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Posted: 12:59 p.m. Monday, June 24, 2013

The cost of Gas vs. Charcoal and other grilling tips 

By Nedra Rhone

It's summertime and the grilling is easy...unless you have no idea what you are doing.

I've never even owned a grill...unless you count a George Foreman grill, which I'm sure any respectable grill master does not.

So it's nice that there's a lot of grilling advice floating around out there. The helpful folks at Pike Nurseries developed their 10 commandments of grilling (see below). And the experts at DealNews.com were kind enough to explore the cost of owning a gas vs. charcoal grill. 

In summary:

Cost to purchase: Charcoal grills win hands down mainly because they are so simple -- a cooking grate and receptacle to hold charcoal. Got $15? You too can own a charcoal grill. A more accurate comparison is a basic charcoal grill that runs about $100 versus a basic gas grill that runs about $160.

Operating Cost: Gas grills need natural gas or propane which costs about $30 bucks for 20 lbs. and require refills. Calculate your usage as one hour continuous cooking time per each pound of propane. So that runs you about $1/ hour after you purchase your intital canister. Charcoal grills need charcoal. Estimate six quarts of bricks at $1.70 per cookout, plus lighter fluids at $6 and you're at $8. So gas wins on operating cost.

Flavor: Though it's hard to tell for basic items like burgers and hot dogs, grill experts say charcoal grills give the best flavor particularly when you use  flavored wood chips.

Portablility: Obviously, charcoal wins out here.

Time: Clean up after using a charcoal grill is a pain and waiting for it to heat for 20 minutes could ruin the party if you don't plan well. Advantage? Gas.

Read on for grilling tips -- including some deals on grills and accessories -- that might even help someone like me grill like a pro this summer.

The Grilling Commandments:

    Get organized. Gather all of your grilling items – food, marinade, basting sauce, seasonings and equipment – at grill-side. Also make sure you have a grill best suited you. Pikes, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart all offer a range of grills. Sears is currently running an up to 50 percent off sale on outdoor items including a BBQ Pro Four burner gas grill for $179

    Add fuel. When using charcoal, light enough to form a bed of glowing coals three inches larger on all sides than the surface area of the food you're planning to cook. Using charcoal that can be re-lit will help cut down on grilling costs. When cooking on a gas grill, make sure the tank is at least one-third full. .

    Preheat. To get the perfect seared crust, charcoal flavor and grill marks, you must cook over a high heat of at least 500 degrees.

    Clean, clean, clean. Clean the grate twice: once after you've preheated the grill and again when you've finished cooking. You may also want to clean it between foods such as if you are grilling vegetables after meat. Use the edge of a metal spatula to scrape off food debris and a stiff, long-handled wire brush to finish scrubbing the grate. These tools are often available in sets -- look for discounts of 10 percent or more at a range of stores and online.

    Grease is the word. Lubricate the grate just before placing the food on top if necessary (some foods don't require it). Using a pair of tongs, rub the grate evenly with a folded paper towel soaked in oil to help eliminate sticking.

    Marinade right. Bastes and marinades based from oil and vinegar, citrus or yogurt can be brushed on the meat throughout the cooking period. When using a sugar-based barbecue sauce, apply it toward the end of the cooking time to protect the sauce from burning. Chef/ Nutritionist Michelle Dudash suggests using herb and mint marinades (or pre-cooking chicken and pouring off the juice) before grilling to reduce HCA's  -- a possible carcinogen that results from cooking meat on an open flame.

    Turn gently. Stabbing the meat can drain its juices and dry it out.The proper way to turn meat on a grill is with tongs or a spatula.

    Take cover. When cooking larger cuts of meat and poultry, such as a whole chicken, leg of lamb or prime rib, use the indirect method of grilling and keep the grill tightly covered. Every time the lid is lifted, you add five to 10 minutes to the overall cooking time.

    Let it sit.  Remove the meal from the grill and let it sit for a few minutes before serving to allow meat juices to settle and return to the surface.

    Don't stray. Once you start grilling something, stay with it until it's cooked.

    Are you a gas or charcoal griller? What is your no-fail grilling advice?

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    Nedra Rhone

    About Nedra Rhone

    Nedra Rhone finds and shares tips on money, deals and consumer issues in metro Atlanta for the AJC.

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