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If there’s one summer activity that unites almost every American, it’s having a family BBQ in the backyard. It’s America 101.
The BBQ is a great way to cook for large groups of people or just to enjoy great tasting food in the outdoors. We can’t think of anything more fun than a beer and a burger on a Sunday, summer afternoon.
This is the complete Kitchen Authority Guide to BBQ grills and grilling.
We’re aiming to tell you everything that you might want to know about BBQs and BBQ grills.
So, we kick off with a history of the BBQ and the BBQ grill. Then we check out how to choose the right meat for your BBQ.
Followed by a look at how to choose a BBQ grill itself. We recommend our favorite 5 BBQs and finish up with a look at how to care for your BBQ. After all, a good chef wants to make sure their investment in cooking equipment lasts as long as possible.
We hope that you find this guide useful and that it helps you and your family enjoy the best possible BBQs not just this year but for every year to come.
If you don’t have time to pick your way through our extensive research, we understand, it’s a busy world out there.
Of course, the best thing you can do is go through our guide as it will help you pick the perfect BBQ for you and your family.
It won’t come as any surprise to learn that we’ve been cooking food over an open fire for a very long time.
They estimate that homo erectus was the first species of man to start cooking meat with fire and that they’d have kicked off the first BBQ about 1.8 million years ago!
The modern American BBQ, however, is not just meat over a fire.
It’s meat that’s cooked over a grill and ideally it ought to be meat that’s been slathered in spices or basted in a tasty sauce. That’s BBQ.
The Taino, a native Caribbean group, use the word “barbacoa” for the grill they use to BBQ food over and it is first mentioned in print back in 1526.
It didn’t take long for BBQ to make its way to the Americas from there.
In fact, in Virginia, in the 1650s they enacted a strange law which prohibited people from firing their guns at a BBQ.
George Washington was a fan too – he is said to have held an amazing BBQ once that lasted for 3 days!
Modern BBQ can thank the team of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford for making the introduction of the commercially produced charcoal briquette in 1921.
Today, if you want to experience the best barbecue food that the United States has to offer – you head to the South and enjoy the rich, zesty flavors of that region’s BBQ.
Or you make your own BBQ at home and prepare it exactly to your taste and your family’s taste.
The BBQ grill is a relatively recent invention. While mankind may have been burning meat over a fire for hundreds of thousands of years, the backyard grill didn’t turn up until the 1940s and it didn’t really catch on as a standard for American households until after the war was over and people were feeling prosperous in the 1950s.
The first BBQ grill of the modern era was invented by a man called George Stephen. He was a metalworker and one of those people who just couldn’t help themselves from playing with new ideas. He hated the open style brazier grills that people used in public spaces and was sure that he could do better.
So, he bought the Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Company and modified one of their buoy products to form the first Weber grill. From then on in, backyards across the country have never been the same.
Weber’s grill had the grate for cooking, the top of the buoy as a lid (to control the temperature with) and vents along the sides.
Any American could take meat and vegetables and cook it over charcoal without fear of setting fire to their home or backyard. And they did.
Many people think you need to use the best cuts of meat for a BBQ and while they’re not wrong – it’s worth noting the only real reason to buy expensive meat is if you want to cook it quickly on your BBQ.
Your BBQ grill can happily slow cook cheaper cuts of meat until they’re so tender that they fall off the bone. So, we’d like to recommend our favorite, affordable, cuts rather than expensive top of the range steaks.
Chickens are super cheap. Buy a whole one.
Learn to cut it up and you’ll save a ton of money over buying store prepared pieces of chicken.
Cover the pieces in BBQ sauce of your choosing and pop them on the BBQ grill with a medium fire going under it. Everybody loves BBQ chicken.
You need to get the flame low for ribs and then let them cook for ages so that they get the smoky taste you love.
Ribs are pretty cheap. But don’t forget most of the weight is in the bone.
When buying ribs always look for the ones with the fewest bones to get the most bang for your buck.
Everybody loves a burger, well except for vegans and vegetarians and you can’t please everyone, right? Use fresh ground beef, spices and a little onion and you can make your own burgers that are super tasty for very little outlay.
Did you know that hanger, skirt and flank used to be so super cheap that they’d only be used in ground beef?
Now, they’re not quite so cheap but they’re brilliant on a BBQ. Cut them thin. Marinate them well and cook over a medium flame. Yum.
It doesn’t get much cheaper than brisket and you can buy an untrimmed beef brisket for next to nothing. It needs to be cooked low and slow over the flame and ideally, in a smoker. You want a decent layer of fat (most of which will melt off while cooking) but not too thick or you’re just throwing money away.
If you want a new BBQ grill, the good news is that you won’t have to think too hard about things. The biggest consideration is space. Where will your BBQ go, will you need to store it elsewhere between uses (if so how big is that space too?)?
You don’t want to buy a BBQ and then find that you’re completely out of space to put it in. So, make sure you have the measurements of the space close to hand if there are any constraints.
Then you have 5 main options to consider when it comes to buying a BBQ grill:
The advantages of these are that they’re cheap. Really cheap and they offer a distinct charcoal flavor to the food. The downsides are that the charcoal grill takes longer to warm up, can get very hot indeed when it was warm and there’s no control over the temperature. They can also get pretty darn messy when it comes to cleaning up.
The gas grill is the most common type of BBQ. They start fast, they’re easy to warm up and so simple to control. They also require much less effort when it comes to keep them clean. The disadvantages are the lack of a smoky taste to the meat, the cost of the grill (they’re expensive, comparatively) and you need to be careful about where you store the gas.
Got a condo? Then charcoal and gas are out. The outdoor electric grill is a good alternative. They also fit in small spaces very neatly. No smoky taste though.
The real enthusiast buys a smoker because it imparts the best flavor to the meat. The downside is that you need a lot of space for a good smoker and they’re not cheap.
If you love to camp or BBQ in the great outdoors away from home; you want a grill that you can transport anywhere. There are charcoal and gas options to consider for these. They tend to be a little smaller than the home versions but that’s the only real downside.
If you’re looking to treat your family to a brand new BBQ grill, we’ve put together our five favorites. Of course, you should always make sure that whatever you buy fits the criteria to make your BBQs fantastic. Check out our picks below:
This is a big charcoal grill. We think you can cater to the largest of families with this and nobody’s going to go hungry.
We like the price which is very fair for a product of this quality and best of all it’s very easy to clean for a charcoal grill. Thumbs very much up.
They’re the oldest name in the BBQ game and there’s no doubt that Weber remain among the very best of BBQ brands.
This isn’t a cheap grill but it’s not as expensive as some of their models, either. It’s an ideal family grill and it comes with a 10-year warranty which is great value for money. You won’t need to move this from the backyard either, it will weather any storm without problem.
This isn’t as big as the other two grills that we’ve reviewed but you can still cook 12 hamburgers at the same time; so, we’d suggest that it’s big enough.
It’s a very high-tech looking grill and one of the things that we liked most about it is that it folds away and is very easy to store. We wouldn’t choose an electric grill for our home but it’s perfect for a condo owner.
If you want that super smoky taste this Royal Gourmet model is excellent.
It has both a charcoal grill AND a smoker and that means you can cook more food and enjoy the fruits of your BBQ labors as you let things smoke. It’s very well put together and it’s super easy to clean too. Highly recommended.
This is definitely the cheapest BBQ grill that we’ve reviewed and it’s the perfect grill for taking camping with a small family in tow.
We like that it’s very easy to put together, and very portable. We acknowledged that it requires a bit more effort to maintain than the other grills but unless you’re camping every weekend that won’t be a big deal to most people.
Keeping a BBQ grill clean is a pretty easy process. The better the grill, the easier they are to maintain too. You’ll never see a Weber, for example, gathering rust. So, let’s take a quick look at how you can keep your grill looking amazing.
You should always give the grill a thorough clean before you use it. Use the manufacturer’s grill cleaner if they provide one – if not, soap and water should do just fine for the parts that come into contact with food. Then let it heat for 15-20 minutes to burn off any chemical residue etc. before you put any food on it.
Use a wire brush to brush off the cooking grate, while it is still hot. It should only take 10-15 seconds but do be careful when around hot metal. If you wait until the grate cools down, this is going to take much, much longer to do. It will also mean that you’re going to have to replace your wire brush more often.
Then once it’s cooled down, scrape out all the grease and then clean the entire BBQ with a cloth dipped in soapy water and wrung out. If your BBQ is not designed to be left out in the elements pack it away somewhere cool and dry.
When you next come to use it, make sure to give it a wipe down with a cloth soaked in soapy water before you use it.
You may occasionally need to clean the burners and you can do this by scrubbing with a small brush that helps unblock the holes to let the gas through.
When we began, we said that we’d try to cover everything that you need to know about BBQs and BBQ grills. We think we’ve delivered on that promise and we’ve covered:
That’s pretty good, right? If you think we’ve missed anything out, please let us know in the comments below. If we agree, we might include your ideas in the next iteration of this guide!
For now, however, we’d like to wish you (and hopefully your new BBQ grill) a great summer and many happy BBQs with your family.