Senior Project Grilling Essay James Mistretta 2011-12
Mistretta 1James MistrettaMrs. Bennett12th literature12 September 2011 The Heat on Meat The Great Grill Wars have waged for many years now, since gas grills became widelyavailable in the later years of the 1990s. Many have their strong opinion on which grill issuperior, yet the majority of casual grillers seem to agree that neither charcoal nor gas plays astrong role in the overall outcome of the food. Although, many hardcore grill enthusiasts agreethat charcoal grills are the one true way to cook meat, saying that only charcoal can give thatperfect, unique taste, while more casual grillers will say that charcoal grills are too much of ahassle to handle, and that gas grills fulfill their individual needs perfectly. The popular consensusseems to agree that gas grills have far more utility than charcoal grills but may lack in the tastecategories, while charcoal grills are a bit more trouble for a bit more deliciousness. Most agreethat the best course of action would be to buy both, using the gas grills for the weekdays andsaving the more time-consuming charcoal for the weekends. Charcoal grills are generally regarded as superior in the competitive grilling world due totheir “distinctive flavor...” (Seder) saying the meat gets “…infused with notes of wood andsmoke” (Seder). Using charcoal to grill meat has been practiced since before man could evenrecord history, all the way back when cavemen could harness the power of fire. Charcoal isgenerally regarded as superior because the charcoal that is used to cook the meat can instillcertain flavors into the meat. Using cedar or pine charcoal could drastically alter theflavor of the food, not to mention if a smoke box is used along with the coal. If a smoke box ispresent in the grill then the flavor of chips used will definitely alter the food, giving a moresmoky and natural taste. Taste tests all seem to show the same results when the charcoal grillers
Mistretta 2say, “That char taste is incredible, it can’t be beat” (Downs). Gas grills may take the back seat (or even the dumpster) in grilling competitions, but gasgrills are a must-have for most common American households. Gas grills may not give off thatwoodsy, smoky flavor that charcoal grills are renowned for, but a gas grill can cook four timesthe amount of food charcoal can in the same amount of time. Gas grills are “…the conventionalmicrowave oven of the grilling world” (Crowe). Although grill enthusiasts say that only acharcoal grill can give off that perfect char-grilled taste, the common household griller usuallyagrees that there is no difference in the taste between the two. The gas grill can be augmented tooffer the same flavors that a charcoal grill would impart into the meat, making the gas grill easilysuperior in the opinion of the logical, time-constricted gentleman. The gas grill, in all its glory, isalso usually more expensive than the charcoal powered grill. A simple charcoal grill, which canbe sold for as cheap as thirty dollars, which is usually nothing more than a metal sphere on legs,while a simple two-burner gas powered grill usually starts around a hundred and twenty dollars(Raichlan). When it comes to heat, competitors just cannot beat a charcoal grill. Gas grills do getheated just as well as charcoal grills, but it takes a very expensive grill to reach the maxtemperatures that even the cheapest charcoal grill can soar by with ease. The best part aboutcharcoal is that it “...creates a hotter flame, which can be great for searing meat like steak”(Raichlen). The middle to high end gas grills can usually reach max temperatures around sixhundred degrees Fahrenheit, while most “…loaded kettle grills with red-hot charcoal can reach700 degrees” (Webber). While charcoal grills do surpass gas grills in temperature, it does takeslightly more time for a charcoal grill to reach its maximum temperature that for gas grills. Ittakes at least twenty minutes for charcoal to glow that dazzling red that means it is ready forflavor, yet gas grills need only five minutes or so, as it takes no more than a turn of a dial and apush of a button to have the flames roaring in seconds (Crowe).
Mistretta 3 Charcoal grills are known to excel in the taste category due solely to the charcoal used toinfuse the meat with that natural smoky flavor, which tends to be the only reason that charcoalgrills are superior. Although many grill enthusiasts will stick to their guns when this topic isbrought up and say that there is no substitute for the charcoal flavor, many gas enthusiasts havecome up with small briquettes that can be placed in a gas grill to help replicate the flavors that acharcoal grill will help to give. Gas enthusiasts agree that meat cooked with the briquettesisalmost identical in flavor to meat cooked in regular charcoal grills (Kirkland). Charcoalenthusiasts will never agree to these truths, refusing to acknowledge that fact that briquettes andgas work just as well as charcoal, and in half the time. Besides the new up and comingbriquettes, there are also additions like smoke boxes and lava stones which can also help toenhance the flavor of the gas grilled meat. Smoke boxes can sit under the grates and slowly coatthe meat in smoky goodness, while the lava stones act as the platform to heat the meat on, andsear the flavor directly into the meat (Seder). Gas grills have become extremely popular of late due to the increasingly busy schedules ofthe common grilling enthusiast. Gas grills promise a steady supply of heat and ease of keepingthat heat constant, while charcoal grills are filled with guesswork and need constant attention tothe amount of charcoal fuel that the flames are enveloping to keep the steak burning right. Gasgrills usually have anywhere from one to three burners depending on how much had been paidfor them, grills that go upwards towards a thousand dollars usually have not only multiplegrilling compartments, but up to eight or twelve burners for maximum grillage. Gas grills caninsure a good meal in no less than twenty minutes, while charcoal grills need a very ampleamount of time to cook even the first dish (Kirkland). Gas grills are also superior in the upkeep category, as they require almost nothing morethan scraping the grill after use and replacing the propane when the tank runs dry. Sometimesthey may get a bad ignition switch or a leaky pipe, which also need to be replaced and
Mistretta 4monitored, but these problems do not usually happen often in even the first years of use.Charcoal grills, on the other hand, need much more attention to detail. Charcoal needs to becleaned after every use or else the dust will not only build up, but begin to coat the meat while itcooks, which is something that no person really desires. The grates also need to be checked everyfew meals due to the heat most charcoal grills tend to get to; if the meat remains do not getcleaned off and get continually burned into the metal, they will begin to break down, whichcould lead to catastrophe if the meat falls straight into the coals. Charcoal grills need constantmaintenance while gas grills need little, but the amount of both, especially gas grills, can beheavily minimized if the grills are covered after use. Most stores where either type of grill can bebought usually sell covers as well, most frequently as a complimentary item to the grill. When it comes to the size category, charcoal grills have gas grills beat easily. Charcoalgrills are great to have if space is limited, while gas grills take up a tad bit more room. Charcoalgrills can sometimes be a nuisance, though, if the space is very limited and many people arecrowded into a small area; sometimes complaints are to be had by neighbors who dislike theamount of smoke charcoal grills throw off. This smoke is the very same thing that makescharcoal grills superior in the taste category, and even though most people enjoy the smell ofperfectly glazed meat slowly cooking on fiery goodness, some feel the need to complain aboutthis absolute perfection. On the flip side, gas grills are larger and bulkier, so they require moreroom to grill the food, but they throw off almost no smoke at all, depending on the glaze that isused and if a smoke box is involved. Gas grills tend to be much easier to keep fuelled as well, asthe propane tanks can be reused again and again, and last for a good thirty days, depending onthe amount of grilling done and how long it takes to grill. Charcoal grills need to have charcoalconstantly added to help maintain a constant temperature, which tends to be much more priceythan propane. The charcoal ash also needs to be thrown out and moved safely to a different area;the ash can be used well as fertilizer.
Mistretta 5 For some grill enthusiasts, although not many, meat is not the main meal the individualenjoys grilling. Although the original grill was not meant to be used on foods of the more greenvariety, some choose to use the grill for other needs, like frying up their favorite squash orzucchini. These non-meat products are not usually the first food flying off the plates at local grillouts, but they are needed none the less. A perfectly grilled vegetable is surprisingly hard to do ona charcoal grill, while the most novice grill enthusiast could darken the veggie to their preferencewith ease on a gas grill. Due to the charcoals high, unwavering temperatures, the greenery couldvery quickly turn into a crumbling black mess, while propane grills more tame temperatures cangive the food that perfect texture and look that even the most carnivorous guest will desire.Nothing shows perfection like the subtle black grill lines leaving their brand in the flesh of anyfood that comes in contact with their superheated metal fingers. In the end, there will always be the argument as to which method of grilling is better, butmost seem to agree that the debate is purely opinionated as to what the griller enjoys using more.The highest class of grill enthusiasts agrees that both grills should be owned for the maximumgrilling experience. The gas grill is the perfect tool to use on the weekdays when there really isnot enough time to fiddle with starting and maintaining heat or smoking meat for multiple hoursto achieve perfection. The gas grill ensures delicious food in record time so the best foods can behad any day of the week. In addition, the charcoal grill is a phenomenal item to have for grillingon the weekends, when there is that lazy warm mood and the sun is shining. The weekends arethe perfect time to wake up and grill all day to enjoy an absolutely delightful food in the evening,while the weekday gas grill is there to comfort the hard working grillers with a delicious burgeror steak made with little to no hassle. Grilling will always be the best way to prepare food andwill always be the best way to bring a family and friends together to enjoy some delicious foodand happy times.
Mistretta 6 Works CitiedCrowe, Robert. "The Infernal Debate."Chron. N.p., 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 2 Sept.2011. <http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/The-infernal-debate-Wood-charcoal-or-gas-1798525.php>.Downs, Stacy. "The Great Grill Debate."Azdailysun.N.p., 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 2Sept. 2011. <http://azdailysun.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/article_47f30ed9-c79b-5f53-a375-52398236d2d7.html>.Kirkland, Vanessa. "Barbque Islands."Tree.N.p., 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Sept.2011. <http://www.tree.com/food-dining/barbeque-islands.aspx>.Raichlan, Steven. "Grill Debate: Gas vs. Charcoal." Real Simple.N.p., 1 Jan.2010. Web. 2 Sept. 2011. <http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/grilling/grill-debate-charcoal-vs-gas-10000000685629/index.html>.Seder, Vanessa. "Charcoal vs. Gas Grills."Ladies Home Journal.N.p., 1 Jan.2010. Web. 2 Sept. 2011. <http://www.lhj.com/recipes/easy/grilling/charcoal-vs-gas-grills/>.Webber, Roxanne. "Gas versus Charcoal."Chow.N.p., 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 2 Sept.2011. <http://www.chow.com/food-news/54480/gas-versus-charcoal-2/>.