Discover the thrill of the grill

(NC) -- Do you fire up the grill every chance you get, or are you a barbecue dabbler? With that thick, juicy hamburger in mind, it must be your old equipment that is holding you back.

But before you buy a spanking new grill, do be aware that there are several barbecue types and each one has its unique set of benefits and features. The biggest decision you'll have to make, for example, is whether you want a charcoal, propane, natural gas, or electric grill. Weigh the benefits of each against the others and decide which one best matches your needs. Here's a snapshot of each, from staff at the Home Depot:

Charcoal grills tend to be the most economical and have the fewest parts. They cook food at high heat to seal juices in, and many people love the smoky flavor that charcoal provides.

Propane and natural gas grills are ready to cook within minutes and can be fueled with a re-usable propane tank or natural gas line. Heat is measured in BTUs (British thermal units), with higher ratings indicating a more intense heat output. Gas also enables more precise temperature control for cooking food evenly and consistently. Several brands, like Weber, offer both propane and gas models.

Electric grills are easy to start. As an ideal choice for small spaces, porches and patios, they also present minimal fire risk. If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, you may be limited to a small electric unit.

Smokers and fryers provide the ability to slow cook turkey, beef, and other savory meats to enhance flavor. Fryers are filled with oil and can be used to fry, boil, and in some cases, steam foods to seal in their natural juices.

When shopping for a grill, also consider its construction: will it stand up to harsh weather conditions and remain sturdy through years of use? Stainless steel grill construction and cast-iron grates deliver heavy-duty performance. If you plan to store your grill inside after use, the lighter weight plastic might be preferred.

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