Guide To BBQ Grills and Smokers

In this post, read up on BBQs from a brief history to the different types of BBQs available on the market today.

Jump To:
About BBQs, Grills & Smokers

Historical Moments in BBQ
Modern Grills
Infrared Grills
Charcoal-Style Grills
BBQ Maintenance & Care

About BBQ Grills and Smokers

The first known practice of grilling took place in South America with the Arawaks who used a wooden structure known as a barbocao.  This method of cooking was also adapted by early Americans who used it to cook hogs slowly so that the meat was flavourful and extremely tender.  In modern times hamburgers and hot dogs have become the most popular items to be grilled on a barbecue along with corn on the cob.

Historical Moments in BBQ

Edward Kingsford was the inventor of the charcoal  briquette.  He was related to Henry Ford and was tasked with establishing a sawmill and a Ford auto parts plant in the northern region of Michigan, USA.  Kingsford notice that there was a massive amount of wood scraps from the Model T production line and he processed the scraps into charcoal under the name Kingsford charcoal.  Briquettes were eventually used in small portable grills.

The round style of portable BBQ which has a small spherical lid was invented by George Stephen who was a welder.  Stephen was looking for a solution to the wind constantly blowing ash on his food when he grilled it, so he used the bottom of a buoy and welded three steel legs to it.  He created a lid from a smaller sphere and created a BBQ prototype.  After taking the BBQ home and experimenting with it, he started a company called Weber-Stephen Products.  This “kettle” style BBQ is still popular today.

The first gas grill designed to be used outdoors was created by Don McGlaughlin who owned Chicago Combustion Corporation which is now known as LazyMan.  The gas broiler that he invented featured a grill that was built-in along with permanent coals or lava rock.  The open broiler design was later adapted into a portable grill in 1954 which also featured a 20 lb propane cylinder.

Modern Grills

Today’s BBQ grill typically uses either natural gas or propane as a fuel source.  You can cook the food directly on the grill or with radiant heat.  Gas grills are available in a wide range of sizes from small and portable to larger sized grills and may even be large enough to grill enough food for a crowd of one hundred people.  These larger size grills are often custom built and are portable by being towed by a car or truck.  Natural gas and propane grills can be converted to take the other type of gas if desired.  Most gas grills are designed in a cart style which includes a grill unit and a frame that contains a cabinet to hold the fuel tank.  There are generally wheels on one side, sometimes there is a side element for cooking extras and storage below.

Newer gas BBQ grills have a radiant burner located near the back of the grill which offers even heat over the span of the burner to be used with a rotisserie attachment.  The rotisserie is a long metal skewer that rotates with an electric motor and is ideal for grilling small meat cuts.

Some grills have a smoker box which uses wood chips to add a smoky flavour to foods that are grilled on the BBQ.  When items are to be smoked, lower temperatures are ideal and the items are smoked for a longer period of time.

Infrared Grills

These grills work by hearing a ceramic tile which then gives off infrared radiation which cooks the food.  The heat that is generated distributes evenly across a cooking surface and can reach as high as 500 degrees C which can quickly sear items.

Charcoal-Style Grills

These grills tend to use charcoal or briquettes as a source of fuel.  The fuel is transformed into embers which provide the heat that is needed to cook food.  Some people prefer the uniform size of briquettes while others like charcoal because it does not contain the fillers and binders that briquettes do.  Some charcoal grills are round, some are square while others have a more rectangular shape.  There are several styles of charcoal grills including:

  1. Hibachi. This is a traditional Japanese device used for heating, not cooking, but this name was adapted for a type of portable barbecue. These charcoal fuelled cooking devices are called shichirin.  This is a very inexpensive type of grill crafted from cast iron and containing a charcoal pan with two cooking grills over top that can be adjusted.  There is no lid.  These small devices are ideal for their portability.
  1. Pellet Grill. These grills utilize pellets for fuel.  Pellets are composed of vegetable oil and compressed sawdust and are small and puck like.  The pellets are stacked into a hopper and slowly fed into a firebox near the bottom of the grill controlled with a thermostat.  A pellet grill has a versatile temperature range.  It can be set to smoke meat, to cook it slowly or to grill at higher heats.  Top of the line pellet grills are designed to hold a constant temperature for over ten hours.
  1. Cart Grill. These grills look similar to a gas grill but can be a kettle design or a rectangle shape.  The lid is generally hinged, and the entire unit is on a cart with wheels.  The charcoal pan can be lowered or raised and there is a drawer below for the collection of ashes and their easy removal.  The multiple features of the modern charcoal cart grill makes it just as convenient as a gas grill. This type of grill features wire and sheet metal in place of a cooking grid.  The grill generally has legs attached to its charcoal pan and does not have any type of venting system.  The heat can be adjusted by moving the cooking grip up or down.

Maintenance and Care of BBQs

If you purchase a reasonably expensive BBQ you expect it to last for quite some time.  The best way to accomplish this is to keep the grill clean and ensure that all of the surfaces are burned off after cooking.  What you need to do is crank up the heat to high and allow any food bits to burn thus removing them from the grill.  Once the grill has cooled down a simple wipe can remove the excess ash and dirt.  Never cover up a BBQ that has not fully cooled down or moisture can gather inside of the appliance and cause rust to form.

Many BBQ units can have a life extension with replacement parts.  If a part on your BBQ fails, simply purchase a new part and install it on your BBQ to ensure that it has a longer life.

How to clean your BBQ

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