Up in Your Grill
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The Best Backyard Grills: Broilmaster Qrave
The gas-grill landscape is littered with models that are overbuilt, overpowered, overpriced—or all three. And while it’s fine to pay extra for a grill that looks shiny and cool, grilling experts agree: extra BTUs do nothing for you. The propane-fueled Qrave by Broilmaster has plenty of power to sear a steak, but its real specialty is keeping lower temperatures steady. The Qrave features a two-piece, two-level stainless-steel grill for indirect cooking: crank the heat on one side and let the meat slow-roast at 220 degrees on the other. That, in combination with the front-loading wood-chip tray and liquid-catchment container, make this the rare gas grill capable of smoking and steaming, too.
BOTTOM LINE: The Qrave isn’t flashy, but it’s one of the most versatile gas cookers on the market.
The Best Backyard Grills: Weber Performer Platinum
Purists will tell you they prefer charcoal to gas because it infuses meat with a smoky flavor. What they leave out is the fine print: the dirty (and time-consuming) work of preparing the coals. That’s why we’re such big fans of Weber’s Performer Platinum: you get the flavor benefit of cooking with charcoal without the hassle. The Platinum accomplishes this feat by incorporating a propane bottle and push-button ignition. No more chimneys, lighter fluid, or matches—you just flip the switch, wait for the charcoal to cherry, and get to grilling. Weber stuck with the same porcelain-lined kettle it has used since 1951, but it made cleanup easier by adding a detachable ash-catchment system. The whole unit is embedded in a rolling table big enough to accommodate a large cutting board—a perk that makes it easier to sous-chef while flipping steaks. And that bin beneath the table? For charcoal … or beer.
BOTTOM LINE: Solidly built, though a touch overpriced. If you want the taste of charcoal and the ease of gas, however, it’s worth the expense.
The Best Backyard Grills: Big Green Egg Kamado Grill
The allure of the Egg, as with all kamado-style grills, lies in its ultra-efficient ceramic basin. Whereas metal smokers must be reloaded with charcoal every couple of hours, the Egg can cook for 24 hours or more on one load of wood or lump charcoal. Adjustable top and bottom vents allow you to achieve temperatures low enough to smoke cheese or cure bacon (120 degrees) or hot enough to forge steel (Eggers report temperatures up to 1,200 degrees). In other words, it’s essentially an outdoor oven, which is how thousands of so-called Eggheads use them … religiously. “I cook 90 percent of my meals in it,” says Kim Youngblood, an instructor at the Georgia Mountain Eggfest outside Hiawassee, Georgia, one of 30 such annual shindigs. “I’ve smoked pork butt at 250 degrees, baked cookies at 350, and cooked pizza at 500.”
BOTTOM LINE: The Big Green Egg is bulky, kooky, pricey, and not as good at straight-up grilling as the Weber or Qrave. But for foodies who want to get serious about cooking just about everything outside, it can’t be beat.