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Kettle Grills - Go Cheap or High(er) End
Old 07-03-2011, 07:39 AM   #1
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Kettle Grills - Go Cheap or High(er) End

I am looking at charcoal grills. Considering a Kettle Style charcoal grill for grilling and offset/indirect smoking.

Because of my thrifty nature... I consider the options.

I am going to stay away from options like the Big Green Egg.... I just can't bring myself to spend that amount of money on a charcoal grill... I am just a Sunday grill guy... but it looks nice!!

So I am considering the typical steel kettle with the ash remover.

The three I have been looking at in order of cost (perhaps in features and likely in features, quality, and add-on accessories available)

  1. Weber Gold Touch - Amazon.com: Weber 751001 22.5-Inch One-Touch Gold Charcoal Grill, Black: Home & Garden Cost
  2. Masterbuilt - Amazon.com: Weber 751001 22.5-Inch One-Touch Gold Charcoal Grill, Black: Home & Garden
  3. Uni-flame - Walmart.com: UniFlame 360 sq in Kettle Charcoal Grill, Black: Grills & Outdoor Cooking

The Weber appears to be the leader for fairly low cost kettle grills. It has a lot of add-on that one can buy to enhances its use. Not sure I will buy them though. About $147

In between is the Masterbuilt at about 40% less.. about $85

The cheap one (Uni-Flame) is only $40.... about 30% the cost of the weber. For that price... I could use it once and upgrade to the Masterbuilt and still have spent less money than the weber.

Anyone have experience with Kettle Grills in general?

Anyone ever had one of these grills and care to comment on how it worked out.

Thanks.
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:45 AM   #2
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I know you're not interested, but I bought a Big Green Egg a couple of months ago and absolutely love it. Used it a minimum of twice a week since getting it, and it does a better job than any grill I've ever used. The lifetime warranty is nice, too.
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Bullet Style...
Old 07-03-2011, 09:03 AM   #3
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Bullet Style...

rather than kettle style may be better. It's really a matter of opinion but I've heard several people say the bullet style is ultimately better than the kettle style.

There are various brands of the bullet style. Some more expensive than others. Be sure to consider the size of the opening for the drip pan, charcoal, etc.
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Old 07-03-2011, 09:39 AM   #4
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I'm not a "griller" at all. My last purchase was a $99 special gas unit from Sears, which I use three times a year (Memorial, 4th, Labor Days) for a couple of burgers/steaks for DW/me.

However, I do enjoy Guy Fieri on the two networrk food channels, and I see he has an article in today's Parade Magazine.

FWIW:

Watch Guy Fieri's Exclusive Video Tips | Dashrecipes.com

In keeping with the time of year (regadless of your cooking/stove medium)...
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Old 07-03-2011, 09:55 AM   #5
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I bought my daughter a Weber charcoal grill as a shower present . That was six years ago and it is still going strong .
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:11 AM   #6
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If you anticipate keeping your kettle grill a long time (decades as opposed to years), go for the basic Weber kettle. Ours is 38 years old and has only recently showed any signs of corrosion. It has always been stored outdoors uncovered. If you're thinking you will only have it a few years, go for the cheapo as long as it has the features you want.



Quote:
I am looking at charcoal grills. Considering a Kettle Style charcoal grill for grilling and offset/indirect smoking.

BTW, you can't really "smoke" meats on a kettle. You need a smoker for that and they work great. My son and I will be using his to do 3 racks of baby back ribs, a good sized pork butt (for pulled pork) and a chicken tomorrow. I buy the meat and supplies, he gets up at 3:00 AM to get things going so we can eat by mid-afternoon. I'm definitely the winner on that!

Don't confuse smoking and cooking via indirect heat.
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:12 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chinaco
Because of my thrifty nature... I consider the options.
You look at Craigslist?
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:16 AM   #8
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I used the Weber Silver (IIRC) for years and loved it. It is the basic one with a removable ash-catcher. Buy a chimney starter, also from Weber, to get the charcoal going - it is just about $10-20 - and it will save you a lot of time & effort. I didn't get any other accessory though a thermometer would have been nice.
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:19 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by youbet View Post
BTW, you can't really "smoke" meats on a kettle. You need a smoker for that and they work great. My son and I will be using his to do 3 racks of baby back ribs, a good sized pork butt (for pulled pork) and a chicken tomorrow. I buy the meat and supplies, he gets up at 3:00 AM to get things going so we can eat by mid-afternoon. I'm definitely the winner on that!

Don't confuse smoking and cooking via indirect heat.
It seems that one can grill and smoke. But it not be optimum for smoking. There are a number of cheating techniques that achieve a decent result...

Maintain the low temp is likely to be the biggest challenge.

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Old 07-03-2011, 11:18 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by chinaco View Post
It seems that one can grill and smoke. But it not be optimum for smoking. There are a number of cheating techniques that achieve a decent result...

Maintain the low temp is likely to be the biggest challenge.
IMO, unless you're space constrained (such as having only an apartment or condo balcony), it's not worth trying to use "cheating techniques" to smoke meat. Smokers and grills aren't expensive and, as you say, compromising will likely give only "decent" results when what you're looking for is excellence.

Like all hobbies, grilling and smoking (and cooking in general) expertise results in eventual recoginition of subtle differences that in the beginning you didn't even realize existed.

Having said all that, I'll add that sometimes I just don't have a taste for smoked meat and prefer, for example, a slow cooked (over a low, indirect fire) entree. This is true especially with chicken where just a hint of smokiness does it for me lately...... as opposed to ribs where I prefer lotsa smokiness and a dry rub with considerable kick.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:27 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by youbet View Post
If you anticipate keeping your kettle grill a long time (decades as opposed to years), go for the basic Weber kettle. Ours is 38 years old and has only recently showed any signs of corrosion. It has always been stored outdoors uncovered. If you're thinking you will only have it a few years, go for the cheapo as long as it has the features you want.
This sounds like good advice to me. I have a (broken) el-cheapo grill and next time I will buy something more substantial.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chinaco View Post
It seems that one can grill and smoke. But it not be optimum for smoking. There are a number of cheating techniques that achieve a decent result...

Maintain the low temp is likely to be the biggest challenge.

This lady looks like she might lay off the baked beans and potatoe salad, and just stick with the pulled pork.

I went to some barbecue contests 10 or 15 years ago, and looked at the chefs and decided that I really didn't want to get into any activity that made its practioners look like those guys. Why spend a lot of effort and some money to get fat?
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:30 AM   #13
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I went to some barbecue contests 10 or 15 years ago, and looked at the chefs and decided that I really didn't want to get into any activity that made its practioners look like those guys. Why spend a lot of effort and some money to get fat?
We're painting with a broad BBQ brush today, aren't we?
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:35 AM   #14
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We're painting with a broad BBQ brush today, aren't we?
Well, obviously not everyone who cooks barbecue gets fat. I am just recounting my observation, and my thoughts at the time. These were guys who were very into it, as kind of a lifestyle like some other people might be into running, or bicycling or single malt whisky. Dedicated runners tend to share a physical and to some degree a personality type. I saw that dedicated barbecue guys did too, at least at that time and place and wrt physical characteristics. I was not motivated enough to find out more, since I can get better barbecue than I could ever make at a local shack and I rarely do that anyway. When I used to have relatives in TX I got my barbecue fix for a while in one visit.

If I went to a whisky tasting event and most of the guys were drunk, I would pass on this activity too. My expectation is that if I do something, I am more likely than not to come to resemble resemble others who do it.

Ha
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:58 AM   #15
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Well, obviously not everyone who cooks barbecue gets fat.
Probably more likely everyone who EATS BBQ gets fat.

Weber is the gold standard in kettles and they are very versatile. Are you going to be grilling or BBQing. Grilling is direct heat, fast cooking like steaks and kabobs. BBQing is slow cooking, usually with smoke, like ribs and brisket. The Weber will do both well, but a gas grill will grill better and easier and there are dedicated smokers that will BBQ better.

A consideration is the size. You'd be surprised how much more you can fit on a 22 inch grill than an 18 inch grill. If you are cooking for one or two go for the small one. If you plan on entertaining or have a fmaily the bigger Weber is better.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:59 AM   #16
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This is not exactly what you're looking for, since it's not charcoal and not a kettle, but I think it's nice: "Meco 9325 Deluxe Electric Cart Grill", $148 from Amazon. There's a rotisserie, and the heating element rotates up to get it out of the way of drippings.
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:11 PM   #17
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IMO, unless you're space constrained (such as having only an apartment or condo balcony), it's not worth trying to use "cheating techniques" to smoke meat. Smokers and grills aren't expensive and, as you say, compromising will likely give only "decent" results when what you're looking for is excellence.

Like all hobbies, grilling and smoking (and cooking in general) expertise results in eventual recoginition of subtle differences that in the beginning you didn't even realize existed.

Having said all that, I'll add that sometimes I just don't have a taste for smoked meat and prefer, for example, a slow cooked (over a low, indirect fire) entree. This is true especially with chicken where just a hint of smokiness does it for me lately...... as opposed to ribs where I prefer lotsa smokiness and a dry rub with considerable kick.
You could convince me. My current grill (Propane) is either ready for the scrap heap or a major overhaul. It was a cheap one. It lasted 10 years. But the overhaul is almost the price of a new one.

So I was thinking about a charcoal grill as a replacement....

Thought I might get two for one.

Maybe the bullet style would be a better solution. It can be used as a grill... I think.
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:30 PM   #18
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I have 2 one touch weber grills, one is over 30 yrs old and another from a friend that didn't use it anymore, he was gonna trash it, so he saved it for us. We use it to cook 15-20 lb brined turkeys and ribs on it. I get more than enough smoked flavor by soaking wood for a few hours then adding it to the charcoal. In fact, one year, I used too much wood and I got an overly smoked turkey! I've since learned not to overdo the wood. I've only used hickory and apple woods, apple is much less intense on the smoky flavor. I decided to try indirect cooking with ribs and apple wood and the ribs came out like TX brisket....lean and drier. Was very pleased with the results and will try it again the next time. We have a gas grill too, but use it mainly for burgers and hot dogs.
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:36 PM   #19
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I have 2 one touch weber grills, one is over 30 yrs old and another from a friend that didn't use it anymore, he was gonna trash it, so he saved it for us. We use it to cook 15-20 lb brined turkeys and ribs on it. I get more than enough smoked flavor by soaking wood for a few hours then adding it to the charcoal. In fact, one year, I used too much wood and I got an overly smoked turkey! I've since learned not to overdo the wood. I've only used hickory and apple woods, apple is much less intense on the smoky flavor. I decided to try indirect cooking with ribs and apple wood and the ribs came out like TX brisket....lean and drier. Was very pleased with the results and will try it again the next time. We have a gas grill too, but use it mainly for burgers and hot dogs.

How did you cook your Brisket?? Indirect heat with a water pan?
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Old 07-03-2011, 12:59 PM   #20
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My favorite grill for many years was a very cheap kettle. More expensive grills didn't seem to be as reliable in holding and focusing the heat evenly, so I think this is something that you may not know until you use it. On the other hand, the cheap grill did eventually burn through with corrosion, so maybe more expensive ones are better protected. Again, something you may not be able to determine until you use them for years.
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