Find a grill that best suits your lifestyle
With a dizzying array of BBQ grill types out there, it can be overwhelming to start researching and shopping for one. Picking the right grill to buy (and future proofing your purchase) means being aware of your own cooking style and interests, whether you prioritise convenience over dealing with charcoal, and if you have any constraints with regard to space and smoke creation especially if you are living in an apartment or have neighbours in close proximity.
Key factors to consider:
- Fuel type
- Extra features
Narrowing down your preferred fuel type is probably the best place to start. Knowing what kind of grill suits you largely depends on your cooking style and the level of convenience you want from your grill.
What’s your cooking style? Do you prefer to cook over charcoal and don’t mind having to light the charcoal and waiting 30-45 minutes for it to reach the optimal cooking temperature or would you rather turn a knob and start grilling in 5 minutes? If it’s the latter, a gas grill will be the way to go.
In a built-up city like Singapore, gas grills are most suitable and popular for use in apartment balconies due to their convenience and minimal smoke generation (compared to charcoal). But you may ask, doesn’t grilling over charcoal make food taste better?
Flavour-wise food grilled over gas still has a good “grilled” aroma although some say is not as “smokey” as food grilled over charcoal. Gas grills feature flame tamers, also known as heat shields or flavouriser bars, which direct grease and drippings away from the burner tubes to cut down on flare ups tremendously. At the same time, when drippings from food being cooked fall onto the hot metal, grease is vaporised and circulated back up to the food which gives the food the characteristic “grilled” flavour.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred fuel type, the next consideration is the size of grill your space can accommodate as well as the size of cooking surface you want to have. For smaller families and groups, medium-sized charcoal grills and 2 or 3-burner gas grills will usually suffice depending on what you plan to cook. For a better and more efficient BBQ cook, your grill and cooking surface should be large enough to accommodate having 2 different heat zones to ensure that larger or bone-in items cook through without burning the surface. Fattier foods like ribeye steaks if cooked over direct heat may cause flare-ups or fires as the fat renders. A burner with at least 3 burners will allow you to cook meats like fattier meats, whole chickens or racks of ribs evenly with indirect heat. If you’ve a larger household or often cook for larger groups, consider a larger model with 4 to 5 burners to be able to cook meats, vegetables and side dishes simultaneously.
Good to have extra features
While most of the cooking can be done on the main grill, having extra features can help you cook for a bigger crowd on occasion or allow you to cook a bigger repertoire of dishes on the grill.
Range side burner
Having a side burner to cook or heat up an extra dish or sauce in a frying pan or saucepan can save you the hassle of having to cook it in your kitchen and free up space on the main grill if you’re feeding a larger crowd than usual.
Infrared side burners
Some grills feature an infrared side burner that heats up to intensely hot temperatures within seconds and is handy to quickly get sear marks on meat without using the main grill.
Ideal for roasting whole chickens, pork belly rolls, roast beef/lamb, a rotisserie is a worthwhile feature to consider as you can leave the meat unattended for periods of time while it automatically turns and cooks over indirect heat.
There’s no denying the magic associated with cooking over a charcoal fire, however a charcoal grill will require patience and practise to get right as experience is needed to control the temperature by adjusting the upper and lower vents to regulate air flow (i.e. feed your charcoal with oxygen) and keeping the heat consistent.
Charcoal grills are fueled by lump charcoal or briquettes which are made from compacted sawdust and leftover woods. Hardwood lump charcoal tends to burn hotter and faster and produces less ash than briquettes, However briquettes burn for a longer time.
- Relatively portable
- Relatively more compact as it doesn’t require a gas tank
- Relatively cheaper than a gas grill
- Need to start a charcoal fire
- Takes longer to heat
- Less accurate temperature control
- Charcoal ash will need to be disposed of
Recommended charcoal grills
With gas grills, you’ll have more accurate control over the temperature by simply turning a knob and how heat is distributed across your cooking surface. Gas grills are typically powered by standard-sized LPG cylinders for residential use.
Gas grills are ideal for convenient, hot and fast grilling. If you’re more interested in cooking meats like beef briskets or ribs for hours at a time, you might want to consider a charcoal grill or smoker.
- Easy to use
- Accurate temperature control
- Easy to clean
- Heats quickly
- Can be more expensive
- Needs to be linked to a LPG tank
Recommended gas grills
For those with limited space and concerned about producing too much smoke, electric grills are often a top choice for convenience, ease of use and adjustable temperature control. They can be used outdoors or indoors (in a well-ventilated area) and stored away when not in use. While some electric grills may feature non-stick hotplates which are easy to clean, the results may not be “BBQ-standard” as the temperature may be too low to brown meats properly. For best BBQ results, choose a high-powered grill with solid cast iron cooking grids and high-top lid to cook more efficiently.
- Less smoke
- Adjustable heat control
- Compact and portable
- Constant power, won’t run out of fuel
- Less “charbroiled” flavour
- Need a power outlet close by
- Less intense heat than charcoal or gas
Recommended electric grills
Made increasingly popular by BBQ TV shows like The American Barbecue Showdown and Chef’s Table: BBQ, the low and slow American-style of barbecue is fast gaining fans among home enthusiasts even halfway around the world in Singapore.
Known as American barbecue, smokers or pits are used to cook foods—often larger, secondary cuts of meat like pork shoulders and beef briskets—at lower temperatures in a smoky environment for hours, typically 6-10 hours or even longer for the meat to slow cook till tender and absorb the smoky aroma.
A typical smoker is designed to smoke meat in a long, horizontal chamber, with an indirect heat source so as to not expose the meat to high temperatures.
Pros and Cons:
- Unique smoky flavor
- Large cooking surface
- Long cook times
- Can be expensive