It’s the time of year many of us begin cooking outdoors. Cooking outside is a fun way to gather with friends and also helps keep your house cooler in the summer. While buying a grill is simple, it’s good to know the differences between your options. You may even decide to purchase more than one type depending on your needs. Here are 4 types of outdoor cooking appliances to compare.

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills are classic for outdoor cooking. For purists, they are the only type of grill to use. Food is cooked over smoldering lump charcoal or briquettes, resulting in a smoky flavor.

A charcoal grill can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes to heat up before the coals are ready to cook on. For this reason, it may not be the best choice for people with a busy schedule. If you have a short amount of time to cook dinner and want to cook outside often, you might be better off buying a gas cooking appliance.

The Most Popular Outdoor Cooking Appliances: Gas Grills

Gas grills use propane or natural gas for fuel. They are popular because it only takes a moment to ignite the grill and it is ready for use after preheating for just 10-15 minutes. Gas grills come in many sizes and can be hooked up to a natural gas line or fueled with propane tanks. If you want to grill outdoors for most meals and keep it simple and efficient, a gas grill is right for you.

Smokers are Specialized Outdoor Cooking Appliances

Smoking meat is a serious hobby for enthusiasts. It takes hours to smoke meat, as it is cooked low and slow. For this reason, many households have a smoker in addition to a grill. There are multiple types of smokers from traditional wood-burning smokers to digital pellet smokers. New high-tech devices can even be controlled remotely from your smart device. Generally, smokers are the most expensive type of outdoor cooking appliance.

Flat Top

An outdoor flat top is similar to a gas grill except that the food is cooked over a flat surface instead of grates. A large, flat griddle plate made of cast iron or stainless steel heats up over gas burners.

With a flat top grill, you can cook a variety of foods without worrying about pieces falling through the grates. Chopped-up vegetables, fried rice, and hash browns are all easily cooked on a flat top, along with traditional grilling foods like burgers, steaks, and hot dogs.

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