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Invest in a non-gas grill if you don't want to deal with the ebb and flow of prices at the pump. A large majority of options use charcoal as a heating source. This results in better flavor than gas, especially if you’re cooking meat. You’re not limited to charcoal, though. If you’re willing to spend a little longer cooking, pellet grills are also a viable option.
All grills use both radiant heat and convection for cooking, but charcoal grills rely on radiant heat more than gas grills. When you’re grilling meat, the juices absorb the flavor of the meat itself and any seasonings on it. As those juices escape the steak, chicken or burger, they drip down onto the layer of red-hot charcoal. Those coals are considerably hotter than the burners and deflectors in gas grills. This leads to instant vaporization of the flavorful and aromatic compounds in the juices. Those aromatic vapors then circulate around the meat, imparting their complex flavors.
First, use self-lighting coals or lighter fluid and make sure every coal is fully lit and the flames are completely out.
For best results, give the flavorful vapors plenty of time to get to know the food on the grill. To do this, place the meat on the grill, let it sear lightly and keep the lid closed for a decent amount of the cooking time. The exception to this rule is if you’re cooking for a large group and plan to pack the entire grill with meat. In that case, the full spread of meat helps to trap the smoke all on its own.
Charcoal grills and pellet grills are perfect for smoking meat, fish and other foods. To impart wonderfully smoky flavors using a standard charcoal grill, all you need is a smoker box and some wood chips. Just put some high-quality wood in the smoker box, and place it on top of the coals.
Because wood burns quickly, it’s better to put the smoker box on a cooler section of coals. Don’t put it on the bottom of the grill, or it won’t smoke. Contrary to popular belief, soaking wood chips in water does nothing to increase smoke volume or flavor. All the water does is slow the wood’s combustion, which is where the flavor comes from.
If you’re new to smoking and not familiar with specific wood flavors, consider a variety pack of wood chips to get used to different ones.
A pellet grill consists of two main parts. A cooking space complete with one or two grilles and a separate smoker box that uses an electric heating element to burn compacted wood pellets. Unlike charcoal grills, pellet grills mainly use convection instead of radiant heat.
Pellet grills take much of the guesswork out of smoking because their temperature is easy to regulate. They don’t get as hot as charcoal grills, though, so you likely need to sear your meats before or after smoking. Pellet grills also take considerably longer. However, that added time means the end result is usually more flavorful and tender.
This is the premium version of the Weber classic. It has a sturdier build plus better ash management and improved ventilation.
This compact model lets you make the most of your coals and wood chips by concentrating the aromatic smoke in a small barrel.
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This kamado grill offers great performance at a reasonable price. It also has a decent amount of workspace for prepping and plating meats.
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It has 450 square inches of cooking space and good build quality. This pellet grill is as good as the ones from better-known brands but doesn’t cost as much.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.