Posts Tagged ‘cold weather cooking’

Contemplating Electric Grills

July 15, 2011
Danver Outdoor Kitchen for Condo

Electric Grill on Balcony

There are many instances when people are unable to use a charcoal or gas grill at their home. Typically this occurs in apartment complexes and condominiums that have balconies. Usually these spaces are somewhat small and many have restrictive codes that don’t allow cooking over an open flame for fear of fire or smoke. However, these homeowners like to entertain as much as first floor dwellers. The answer may be an electric grill.

Understanding how these grills work can help you make a decision on a manufacturer. To help understand the challenges, consider how conventional grills typically work (either gas or charcoal). Generally, when cooking directly over the heat source, they must heat the air between the heat source and the food (convection) which is why you have to prehet the grills with the cover down. To retain the heat during cooking, the cover is also closed periodically. (For a discussion of Infrared grilling where the top is left up, refer to an earlier blog post.) Consistent temperature is hard to hold when relying on convection heating, so many grill manufacturers use techniques to even out the heat. Some use a series of ceramic briquettes, angled “flavorizer” bars and the like. These help reduce flare-ups because they catch some of the dripping juices and fat which is then vaporized and returned to the food to add flavor. These techniques vary in success, but they don’t overcome the inherent weakness of relying on the air being heated to cook the food. If it is cold out or somewhat windy, the heating can be inconsistent causing hot and cold spots or the grill just may not get hot enough to cook the food without drying it out. (This is where infrared grilling shines. The heat is consistent and the cooking times repeatable.)

Looking at the electric grill, its heat source is a heating element like you might see in a toaster oven but heavier duty. One of the key issues with electric grills is whether to get a 220v or a 120v. Conventional wisdom says 220v is better because it can get the element hotter than 120v, but many balconies don’t already have that installed so it can be an expensive retrofit. If it is new construction it can be less expensive, but these types of add-ons are not typically part of the original fit-out in the condo. Many people are stuck with looking at 120v units. Regardless of the voltage, these grills suffer the same heat retention issues as conventional grills, with the added burden of not getting as hot as gas or charcoal. It can be similar to having an outdoor toaster oven with the element about 3 inches from the food. This makes it hard to sear the food which helps retain the food’s moisture, so it is drying out as it cooks. The open element also can cause flare ups and smoke when juices and fat drip on it.

A few manufacturers have approached the heating differently. They have moved the heating element up to and touching the bottom of the cooking surface. This serves 2 purposes: 1. The heat is transferred directly to the cooking surface (the complete surface doesn’t vary by more than 3 degrees) making it hotter than the other method of heating the air, and 2. The cooking surface shields the element from drips which cause flare ups and smoke. This type of electric grill is a better design and can get as hot as 600F.  Since they are 120v though, the limitations are typically the size of the cooking area. Some manufacturers have recently come out with double-sized grills which each require a 120v outlet with the appropriate circuits (still easier and less expensive than installing a 220v circuit). In addition, some manufacturers have developed a Ceran (glass) top side burner as an accessory to their electric grills.

I hope this discussion helps you make your decision when researching and purchasing an electric grill.

Advertisements

Global “Grill” Warming: Danver’s Firing Up Your Grill in the Dead of Winter

December 21, 2009
Danver grill

Solaire Infrared burner

As the days get shorter and darker, you might begin to long for those balmy summer months – including, of course, those outdoor days filled with fun in the sun and the mouth-watering smell of grilled delicacies permeating the air.

While we might not be able to make the sun shine brighter, Danver is happy to say that we can add a little “warmth” to your holiday season with our year-round outdoor kitchen products. Infrared grilling technology stays hot, even in the colder weather, and heats your food as if it was Christmas in July.

Danver has been associated with Solaire Grills by Rasmussen Iron Works for almost 10 years. We have come to view infrared grilling technology as the best way to grill using direct heat. With the proliferation of specialty cooking appliances for outdoor use, many people are choosing the best cooking appliances for each cooking style. This means, in most cases, appliances that come from different manufacturers in the same outdoor kitchen (a story for another blog; check out our cooking options).

 Traditional grill burners get hot over a long warm-up period and typically only get up to 600-800 degrees F. Since they produce heat over a relatively small area and transfer that heat into secondary elements (ceramic briquettes, rods, lava rock, etc.) in an attempt to heat the grilling area evenly, hot spots are common and much of the burner heat is reflected downward. The result is circulating hot air, or convection cooking, causing your food to dry out.

The simplest way I have found to describe infrared cooking is to imagine charcoal when it is at its peak of heat. It is a red/orange glow with the highest heat it will produce giving you the ideal heat to sear the food. The problem with charcoal is that it is only peaks for a short time before it starts to lose temperature. With an infrared grill, you can get the great flavor of an intensely-hot charcoal fire with the control, convenience and consistency of gas, and it only takes 3 minutes to heat up! This heat (1200-1300 degrees F) gives a true sear, sealing in the juices of whatever it is you are cooking; steak, fish, chicken, pork or vegetables. Infrared energy actually drives moisture away from the surface and deep into the item being grilled. This process enhances flavor and creates a succulence that is difficult to replicate with other cooking methods.  Interested in more details? Click here for the technical explanation of infrared cooking.

Cooking is time and temperature related and it is no different for grilling. The consistency of infrared burners gives you the same result every time you cook once you determine the time required at each temperature (high, medium and low). The burner always gives you the same temperature with no hot and cold spots, so you are not moving the food around the grates to guess at equalizing the cooking time on the hot and cold spots. One of my favorite recipes for summer and winter  is a flank steak marinated with Allegro Brand Marinade, searing each side on high for 2 1/2 minutes, and then finishing at Med-Low for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare–every time! The cooking time is the same no matter the air temperature!

Email us or call us at 203-269-2300 to find out more about our outdoor kitchen products,  infrared cooking in general, and Solaire in particular.

Here are some infrared grilling recipes to get you started:  Great Grilling Simplified.

Releasing you from the confinement of the indoors, expand your cuisine to include a few new holiday recipes.

From our grill to yours, here are some of our winter grilling favorites. Happy Holidays!

Bobby Flay’s Apple-Sage Glazed Grilled Turkey

Paula Deen’s Pork Tenderloin with Orange and Soy

Gale Gand’s Grilled Bread Pudding with Fresh Fruit

*Recipes courtesy of foodnetwork.com