Sun Ra - Column for 5/30

Cooking with Gas

We had a barbeque today. It was quite nice, save for the fact that it decided to rain a little bit, so everyone had to stay inside while I snuck out and managed the grill.

Enough reasons have built up that we are going to invest in a gas grill. We use the grill a lot - a couple times a week during the summer - and the conveniences of a propane grill over my current, well-loved Weber charcoal kettle grill are substantial and finally enough to instigate a purchase.

First, there's prep time. With a gas grill, you turn it on, and a few moments later you are ready to cook. With the kettle there's fifteen minutes or more waiting for the coals to be ready. This is a big driver for my wife, who wants dinner when she wants dinner and not when dinner is ready.

Then, temperature control. With a gas grill, you set the temperature. It's a science. With a charcoal grill you have to rely on experience and intuition, and the humidity matters and the arrangement of the coals matters and the tide matters etc etc. It's an art. At best. And if the grill starts running out of heat before you are done cooking that steak, well, you're basically boned. (Which is the short version of: you have to add more coals, which will take significant time to heat up and of course to add them you have to get the now red-hot grill off and the steak's still on it and of course it will fall off when you drop the grill because your hot pads have burst into flames on your hands and then caught your pants on fire and well, dinner will be late.)

And then today's barbeque underlined the third reason. Surface area. I had to cook in several shifts because of the limited space on my grill (limited further by the varying temperatures of the coals under the grill). First the eggplant, taken off and replaced by peppers, taken off and replaced by zucchini, taken off and replaced by corn, taken off and replaced by salmon, taken off and replaced by burgers. Double the surface area and assure an even temperature across that area, and dinner is cooked in a third of the time and served all at once instead of in relatively small courses.

So, we're going gas. Amusingly, it's my wife who has been the most in favor of this move. I'm at best ambivalent. I enjoy working with charcoal - there's something primitive about it. Something self-reliant. Something non-sissified. I've never longed for an extravagant grill to metaphorically enhance my penis. But the advantages are just too strong to resist any longer.

So, if anyone has any suggestions, I'll be happy to take them on the forum. I can give you rock-solid advice on selecting a charcoal grill, but for gas grills I do not even know what the features are, much less which ones I actually care about.

I do know that I looked at some of the gas grills at Sears and resolved not to buy any of them because of their massive flimsiness. Sheet metal covers that wobbled and were visibily longing to rust. I'm not buying a cheap grill. Of course, neither do I want one with bells and whistles that I don't care about. I am studly because I bench press 225, not because my grill has a built-in gyros rotisserie.

Though I do love me some gyros. I wonder how much one of those rotisseries would cost...

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra