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SZPT

I'm looking for a good grill

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SZPT   

I have been researching this for about a week, and the more I research the more cloudy things become. It seems that I am hearing rave reviews and scathing critiques about the same grill from different reliable sources. Usually my research makes things more clear, but this has been exhaustingly odd!

I want a reliable grill under $350. I don't really need specific models named, but I would like brand names either suggested that you trust or given as warnings against those that you do not.

I really want a Weber, but the can be a bit pricey. I'm also looking at a couple of Char-broil and Kenmore models.

Also, tell me if you know of any online dealers who are having a sale and will ship for free!

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mrmando   

I have a New Braunfels smoker that's yours if you want to haul it and clean it up.

'Course (ahem) Seattle to Dallas is a bit of a hike. I wonder if will go in TexasWill's checked baggage?

Edited by mrmando

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SZPT   

Oh yeah, I guess I should've mentioned liquid propane.

Save the argument for charcoal, etc, I agree it is better, but time is a more important factor for me right now.

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I have been researching this for about a week, and the more I research the more cloudy things become.  It seems that I am hearing rave reviews and scathing critiques about the same grill from different reliable sources.  Usually my research makes things more clear, but this has been exhaustingly odd!

I want a reliable grill under $350.  I don't really need specific models named, but I would like brand names either suggested that you trust or given as warnings against those that you do not.

I really want a Weber, but the can be a bit pricey.  I'm also looking at a couple of Char-broil and Kenmore models.

As a former managing editor of Chile Pepper magazine and researcher and user of various grills and smokers, I might be able to help...

Let's clarify your situation. You say you want "a grill"...

Do you want something to cook food atop a grill surface exclusively, or do you want a device that will both grill and slow smoke meats (in different areas of the device)? Or are you actually interested in a dedicated smoker?

What kind of heat source do you want to cook with? Do you want to be a girly-man and cook with some sort of gas that with leave your food tasteless, or do you want to cook with wood or coals and be a God-honoring food-loving popular-man-about-town that women want to be near and lesser men want to be?

When you know the answers to these questions my friend, I will be able to guide you.

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I have a New Braunfels smoker that's yours if you want to haul it and clean it up.

'Course (ahem) Seattle to Dallas is a bit of a hike. I wonder if will go in TexasWill's checked baggage?

I might have trouble getting through security...

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mrmando   

Maybe I could park an engine on the back of the thing and ride it to Dallas -- my own Straight Story.

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SZPT   
What kind of heat source do you want to cook with? Do you want to be a girly-man and cook with some sort of gas that with leave your food tasteless, or do you want to cook with wood or coals and be a God-honoring food-loving popular-man-about-town that women want to be near and lesser men want to be?

When you know the answers to these questions my friend, I will be able to guide you.

Gee. You make it seem like there's only one answer.

I work 50 hours weeks right now. I get home at 6:30 and my wife and oldest boy are starving for some grilled meat (the baby doesn't have teeth yet). If I know what's good for me I don't make them wait.

If I had the time to be the Grill Master that I desire to be, then I would grill with corn-fed free-range bottle-fed mesquite chips soaked in lighter fluid, er sumthin'. If I had the money I would buy my dream house, build my dream barbecue pit (complete with smoker) in the back yard in-between the olympic size swimming pool and the tennis courts.

But I don't have either. So I need a decent LP grill for $350 or less. Now if you give me a grill for free, I'd make the time. Otherwise you need to, um, beef up your argument a bit.

Besides, with the marinades I create my meat is never tasteless. Tequila Chicken, anyone?

But Mando, I will take that New Braunfels smoker off of your hands since it is free. That would come in handy for the Thanksgiving turkey. Get that engine attached!

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What kind of heat source do you want to cook with? Do you want to be a girly-man and cook with some sort of gas that with leave your food tasteless, or do you want to cook with wood or coals and be a God-honoring food-loving popular-man-about-town that women want to be near and lesser men want to be?

Gee. You make it seem like there's only one answer.

People have accused me of having an opinion about the matter.

I work 50 hours weeks right now.  I get home at 6:30 and my wife and oldest boy are starving for some grilled meat (the baby doesn't have teeth yet).  If I know what's good for me I don't make them wait... So I need a decent LP grill for $350 or less.  Now if you give me a grill for free, I'd make the time.  Otherwise you need to, um, beef up your argument a bit.

Okay, I'll show a bit of grace since you're obviously just trying to feed your family.

I researched grills and smokers for a Chile Pepper article about three years ago and discovered that I like the Weber, Ducane, and Char-Broil brands the best for LP grills. They tend to be very solidly built and designed for real use instead of merely for the occasional user. I would stay very far away from the Kenmore grills. I used to sell them many years ago and the quality is, um, less than satisfactory.

Furthermore, you'll want to buy an assembled grill if at all possible. Otherwise you'll end up with a box of parts and about 12 hours of frustration while your hungry family looks at you with shame. (Professional assemblers have trouble with most grills -- even after they have built many of them. It took the assembler at Sears, with all of the right tools connected to an air compressor, nearly three hours to assemble each grill we sold.)

Since you live in the Great State of Texas, I strongly recommend that you go to your nearest Academy store and check their inventory. Academy sells assembled grills and they usually have at least one nice Char-Broil LP grill available. Furthermore, grills and smokers are going off-season, so you may be able to walk away with a good deal. You'll pay sales tax, but that will be peanuts compared to the shipping costs and assembly frustration you'll have buying one off the internet.

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Furthermore, you'll want to buy an assembled grill if at all possible.

YES. We spent way too much time putting our grill together, and one of the two platforms on which to rest plates, etc., is still crooked, despite our best efforts.

Other than that, our grill cooks OK, but it's nothing to write home about. I can't, at the moment, remember the brand, but I'm pretty sure it's one of those mediocre Kenmores that people who aren't full-time grill masters find acceptable. Ignorance is bliss, ya know?

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I swear by Weber grills.

I swear at gas grills.

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What kind of heat source do you want to cook with? Do you want to be a girly-man and cook with some sort of gas that with leave your food tasteless, or do you want to cook with wood or coals and be a God-honoring food-loving popular-man-about-town that women want to be near and lesser men want to be?

Oh come on. Soaked wood chips in a pan laying on the, heh, "flavor bars" add flavor, do they not. Things are different up here in the Northland, as opposed to the 24/7 sunbaked desert. You want a burnt steak in November, you usually want to be in and out unless you don't mind scorching your down jacket ("Pthoo!" Yecch, feathers).

You generally don't want me putting stuff together out of a box. Don't have the aptitude for it. And yet, I constructed our Weber Genesis gas grill in under two hours some 12 years ago. Still cookin'. Weber has a lot of accessories and retrofits for this line, so it never really wears out. Home Depot or Lowe's might have one for about $50 more than your ceiling. I can't afford Ducane, but they are real nice.

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What kind of heat source do you want to cook with? Do you want to be a girly-man and cook with some sort of gas that with leave your food tasteless, or do you want to cook with wood or coals and be a God-honoring food-loving popular-man-about-town that women want to be near and lesser men want to be?

Oh come on. Soaked wood chips in a pan laying on the, heh, "flavor bars" add flavor, do they not.

Oh, you can sometimes coax some flavor into your food in unnatural ways, but nothing beats doing it the way God intended -- with wood or charcoal.

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SZPT   
I swear by Weber grills.

I swear at gas grills.

If you ever buy a Weber gas grill I'd love to see that conversation.

According to Consumer Reports, their #1 medium-sized gas grill is the Vermont Castings VM400XBP ($400); they also liked the Char-Broil Advantage Series 463453305 ($270) and BBQ Grillware GSF-2616 ($200).

I always hit the library to read Consumer Reports when researching a big purchase like this. Then I hit the internet forums and rating sites and ask friends and acquaintances. They usually all compliment each other and help me to focus my decision. This time has been completely different, like I said earlier. It is all like a bad Mac/Windows discussion. Nobody is agreeing with anyone else, except concerning Weber which sits at the high-end of what I can afford. Char-broil is equally slammed and praised. Didn't Ducane file for bankruptcy (which means both quality and warranty issues)?

I will probably bite the bullet and go with Weber if I can find a good deal.

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SZPT   
Oh, you can sometimes coax some flavor into your food in unnatural ways, but nothing beats doing it the way God intended -- with wood or charcoal.

You sound like Hank Hill - except in reverse.

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I swear by Weber grills.

I swear at gas grills.

If you ever buy a Weber gas grill I'd love to see that conversation.

Sort of reminiscent of the ending to Chinatown, eh?

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I swear by Weber grills.

I swear at gas grills.

If you ever buy a Weber gas grill I'd love to see that conversation.

If I ever buy a Weber gas grill, you can cook me on it.

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SZPT   
Sort of reminiscent of the ending to Chinatown, eh?

Can I do the slapping? tongue.gif Just kidding, Crims!

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Darren H   

For what it's worth, we recently bought a BBQ Grillware at Lowe's and have been very pleased. Solid metal grates, three main burners plus a separate eye on the left side (perfect for warming chili to go with the dogs). We went with this one because it was much better constructed than the comparably priced Char-Broil. The lid alone probably weighs 15 or 20 pounds.

I have an uncle from Texas who hauls his massive, indirect-heat, smoking grill with him to all of our family reunions. The thing looks like a locomotive. My uncle would laugh himself silly if he saw the way I grill over gas, but all I needed was something I could fire up quickly after work, and this one does the trick. Our strategy is buy good meat, marinate it all day, then grill it appropriately. We had some Teriaki/mustard sirloins last week that were the best steaks I've ever cooked.

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For grilling, I don't find that gas v. wood is much of an issue. If you are cooking over high heat, (grilling) then there's not enough time for the smoke to impart that much flavor, particularly if you use any kind of spice rub. (I stay away from marinates because the meat tends to get mushy) If you are barbequing, then you have to use wood.

The things that I would look for in a propane grill are at least 3 burners and a cast iron grate. Those are things that will most impact the quality of the food. Two burners just doesn't give you enough flexibility in having different places in the grill at different temps. Make sure you wait long enough to heat that grate up (10-15 minutes of all 3 burners on high!) Cast iron takes longer to heat up, but it retains heat and if you lightly oil the grate with something like peanut oil right before adding the food, then it is as close to non-stick as you could hope for on a grill.

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For grilling, I don't find that gas v. wood is much of an issue.  If you are cooking over high heat, (grilling) then there's not enough time for the smoke to impart that much flavor, particularly if you use any kind of spice rub.  (I stay away from marinates because the meat tends to get mushy)  If you are barbequing, then you have to use wood.

Wait a minute! Wait a minute. Now I have the utmost respect for Texas Will and smith_chip as well, but this wood and charcoal thing has been bugging me all day long. In order to grill meat wonderfully, you don't have to go Cro-Magnon. In fact, ovens, stove tops, grills in general and such were invented so that professionals could do food to perfection without resorting to firewood and sparks. Further, the great steakhouses that few if any of us can afford, do admirably well with unmarinated meat over gas fires (one of the advantages of my Genesis is that I've been able to ratchet up the gas feed so that I can more than peg my thermometer) at unbearable temperatures. If we start with good meat, we shouldn't have to impart extraneous flavors and means to find an enjoyable meal. The important thing is scorching heat, not it's source.

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SZPT   

Well, I finally went to Home Depot tonight after work and bought the grill. I got the Vermont Castings brand. Four burners, electric ignition, porcelain grates, heavy lid, sturdy construction. Vermont Casting and Weber were my final two brands, and the price for this particular grill won me over.

Check it out... Originally $599. Marked down once to $549, marked down again to $384 (HD is having a nationwide 30% off+ clearance sale right now). So I told the saleslady I wanted it. She came back and said that the floor model was the only one left, and that the computer came back with the price of $288.22. Well, HD pre-assembles the more expensive grills anyway. It was in good condition except that a couple of the knobs and the ignitor were missing. She grabbed everything I needed off of another similar model, and I was good to go!

My dad-in-law helped me bring it home. I wiped it down, lit it up and grilled the family some steaks!

user posted image

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SZPT   

Now how do I dispose of my old grill?

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Looks nice! That's a different model than the top-rated Consumer Reports grill, right? A co-worker of mine bought the CR model and loves it.

Happy grilling, SZPT.

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Wait a minute! Wait a minute. Now I have the utmost respect for Texas Will and smith_chip as well, but this wood and charcoal thing has been bugging me all day long. In order to grill meat wonderfully, you don't have to go Cro-Magnon.

Why thank you. I think you are making the common mistake of confusing grilling with barbequeing. You are right that the two most important factors in grilling are the quality of the meat and high heat. Those steakhouses that you mention serve great steaks because they have access to much higher quality meat than your local supermarket carries (even yours, Rich!) and they cook the meat at much higher heat than you or I are able to use at home. For grilling, smoke doesn't matter very much.

However, if you are going to barbeque, you are cooking over low heat for many hours. By taking all that time, the smoke flavor is absorbed into the meat. When I get done barbequeing, the outer half inch (or more depending on the cut of meat and how long it's smoking) or so of the meat is pink. That's how far the smoke penetrates the meat. You don't get that unless you have real smoke, not even wood chips will do the trick.

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