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Grill action

In terms of taste and visual appeal, it’s hard to beat a perfectly grilled piece of fish, meat or poultry. Whether you’re grilling in your kitchen or outdoors, here’s how to find the grill that’s right for your operation.

Staying in

There’s no shortage of indoor grills (or as they’re sometimes called, underfired broilers) on the market, in grid widths ranging from a space-saving 12 inches all the way up to a massive 84 inches. In traditional underfired broilers, the heat is dispersed in one of two ways. Between the heating elements and the grid, there can be a set of rocks or ceramic briquettes to hold and diffuse the heat. Or, in a “radiant” system, the heat is diffused by a series of metal shields, which direct the heat upward to the grid. Some models, such as Vollrath’s Cayenne Heavy-Duty Charbroilers, come with kits for both radiant and lava rock setup.

Along with classic gas or electric models, infrared broilers are gaining a foothold. Instead of direct heating elements under the food, these  use a system of ceramic plates or tiles. The tiles are heated and then emit infrared heat to the food. While the initial cost of an infrared grill, such as the Vulcan VTEC series, may be higher, these models tend to be more energy-efficient.

Most indoor grills are countertop models, but other configurations are readily available. Combinations that feature a regular oven underneath are popular for use in tight spaces, while cabinet-mounted grills can provide extra kitchen storage space. Many models come on casters; if the unit is to be moved, make sure proper ventilation is available.

Taking it outside

Many of the same considerations apply when buying an outdoor grill, although the selection is somewhat more limited. The most common grid widths are 30 or 60 inches; a few 70-inch models are available. Most outdoor grills are powered by tanks of either propane or natural gas, but some of the lighter-duty models have no heating system. Instead, they are equipped with open trays for use with charcoal or wood.

For occasional usage, a single-tank model may suffice; for heavier usage, look into a double-tank model to ensure a constant supply of fuel. Other considerations: Check to see if the grill has a water tub to reduce smoke; if so, access to water will impact placement. A wind guard may be a helpful option if cooking in a particularly breezy area. Hardcore grillers who need portability might invest in one of the heavy-duty “tailgate” models, which attach to the back of a truck for towing.

Even more than indoor grills, outdoor grills provide a variety of optional accessories to expand the grill’s cooking capabilities. Drop-in griddle units make outdoor bacon-and-egg breakfasts a reality, while steaming pans are perfect for clambakes. Side-mounted shelves are available to hold prep equipment or ingredients. The MagiCater line of outdoor grills from MagiKitch’n (sic) offers roasting hoods and steam holding units as just a few of its add-ons.

Cleanup time

It’s vital to periodically clean the grill's grids to ensure top cooking performance and minimize sticking and flare-ups.

For good old-fashioned scrubbing, consider a cleaner like 3M's Grill-Brick. It’s made from a stone-like material that slowly disintegrates as it's used, exposing a "fresh" cleaning surface. There are also many liquid grill cleaners/degreasers, such as Ecolab’s Grease Express High Temp Grill Cleaners. (When    using one of these liquid cleaners, wear gloves and goggles.)

One of the more unusual grill cleaners is the Grillbot, shown at this year’s NRA Show. Along the lines of the Roomba robotic vacuum, the Grillbot is a computerized device that skitters around the grill grates, brushing as it goes. 

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