Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gas or Charcoal Grill? That is the question!

Gas Grill or Charcoal Grill?   It's a question that is starting to rival "Democrat or Republican?",  "boxers or briefs?",  "Ginger or Maryann?",  "red or white?" and "To be or not to be" in terms of divisiveness.

Grilling is a quintessential summer food ritual.   It is simple, keeps the heat out of the house during the sweltering months, and without tremendous culinary skill, turns out a delicious result.    I, myself, prefer the convenience of a gas grill--it is instantly usable, affords significant heat control, and stays lit as long or as short as you wish.  "Real" grillers (and many men) turn their noses up at this ModCon, favoring at a minimum, charcoal grills, and at most a full pit-and-spit arrangement.

I think it hearkens back to primitive days when men dragged a woolly mammoth back toward the cave and cooked it over an open fire.  I know of very few women (who are not in the grilling industry) who favor charcoal or wood over the convenience and ease of gas.

My husband and I are currently in a domestic Cold War over a new grill.  Our inexpensive Char-Broil from Home Depot is on its last rusty legs, having spent its formative years outside and unprotected through several harsh Philly winters.  (Living in a city, we don't have a garage or much storage space, so our grill lives in the yard--hence my decision not to purchase a top of the line version.)  My husband, who has developed into quite a cook, was perusing grill websites recently and discovered "The Big Green Egg."

This--no doubt impressive--apparatus requires charcoal. Or Woodcoal.  Or Wooden Charcoal.  Or CharWoodCoal.     It no doubt produces delectable dishes.  But I don't do charcoal.  I don't like the unpredictability.  I don't like to wait (I am notorious for not preheating an oven), and I don't like the lack of control.  (Yes, I fully admit to being a control freak.)  It apparently has the capacity to serve as both grill and smoker.  (When it can clean my house as well, I'm in.)

Husband suggested that we acquire this item.  I replied that he was free to do so but that I would never use it.  As the primary cook in the family, even with respect to the grill, I felt that I should have a weighted vote.  He disagreed.  Words flew.  An early mid-life crisis was mentioned.  "It could be a stripper or Porsche" was fired back.  It was ugly.    And remains unresolved.

I have since consulted several grill mavens. Chef Michael Santoro of Talula's Garden, and my brother-in-law Rex, both say that the Egg is "awesome"--direct quote from both.  Jack McDavid, decorated barbecue champion and chef/owner of the Down Home Diner doesn't even consider gas as true grilling.  But I still can't see myself fiddling with charcoal, waiting for the fire to temper, prodding the coals to achieve the perfect temp in order to chuck two burgers on the grill as a quick weeknight dinner for my kids.  And I can't see having two grills in our postage stamp sized back yard.   Another grill guru, Chef Bill Beck of Beck's Cajun Cafe suggested a reasonable compromise:  Buy some wood chips, soak them in water, place them in an open-topped foil pouch and put the pouch on the gas grill while you cook.  When you close the lid, the wood smoke will circulate and infuse flavor into the food.  Hmmmm. I wonder if he's single.

So, advise me Phoodie Phriends.  What's a Cook to do?

And speaking of couples fighting, here's a clip from my favorite show on this topic.  They weren't fighting about a grill, but it's a hoot just the same.  Enjoy.


Tom Bera said...

The Big Green Egg is one of the best charcoal grills on the market... well more like a ceramic oven. You can make pizza at 500deg. or smoke brisket low and slow at 220deg. Love my BGE! Oh, and please don't soak wood chips in water, the wood will smolder and steam - clean burning wood creates the best flavor on food... IMO.

And just for the record... Maryann.

Philly Blind Pig BBQ

Anonymous said...

A charcoal grill is MUCH hotter. You can cook many times faster on charcoal than on with a gas grill.

Elizabeth Encarnacion said...

My husband and I are having the exact same "discussion," only I'm on the Big Green Egg side, and he's on the "gas is so much easier" side—this despite the fact that he's the one who wants to grill pizzas, which would be PERFECT on a Big Green Egg. I do worry about the heating up issue, but apparently the wood charcoal heats up very fast with an electric fire starter, and we already have to pre-heat the grill as it is...

Philly Food Lovers said...

Wow, I guess I'll have to think about this some more. Thanks for sharing your comments, friends! My husband has gotten over his obsession over the grill, so I am reluctant to reopen the "Egg", but it sounds like you folks are in the know.

And Tom, given your profession, I might have guessed that Maryann was your kinda girl!