If you plan on continuing the summer tradition of outdoor grilling, it is important to know the differences between types of grills, and types of fuel sources. Knowing how the different kinds of grills work and cook will prevent an outdoor feast from becoming an overcooked mess.
The charcoal grill is the classic outdoor summer BBQ cooking surface. Some of the great things about charcoal grills are that they are easy to use, and add unique flavors to the food you are grilling. Charcoal is actually wood that has been heated to very high temperatures without oxygen. This gets rid of the water trapped in the wood, and allows it to burn longer without releasing large quantities of smoke. As the charcoal burns underneath the grilling surface, smoke flavors rise up and get trapped in the food giving meals cooked an a charcoal grill an outdoor, woodsy flavor. Chips of smoking woods can also be added to the grill for other flavors like hickory or mesquite. Some of the downsides to cooking with charcoal include that they take time to get started, and are a little messy to clean up. All of the ashes left in the grill have to be emptied before the next use, and that process can dirty up clothes and hands.
More recently, modern gas grills have become popular for their ease of use and convenience. Instead of prepping the grill with charcoal and lighter fluid, gas grills can be lit with the turn of a knob and the press of a button. Temperatures of different grilling areas can be also be adjusted which allows for hotter and cooler cooking surfaces across the grill. Though easier to use, gas grills require a source of fuel. One source is propane which comes in bottles and need to be refilled, and the other source is natural gas which comes from the same gas lines used by a homes oven or water heater. Gas lines can be expensive to install and propane bottles can run out in the middle of a grilling session. Both types of gas grills also lack the natural smoky flavor offered by charcoal and other methods such as the smoker grill.
By using a smoker grill, you are guaranteed to infuse your food with a very rich, smoky flavor. Unlike other grills, charcoal is burned off to the side in a separate compartment. This allows for the hot smoke coming from the burning area to cook the food indirectly instead being directly cooked by the flame of burning fuel. This process is slow, but results in a very tender and flavorful product. A smoker grill has a very specific purpose, and can not be used for general cooking.
To skip the hassle of dealing with fuel, an electric grill offers a quick simple grilling option. All that is needed for an electric grill is a standard electrical outlet. This means that electric grill users never have to worry about running out of charcoal or gas. Electrical grills also get up to temperature quicker than gas or charcoal grills which means less time to wait around and more time for grilling. Electric grills are typically smaller than other types making them harder to cook for a large amount of people. Electric grills also lack the natural smoke flavor of charcoal based grills and smokers.