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Barbecue/Smoker Recommendations


helenas
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Your requirements sound just like the ones I had before I bought my Weber Q 220. I also got the mostly plastic staionary cart (yes, plastic... no rust) and a cover. The cart comes with a hose to convert to a 20# tank that fits the cart. It's small enough that you can easily lift it off the cart, attach a 1# tank and take it to the picnic grounds. My neighbor uses his on his boat.

It does a better job at searing than my bigger, non-Weber grills had done. I suggest that you follow the cooking directions that come with the grill. It's quick, easy and without flare-ups. I like it a lot.

I can also add a recomendation of the Q220 (with cart and cover even). The grill area is more than enough for what I need, and it cooks very well.

There are some negatives though. It is relatively low in the power department, and takes a long time to heat up. This is remedied by the grate being very heavy cast iron. It will take a good 10 minutes or longer for the grate to get up to heat, but once it does, it will be great. You can't easily cook with the top open for very long though (but it could be argued that you shouldn't do that anyhow).

In addition (and I only found this out this weekend), it doesn't offer a ton of control of the heat output (it does great on high, but it doesn't go low enough). Even on the lowest setting, it is still way hotter than I was looking for. I was actually attempting to smoke some ribs, which involved an interesting fidea of suspending an aluminum pan (the kind you use for a drip tray) full of soaked wood chips below the cooking grate and above the burner using pieces of an old coat hanger. It worked rather well, but unless I cycled the grill on and off, it would get way to hot (and at the end, when I got distracted, it actually burned through the aluminum pan and caught fire to the whole thing :blink: ). Overall though, I am extremely happy, and I'll figure out the smoking thing eventually. I just need to figure out a way to close off part of the burner. Will closing the valve from the LP tank make any difference? I suppose it wouldn't since that portion of the system (before the regulator) would have a constant pressure.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This grill retails for US$119 at Wal-Mart and can be had for less on sale:

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=5494014

It's a totally straightforward, low-tech grill, and it happens to be one of the best grills I've ever used. Some friends picked one up after their much more expensive grill failed to survive the coastal weather, and it's a huge improvement.

It heats quickly, almost immediately. It has very high output at the high end of its range -- I don't know about the BTU measurement but the flames really kick (it's almost scary when it's on the highest setting) and the effective heat seems higher than any $2,000 grill I've used -- but also has the ability to go quite low. It maintains the heat predictably. It has a porcelain-coated grate.

The technology under the grill is basically a flat piece of metal covering the burners, and it works as well as or better than any other system (lava rocks, elaborate grids of bars) I've seen for converting drippings into smoky flavor. It's not huge -- the cooking surface is 360 square inches -- but the space is all usable edge-to-edge and front-to-back with almost completely consistent heat. So you can cook quite a lot on it. Or you can just buy 20 of them for the price of one fancy stainless grill that isn't as good, and then you'll have all the space you want on the first three plus you can give the other 17 as gifts to friends.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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FG;

I have to agree with your evaluation. I, myself, recently purchased a grill from Wal-mart. A larger grill, branded Uniflame (a division of Blue Rhino, the people who do the propane tank exchange), that kicks tail. I paid $208 on sale. I would compare cooking ability to be very favorable to many Weber or Ducane grills at four or five times the cost. I suppose the long term difference may be in durability, but I can buy four of these and in many cases come out ahead.

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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I recently bought a Charbroil Weber Kettle-knockoff, after years of loyalty to the originals. The Charbroil was on sale for about a third the price. The Charbroil is a little tinnier than the Weber but otherwise quite similar. It claims to have an adjustable grate that allows you to change the distance between the coals and the grill, but that feature is so absurdly designed as to be unusable. The thing is, we have the grill at a house near the ocean, where the salt air really does a number on anything metal, so even the Weber Kettles don't last long. If the Charbroil gets us through a couple of seasons, I'll be happy.

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Real men use charcol and wood chunks.

Just sayin. :biggrin:

Wife likes the instant on of gas. Marital compromise. Oops...Real men don't give in to wives... :blink:

Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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This grill retails for US$119 at Wal-Mart and can be had for less on sale:

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=5494014

I bought the next step up. I think it was around $127 on sale. It's basically the same small grill, but has a side burner that is just like the burners on gas rangetops.

Since my kitchen stove is electric, I love having that one gas burner. I can use it to slowly simmer things like Rancho Gordo beans in clay cazuelas.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Are they making these cheap grills better now? I use to buy the cheap ones but use to have to toss them after a year or two when the frame rusted out. I got a Weber Silver B nearly 10 years ago and have not only not had a problem with it rusting out but find the heating is more even and I get better results with the Weber which was under $500.

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Real men use charcol and wood chunks.

Just sayin. :biggrin:

Wife likes the instant on of gas. Marital compromise. Oops...Real men don't give in to wives... :blink:

Real men do use charcoal, especially lump coals and sometimes wood chunks. But for $200 it's nice to also have an inexpensive gas grill also. There are times when you want to quickly fire something up and don't have time or the energy to fire up the charcoal grill.

We bought a $200 "BBQ Grillware" model last summer from Lowe's. I think BBQ Grillware is their own label, but in any case they don't seem to sell it anymore. It has three burners, cast iron grates, a side burner, and a spot to hook up a rotisserie (which is sold separately). The cast iron grates were the main feature for me. I think it's important to get a grill with three burners, rather than two, since it makes indirect grilling a little easier, IMO.

As the Fat Guy said, even heating throughout the grill is huge. We're constantly reminding ourselves of the temperature gradient between the front and back of our grill.

For what it's worth, everything I read about gas grills suggested that the main difference between the cheaper and more expensive models (assuming they have the same cooking area, etc.) is durability. I've never seen a rigorous study, however, comparing the long-term performance and durability of grills.

Finally, before you buy a grill, be sure there's a way to get replacement parts, especially grates, hoses, and "flavorizer" bars (i.e. the metal bars that cover the burners). Most of these should be available somewhere on the net, if not at the original place of purchase. Replacement parts are easier to find for bigger-name brands, such as char-broil, weber, etc.

TJHarris: that Uniflame at Wal-Mart looks great for the money.

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Steve,

For about $50, you should be able to finds some heavy stainless grilling grates for that bargain grill.

If they only had the drop down tables, that grill might be perfect.

Tim

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Real men use charcol and wood chunks.

Just sayin. :biggrin:

Wife likes the instant on of gas. Marital compromise. Oops...Real men don't give in to wives... :blink:

LOL :biggrin:

I use my Christmas present coal that I get for forgetting things like anniversaries (like real men do).

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I have a Weber kettle I will not part with but finally added a gas grill last week. A "Thermos" brand (made by Char-broil, I'm told) from Target on sale for $250. It has a fancy-dan stainless exterior that reviews say is low-grade steel and will discolor quickly, but who cares? In a few months it's premature patina may fool some guests into thinking I'm a seasoned griller. :D I was more taken by the four burners for good indirect heat, heavy porcelain-coated iron grates, and a 12,000 btu side burner. I've used it 3 times already and it seems to be a winner.

Watch the "scary" high heat settings on your Char broil, though. We have a Char Broil "Commercial" LNG grill at our firehouse. It was rated at 64,000 btu and I think they achieved that gaudy rating for marketing purposes by using burners too big for the rest of the grill. After two years the stainless lid is near black, the rubber grips on the knobs have shrunk and peeled back, and the grill is basically a wreck all I think due to overuse of the high heat setting by enthusiastic firehouse grillers.

I'd say stick with medium heat on a Char-broil except for brief efforts at incineration.

MT

---------------

Matt T

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I live in a high rise and my building doesn't allow gas, or wood burning grills on the terraces (also the town doesn't), so I'm forced to grill on an outdoor electric grill, which sucks. I have grill envy.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I gave up on cheap grills awhile ago - they don't have good longevity of individual parts. Granted - there are plenty of snazzy looking $400 to $500 stainless steel encased grills that look good but are poorly designed or manufactured. But even if the body of the cheap Char-Broil holds up for awhile you'll find that with heavy and regular use you're buying replacement burner assemblies every other year, new igniter assemblies more often than you'd like, new venturi tubes to replace the ones that rotted out... etc.

I got lucky and found a "Great Outdoors" brand kick ass heavy duty grill - all black and not snazzy looking - for about $200 on a close-out at a discount building supply outlet store. It's actually built by Vermont Castings (whose comparable models sell for about $300 - $400) and has a few distinct advantages over a $100 - $120 grill:

  • * heavier grates
    * all brass burner assemblies including the side burner
    * all brass venturi tube
    * heavy construction retains heat better due to thermal mass

Does it cook food better? of course not. I just enjoy using it more and especially appreciate not having to figure out which part needs to be replaced every summer when I start using it again.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi

This seems a dated post and yet the issue of which grill to buy is an evermore contested subject at the moment with some great grills now having come on the market. For myself I bought the Bayou Classic Cypress Ceramic grill

I went for a ceramic cooker because seeing a friends I knew them to cook really well because of their very special insulation qualities. I was especially taken by the fact that these grills retain heat and seal in moisture and cook by radiating & circulating heat using the minimum of charcoal.

I have to say that when I got mine I was hopeful but skeptical; would it really give me a good return on my investment [at the time when I bought it I paid $580]; but now I'm blown away by it ands wouldn't be without one. In short it cooks well and gives truly exceptional results whether I'm grilling, BBQ'ing, smoking or baking; all of which I now do.

As a bonus my wife likes it because it looks really nice on the patio with its handcrafted Cypress leaf finish; ours is a yellowy green, I like the fact that every grill is unique in its style so every one is going to be different from all others.

One piece of advice, when I bought my grill I bought it without a cart. This was a big mistake! I now have the cart which enables me or the wife to move the grill easily whenever we want; this sis important because I like to store it in the garage in winter when we're not using it and for us as a family to cook in different parts of the garden as well as on the patio.

Hope that helps

About The Author: Stephen Kember is an outdoor cooking enthusiast. He is the Proprietor of The Outdoor Cooking Equipment Store; you'll find his website at: The Outdoor Cooking Equipment Store. There you will find a comprehensive range of great value outdoor cooking equipment including: grills, stoves, stockpots, steamers, cookers, propane burners, deep fryers, Jambalaya kits, turkey fryers, fish cookers & grill accessories.

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Nothing beats a free grill.  Can be obtained from your local A&P, Albertsons, Costco, Dan's, Food Lion, Fry's, Home Depot, Big Lots, Brookshire's, Lowes, Publix, Safeway, Sam's Club, Tesco, Target, Vons, Trader Joe's, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie, etc.

Isn't that, at least, a misdemeanor to procure a 'free' grill like that?

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