Pro’s and Con’s of Outdoor Cooking Styles

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If you’re even somewhat of an “outdoorsy” type of person, male or female, then you’re probably a big fan warm days outside with family & friends  and cooking your favorite meats and veggies over a controlled flame. Let’s face it, fire makes the world go around and it’s not just for keeping warm. Since the days of the caveman, man has been trying different ways to harness that fire for a multitude of different manufacturing industries, producing energy, heating and cooking. Today we’re gonna focus on the latter……..cooking. More specifically, Outdoor Cooking and the four most popular avenues for preparing your favorite meals on the grill, smoker or over an open flame. So let’s begin with my absolute favorite…..

1. Charcoal Grills:   I completely understand that this is not everybody’s favorite method for grilling and it can be a cumbersome process and somewhat of a learning curve to get it down right for the flavor you desire. Once you learn the process, I think you’ll agree the flavors you can produce are simply amazing. One can even add his/her favorite wood for that extra smoky flavor with a smoker box full of wood chips. Personally, I just add a stick of cherry, apple, hickory or mesquite on one end of my grill and over the charcoal for a rich and bold smoke flavor. Placing the wood over the charcoal creates an open flame at the end of the grill that is perfect for putting that final sear on my medium-well steak.  Charcoal can be a bit messy to get your grill started and at the clean-up process, but, the extra effort is absolutely worth it.

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2. Gas Grills Gas grills  come in all shapes and sizes and are arguably one of the most convenient methods of outdoor cooking. Three different gas types fuel these grills, (butane, propane and natural gas), and they are all almost equal in the results produced. The main benefit of a gas grill is the obvious, instant heat. With the flick of the switch you can literally be grilling your favorite foods in seconds. And lets not forget the cleanup, no messy ashes to deal with cuts your cleanup time down considerably. And, like mentioned above, a smoke box can be utilized to achieve that smoky flavor that we all love so much. Another benefit is the flavor for those that just don’t care for the charcoal flavor or that don’t want the hassle of the extra mess that comes with utilizing charcoal.

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3. Pellet Smoker Grills:   Pellet grills are all the rage over the past few years and recent technology upgrades have brought the pellet grilling experience a long ways since the invention of the earlier models of years past. Pellet grills consist of a hopper that feeds compressed hardwood pellets into a fire box that provides the heat for grillin’. Some models have high capacity hoppers for 10 hours or more of hands-off slow cooking and smoking of pork butts, ribs, turkey and even wild game. Recent innovations in the pellet grilling experience have made this style of cooking so much more easy with the additions of meat probes, WiFi and even Bluetooth technology making it possible to oversee your cooking food without being “at  the grill”.  Cleanup for pellet grills is usually fairly simple and most come with a convenient ash tray for easy dumping. Keep in mind, most newer pellet grills require a power source for the auger the feeds the fire box, so creative placement of the grill may be necessary to be close to a power outlet.     ****(Hardwood pellets come in a wide variety of species for your desired taste, i.e. Oak, Mesquite, Cherry, Pecan, Apple, Hickory, Peach and even Custom Blends)****

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4. Open Fire Grilling:   Open fire cooking style has had many names over the years such as fire pits, camp grills, cowboy style grills and many more. The process is simple, just use some sort of cooking grate over an open fire fueled by wood only. This style of grilling, like the others listed, can be direct or indirect cooking. We’ve all seen the old cast iron soup kettle hanging from a tripod over an open fire and the homemade rotisseries used in the old western movies behind the chuck wagon. It’s really a simple process, but very effective and produces the same results as any modern day grill, just with a little more work involved.  But if you don’t care for the smoky flavor, this style of cooking probably isn’t for you. This process also uses none of the modern fuel types, only relying on the original fuel source for all things cooking and heating related. As long as you have access to your favorite kind of cooking wood, this process is as satisfying as any of the others and the cleanup is minimal.

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It all comes down to taste, preference and lifestyles. None of these cooking styles is right for everyone, but each of them are right for someone. If you’re not experienced in outdoor cooking, I would encourage you to at least try each of them and when you decide on a favorite cooking style, you can master your own individual techniques. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next Emeril, Valerie, Gordon, Martha or Giada.                                                            Whatever you decide, relax, have fun and be you!

At mybackyardlifestyle.com, we welcome your comments, suggestions and experiences. Feel free to share your thoughts, favorite grilling recipes, favorite drink recipes, desserts, games and stories.

“What’s in YOUR backyard”?