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Barbecue year-round

Photo: bob n renee / flickr

In the Bay Area, we often enjoy our warmest weather in September — the ideal time to host a backyard barbecue for friends and family, though our mild climate really allows us to cook outdoors year-round. The long Labor Day weekend is the perfect excuse to get out that “Kiss the Cook” apron, prepare the grill, and cook up a feast (for grilling tips and recipes, visit www.marinatimes.com). With the holidays fast approaching, many retailers will be selling off display models and overstocks at bargain prices as they make room for seasonal merchandise, so it’s a great time to consider investing in a barbecue. If you are in the market for a grill, you have the choice of a charcoal, traditional/infrared gas or ceramic grill. Each has its benefits, so you can choose the grill that best fits your lifestyle.

Charcoal grills

Taste: Foods can be more flavorful when cooked over natural wood smoke. Wood chips can be used to add nuanced flavors to your meats.

Price: Generally the most affordable, with basic models available for around $30.
Fire versatility: Hot coals can be arranged so you can cook some foods over the hottest, direct heat, while other foods can be cooked over less-direct heat.

Traditional gas grills

Convenience: After a long day at work, after-school activities and errands, turning a knob on a gas grill is a convenient way to get
dinner started.

Readiness: It’s easy to adjust the heat up or down with just the turn of a dial.
Cleanup: Practically nonexistent — basically just shut the lid — there are no ashes to deal with, which can sometimes
be messy.

Cook for long periods: A gas grill allows you to do so easily without having to keep replenishing charcoal.

Infrared gas grills

Though this technology has been used in commercial cooking for many years, in the last decade these grills have become more popular for the backyard. Burners or tiles inside heat the grill causing it to emit infrared radiation, working in the same manner as an oven, but with a cooking grate.

Preheat time: These grills produce very high temperatures in a much shorter time than
other grills.

Heat intensity: Because the heat is much more intense, more delicate foods like fish or vegetables can be difficult to grill. Hardier foods like thick meats tend to
cook better.

Price: The price has come down drastically over the last few years.

Ceramic grills

Newer to the market are ceramic grills popularized by the Big Green Egg and more recently the Kamado Joe brand.

Taste: For those who take their barbecuing seriously, a ceramic grill will make your food taste better. The ceramic shell acts as an insulator to keep the natural oils and moisture in food for incredible juiciness and tenderness. Metal grills radiate heat, which pulls the moisture out of the food. You also get true charcoal flavor, because these grills use 100 percent natural lump charcoal as a heat source. Briquette charcoal, on the other hand, contains additives like borax, starch, and sawdust from
waste lumber.

Versatility: A ceramic barbecue is much more than a grill — it allows you to bake, roast, grill, and smoke with a simple adjustment of the airflow, so you can cook just about anything on a ceramic grill.

Preheat time: A common misconception is that ceramic grills take a long time to preheat, but in reality, they’re ready to use in about 15 minutes — the average time it takes to preheat a gas grill. Briquette charcoal grills can take up to 30 minutes of preheat time.

Price: Ceramic grills are more expensive than gas or charcoal barbecues, so they are more of an investment.

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! This year, consider cooking your holiday turkey on the barbecue and leave the always overcrowded oven exclusively for your pies and side dishes.

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Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware and can be reached at julia@marinatimes.com.