Of all the cooking chores that might exist, the only time a man comes charging in to take control is with a barbecue grill. (Reference) This, of course, is a stereotypical view. Barbecue or cooking food (meats in particular) on open fires has been around since the time man discovered fire itself. But the art of cooking the meat to perfection and tenderness would’ve been something of a trial and error situation. Thankfully, us humans have evolved and hence mastered that art. So much so, contraptions used for grilling have become high tech and fancy. I’ve come across quite a few, from monstrous giant grills which work on LPG to mini-sized electrical ones.
Lets start with the electric grill. The one that I tried out was the Swiss Raclette Grill by Alpen Koch. It is an portable, compact unit. The biggest advantage is that it is convenient to use in the tiny spaces we call Mumbai apartments. Alpen Koch has 2 models which are perfect for a group 6 to 8. They have a stone slab for slow cooking, 2-sided metal plates for regular grilling, 4-8 (depending on the model) small pans for quick frying too.
Power consumption according to the folks from the company isn’t much, it consumes power equivalent of 6 ceiling fans, which in the day and age of air conditioning isn’t much. However, even though the company assures that cleaning is not big deal, I don’t see myself taking the risk of running water over the teflon plates or stone plate. Maintenance too, seems tricky to me, it is an electrical appliance which heats up to cook your food, I would imagine due caution to be a necessity.
Cooking time varies on the portion sizes you put on the grill. The challenge would be to control the smoke within the 4 walls of your home. Smoke reminds me, the one thing I did miss from this grill was the charred flavor of charcoal/gas/fire based grills offer to the food.
On the other hand we have the rustic charcoal-lit grill, Weber in India has become the go-to brand for these. Their portable set is equipped with a grill tray and a lid which helps retain moisture of the proteins or vegetables on the grill. Charcoal grills have a rustic appeal which draws everyone to it and like me, there are many who are smitten by the smokiness that emanates from the food when cooked on charcoal grill.
Finding charcoal isn’t much of a task and Weber too offers them as part of their customer service. Being of the outdoor variety maintenance isn’t much of a task – as long as you keep the grill plate clean, you’ll also be salmonella free. Outdoors also means that this grill in no way can be used inside a home or an apartment. You will, at the very least, need a reasonable balcony space to get this thing going. Storage can also be a bit of a hassle.
Charcoal grills also require reasonable amount of patience to wait for the food to cook and also constant monitoring of the fuel and maintaining the temperature so everything is cooked evenly.
The biggest element of comparison for these styles of grills would be the price. The 47 inch portable Weber Charcoal grill costs approximately Rs 9000 as does Alpen Koch’s 8 person grill. The smaller 4 person grill costs Rs 7000.
That isn’t much of a difference, is it? I would say it is all about the experience. A charcoal barbecue on nice pleasant day in the open has a charm that is difficult to copy indoors. But at the same time a quiet cozy evening with a few close friends over a handy little grill which fits on your dining table also paints a rosy picture.
I don’t think I can make up my mind here. The city-slicker in me would opt for electric grill but the child in me wants that open air charisma the charcoal grill offer. It is a draw.