Grills are synonymous with summer. As people spend more time in the backyard, firing up the grill can be the perfect way to unwind and relax.
However according to Antoinette Theriot-Heim at Nordic Kitchens and Baths (1818 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-888-2300; www.nordickitchens.com), finding the right grill can be a hassle if you don't know what you need. "There's generally a perfect grill for every household," Theriot-Heim says.
From basic charcoal grills to high-tech gas grills that can be built into your backyard, there are hundreds of choices. While the possibilities may seem endless, Theriot-Heim says customers should start by determining their needs, preferences and budget.
"Typically when I talk with clients, we discuss their budget and whether they'll be doing a lot of entertaining or if it's just them looking to do something small for the summer," Theriot-Heim says. "Most important, though, they should make the decision of whether they want a charcoal or gas grill."
Most grills use either gas or charcoal, although there are a few that can use both. Personal taste plays a major role in deciding between the two. "A lot of my clients feel that you get a totally different flavor profile when you're using charcoal," Theriot-Heim says. "People who like that smoked, true barbecue taste generally like working with the charcoal grills."
Gas grills, on the other hand, offer the convenience of heating up faster than charcoal. They can either use natural gas from your home or liquid propane from tanks that can be purchased and refilled at hardware stores.
When grilling delicate foods like vegetables or salmon, Theriot-Heim recommends a grill that offers easy temperature control.
"At home, I use a charcoal grill, and I don't find it too hard to control my temperature, but a lot of people find it easier to control the temperature of a gas grill, because you can just turn it down or up and it should respond immediately," she says.
Paul Preau's company, ADGAS Outdoor Cooking Products (504-943-0853; www.adgasneworleans.com), doesn't offer charcoal grills but has grills with a special feature Preau developed.
"I started dealing with gas barbecues in the late 1960s," Preau says. "When we used to install them, customers would always ask to put in an extra gas outlet, so they could, more than anything, boil their crawfish. In the early 1980s, I developed the concept of a cart with side cooker for gas barbecues."
Preau's designs focus more on quality than looks.
"People were asking for more ways to cook outside, but the gas grill industry wasn't paying attention to the customers," Preau says. "They seemed to be more worried about how the grill looked than how it cooked."
The gas barbecue cooker combo, which features a side cooker, stainless steel cooking grids and two burners, starts at $1,400, including tax and installation.
Preau and Theriot-Heim warn shoppers not to choose a grill based solely on its appearance. Whether you prefer a sleek stainless steel look or a textured ceramic style, look for a grill that does what you want it to do.
One of the highest-end grills Nordic Kitchen and Bath offers is the Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet grill. "It is hand-welded, hand-crafted and it weighs a lot. You can feel the weight of the materials it uses," Theriot-Heim says. "A lot of my lower-end grills have aluminum tubing and things like that. Now, those are still good materials, but that's not something that's going to last you a lifetime in your backyard."
One of the companies ADGAS represents is Modern Home Products. "Because of the durability and the construction of our grills, they last a long time, and although they are cosmetically plain and simple, they're durable," Preau says. "They'll last 12 to 15 years."
"[A grill's longevity] comes down to material and construction, kind of like a house," Theriot-Heim says.
Preau urges people in the market for a new grill to do research before shopping. "Find a company that specializes in outdoor cooking equipment and make sure that company will be able to service the unit you purchase," Preau says.
Whether you're a newcomer to grilling or the star griller at a tailgating party, outdoor cooking can be a lot of fun.
"I wouldn't dare call it a hobby, but for a lot of people, it's a passion," Theriot-Heim says. "Some people start off with that immediate passion for it, and for others it grows."