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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I would like to purchase an outdoor barbecue. Don't have too much experience with that type of food.
First off how much difference is there from NG to charcoal? Second of all is it mandatory to keep a water pan in the barbecue? I see some vertical barbecues are equipped with that way. But I don't see any of the stainless steel horizontal models with a water pan or any type of humidity injection? Like mentioned prior not really a pit Master! I was under the impression that barbecue was low and slow heat with the introduction of humidity? I would like to cook chickens baby back ribs and pork butts maybe some brisket.
 

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Barbecue grill and smoker are two very different things. The confusion is multiple meanings of the word “barbecue “.

For the grill, charcoal has the better flavor and gas is way more convenient. I have both and use the gas grill at least weekly and the charcoal grill once every couple of years. Food cooked on gas taste good enough to make “convenient” a key aspect.

For smokers, there are different types: offset and vertical, and different heat sources too. Vertical is the one with water pan, as you mentioned. “Barbeque”, both the food group and cooking technique generally uses a low and slow approach. Grilling is hotter and faster.
 

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Charcoal can produce higher temperatures than a gas grill. So if you wanted to sear a rib-eye, you'd get better results out of charcoal vs gas. In the summer I cook over wood fire or charcoal every night. To me there's just no comparison. But I have used gas grills for years and I agree about the convenience factor if you have less time on your hand. A wood/charcoal fire needs a bit of management and attention.
 

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I would ask are you looking for wood smoke or meat/oil smoke.

In iow-slow barbecue, you're accumulating wood smoke flavors. This means you have to be burning wood--though there are gas and electric heat source systems that burn wood for flavor and maybe heat along the way such as pellet smokers.

In grilling, you're usually accumulating smoke from drippings of juices and fats onto hot surfaces that carbonize those drippings back into smoke that can accumulate back on the food such as in burgers, steaks and so on. Most gas grills do this well, but they are difficult to smoke with, usually requiring a special wood chip burning/smoldering gadget for use in slow barbecue techniques. I think these can be pretty good tasting but they lack the complexity of wood burning across the full range of temperatures and using that smoke and heat for cooking.

Both are good, But the techniques and food management are different. Raichlen demonstrates both techniques with charcoal on the same piece of equipment quite often, a large Weber kettle grill. You could do the same with the Weber smoky Mountain, removing the center section for direct grilling. Though it's not a very convenient height for grilling at that point. But this means charcoal, and usually not the compressed briquet type because those don't provide particularly great flavor--too many non-wood components.
 

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@phatch dropped a name and it might need a bit of explanation. Steven Raichlen is author of books and host of TV series on both grilling and barbecue. More grilling, perhaps. He’s been a master of that craft for decades. His TV series is still running on PBS after many uninterrupted seasons. I find him a bit droll at times but the guy really knows what he’s talking about and has a diversity beyond belief. Look for “Project Fire” in your TV guide.

PS. Stainless steel isn’t required.Google “Green Egg” Kamado grill if you have money, want versatility, and would enjoy being the coolest kid in the neighborhood. :)
 

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Steven Raichlen is author of books and host of TV series on both grilling and barbecue. More grilling, perhaps. He’s been a master of that craft for decades. His TV series is still running on PBS after many uninterrupted seasons.
He also participated in a Q&A session here on ChefTalk in May 2011.
 

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I have had two different types of smokers. I love the convenience of a Pellet smoker because it provides the smoke with the steady heat. In many ways it’s fire and forget. you can get decent bbq results with low and slow without a lot of work. Often I use the smoker to get the smoke and the smoke ring and then finish it in an oven. There are some pellet smokers that get hot enough so you can grill.
 

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You're going to find a multitude of options/opinions etc.

I like charcoal.
It's easily available here as lump hardwood charcoal.

How many people will you be cooking for?
I have a 14" weber smokey mountain which I really like. It's easy to use and doesn't require a lot of charcoal. I use it for low & slow, but also hot & fast (middle section removed) plus it goes with on holidays
But a kettle grill also allows you to go low by putting charcoal to one side and meat to the other.
Just too many options!
And forgot, what's your budget?
 

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Charcoal burns drier than gas, and for slow cooking you get little benefit from charcoal, so especially if convenience is important to you, then I would look for a gas grill.

The choice then depends on the kind of money you're making:
  • Still saving for your first guitar? Get one of these Chinese gas grills from Home Depot
  • Your band just got a national tour? Get a Weber gas grill
  • Are you Steven Raichlen? Who cares, you already own 45 of the best grills out there
  • Willie Nelson money (after IRS levy)? Get a Broil King gas grill
  • Meat Loaf money? Get a Napoleon gas grill
  • Kanye West money? Get a Kalamazoo hybrid gas/wood grill
  • Oprah money? Get a Beefeater Gold-Plated barbeque grill and a chef to cook for you, and show them how they should be doing it in front of your guests
  • Elon Musk? Get a Grillworks Inferno custom built just for you and hire Francis Mallmann to oversee a team of gauchos to tame this beast:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Charcoal burns drier than gas, and for slow cooking you get little benefit from charcoal, so especially if convenience is important to you, then I would look for a gas grill.

The choice then depends on the kind of money you're making:
  • Still saving for your first guitar? Get one of these Chinese gas grills from Home Depot
  • Your band just got a national tour? Get a Weber gas grill
  • Are you Steven Raichlen? Who cares, you already own 45 of the best grills out there
  • Willie Nelson money (after IRS levy)? Get a Broil King gas grill
  • Meat Loaf money? Get a Napoleon gas grill
  • Kanye West money? Get a Kalamazoo hybrid gas/wood grill
  • Oprah money? Get a Beefeater Gold-Plated barbeque grill and a chef to cook for you, and show them how they should be doing it in front of your guests
  • Elon Musk? Get a Grillworks Inferno custom built just for you and hire Francis Mallmann to oversee a team of gauchos to tame this beast:
Thanks for mentioning Steven Raichlen I just watched his first season episode 1. Looks like I can learn a ton there
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

What do you think of this? What is the purpose of the water pan? Catch grease or bring some humidity into the cooking process ?
 

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What do you think of this? What is the purpose of the water pan? Catch grease or bring some humidity into the cooking process ?
The water pan does two things:
  1. It creates an indirect grilling zone: anything above the pan is not hit directly by the charcoal below, it gets more of a convection heat... more like an oven.
  2. It creates water vapor that can be infused with flavor (apple juice etc...) that keeps the environment moist.
 

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Not just the indirect heat, but moderates the heat. You've got a good mass like a heat sink but one that also won't get hotter than boiling unless boiled dry. And it does catch grease, preventing flareups and grease fires.

There are also those who fill it with sand instead for some cooking but I've never quite understood what that's trying to achieve and I haven't tried it.
 
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