Over the Coals With Northline’s “Grill Sergeant”
He’s never told us which branch of the service he retired from, but he does know how to drill those grills! He puts them to the test so you don’t have to. You can be assured that any grill from Northline Express will get five salutes.
That said, there are so many models. How is a civilian supposed to choose? According to the sergeant, it comes down to a few simple questions.
Totally Portable, Moveable, or Fixed?
Are you planning to maneuver from one side of the patio to the other? Do you want to make your grill a permanent base of command? Or do you want to bivouac to the park, to the cabin, and then to the tailgate party? Answering these questions will narrow the search for your perfect grill.
If you want to take a grill to the campground, the beach, or a roadside park – or if you don’t have the yard or storage space – then a compact, portable model is the right choice for you. For the portable grill, concentrate on table-top designs. These grills aren’t just the charcoal variety – gas models have joined the ranks.
Mounted on carts, these grills can be rolled out of storage, in and out of the shade, and even from the backyard to the driveway for a block party. But you probably won’t want to load one in your trunk for a picnic in the park – especially with some of the “biggest and baddest” on the roll call in this category. A movable grill is right for many applications. You can move the grill out of the way when not in use, cover and protect it outside year-round, or push it into the garage or shed for storage. (Remember, don’t use your grill in an enclosed garage or shed! That’s an order. “Yes, sir, grill sergeant!”).
You don’t have to be as fanatical as the grill sergeant to find that grilling can become a way of life. More and more homeowners are creating outdoor kitchens with permanently fixed grills. Some of these kitchens also include refrigerators, ovens, sinks, and dishwashers. But whether you have an elaborate outdoor kitchen or a simple in-ground or patio/deck mounting, fixed grills are “command central” for outdoor entertainment.
Charcoal, Gas, Infrared, or Hybrid?
This question is at the heart of your flame. Some grill purists say that only charcoal counts. You’ll recognize them when they say, “I love the smell of lighter fluid in the evening.” Others want the immediacy of a gas flame because life’s too short to wait for good chow!
Grills from Northline cover all of the bases – and improve on tradition with the latest grill technology.
Again, the grill purists say the best smoky taste comes from charcoal grills. That’s a matter of opinion – or heated debate. But one thing is for sure about today’s charcoal grills: these aren’t like your grandfather’s grill.
Historically, the charcoal grill meant almost an hour of prep time before the first steak could hit the grill. Today’s models cut this time significantly. Most are less than 30 minutes. Some even march triple-time and are ready in less than 10 minutes.
If you don’t want to commit to only charcoal, there are charcoal grills that can use an LP cylinder when you need to get cooking faster.
And even purists will like the patented Weber® Touch-N-Go™ gas ignition system. Using the igniter button, the attached gas tank brings charcoal up to temperature fast.
Modern charcoal grills also offer easier cleanup than the grills of yore, with easy-to-clean ash catchers.
Gas grills include the propane variety that uses LP tanks – as well as built-in grills with natural gas hookups. The most common on the market, gas grills come with many options and configurations.
Overall, LP gas tanks are readily available. But one clear benefit of a fixed grill is the option of connecting to a natural gas line. This eliminates the filling or exchanging of LP tanks, and you won’t have to worry about running out in the middle of a rib eye. Plus, natural gas costs less and can cook hotter.
More than twice as hot as traditional gas grills, infrared grills use radiant heat to boost the BTUs. With cooking temperatures around 1,600°F, you can sear steaks like a high-end steakhouse. Above the gas burner, a radiant plate deploys the heat while keeping the food moist.
Also available are hybrid grills that combine an infrared burner for searing and traditional gas burners. So you can have your steak and sear it, too.
Small, Medium, or Large?
The sergeant is here to tell you: size does matter. But the most compact model can be the grill of your dreams. It’s all in how you use it.
When deciding on the right size, the sergeant says to “go with your gut” and not shortchange your future grilling needs. You should have your grill for a long time – if not a lifetime. Don’t go too small if your family or parties are growing.
Here are some guidelines for the correct size:
• For the small family grilling simple meals, the two- to four-burner models are ideal for most.
• Four- to five-burner models are great for larger families and parties.
• Five-burner and higher models – some with side burners – serve large parties and families, especially when entrees and side dishes are involved.
The more burners your grill has, the more control you have. Not in the “global domination” sense – more heat control. You can place different foods in different areas of the grill for varied temperatures and cooking rates.
Grill experts recommend a minimum of four burners, but your space and needs may call for something smaller. While four-burner models are also most popular, make sure that the size of the grill matches your lifestyle and what you like to cook. If you are roasting chickens and turkeys, you’ll want the headroom and possibly a rotisserie. If you want to grill 40 or so hamburgers at once, then make sure you have at least 900 square inches of grill surface.
Other Features To Consider:
Side burners allow you to prepare other dishes on the grill’s “stove top” without running into the house.
Cooking Surface Construction
For grates, look for stainless steel, porcelain-coated, cast iron, and porcelain-coated cast iron. The porcelain grates keep food from sticking, but care is needed so they aren’t damaged. Heat is distributed evenly with the heavy cast iron, but it needs to be seasoned with oil.
For rust-resistant burners, porcelain-coated and stainless steel are good choices.
Always make sure you are heating foods to safe temperatures. Whether the thermometer is built-in or an accessory, safe grilling includes checking the internal temperature of all meat, fish, and poultry.
Most grills are equipped with this easy-start ignition.
Grease Is the Word
Check for good grease collection. A deep collector pan that can be removed and cleaned will reduce flare-ups.
Smoker chip trays or smoker boxes turn a grill into a smoker. Not the three-pack-a-day kind. More like hickory or apple wood chips.
Don’t forget the grill cover. Like a good tent, the cover keeps your grill protected from the elements and ready to serve at a moment’s notice.
Prepare To Grill
That’s basic training from the grill sergeant. Your duty is to make a few decisions and find the Northline grill that’s perfect for you and your family. Dismissed!