Thursday, June 22, 2006

How many grills can one man have?

Some people have a barbeque for special occasions, for others it is a way of life. I fall into the later category; it must be something in my South African blood. It surprises many people when I invite them for a BBQ at my gardenless house in Amsterdam. “Where?” they always say. Well that answer depends on the day in question. If the weather is good, the answer is always “On the roof terrace” which is where we had our company dinner on Monday. If it is raining, the answer is “On my balcony”. It know it sounds decadent, but I have 2 gas grills. I used to have a charcoal grill too, but the neighbors called the fire brigade to often thinking the whole place was on fire. So now I only have 2 grills, one for fair weather, and one basically for cooking fish outside so as not to stink up the house.

Now I like to have a good dinner party, and the barbecue is my preferred method of cooking for guests. Why? Well it must be the most social form of food preparation. How often have you seen a bunch of guys standing around the stove asking “Ooooh, how do you get your béchamel sauce so creamy and full of flavor”. Plus it involves so little preparation. The problem with my grill is that it is too small to cook for more than 4 people. If I just cooked the meat on the grill I would survive, but to me the best grilled meals have everything cooked on the fire. That means the bread, the starter, the vegetables, and even the desert if possible. My terrace grill is about 50 cm x 50cm, and is a western plate. I really bought it so I could cook bacon and eggs for weekend breakfasts. The balcony grill is about half that size, but has a top shelf and a lid. All too often I have to call them both into action, which means running up and down the stairs which kind of destroys the social aspect of the BBQ.

They both have their pros and cons. The balcony grill with its lid, is great for roasting stuff, and is better in winter as the food does not get cold as quickly. I can use it to make a beer can chicken, and it does a good job of smoking a piece of fish. The terrace grill has a griddle on one side, and is good for bacon, vegetables and even fried eggs, but it could never be the only grill in the house due to the lack of lid.

The grills were cheap, and one is 5 years old, the other 3. The glass on the balcony grill shattered, (I am not sure of the point of the glass anyway, as it went black in a week, and I have never been able to see through it), and has been replaced with some wood and aluminum foil which is starting to present itself as a serious fire hazard. The terrace grill is useable, but the lava rocks are really greasy, and it has lots of cold spots due to the uneven flames.

So I decided to reduce the number of grills in the house. I am about to become a “one grill” man, but that means getting a new one which will serve the purpose of the current two. I have decided to put one on the roof terrace. It won’t be great in the rain, but I have been known to grill outside in the snow. So I have spent the last 3 months trying to choose a grill. In truth I chose my grill on the first day, it just took a long time and two attempts to actually buy it.

But what makes the perfect grill? I guess I had a feature list, it must have: A smoker box, a side burner (for cooking in a pan), storage underneath, enough space on the grill to cook for 8 or 10, a warming shelf, durable grates, and no flare inducing lava rocks, and finally be able to survive outside all year round.

So down to the choices, fist the brand. After research it really had to be a Weber, it seems they really do make the best grills, and they back that with a 5 year (lifetime on some parts) guarantee. The range was limited to those with a side burner, and I am a sucker for stainless steel, so I was immediately drawn to the Genesis Platinum C grill. I ordered one on Saturday, with a Steam & Chips smoker kit. I got home and I was thrilled.

Now for the problem, on Monday I had 4 guests for dinner, and my current (terrace) grill was just too small. I started to compare the specs, and I figured there was only 30% more grilling space on the Genesis, and it would never serve a part of 8. Today I upgraded, and went the whole hog (an the new beast really will grill a small pig). This won’t surprise my friends who know I never do things by halves. I chose the big Weber grill, with a built in smoker and rotisserie. It has solid stainless steel grates, 6 burners plus a smoker burner and an infrared burner. Wow, is all I can say. I have wanted it for almost a year, and today I finally order it instead of the Genesis from barbequeshop.nl. My Weber Summit Platinum D6 should arrive tomorrow. Anyone in Amsterdam who wants one of my crappy old BBQ’s just let me know. May the grilling commence!

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