SOUTH SALT LAKE — Americans spend about $6.8 billion on food over Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to WalletHub. It’s a safe bet that much of that food is grilled.
When it comes to choosing what type of grill you use, there are plenty of options to fit both your taste and your budget.
“You need to think about what grilling looks like for you,” said Candace Heward of the cooking supply company Gygi. “If you’re just sticking to hamburgers and hot dogs, you’re going to want a different grill than if you’re hoping to do things like a brisket or a pork shoulder.”
The beauty of a gas grill is its convenience. Generally, they are relatively easy to light and use as you use knobs to control temperature. Gas grills don’t take long to heat up.
"So all you do is turn the propane one and in 10 minutes, you’re ready to cook,” said Heward. “It’s also convenient because it’s a very consistent heat so you can throw your steaks on the grill and if you’ve got a good one, then it’s going to cook evenly across all the grates.”
Gas is also versatile. Along with those steaks, you can grill up more delicate foods like fish, vegetables and even fruit.
“You can cook outside and get delicious food without heating up the whole house to cook a steak.”
Gas grills are also fairly easy to clean.
A budget gas grill typically sells for $200, but they can go up into the $1,500 to $2,000 range depending on what features you want.
“They come with features like sear stations, rotisserie rods, infrared burners and all the fancy stuff,” said Heward. “It’ll rival your actual range inside your home.”
Charcoal grills tend to be easier on the wallet than gas. You can buy a smaller one for as cheap as $35.
“Charcoal briquettes are very inexpensive, so you can get outdoor grilling without spending a lot of money,” Heward explained.
She said cooking with charcoal takes more patience and finesse than gas. But they can burn significantly hotter than gas.
“So, you can crank up the heat with a larger amount of briquettes and then you can sear your food,” she explained. “Or, you lower the heat and then you can smoke for a longer amount of time. So, it’s really adjustable that way.”
That adjustability brings a char-grilled bonus.
“When you think of that really delicious, charged flavor — that’s coming from a charcoal grill. So if you’re a purist that’s really into barbecuing, that (charcoal grilling) is the way to go,” Heward explained.
Then there’s the Kamado style grill: an insulated charcoal grill that holds onto the heat better.
“They have a little bit nicer mechanisms for lighting the charcoal and maintaining the heat,” Heward elaborated. “So they don’t take quite as much babysitting as a traditional charcoal grill.”
The venting system in a Kamado grill allows you to control the flow of air to the charcoal, giving the grill greater precision and versatility. You can grill, barbecue, roast and even bake.
“Because you can get the high heat, you can really use it for that really quick char you want on a hamburger or a steak. You can also use it for a slower cook because you can adjust that heat to really low so you can use it for a long brisket or a pork shoulder,” Heward said.
Typical Kamado style grills average around $800 to $900. Higher end grills sell for as much as $2,500 and up. At the other end of the price spectrum, you can find budget models with a $300 price tags.
A wood pellet grill can give you a deep, smoky flavor of a charcoal grill plus the convenience of gas. It’s an electric grill that uses a control system to distribute the right number of pellets needed to burn to achieve your chosen temperature.
The pellets come in a wide variety of flavors: cherry, apple, hickory, mesquite, pecan and more.
"Now, you get to add that to the flavor of the food instead of just the charcoal or the propane,” said Heward.
An internal fan circulates heat and smoke like a convection oven so you can bake, roast and smoke: stuff typical gas grills can’t do.
“They’re basically an outdoor oven. Because they’re a fan-fed grill, the heat is even throughout,” explained Heward. “I’ve cooked chicken, veggies and bread all in my Traeger (pellet grill) at one time.”
Pellet grills can get pricy. A standard pellet grill sells for $550 to $800.
Julius Vasquez has a charcoal, gas and a wood pellet grill in his Ogden backyard.
“Pretty much three, four times a week, I’m always on the grill. Rain, snow, shine — no matter what. I’m grilling,” Vasquez said.
He said he has been grilling food since his teen years in California
“It’s family, good times, you’re outside and you’re just loving everyone, having a good time and they’re enjoying your food,” Vasquez said about his love grilling.
Now, if you are new to grilling, both Heward and Vasquez have the same advice for you: start with a charcoal grill.
“It’s great for beginners because you can get a charcoal grill, a small one that sits on your porch, for just $35. So, it’s a way to get started with grilling if you’re not ready to invest in a lifetime piece,” said Heward.
“Start with charcoal, basic. Once you master the grill on charcoal, you can do anything,” said Vasquez.