability to control the heat and cook at an even temperature is more important.

A hot new trend is infrared grills to flash sear food or provide a constant heat to a rotisserie.

PRICES AND FEATURES

Consumer Reports’ June issue offers this advice for matching size and features to your budget:

 Basic, $100-$250. Best if you want a small or mid-sized grill with few frills. Features include a painted cart and cast-aluminum firebox and hood. On a small grill, the surface can fit 15 burgers; a mid-sized grill fits 24 burgers. As prices increase, many have a side-burner and stainless steel trim. But most lack premium, coated-cast-iron grates, longer warranty burners, a rotisserie or a smoker tray.

 Mid-priced, $250-$500. Best if you want the benefit of added features but don’t want to spend too much. These models have more features, and on large grills, larger cooking surfaces that can handle 30 or more burgers. Features include burners backed by longer warranties, premium grates, more stainless steel and often double doors on the cart.

 High-end, $500 to $1,000-plus. Best if you want a mid-sized or large grill loaded with features. Features include mostly or all stainless-steel construction, lifetime burner warranties, more burners producing greater heat, a rolling cart and extra storage.

RESOURCES

www.hpba.org

www.vikingrange.com

www.weber.com

www.charbroil.com (Click on the new Tec series for an explanation of infrared heat.)

www.ducane.com

www.vidaliagrill.com

www.wellbas.com

A PRIMER

Charcoal grill: A grill that uses charcoal for fuel

Electric grill: An indoor or outdoor grill whose heat comes from an electric coil element

Gas grill: An outdoor grill heated by liquid propane gas or natural gas

Infrared grill: A grill that uses infrared radiant energy to produce very high heat very quickly; operates with uniform heat, resulting in consistent cooking; fueled with natural gas or liquid propane

Smoker: Fueled by charcoal, wood, a combination of both, electric, natural gas or liquid propane

SOURCES: The Associated Press; the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association; Consumer Reports magazine; www.marketwatch.com; Tracy Gillespie of Bart Fireside Casual Living in Columbia

SAVVY SHOPPER

Each month The State’s Home&Garden section offers a consumer’s guide to buying an item for your house or garden — from refrigerators to lawnmowers. Have a suggestion? Send it to Megan Sexton, msexton@thestate.com.

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