The great outdoors: A complete outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles features a spectacular grill from Alfresco. Photo courtesy of Aitoro Appliance & Electronics

For many folks, grilling is a favorite way to cook meals during the long, hot days of summer. From weeknight dinners to weekend barbeques, many home cooks enjoy preparing foods al fresco, and they take advantage of the smoky flavors and textures achievable through grilling. Most people are probably familiar with the classic gas and charcoal grills, but there are many other types including electric, infrared gas, and pellet, to name a few.  

For homeowners in the market for a new grill, Tom Sato, owner of Wilton Hardware (wiltonhardware.com) in Wilton, provides some insight into the pros and cons of the two major types. “Charcoal grills will be less expensive than gas grills and provide a nice smoky flavor. However, it is harder to control the temperature range during the cooking process,” he explains, adding, “gas grills are easy to use — you turn it on, heat to the desired temperature, and you’re ready to cook. The ease of operation keeps many users grilling longer during the colder months.” When it comes to maintaining your grill, Sato recommends cleaning grates after each use regardless of type. He also suggests doing an overall cleaning at least once every season to keep the grill in good working condition. The most popular seller is the Weber gas grill, but Sato says that “a great quality grill will last a long time with normal seasonal upkeep.”

Barry Coleman, retail manager for Weed & Duryea (www.nbslumber.com) in New Canaan, observes that traditional gas grills like Weber are easier to use, particularly for quick dinners during the week. While charcoal grills tend to be more time consuming, “true grill enthusiasts tend to prefer lump charcoal,” he explains. Charcoal provides an all natural, chemical free cooking experience. In addition to the two classic styles, a third option also exists: the Big Green Egg. This versatile grill is a three-in-one appliance. You can use the Big Green Egg for regular barbequing, as a smoker, or as a conventional oven. “You can even cook pizza in it!” Coleman states. Whatever your grill preference, Coleman emphasizes the importance of bringing your meats to room temperature before grilling and, if you are using a gas grill, be sure to heat the grill for at least ten minutes before grilling the meat. He also suggests adding smoking chips to the grill to add a nice smoky flavor to meats.

A high-end grill set inside some beautiful sliding barn doors will make for a happy chef. Photo courtesy of William Raveis RE, Westport.

Sarah Scott, manager of Ridgefield Hardware (ridgefieldhardware.com) in Ridgefield, has some additional tips for folks who plan on grilling a lot this summer. Scott explains that folks can find recipes for grilling, smoking, roasting, or baking in the Big Green Egg, as well as cooking techniques for this particular grill, at biggreenegg.com. In terms of general grill maintenance, she says, “It’s good to use a wire brush to clean the grate after each use.” Additionally, at Ridgefield Hardware “we offer assembly and delivery as well as a huge assortment of accessories.”

At County TV and Appliance (countytv.com) in Stamford, general manager Sean Rosen identifies three grilling segments. First are the charcoal grills, which have evolved over time. “You’re no longer pouring a chemical lighter fluid on the charcoal but rather are using a chimney starter of charcoal and newspaper to slowly heat the coals,” he explains. “Prep for charcoal grills can take anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes, but the flavor in the end is worth it.”

Next are the Weber gas grills for the “weekend grillers,” as Sean refers to them. “You simply turn on the grill, throw on some steaks or pork chops, and before you know it, dinner’s served,” Sean says. “They’re finely tuned machines, not at all like those old boxes that were hot in one spot and cold in another.” Today’s gas grills also feature bells and whistles like side burners, rotisseries, and higher BTUs for searing.

Finally, some homeowners are choosing to bring the entire indoor kitchen outside, with high end grills from Lynx, a manufacturer that sponsors the New York Yankees. “These grills are robust, and you can go from low to high heat instantly on them,” Sean says, “which is great for searing a very thick steak.” Griddles, lobster pots, gas fired pizza ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, wine coolers, and more can also be incorporated, making for the ideal outdoor entertainment area…there’s almost no reason to go inside. “There really is a grill for every type of outdoor cook and every budget,” Sean notes.

The Weber chimney starter quickly and evenly heats charcoal. Photo courtesy of County TV and Appliance.

Joseph Pace runs the Darien Butcher Shop (darienbutchershop.com) in Darien, and he offers the following tips when it comes to grilling: “Always use medium-high heat when you are grilling meat, and let the meat rest for five to ten minutes.” Pace explains that “the heat of the grill chases the blood out of the meat.” Allowing the meat to rest after it has been removed from the grill results in an equal heat distribution which results in an even color.

Pace also offers some advice for achieving the desired temperature. “Look for plumes of blood on the top side. Two to three plumes mean the meat has reached medium rare. More plumes equals more cooked,” he says, adding that some of his favorite cuts of meat for summer grilling include flat iron steak, which has a lot of flavor, and tri-tip, which is tender and versatile. Pace also suggests using olive oil and “liberally seasoning meats with salt and pepper” before placing them on the grill. Darien Butcher Shop considers itself an old-school butcher shop, and carries local, grass-fed meats and custom cuts and blends.