By Scott Hamblen
Special to the Immokalee Bulletin
Every home cook has a few go-to recipes, quick and easy meals the entire family will enjoy.
According to the International Food Information Council’s annual food and health survey, 85% of Americans have altered their food habits since the pandemic began. Namely, they are eating out less and cooking more often at home.
However, there are only so many times you can serve lasagna, chicken and rice, meatloaf and casserole before your family grows tired of the same dinner menu. By now, your family has probably had its fill of spaghetti and meatballs, pot roast and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s not only time to change what you’re cooking – it’s time to change how you cook.
Grilling is a great way to spice up mealtime. Food just has a different flavor and texture when it’s served hot off the grill. With Southwest Florida’s amazing fall, winter and spring weather on the way, it’s a great time to upgrade your grill game.
As summer winds down, manufacturers are offering special incentives to encourage grill masters to upgrade their outdoor kitchens. Here are six questions to ask yourself before buying a new grill:
What is your preferred heating source?
There are four primary options for grills: gas, charcoal, wood pellet and electric. Gas and electric grills are quick to heat and offer little post-dinner cleanup. Charcoal and wood pellet grills take longer to heat up, but the smoky flavor makes dinner worth the wait.
What foods do you want to grill?
Less experienced outdoor cooks often stick with hamburgers, hotdogs and bratwurst because they’re easy to cook. Skilled grill masters, however, aren’t afraid to throw prime steak, ribs and even fresh-caught fish on the grill. If you’re buying expensive cuts of meat, you don’t want to turn filet mignon into beef jerky by using a cheap grill.
Do you want to smoke or grill your food?
Grilling involves placing items over a higher heat level for a shorter period of time, giving meats a good seared flavor. Smoking uses low temperatures for a longer period of time to keep a meat’s flavor and texture from disappearing. Determine if you’re looking for a quick turnaround or willing to make it worth the wait.
What is the right size?
Small, tabletop grills generally have enough surface area to cook two split chicken breasts or four hamburger patties. They are great for camping, picnicking and taking on the boat. However, if you have a large family or expect to invite neighbors or friends to a party, then you’ll need a grill capable of cooking entrées for every individual in attendance. Much like a restaurant, the goal is to cook and serve all guests at the same time, so you want to avoid grilling two or three batches of food.
What is your budget?
Basic tabletop grills can cost as little as $15. Meanwhile, large top-of-the-line grills and smokers with side burners, storage, a temperature gauge and other bells and whistles can run $2,500 or more. Buying a grill is like shopping for a car – determine your budget before entering the showroom. Weber, Big Green Egg, Traeger and Napoleon are four of the most desired brands among grill masters.
How will my grill get home?
Stores have dozens of grill models on display. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily the grill you will take home. Many retailers will give you a large, factory-sealed box full of parts that won’t fit inside most cars. Search for a store that offers expert knowledge, free assembly and free delivery.
The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s 2020 State of the Barbecue Industry survey found that 64% of U.S. adults own a grill or smoker. Behind baseball, grilling truly is America’s pastime.