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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Get your grill on

Cheryl-Anne Millsap cheryl-annem@spokesman.com

Think of them as “the other boys of summer.” Instead of putting on cleats, swinging a bat and taking a victory lap around the bases, these players have a game of their own. They’re the big league guys who get a thrill from the grill. They know the best way to hit a home-run is to crowd the plate with a mouth-watering steak or juicy hamburger.

In this issue of Home, just in time for Father’s Day, we’ve brought you a round-up of what’s, well, hot.

Summer marks the beginning of the grilling season. So, gentlemen, don your aprons, grab the sauce, raise that spatula and start your fires. It’s grilling time.

Charcoal or Gas

Champion grillers often choose sides on this issue. Gas and charcoal both cook well.

If time is an issue, gas wins. Push-button ignition means instant fire, and faster grilling. A flame that can be regulated, with no fanning or smoking, is a positive if you want to walk in the door, drop your keys and get dinner on the grill.

Spokane Fireplace service manager, Jim Galiano, is a fan of gas grilling. “It’s faster,” he says.

Galiano says his grill is a 365-day tool. “We fire it up all year long,” he says. “Our oven doesn’t get a whole lot of use.”

But Duane Spurbeck, general manager at Falco’s, in Spokane, says that isn’t always the case. “It’s a common misconception that gas grills are a lot faster,” Spurbeck says. But the pellet-burning grills, units that are fueled by flavored wood pellets which infuse meats with hickory or Mesquite flavor rival the performance of gas grills. “They get up to temperature in 15 minutes, so there really isn’t that much difference,” he says.

If you’re a backyard traditionalist, the charcoal grill still rules. The ceremony of building a fire and coaxing a stubborn flame into a meat-searing, meal-cooking, blaze – not to mention the taste of a charcoal grilled piece of meat – is all part of the appeal.

Spurbeck likes “The Big Green Egg.” The kiln-fired ceramic egg, which is based on the ancient Japanese Kamado cooker, resembles a giant avocado. It burns natural lump charcoal and has an electric lighter so no lighter fluid is necessary to start a fire.

“I’ve got a gas grill, but I use the egg the most,” he says. “It has an air intake at the bottom to regulate the flame, it cooks well, everything comes out moist and it’s big enough for a turkey.”

The Big Green Egg starts at around $350.

Spend a little or a lot

Being a champion griller doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune. Basic equipment like the disposable, single-use charcoal grills, perfect for camping and tailgating, are under $20 and widely available at grocery and discount stores.

The ubiquitous charcoal kettle grill by Weber, a classic backyard tool, starts at around $130 at stores like Target.

Even The Big Green Egg has add-ons. A fish or vegetable cooking grid, baking stone and other add-ons can push the price up to $700.

But if you’ve got deep-enough pockets, prices for elaborate gas grills can go sky high. “What you’ll pay for a grill depends on what you want it to do,” Spurbeck says. “But it’s not unheard of to go $5,000 or more.”

Galiano says the freestanding 54-inch ProSear grill by Lynx, which comes with three brass burners, smoker drawers and a three-speed rotisserie motor and infrared burners to vaporize drippings, sells for more than $6,600.

Take it outside

For those who can’t get enough of cooking outdoors, a complete kitchen can be installed on your deck or patio. Specialty units include combination gas and charcoal grilling surfaces, warming drawers, a food prep sink, rotisserie and even a refrigerator.

“People are buying that kind of thing because it’s popular now to stick around home,” Spurbeck says. “Instead of traveling, they’re spending more time in the backyard.”

Outdoor kitchens, both built-in and portable, are popular additions to second homes and lake cabins. Many homeowners figure an outdoor kitchen into the plans and have the general contractor build the unit when the house is constructed.

“You can build your own cabinet,” Spurbeck says, “and then order the specific things you want in your outdoor kitchen.”

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