All You Should Know About BBQ Grills
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The 6 Major Types of BBQ Grills
There are many ways you could categorize the world’s dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different BBQ grills. You could group them by fuel, for example: charcoal grills, wood-burning grills, gas grills. You could organize them by region of origin. But the most useful way, from a griller’s point of view, is by the configuration of the fire and where to place the food for cooking. This is what determines at what temperature and how quickly the food will grill
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Open BBQ Grill
The simplest of all grills: a metal or stone box with the burning charcoal, wood at the bottom and the food positioned directly over the fire. The grill grate is optional.
Used for: High-heat direct grilling
Foods Best Suited: Small, tender, quick-cooking foods like kebabs, steaks, chops, fish fillets, vegetables.
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Covered BBQ Grill
Add to an open grill a tall lid you can raise and lower and you get a covered grill. This may sound like a simple innovation, and yet the covered grill enables you to add two additional important methods of live-fire cooking to your repertory: indirect grilling and smoking.
Used for: Direct grilling larger or thicker foods. Indirect grilling and smoking (the latter done primarily on charcoal-burning grills)
Foods Best Suited: Thick steaks—both beef and tuna—as well as double-thick pork and veal chops. Larger or fattier cuts of meats, like whole chicken and duck, pork shoulder, and baby back ribs.
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Vessel BBQ Grill
A name I coined to describe deep, thick-walled, ceramic grills that rely on the radiant heat of the side walls, as well as the direct heat from the coals, to cook the food. Sometimes the food is cooked directly on the walls (breads) or on a vertical spit positioned inside the firebox instead of on a grill grate.
Used for: High-heat roasting. With the kamado cooker, roasting, grilling, and smoking
Foods Best Suited: Flatbreads, like Indian naan, which are cooked right on the walls of the tandoor. Kebabs, chicken, fish steaks, small legs of goat and lamb, peppers, paneer cheese—all cooked on a vertical spit.
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The rotisserie adds motion to the static process of grilling. The slow, gentle rotation of a turnspit evens out the cooking process, basting the meat, melting out fat, and browning the exterior. Spit-roasted foods come out crisp on the outside and succulent within.
Used for: Combines the virtues of direct and indirect grilling. As in direct grilling, the food faces the heat, but as in indirect grilling, the food cooks next to, not directly over the fire.
Foods Best Suited: Cylindrical and/or fatty foods, like whole chickens, chicken wings, ducks, rib roasts.
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Smoking is one of the world’s oldest methods of cooking and preserving foods, but the smoker as a portable backyard barbecue grill is a North American invention of the 20th century. All the world grills, but not all grill cultures smoke.
Used for: Smoking; low- to moderate-temperature indirect grilling with wood smoke
Foods Best Suited: Traditionally used for tough, flavorful cuts of meat, like brisket and ribs. (The low, gentle heat melts the collagen, making these ornery cuts tender enough to cut with the side of a fork.) Note: When smoking poultry, I prefer to use “smoke roasting”—indirect grilling at a higher temperature to crisp the skin.
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Open Pit and Campfire-Style “Grills”
In the beginning, grilling (make that cooking) wasn’t done on a grill, but over or next to a campfire. This primal method still enjoys wide popularity—especially in the Americas.
Used for: Radiant-heat roasting
Foods Best Suited: Whole lamb, goat, pig, and salmon, rack of beef ribs, and skin-on fish fillets