It’s only natural that novice grillers start out with something simple. Whether it be a classic charcoal kettle grill or a bare-bones gas grill, the starter grill serves an important purpose for those who are new to the medium or on a budget. But as you get more comfortable flipping burgers and searing steaks, it makes sense to start thinking about making the leap to a bigger, better grill. Here are a few signs that it’s time to upgrade your grill.
#1. It Doesn’t Do Anything Besides Grill
Single-use grills are great for beginners, but as you advance and get more comfortable with this style of cooking, you might want to expand your portfolio and learn other cooking styles. For example, you might consider advancing to a pellet grill to learn smoking techniques in addition to grilling. If you want the ability to smoke food with charcoal or pellets, consider the kamado grill for your next cooker. You may also want to try a gas grill that also has a griddle feature because who doesn’t want to whip up diner-style breakfast food on the patio in the morning?
#2. The Grates Are Rusty
Nobody wants gross flakes of rust in their food. If you’ve noticed that your grill grates are starting to rust, warp or flake, it may be time to upgrade your grill or just the grates themselves. Look for a grill with heavy-duty stainless-steel grates, avoiding cast iron and other metals. Stainless steel is the ideal material for outdoor cooking because it’s much less likely to rust and is easier to clean than other common options. Note that you can clean up rusty grill grates, but they’re likely to rust again over time.
#3. It’s Too Small
It’s only natural to advance to a larger grill after a while, especially as you get more comfortable with it and your dinner guest list gets bigger. Eventually, you may want to upgrade to a style that can handle more burgers, dogs, veggies and steaks. If the size is a huge consideration, consider going for a gas grill, a pellet grill or a large kamado grill with multiple layers of cooking surfaces. Go for a pellet grill if you want the option to smoke whole birds, big roasts, massive briskets and more. Smoked turkey on Thanksgiving, anyone?
#4. It’s Not Getting Hot Enough
Size isn’t the only thing to consider when thinking about upgrading. You also want to think about cooking power. When shopping for grills, look at the British Thermal Units (BTUs). BTU is a way to measure heat. Typically, gas grills put out about 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking surface. Don’t obsess over BTUs, but consider going to a higher output if your current grill isn’t getting hot enough. Note that other factors contribute to the heat output of your grills, such as the construction and overall size. Sturdy construction and thoughtful design can boost heat power without a high BTU.
#5. It’s Covered in Grease
Grease is a necessary evil of cooking, especially when you specialize in high-fat (read: delicious) foods. However, over time, an excessive amount of grease can accumulate and affect the performance of your grill, causing parts to malfunction. It can also affect the taste and quality of the food you’re grilling. Most importantly, excessive grease is difficult to clean and can become a fire hazard. Grease can absolutely be cleaned, and a little bit shouldn’t be cause for concern. But some messes are too far gone. Many modern grills feature brilliant grease management systems that help prevent buildup and eliminate messes on the patio.
#6. It Doesn’t Have the Features You Want
As you start browsing new grills, you’ll see that they run the gamut from ultra-basic to overflowing with bells and whistles. Be sure to explore all the different features available so you get everything you want in your grill. Some great features to consider adding to your list include Wi-Fi capability so you can control it from afar, heavy-duty wheels so you can wheel it wherever you want to use it and special grease management systems that cut back on messes.
#7. Food Isn’t Flavorful
Grease buildup, broken components and other aspects on your old grill can give your food a bitter, unpleasant or gas-like flavor. If this is happening, it’s probably time to upgrade to a new model. One of the coolest things about grilling is that you can dramatically impact the flavor of your food, depending on the grill itself. For example, a burger cooked on a charcoal grill will have a much more charred, smoky flavor than one cooked on a gas grill. The same goes for smokers. Be sure to consider flavor differences when considering a pellet smoker vs. a charcoal smoker.
#8. Gauges and Controls Are Broken
If your goal is to grill steakhouse-worthy ribeyes or smoke award-winning briskets, you simply can’t work with a beat-up appliance. Broken, inaccurate gauges can be a recipe for disaster and leave you with tough, overcooked meat (the horror!) or undercooked messes. Broken knobs and controls will also hold you back from reaching the precise temperature required and prevent you from making essential adjustments as you cook. Replace, repair or upgrade your grill if you’re working with damaged gauges and controls.
Not getting the results you want with your current setup? Trust us, it’s not you. It’s the grill. Upgrading to better quality, higher-tech or more versatile grill can help you expand your portfolio and master this method of cooking so you can eat better and impress your friends.