A barbecue grill is a device that cooks food by applying heat from below. There are several varieties of grills, with most falling into one of three categories: gas-fueled, charcoal, or electric. There is debate over which method yields superior results.
Edward G. Kingsford invented the modern charcoal briquette. Kingsford was a relative of Henry Ford who assigned him the task of establishing a Ford auto parts plant and sawmill in northern Michigan, a challenge that Kingsford embraced. The local community grew and was named Kingsford in his honor. Kingsford noticed that Ford's Model T production lines were generating a large amount of wood scraps that were being discarded. He suggested to Ford that a charcoal manufacturing facility be established next to the assembly line to process and sell charcoal under the Ford name at Ford dealerships. Several years after Kingsford's death, the chemical company was sold to local businessmen and renamed the Kingsford Chemical Company.
Gas-fueled grills typically use propane or butane (liquified petroleum gas) or natural gas as their fuel source, with the gas flame either cooking food directly or heating grilling elements which in turn radiate the heat necessary to cook food. Gas grills are available in sizes ranging from small, single steak grills up to large, industrial sized restaurant grills which are able to cook enough meat to feed a hundred or more people. Some gas grills can be switched between using liquified petroleum gas and natural gas fuel, although this requires physically changing key components including burners and regulator valves.
Another type of gas grill gaining popularity is called a flattop grill. According to Hearth and Home magazine, flattop grills "on which food cooks on a griddlelike surface and is not exposed to an open flame at all" is an emerging trend in the outdoor grilling market.
There is contention among grilling enthusiasts on what type of charcoal is best for grilling. Users of charcoal briquettes emphasize the uniformity in size, burn rate, heat creation, and quality exemplified by briquettes. Users of all-natural lump charcoal emphasize its subtle smoky aromas, high heat production, and the lack of binders and fillers often present in briquettes.
Pellet grills are fueled by compressed hardwood pellets (sawdust compressed with vegetable oil or water at approx. 10k psi) that are loaded into a hopper and fed into a fire box at the bottom of the grill via an electric powered auger that is controlled by a thermostat. The pellets are lit by an electric ignitor rod that starts the pellets burning and they turn into coals in the firebox once they burn down. Most pellet grills are a barrel shape with a square hopper box at the end or side.
The square charcoal grill is a hybrid of the brazier and the kettle grill. It has a shallow pan like the brazier and normally a simple method of adjusting the heat, if any. However, it has a lid like a kettle grill and basic adjustable vents. The square charcoal grille is, as expected, priced between the brazier and kettle grill, with the most basic models priced around the same as the most expensive braziers and the most expensive models competing with basic kettle grills. These grills are available at discount stores and have largely displaced most larger braziers. Square charcoal grills almost exclusively have four legs with two wheels on the back so the grill can be tilted back using the handles for the lid to roll the grill. More expensive examples have baskets and shelves mounted on the grill.
The kettle design allows the griller to configure the grill for indirect cooking (or barbecuing) as well. For indirect cooking, charcoal is piled on one or both sides of the lower chamber and a water pan is placed in the empty space to one side or between the charcoal. Food is then placed over the water pan for cooking. The venting system consists of one or more vents in the bottom of the lower chamber and one or more vents in the top of the lid. Normally, the lower vent(s) are to be left open until cooking is complete, and the vent(s) in the lid are adjusted to control airflow. Restricted airflow means lower cooking temperature and slower burning of charcoal.
The ceramic cooker design has been around for roughly 3,000 years. The shichirin, a Japanese grill traditionally of ceramic construction, has existed in its current form since the Edo period however more recent designs have been influenced by the mushikamado now more commonly referred to as a kamado. The ceramic cooker is more versatile than the kettle grill as the ceramic chamber retains heat and moisture more efficiently. Ceramic cookers are equally adept at grilling, smoking, and barbecuing foods.