Outdoor grills are more versatile than ever

The Associated Press
Saturday May 18, 2002

Outdoor grills aren’t just for flame-broiled burgers and steaks anymore. 

Today’s grill is the appliance of choice for varied menus featuring veggies, pancakes, pizza and grilled corn-on-the-cob. These high-tech, multipurpose gotta-have units will even keep marinade bubbly. 

Grills are hot. 

And today’s cooks treat high-end grills as a year-round extension of their kitchen according to the chief griller at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. 

“Homeowners are definitely headed toward the high-performance upper-end grill,” says Marybeth Cornwell, merchandising vice president, outdoor fashion for Lowe’s. “Consumers see grills as another kitchen appliance, and they want it to look like one.” 

Gas models account for the majority of all grills sold, although sales of charcoal units remain robust. 

While grill prices range from $124 to nearly $900, Cornwell says consumers do get more for their propane-powered dollar. Stainless steel and cast aluminum shells with porcelain and powder-coat finishes are rust-resistant. Better parts extend the useful life of grills. Some frames are warranted as long as 99 years. Multiple burners are the norm. Heat output ranges from 22,000 to a sizzling 55,000 BTUs. Secondary burners to keep sauces hot are commonplace. And forget hard-to-start charcoal. Push-button electronic starters or rotary ignitions are standard. New accessories don’t limit grills to dinner-only use. 

Home chefs flip morning pancakes and eggs on optional griddles. Chili simmers at noon on special side burners, and evening pizzas bake in custom deep-dish pans.  

Grills are taller to provide more rotisserie and smoking options. Outdoor cooking even has a holiday flavor: cooks have learned how tasty Thanksgiving turkeys are when prepared on the grill or in a separate turkey fryer. These turkey techniques free up ovens for other dishes, too. 

Grilling is more than a warm season phenomena. Most homeowners grill all year long. Part of grilling’s 12-month popularity is comfort related: outdoor cooking keeps kitchens cool, thereby reducing utility bills. 

Homeowners even create permanent patio-side shrines to grilling. Grills, separate burner units and other kitchen-like components are built directly into masonry or stucco islands where entire meals are prepared. 

But the outdoor nature of grilling means some maintenance is necessary. Cornwell suggests grills be covered when not in use to ward off rain and marauding insects. 

“We see more and more consumers asking for better and better grills,” says Cornwell. “High end grills have been wildly successful, and why not? As they say, everything tastes better when it’s cooked outside. That won’t change anytime soon.”