Grilling is a great American tradition. This node will primarily address outdoor grilling, as indoor grilling is practiced by chefs around the world, and would be better addressed in cooking nodes. Outdoor grilling may be done in the backyard of a house, on picnic grounds, or tailgating at a college football game. Now, frequently grilling accompanies the consumption of alcohol and pork, but it is still quite enjoyable without either, and can even be enjoyed without meat altogether. We can segregate grilling into three categories, by the fuel used to cook the food:

  1. Electric: This is a relatively new method of grilling, in which the grill is plugged into an electric outlet. The advantage is the lack of poisonous fumes the temperature control generally offered by the thermostats on these units, and the neutrality of the cooking environment as it partains to the flavor of the food. This means it is simple to get a fancy electric grill and make pies, cakes, or anything else you can make in a kitchen on one. The disadvantage is that you have to be near an electric outlet, and the lack of flavor changes is a bad thing on some foods.
  2. Gas: Same basic benefits as electric, but many models have features to allow a bit more smoking and more flavor for meats. These can get a bit hotter than electrics, too. Thes have the additional advantage of greater portability. The propane cannister which fuels it can be carried with you. The disadvantage is that you can run out of fuel before you run out of stuff to cook if you don't pay attention. Also, poorly designed models have hot spots and can cause uneven cooking. Really high end grills costing thousands are usually gas.
  3. Natural fuels: Charcoal and wood are being referred to here. There is a lot of variation here, depending on what is being cooked, and how much is being cooked. Some companies, such as the Big Green Egg, make a ceramic grill which can use either charcoal or wood as fuel and gets extraordinarily hot. You can make flatbread in one of these things. Homemade models may be an oil barrel cut lengthwise and fitted with vents and a handle. Put charcoal in the bottom, perhaps along with some pre-soaked mesquite or hickory wood, put a grating above that, and put the meat on the grating. That's probably how you'll see it at a mom and pop barbecue joint in a small, Southern town. In some places a barbecue pit may be dug outside. This basically uses the ground as the enclosure rather than a metal or ceramic one. I think these get more popular as you get closer to Texas and Mexico, which make extensive use of pits. Either of the last two, you can make yourself. Alternatively, you can buy a metal commercial model. These are inexpensive, and cook well. I like Weber models the best. These use charcoal, and the flavor is simply exquisite. The drippings from the meat hits the charcoal and mixes with the smoke to impart a distinctive, smokey flavor to everything, so I would only cook savory foods on this, rather than sweet things. Cornbread works well, though. Fish is wonderful, especially salmon. Hamburgers are to die for, and a grill can even make unknown meats mighty tasty. Just keep the pig based stuff away from me. Kosher dogs get moved up to the next level with charcoal grilling.

No need for me to deny it, charcoal grilling tastes the best to me. The other methods have always seemed to me to be a way of taking the kitchen with you, whereas wood and charcoal give you something you can't really do in the house, complete with different flavors. Trust me when I say it, a hamburger which is cooked in the house and one cooked on a charcoal grill taste completely different. Portobello mushrooms taste greate. Zucchini is fantastic. I probably grill 30 times a year, all during the summer, all using charcoal, and I never get tired of it. It is a tradition handed down to me from my father, and he even lets me do a little bit when I go back home sometimes. When my dad handed me the tongs for the first time, I knew I had acheived manhood. So, leave behind George Foreman, get yourself a good Weber, and get grilling.

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