Propane or Charcoal Grill

Charcoal or Propane?

When grilling, you will need a grill that is super hot for fish, vegetables, and small cuts of meat (steaks); and cooler for a large roast, whole chickens, leg of lamb, etc.

Propane Grills

Propane grills are easy to heat up, set at the temperature you need, and are readily available in all big box stores (Home Depot, Lowe's etc.).
Prices vary from a couple of hundred dollars to over two thousand dollars for the stainless steel behemoth.

If you intend to grill a couple of times during the summer, there is no need to buy the most expensive grill out there. What you need to look for is "power" or BTU output per burner. The higher the BTU's, the more heat, and you need heat—lots of it.
One major drawback of the gas grill: not enough heat. Way back, gas grills were very powerful, but after several lawsuits from consumers, more safety features where added and one of them was to limit the BTU output.

So when grilling anything like a burger, steak, or tuna steak, the grill grates are not hot enough, and the grilled tuna is more like boiled or steamed tuna, and the steak is well-done before you get any grill marks or a succulent caramelized crust.
It is fine, however, for large pieces of meat, or a whole salmon, where you need a lower temperature for a longer time. 

The maximum temperature of a propane grill is around 600 °F.

Here is the remedy:

  1. Start the grill, turn all the control knobs to maximum power and close the lid.
  2. When the thermometer passes the 500 °F or 550 °F mark and tries to make another turn on the dial, you are almost ready.
    • At this point, if your grill is dirty and has a lot of grease on the grates or side rails, a lot of smoke is produced; your grill may catch fire as soon as you open the lid.
      If this happens, do not panic:
      • Close the lid, turn the gas off at the propane tank and wait.
      • Never have a grill too close to a house or any flammable structure.

To avoid a situation like this and have the local fire department make a surprise visit at your BBQ party, make sure your grill is clean.

OK, now the grill is at maximum heat perfect for that tuna steak or beef sirloin.
Do this:

  1. Open the lid and with a grill wire brush, brush the grates clean (quickly).
  2. Rub the grill grates with an old piece of cotton towel dipped in oil (use grill tongs to hold the towel).
  3. Place your steak on the grate, and keep the lid open during the entire cooking process.
  4. After a minute or so, turn the steak ninety degrees—this will make nice diamond-shape grill marks.
  5. Flip steak and repeat the process.
  6. Check for doneness.

Charcoal Grills

Contrary to what you may have heard, a charcoal grill is easy to use. 
They have the heat to properly grill anything and the flavor imparted to the item grilled is second to none.

When buying a charcoal grill, look for a heavy-duty construction. Charcoal ashes will eat up thin metal in a season or two of grilling.
Check out the Weber brand. There are also some grills with a smoke box attached to the side. These are quite versatile and all entry-level charcoal grills are fairly inexpensive.
Look for a grill with cast iron grates instead of a wire grate; the cast iron grates transfer heat better.

The maximum temperature of a charcoal grill is 1200 °F.

Before using the grill for the first time, do a trial run without food. This will help you find how hot your grill gets and how to use the vents (top and bottom). Vents control heat and smoke.
During the trial run, if you have a grill that is not coated with enamel (your grill is made of black steel) do this:

  • Have a small cotton towel dipped in cooking oil, and rub the grill inside-and-out before lighting the coal on fire, and repeat often during the heating process.
    • This is called "seasoning."
    • This helps maintain the metal and prevent rust, just like the old cast iron pans.

Now you are ready to grill. A charcoal grill can get very, very hot.

Let's fire that baby....

Pour some coals in the middle of the grill charcoal grate—do not spread the coals.
Start with a small amount, or you may have a grill that is way too hot later. It is easier to add coals during the cooking process than trying to burn off a large amount of coals.

You can use charcoal lighter fluid or a blow torch to light up the coals. I prefer using a blow torch. Lighter fluid imparts a nasty taste to grilled food if not completely burned out. When the coals are red you are ready to grill.

Spread the coals and re-set the grill grate.

Make sure your grilling grate is very hot and proceed in the same manner as described above.