Back in the good old days, Dad would wheel the grill out of the garage, fill it with charcoal, douse the briquette with lighter fluid and start a glorious fire to cook our Fourth of July meal.
While many grill masters today still extol the virtues of charcoal, others enjoy the convenience of gas grills, while a few have become wood pellet converts. If you are not familiar with wood pellet grills, or if you are in the market for a new backyard cooking device, check out our list of the top 32 barbecue grills.
1) Char-Griller 2-2424 Charcoal Grill | 2) Char-Broil Charcoal/Gas/Smoker Combo | 3) Weber 10020 Smokey Joe Portable Grill | 4) Blackstone 3-in-1 Kabob Charcoal Grill | 5) Master Cook Propane Gas Grill | 6) Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker | 7) Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Pellet Grill | 8) Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill | 9) Camco 57305 Olympian 5500 Portable Grill | 10) Bonfire 3 burner propane grill | 11) Magma Marine Kettle Gas Grill | 12) Napoleon BILEX730RBIPSS Propane Gas Grill | 13) Masterbuilt 20070910 Electric Digital Smoker | 14) Cuisinart CCG-190RB Charcoal Grill | 15) Party Griller 32” Charcoal Grill | 16) Char-Broil Bistro Electric Grill | 17) Char Broil Performance 475 Gas Grill | 18) George Foreman GFO201RX Electric Grill | 19) Hamilton Beach 25361 Indoor Grill | 20) Weber 67014001 Natural Gas Grill | 21) Marsh Allen 30052AMZ Hibachi Charcoal Grill | 22) Zojirushi EB-CC15 Electric Grill | 23) Tayama TG-868 Tayama Indoor Grill | 24) Weber 51010001 Q1200 Propane Grill | 25) Lynx L600PS Sedona 36-Inch Gas Grill | 26) Lion Premium L75625 32″ Propane Grill | 27) Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gas Grill | 28) George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill | 29) Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill | 30) Char-Broil Classic 280 Gas Grill | 31) Weber 46100001 Spirit S210 Gas Grill | 32) Weber 46810001 Propane Gas Grill |
Whether it’s grilling, barbecuing low and slow or smoking and curing, outdoor cooking has been a technique that men have turned to since the dawn of time. The idea of cooking over a hot fire induced salivation and thoughts of carnivorous delight.
There is no cooking method more “manly” than grilling, but that doesn’t mean it has to be quick and sloppy. Grilling can produce some of the most savory and elegant dishes found in the world today, and here’s where we’ll celebrate them.
The History of Grilling
The history of grilling meat over an open flame dates back to the realization of fire over half a million years ago and the intrinsic benefits it had over preparing meat safely.
Since the Stone Age, man has been grilling, but by the time the actual act of barbecuing came around, most experts suspect it was many, many years later.
The term “barbecue” actually comes from the Spanish word “barbacoa” while is similar to a word used by the Arawak natives in the Caribbean which was the term used for a wood shelving unit that was used to grill raw meat and fish.
The term “barbecue” actually simply mean’t shelving and was often used to denote a bed, which was obviously not something you would cook on. Or at least, you’d hope not to be cooked, considering the Arawaks were also responsible for the term “cannibal”.
It wasn’t until the mid eighteenth century that the term barbecue was adopted in America as a way of cooking. Increasingly popular along the Southeast seaboard, barbecuing was adopted in the form of Carolina-style pit barbecuing rather than using a pre-made or developed grill like we use today.
Back in those days, they would cook an entire hog over hot coals from the ships for twelve to fourteen hours to make pulled pork that they would sauce using vinegar and random spices found on board. Served with coleslaw on the side, they would consume the pork on a bun which made for a full meal for all the ships men.
Despite the method of cooking over an open flame, backyard barbecuing as we know it today, didn’t actually begin until after WWII when Americans began to use barbecues at picnics and while camping for recreation or fishing purposes. With the explosion of suburban developments popping up by the early 1950s, men began to use grills in their, now, much larger back yards.
Within just a few years, most Americans were throwing or attending barbecues across the United States.
It was then, that a legend was born. Just outside Chicago, in a quintessential American suburb, a metalworker named George Stephen was growing frustrated with the the flat, open grills that were all-too common at the time. He had inherited the company Weber Bros. Metal Spinning Co that was known at the time for being a top manufacturer of harbor buoys.
Taking one of his buoys, he cut it dead even along its equator and added a metal grate. He used the top of the buoy as a lid and cut slits to act as vents for controlling the temperature. Soon Weber Bros. was known for their Weber grills and today Weber remains one of the most popular and my favorite charcoal grill on the modern market.
The great thing about them is they last and if parts wear out. you can easily find replacement parts. The Weber Genesis grill Sven Raphael Schneider use is probably 20 years old and just had a second set of burners. Considering it sits outside all year and has survived the harsh Minnesota winters perfectly, that’s pretty good. Just like with garments and accessories, it pays to invest in quality with a good grill.
Grilling, Barbecuing and Smoking
The first thing one must understand is the difference between grilling, barbecuing and smoking. Smoking, which is using concentrated smoke from a wood or coal source to cure or cook meat could easily be an entire article of its own, so for this primer, we’re going to focus on grilling and barbecue.
In layman’s terms, the major difference between grilling and barbecuing is time and heat source. Grilling is typically a faster form of cooking using a very hot direct heat source such as a flame to sear and cook the food in record time.
Barbecuing on the other hand, is usually done low and slow which means cooking the food over lower heat using an indirect heat source, but for a far longer cook time which can often exceed an entire day. Often barbecuing will use the smoking method in addition to impart extra flavor into the meat.
Styles of Barbecuing
Apart from grilling there are four major styles of barbecuing that we as Americans know today.
The first is what we already discussed, being Carolina-style barbecue. Typically Carolina style barbecuing is sauce-heavy meaning much of the flavor imparted into the food is from the marinade or sauce used on the meat. This can range from sweet to savory and can include both beef and pork.
Texas barbecue is the second type, and probably my personal favorite. Since Texas is heavy on its beef, this style of barbecue usually opts for dry rubs on meat typically including brisket, steaks and chops.
Kansas City BBQ
Kansas City barbecue is kind of the go between. They focus on just about everything but what really makes it it’s own is the tomato-based sauces that are usually sweet and / or spicy hot.
Memphis barbecue is the quintessential barbecue in my mind. It’s pork ribs, slow cooked over indirect heat to produce some of the most savory ribs across the good ole US of A. It’s sticky, it’s sweet and it’s popular to eat.