The Nation Has An Appetite – On The Grill

First, let me disappoint you: I've no recipes or photos or any such to share. There, now that that's out of the way...

I spent a lot of time last night cleaning my grill. I've got a 3 burner gas grill that's about 8 years old. I've used it an absolute ton, but for the past 2.5 years it was in storage. And, apparently, it was put into storage without my having done a deep clean first (we were moving, and, if I remember correctly, it was one of those "well, we've got room for it in this truck, so it's going now, even if you're not ready for it" situations). I usually do a good clean at the start of the summer and another sometime in the fall, but grills are... well, they're tough.

I mostly used soap, water, and lots of elbow grease. Paper towels, sponges, some steel-wool type of thing designed for grills, and cloths all got used. It looks a heck of a lot better, and I'm excited to take it out for a test run this weekend. I need to get a propane tank filled first, so there's a part of me that's still nervous it won't light up, after having been packed away for so long. Let's hope!

Anyway, I thought this was as good a time as any to broach the grilling topic. Summer is upon us... what do you have, what do you wish you had, how do you manipulate what you do have to make it do what you want (I'm thinking about Meat's post (it was Meat, right?) where he converted the old Weber... that was cool)? And what tools do you use? What do you use for cleaning? (I've heard horror stories of bristles coming off and puncturing internal body parts when accidentally consumed... I don't know about the truth of these, but that's the kind of thing that might give you pause) What do you avoid? What other tools do you use for cooking on the grill (I've got a grill tray that I adore, and every time I make anything else I try to throw a bunch of veggies on the tray. Always steps up the meal a notch or two.)?

And, of course, if you've got an recipes or recommendations for grilling... by all means, please do share.

20 thoughts on “The Nation Has An Appetite – On The Grill”

  1. I'm partial to briquettes (not the Canadian French wood style, but Kingsford). I like the transition from work to shopping for something fresh, lighting the grill, marinating the fish/meat, etc. Slow's me down.

    Yes, the grill needs cleaning.

  2. This is my gas grill. I frickin love it, though it needs a deep clean. It cooks great and that side table is amazing when I'm having people over.

    My charcoal is a 21" weber that has flaps on the grate fur adding charcoal, which is nice. I mostly save it for when I've got a really good cut of meat or when I need to plank something.

    1. My hardware:
      Aussie. I can wheel it to the edge of the garage if it's raining.
      Pit Barrel Cooker. Great for tea-smoked duck, tri-tip, cornish hen.

      Propane powered 3-stacked smoker/grill; great for fish, brisket, burnt-ends, etc.

    2. I have a well-loved mid-size Weber kettle, inherited from an aunt & uncle the summer I left for culinary school. I lived in Burnsville for the first six months, which meant we couldn’t grill at our place because of the stupid ordinance preventing people from burning down their decks. Fortunately, there was a parking garage near where we lived, so we’d load up my car with food & liquid sustenance, find an unoccupied section of the ramp, and pull the Weber out of the trunk of my car. Even more fortunately, I moved to Minneapolis (just off E 42nd & Chicago) that winter. Given that I got it as a hand-me-down at the turn of the century, I suspect the Weber’s at least 30 years old at this point. I need to get new legs & wheels for it this summer, and a copy of the Sunday edition of the New York Times, which (doused in a little aerosolized vegetable oil) lasts me most of the summer as chimney starter.

      Yesterday Mrs. Hayes brought up getting a gas grill, as grilling on the Weber on a weeknight is not toddlerkid-friendly. I much prefer the taste of food cooked over charcoal (I use Royal Oak lump), but the convenience argument is compelling. I had been thinking my ex-meatcutter brother-in-law and I might go in on a dedicated smoker, so we’ll see what actually happens. Either way, it probably needs to happen in tandem with ripping out the awful little deck on the back of the house in favor of a patio. (Right now I grill in my driveway.)

      1. The convenience factor is entirely behind my gas grill. If I had more time, I'd happily go charcoal. But I've got 4 kids, and my choices are either gas grill or never grill. With the gas, I end up using it probably 4 days a week or more (during the summer, when I really get going). That time savings makes it possible.

        I'll add a charcoal back into the mix someday, but for now... I'll not let the perfect be the enemy of the good eatin'.

        1. If I use ours* as much as you do yours, it’ll be well-worth the investment. Beyond the convenience factor, getting some of the cooking done outside has the added benefit of keeping the heat generated out of the house, which I also like.

          * Let’s face it, I’m not about to balk at a green light to get a grill.

  3. Carne asada tacos for lunch today. Ignition system needs to be replaced, but otherwise the grill worked perfectly.

  4. Like Bo, I am a Kingsford Man. I have a Weber One-Touch (22 in) in the classic black. [Uhhh. What was I smoking? It's blue, not black] 19 years old and still going strong. I also have a small cast iron grill grate that I use (on top of the regular grate) for grilling steaks and chops, and some grilling baskets for small items that would fall through the grate.

    It does everything I need. Start-up takes 20-25 minutes with a chimney and some wadded up newspaper. With a charcoal snake, it is excellent at low-and-slow for smoking. And the 22 inch is big enough (juuust) to smoke-roast a 16-lb, spatchcocked turkey.

  5. When our last grill was led to pasture, we went the cheap route and bought a nice $88 CharBroil (including full tank) at a Home Depot Memorial Day sale several years ago. Still going strong.

  6. I have something like this one, probably on sale for something considerably less than that listed price. I've had it for 4-5 years now, and it's nothing too fancy, but it mostly gets the job done. Enough space for some proteins and veggies, and though the heat's a bit uneven, I know where the hot spots are. I don't do a great job of cleaning/upkeep, etc., and it's starting to show some serious wear. I've got a set of replacement flame deflectors that I need to stick in there, and the grate could use at least some serious cleaning/oiling, or is possibly near replacing as well. That seems like not that long before it has started breaking down, but with our SoCal climate I probably average at least 4 nights a week all year long using it (slightly less in the winter, more in the summer when it's way too hot to turn on the stove or oven).

    In an ideal world, I'd take the time to use the charcoal Weber kettle that I have, but as mentioned above, with kid duties and early bed times there just isn't time for it most nights. I should make it a goal for this summer to bust out the charcoal more often.

  7. I keep seeing you guys claiming that gas is so much faster than charcoal. I have to admit that I don't get it. I grilled regularly when the kids were young and I was still at the university. So, admittedly, I had free time then.

    Like I said above, it takes maybe 20 minutes to get coals ready in the chimney.

    So, add another 5 minutes to clean the grill before lighting the coals. But you have to clean the grates on a gas grill too.

    How long does it take a gas grill to preheat properly? 10-15 minutes? Add back time to clean the grates and you are probably at a net 10-12 minutes longer for charcoal. Which is mostly time you can spend in food prep anyway.

    My wife has tried this line on me occasionally. The same woman who tried to argue that getting an automatic would be important when we had kids in car seats because... she could turn around while driving to do what, exactly? (I won that argument).

    1. I don't know, maybe I'm doing it wrong but it takes me longer to prep the charcoal grill for cooking. I have to dump the last batch of coals and the ash at the bottom, get out the chimney starter and charcoals, wad up some paper and try to get that to stay lit. So that's about 10-15 minutes right there. Then I gotta wait for the coals to get hot so now I'm already at 30-45 minutes and I haven't even gotten any meat on the dang thing and I'm covered in black. Its half that with the gas grill because its all just waiting for it to pre-heat. I scrape the grates once its hot, maybe oil them for chicken, and I'm on my way.

      Now, don't get me wrong, I vastly prefer cooking over charcoal. And, honestly, it really isn't the time savings for me. The biggest benefit my gas grill has is cooking area. I can fit a hell of a lot more meat on that thing than I can my Weber.

      Also, that argument for an automatic.... yeesh.

      1. I won’t make a claim for 100% time savings, but with gas, heating the grates happens simultaneously with getting the actual fire itself going, while with charcoal, it’s a two-stage process. Being able to complete mise en place at the same time the grill is heating does save time. I’m not advocating leaving a gas grill entirely unattended, but I certainly feel a bit more free to step away to gather my mise while a gas grill is heating up with the lid closed than I do with a chimney full of burning charcoal atop a top-heavy Weber.

        Our evening commute takes about an hour. I could commute separately on days I grill to save a little time, but that would carry its own cost. As it stands, if the meal takes 25 minutes to prepare after 30-45 minutes of grill-wrangling, and another 30 minutes to eat, I’m looking at 30 minutes with my kid after she takes a bath to do all the other things I should be doing for her. If I can get even 15 additional minutes with her, that’s probably worth considering in exchange for a slightly less satisfying meal.

        (Not wanting to sound argumentative or posture here. Just stating the above for context.)

        That said, I’d choose cooking over charcoal a hundred times in a hundred if time/convenience is not a primary constraint.

  8. Somehow missed this post until just now. I indeed converted my old weber into an electric smoker, and have been super pleased with the results. I still smoke with charcoal loaded into the slow n sear , but the electric set up + the a-maze-n smoking tube (also a minnesota company!) allows me to cold smoke cheese and salt and herbs and tofu and ... and ... and ... The inspiration for making my electric smoker came from using my old man's Big Chief electric smoker the last time we were in the motherland. These things are aluminum boxes with an electric coil and a tray for chips. Stupid simple and just as easy as using a gas grill. So easy that you can make smoked chicken on a school night with enough leftovers for smoked chicken salad sandwiches the next day.

    When we grill I light the chimney, and leave it (scandalous , I know) to cut the veg and get the meat ready. The way my yard is set up I'm not concerned one bit about burning down the neighborhood, and we live in the swamp so.... When we lived in Texas there were several years of burn bans because tinder dry, so I broke down and bought a gas grill. I found the convenience of time saving didn't outweigh the inferior product, but that's just one snob's opinion.

  9. While my brother-in-law was over this afternoon to pitch in on prep for the meal we’re making for my mother-in-law and Mrs. Hayes tomorrow, we put our new gas grill together. We had some help.

    'Le Menu Du Dimanche' SelectShow

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