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THE SENSIBLE HOME

Mega-Grills Can Cook an Entire Meal

May 14, 2000|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: My kitchen overheated last summer along with our utility bills when I cooked big meals. I would like to cook more meals outdoors. What new barbecue grills are available that I can cook a full meal on?

Answer: People often do not realize that cooking a large meal in your kitchen produces as much heat as running a small furnace. If you cook with gas, a lot of moisture is also created. This makes anyone uncomfortable and forces your air conditioner to run longer, driving up your electric bills.

Most barbecue grills at home-center stores are probably less than what you really need. I recently attended a lawn and garden show. They cooked entire meals on a large barbecue grill. Even the cherry strudel was delicious.

The concept that you are looking for is sometimes called an "outdoor kitchen system." Many of these larger grills have extra side burners and a modular design. Interchangeable cooking modules include a cast-iron griddle, porcelain cooking pot, wok, paella pan, wire roast holders, etc.

If your budget is limited, consider a medium-priced grill to basically roast, grill or smoke your meat items. You can still use your kitchen range for the other items that cook quicker for less heat buildup.

For the novice barbecuer, choose a new electronic digital grill. It has a computerized temperature probe. You input the type of meat and whether you like it rare, medium or well-done. Periodically insert the probe into the meat as it cooks. It beeps when the meat is perfectly done.

Cooking meat over various types of hardwoods and gourmet-flavored charcoals can give meats unique and distinctive flavors. Look for a grill that indicates it is designed to burn wood in addition to standard charcoal.

Pellet/corn grills are clean and inexpensive to operate. They use a similar design to a pellet stove that heats a house. A 10-pound bag of pellets lasts for five cookouts. Fifty cents worth of corn burns for seven hours. When you switch it on, it reaches cooking/smoker temperature in five minutes.

A small motor (only 50 watts) feeds the pellets into the fire pot and pulls air through the unit. There is a baffle above it to distribute the heat and eliminate flare-ups. A smoker switch slows the air flow to smoke the meat. Tailgate models are available that are powered by a 12-volt car battery.

If you are interested in wood/charcoal models that start easily, look for optional mini-propane starter tanks. Another feature, often called flame tamer or flavorizer bars, reduces flare-ups, vaporizes grease and evens out the heat.

Write for (download http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 604, a buyer's guide of 12 barbecue grill manufacturers, maximum heat outputs, cooking surface sizes, features, prices and nine suppliers of gourmet natural flavored wood/charcoal. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Blocking Air Registers Can Save on Energy

Q: My two sons are going on a trip for the summer and their bedrooms will not be used. Does it make sense to close off all the air registers to the rooms or will that throw off the blower?

A: In general, it does make sense to block the cooled air flow to the rooms. Two rooms is about the maximum number to shut off or you will reduce the air flow through the cooling coils too much.

Don't forget to close off any air-return registers in the rooms. Because they do not have adjustable louvers, tape a piece of cardboard over the return registers. You might do the same for the outlet registers.

James Dulley has written a new 208-page book, "Earth Friendly Home," which include buyers' guides on 460 manufacturers of alternative energy and Y2K products, 21 low-cost conservation projects and 10 landscaping plans. You can order this book directly from James Dulley for $13.95 (includes delivery) with check payable to James Dulley. Mail to James Dulley, Earth Books, P.O. Box 54987, Cincinnati, OH 45254 or visit http://www.dulley.com/earth.htm.

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