Whether you’re perched on a rock overlooking the lake or gathered around the picnic table on the deck, there’s something quintessentially cottagey about al fresco dining. Your grill is an essential part of that outdoor eating—cooking over flames is an important element of reconnecting with nature that marks the perfect cottage weekend.
So how do you decide what grill is best for your getaway? Charcoal or gas? Metal or ceramic? What size is right for your family? And what about accessories?
Both gas and charcoal have pros and cons associated with them. Charcoal grills tend to give a better flavour to meat. They also cook hotter, and they smell better. Plus, they have a certain retro appeal to them that’s ideal for the cottage. They can be messy, though, and they take a longer time to heat up—which is no fun when you’re craving a quick bite.
Gas grills, on the other hand, light faster, heat up more quickly, and provide a consistent heat. They don’t impart as much flavour as charcoal, and they deprive you, just a little, of that primal thrill of cooking over a more traditional flame.
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which barbecue is best. Beyond the basics, ask yourself the following questions:
How accessible is my cottage?
If your cottage is only accessible by boat, you might think twice about that $2,700 six-burner model with 768 square inches of cooking space. And never mind that nifty ceramic kamado-style grill that works great but weighs 140 pounds. Let’s face it—a charcoal kettle and a bag of briquettes is a lot easier to haul across the lake or up the river.
Do I need to be able to cook quickly?
Depending on whether you have kids, and whether those kids get rowdy if they have to wait for dinner, you may want to forego a charcoal grill for the convenience of a gas model. Even better—although slightly more expensive—hook your gas grill up to your cottage’s natural gas line (if you’ve got one), and you’ll never have to worry about running out of propane again.
How much money do I have?
Charcoal kettles tend to be cheaper than gas barbecues. (You can get a tiny version for $40, whereas a basic gas model will cost you about $150.)
Do I need something portable?
There are portable gas and charcoal models available. If you don’t want to have to cart around your fuel—and you’ll be somewhere with an electrical outlet—consider an electric grill. Just make sure you get one that will heat up enough to sear a steak—in the case of electric grills, you tend to get what you pay for.
Do I want to show off to my friends?
C’mon—grilling is just a tiny bit theatrical. If you want to impress the grillerati among your friends, pick up a Big Green Egg. This ceramic kamado-style kettle has serious cachet among those who take grilling seriously—and a price tag to match.
Some folks decide to go with both types of grills—a gas one for when supper needs to be on the table quickly, like after a day spent fishing, and a charcoal kettle for when dinner can take a little longer.
Whatever type of grill you choose, there’s nothing that beats the sound of sizzle and the smell of smoke. Chow down and enjoy.