Charcoal or gas, smoker or grill. Those terms can heat up a great debate in a gathering of diehard barbecue aficionados. The materials used to make the grill can also stir up debate. Cave men dug a hole in the ground and burnt wood, so soil was probably the very first grill material used. Grills today are typically made of one of five materials. When you choose a grill, select one made with materials that will provide the best results for the type of grilling you do most frequently.
Brick is a common material used by do-it-yourself home grill builders and often referred to as a barbecue "pit." Brick grills often have an open, exposed grilling grate. They have a concrete slab foundation, and the bricks are laid with mortar, using traditional masonry techniques. A brick pit grill is typically built in a rectangular U-shape. The centre area has an elevated grate for the charcoal or wood, and a food grate is set about 1 foot above. Both grates are made of either cast iron or steel.
Enamel grills became popular in the early 1950s when George Stephen introduced the world to the Weber grill. The classic Weber grill looks like a big black circle with a flip-top lid. Stephens worked at the Weber Brothers Metal Works, just outside of Chicago as a welder. His early and humble beginnings as a welder enabled him to design and make the Weber grill. The style of the classic Weber grill is referred to as a "kettle." The earliest enamel Weber grills used charcoal, only. In the 21st century, some versions can be fuelled by propane and come in other styles and shapes in addition to the classic kettle.
Sheet metal is another favourite material used by DIY grill makers. The metal is shaped like an oil drum. In fact, some DIY grill makers actually use oil drums to make grills. These types of grills are commonly seen in the southern and southwestern regions of the United States. The cylindrical, drum shape is positioned horizontally, and the drum is cut in half and hinged on the back, and a handle is on the front for flipping the top section open. These grills have a short stovepipe on the rear left side for ventilation. Some have an additional door vent on the front. The drum is set on a stand made of metal pipes. Food grates are typically made of cast iron or steel. Charcoal or wood is used for heat.
Cast iron grills date back to ancient times in Asia and are commonly called hibachi grills. Hibachi is a Japanese word that translates to mean "fire bowl." Traditional hibachis are small and rectangular. In Asian cultures, the hibachi is traditionally used to cook thinly sliced meats and chicken and to chargrill vegetables. In the 21st century, cast iron hibachi grills are commonly used in the United States by people who live in apartments with limited outdoor space and those with campers because of the small size and portability of hibachis.
Stainless steel is the newest of all grill materials. Most gas grills are made of stainless steel. Many restaurants and commercial mobile grill businesses use stainless steel grills. Stainless steel gas grills are often chosen by homeowners for the quick-start convenience that propane gas provides. Stainless steel grills are commonly selected for building high-end outdoor kitchens for upscale homeowners.