Whether you’re a first-time grill-buyer, a seasoned backyard-broiler, or are just looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift, look no further than our ultimate guide to grilling. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new grill, but lucky for you, we’ve done all the legwork to help you get the most bang for your backyard-barbecue buck.
Are you new to grilling? Confused about the difference between a grill and a barbecue? Here’s how to navigate the basic grilling terminology.
Grills cook food quickly so that it stays juicy, while adding a smoky, caramelized flavor that can be achieved only by cooking with live fire. Here are a few distinguishing factors of grilling:
- Cooking over an open gas or charcoal flame with heat higher than 300 degrees F gives food a charred appearance.
- High temperatures result in shorter cooking times — grilling dinner typically takes less than 20 minutes.
- Grilling is best for smaller pieces of food such as chicken breasts, wings, burgers, hot dogs, steak, pork chops, and vegetables.
Pro Tip: If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’. An open grill lid lets heat escape and prevents proper cooking, so don’t fiddle with your food and keep the lid closed as much as possible. Using a remote probe thermometer allows you to keep an eye on the temperature of your food without peeking in.
Smoked foods are cooked alongside the fire or heat source (usually coal or wood). Here are some things that set smoking apart from grilling:
- Because temperatures are kept lower than 300 degrees F, smoked foods can cook for a longer time without the exterior burning, while still achieving a signature smoky flavor.
- The smoking technique typically imparts a brown or red ring around the edges of the meat.
- Smoking is best for larger pieces of meat such as whole chickens, beef brisket, whole hogs, and fish.
- Smaller food items are also easily prepared on the smoker: Try smoking peppers, tomatoes, and onions for a tasty salsa unlike anything you’ve had before!
Although some people call grills “barbecues,” the term more accurately describes a type of cuisine, or an outdoor event, which is similar to a picnic, but has a more grill-centric menu. Different regions of the country boast their own styles of barbecue. The most popular American barbecue styles come from the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City. Here are the differences between these styles:
- Carolina BBQ: The favorite variety of barbecue in the Carolinas includes pork shoulder or whole hog. The shredded meat is commonly served with cabbage slaw and splashed with a vinegar-based sauce that, depending on the region, will be flavored with mustard.
- Texas BBQ: A typical Texas barbecue plate is made up of beef, typically chopped or sliced brisket, served with a few links of peppery sausage. A tangy and smoky sauce is served on the side.
- Memphis BBQ: The favorite Tennessee barbecue is a plate of slow-roasted ribs, dusted with a sweet and savory dry rub, which makes sauce an optional condiment. A few famous places finish their ribs over a charcoal fire for an extra boost of heat and flavor.
- Kansas City BBQ: Kansas City does everything, meaning that beef and pork are featured equally. The Missouri meat masters rely on a thick and smoky sauce that is sweeter than those of other regions.