The ultimate gas grill . . . is there such a thing?
With the flip of the switch, and no wait for charcoal to light, obviously gas grills provide certain advantages over their charcoal counterparts. But do they do more?
Meet Turbo (the Aussie Barbie) and Genesis. They're the cream of the crop . . . top-of-the-line outdoor gas grills. Each of them boasts added features you may have dreamed of in a barbecue.
One Australian native who's been in the barbecue business for about 14 years dreamed of an ultimate "barbie" that could grill, smoke, fry, wok-cook and even bake foods. He had a gas barbecue custom-made Down Under and then shipped to California. He called it "Turbo, the Aussie Barbie."
"It evolved in Australia and I added the finishing touches to suit the outdoor-oriented California life style," says Stuart McDonald, president of Barbecues Galore, a supermarket of outdoor cookers.
As one of the most important features, he wanted an extra-large grill area. "In Australia, the grills tend to be bigger. Families and friends have potlucks on Sunday where guests bring their own steak, fish or shrimp to cook on the barbie."
Made of porcelain on steel and available as a built-in unit or set in a wooden cart, the Turbo comes in three models, according to size. You may select from three, four or five burners, with rectangular cooking surfaces measuring 500, 605 or 725 square inches. These have a heat output of 60,000, 80,000 to 100,000 BTU. Each unit has a control center so you get the convenience of using just one burner if desired for small-size cooking.
The sturdy-looking double-decked cart with two side trays is made from Jarrah wood, a hard and dense eucalyptus variety from Western Australia. "Used for railroad ties, the wood will last for years," says McDonald, who recommends an occasional rubbing of the wood with a linseed oil and alcohol solution.
For those who like to roast poultry on a spit, the Turbo offers a battery-operated heavy-duty rotisserie that can cook a few birds at one time. For covered cooking and baking, plus smoking capabilities, the Turbo is conveniently equipped with a domed hood. This comes in two sections; the front part can be rolled up or down. For large groups doing open grilling, the dome can be easily detached. A griddle plate for cooking is also available to replace the grids.
Since grease can build up on lava rocks after frequent use of the gas grill, imparting rancid tastes and aroma to the food, McDonald recommends occasional washing of the rocks and placing them in boiling water to steam-clean.
A second gas grill found interesting is the Genesis, which Weber recently introduced in the market. It's a revolutionary portable gas barbecue that eliminates the use of lava rock or pumice stone. It is hoped the new outdoor cooking appliance will solve complaints about uneven heating, frequent flare-ups and inconvenience in cleaning of the lava rock in gas grills.
What about flavor? "It's true outdoor barbecue flavor," says Charlie Anderson representing the Weber-Stephen Products Co. in Los Angeles. "The food always comes out more juicy and therefore more flavorful--less charred but you still have the caramelization of the fat juices."
The product revolves around a system called the Flavorizer. The theory is that barbecue taste does not come from charcoal or lava rock. It comes from the fats and juices in meats that drip on the coals then smoke. In the Genesis, Flavorizer steel bars replace lava rock. As the fats from the meats (or flavorful juices from any food) fall onto the bars, they vaporize and produce enough smoke and aroma to create the barbecue flavor.
Made of porcelain-coated steel that is rust resistant, the bars are positioned two layers deep in the chamber underneath the cooking grill. They are shaped and angled in such a way that excess juices flow into the drip pan underneath. The three-burner grill has a 540-square-inch cooking area with 36,000 BTU heat output. There are triple controls for back, center and front grilling. For lighting one, two or all three burners with one button, there's the Crossover Ignition System. All three burners can be used for grilling steaks, whereas two can be used for indirect cooking as in roasting. Having burners producing heat from corner to corner makes for even, precise grilling, which is not always achieved when barbecuing.
Finally, a bonus for people who become frustrated with running out of gas while cooking, the Genesis includes a scale that measures gas by the hanging weight of the tank.
Set on carts with attractive high grill hoods of assorted colors, the Weber gas appliances are available in three selections, Genesis I, II and III. The top of the line offers a mounted range-type burner with separate control and igniter. Also used as a warming burner, the unit is perfect for making sauces, side dishes and coffee outdoors. Flavorizer bars and cooking grill can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
The Turbo Aussie Barbie series has suggested retail prices ranging from $319 to $799 and is exclusively available at Barbecues Galore in Torrance, Tarzana and Santa Fe Springs.
The Weber Genesis series has suggested retail prices ranging from $399 to $549. The units are available at most Builder's Emporium, Barbecues Galore and Ole's. For more information about the store nearest your area, call this toll-free number: (800) 642-6230.