Shopping for a new Gas Grill – Weber for the Win!

Heather and I have lived in our home for just over 3 years now and we have yet to purchase a gas grill. Every spring we talk about it but decide to spend our money on other projects. In Summer of 2008 we built the fence for Ty. In 2009, we re-planked the deck. This year finally, we don’t have any major planned home improvements, which means I’m getting a grill! 🙂

Before I jump into the research, I’ll explain my choice.

Weber Spirit E-320

The Weber Spirit E-320 model met all the needs I had for a grill except for the price. I decided it was worth the additional $150 to get a better quality grill.

You can read more about specific features else where. Some of the big items for me was the side burner, solid aluminum construction, enclosed area for the propane, and heavy chassis. In addition, you can find many parts/accessories to customize this grill if you ever wanted to. The grill comes with porcelain coated iron (see note below) grates, but you can purchase 1/4″ thick stainless steel grates as well. I also liked how the drip pans worked. As far as maintenance is concerned, this grill should be rather low compared to most.

Research

I did a lot of research on grills and I sure learned a lot. I used the following factors when I considered each grill: customer reviews, grilling features, quality and priced under $400. I will not waste anytime further in the quality issue, I quickly discovered that if you want a quality grill you’re going to have to pay for it.

As for quality, I judged the construction of the grill chassis (legs, wheels, etc…) to determine the quality. The only grill under $400 I could find that actually felt sturdy are the Weber Spirit E series  models. All the other grills I looked at would easily flex/bend. The grilling surface (also referred to as the grates) was one other factor, which I quickly discovered the quality of the grate wasn’t necessarily associated with the price of the grill.

For grilling features, I primarily want to use the grill for cooking hamburgers, steaks and hot dogs. Chicken, pork, fish and other meats are secondary. Heather also expressed interest in having a side burner in case we wanted to use it for cooking something in a pot or pan. Based on research, either stainless steel or porcelain coated cast iron grates are preferred for grilling. The wider the grill lines the better. Narrow/thin grates will not cook as well or hold the heat for as long as thicker ones. The heat plates are also a factor (I explain these a couple of paragraphs down).

Grills seem to pride themselves on is the number of “burners”. I think this number should be relative to the size of the grill, but many brands sell essentially the same size featuring between 2 to 6 burners. I decided to eliminate this as a feature that improved the grill over another.

Grills do not seem to advertise their heat plates (Weber calls these Flavorizer Bars) very well (this is the metal or porcelain coated iron/steel covers over the burners). When comparing grills, take off the grate and look at the construction that is immediately under the grates. You should be able to easily remove a plate of some shape (usually shaped in an upside down V or oval with the edges running down like a roof). You will need to remove and clean these on occasion. Many of the sub $150 grills don’t even have such plates, which means the flames from you burners could directly hit your grates and food during grilling. I did not include my opinion of the heat plates below since I don’t have any cooking experience on any of these grills to know which design is better/worse. But All of the grills have some sort of heat plate.

Weber

The Weber brand grills had the best customer reviews. The quality of the construction and materials uses in the chassis also topped my list. Price though scared me away from all but the Spirit E-210 model initially.

Spirit E-210 ($400 retail): This grill met my primary requirements, nice grates and quality. This grilldoes not include a side burner.

Spirit E-310 ($500 retail): Essentially a slightly larger version of the E-210 model, it also does not include a side burner.

Spirit E-320 ($550 retail): This grill is perfect for what I am looking for except that the price,  $150 out of my range.

Char Grill

Grillin Pro 3001 ($214 retail): The quality of this grill just fell flat. It does have porcelain covered iron grates, but the thickness of the grates and the quality of the coating is a bit of a disappointment. For a grill in the same price range, the Kenmore and Brinkmann models are better.

Sears Kenmore

Doing some research I found that most all of the Kenmore brand grills are manufactured by Ghar Grill. They are unique however, there are no models that are labeled with both brands that I could find.

4 Burner Gas Grill ($250 retail): A friend of mine owns a similar one to this grill and he loves it. I took a look at a model slightly more expensive and found that the materials for the grill chassis has been rather cheapened compared to my friends older model. I could only find one review online where someone mentioned that the materials used in the Kenmore Grills was cheapened in order to lowre cost. I’m not sure how true that is, but the quality of the grills you can buy today in this price range have rather cheap construction.  Both the chassis and the grates seem to be of a better quality than of their Char Grill counter parts.

There are other variations of this same grill on Sears.com.

Uniflame

I’m not even going to link to the models. These are pretty cheap grills and the grates show that. Main thing that turned me away instantly was the steel coated porcelain grates.

Brinkmann

4 Burner 810-8411-5 ($200 retail): Not a bad grill, quality of the construction was the best out of all of the grills I looked at that were $under $300. Unfortunately, it still was not as rugged. The grill itself felt rather light weight, so light that it could flip over easily in moderate winds. The grill was very large as well, so if you’re interested in the largest grill for your buck, then this grill may be for you.

Ducane

Affinity 3100 ($475 retail): Very similar to the Weber E-310.

Affinity 3200 ($512 retail): Very similar to the Weber E-320.

I was unable to find a retailer in the area that sold this brand grill. I later found on-line that Ducane is a subsidiary of Weber. Customer reviews are about as equal for this brand as they are for Weber. If you can check out a Ducane grill, please leave a comment of your thoughts on them.

Conclusion

There are a lot of grill options out there. Had I not been able to pay the extra $150 for the Weber E-320, I would most likely have gone with either the Kenmore 4 Burner or the Brinkmann 4 Burner grills.

So what kind of gas grill do you have? Do you like/dislike it? Do you recommend a brand or model?

Update on April 29, 2010

The Weber Spirit E-320 grill sold on Amazon.com does not come with porcelain coated “iron” grates. It appears the only Weber Spirit S-320 sold exclusively at Home Depot includes porcelain coated “iron” grates. The special S-320 from Home Depot is only $30 more and comes with both iron grates instead of steel and stainless steel through portion of the grill lid. If you want iron grates, this is the best deal. If you’re like me and saved money on shipping ordering from Amazon.com, you can get a set of Iron grates for $70 online and have 2 sets of grates. From what I read, the iron grates and the steel grates have different advantages. The steel warms up much faster so if you’re doing some quick cooking the steel may be better for you.

PodCamp Ohio 2009 After Thoughts

PodCamp Ohio 2009Another PodCamp Ohio has come and gone! The second annual PodCamp Ohio went extremely well. Confirmed attendance was exactly 200, and factoring in some other missing swag and nametags, I estmate attendance was somewehre between 210-220.

We had some new sponsors as well as some repeat sponsors this year. TechSmith, Blip.tv, Doctor Anonymous, Spaceblue and Blubrry sponsored both last year and this year. Circle of Seven productions, Avitae Energy Water, AssistCoach.com and The OSU Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing (CSTW) are new sponsors.

Doug from CSTW was a great host for PodCamp Ohio this year. Doug and his assistant Judy bent over backwards to make sure PodCamp Ohio 2 worked perfectly at their facility. And did the space work or what! We had more than enough rooms to our disposal as well as plenty of projectors, wireless Internet access, desks, chairs and parking! Thanks so much Doug and Judy!

We had Qdoba fur lunch again, and this time all the food went! Last year I remember finding a lot of quacamole left over that we ended up having to throw out. I’m glad to report all the quacamole along with everythign else was gone. By clean up time, we just had extra chicken, cheese, chips and shells to dispose of. Don’t worry, we didn’t throw the remaining food in the trash.

After party was a lot of fun! The food wasn’t so hot and the bar we picked was out of stock of most of their draft beers but after dinner we made the trek down High Street and visited Jenis Ice Cream. Interesting ice cream, as all the flavors are very exotic. It is definitely worth checking out if you’re ever in the Columbus Short North/Arena District.

On Sunday I met up with Chris and Kim for lunch at BC Roosters. It was great to have one more meetup before winding myself down from the weekend. When you help organize an event like this, there is defintely a day or two of withdraw afteward. It is like a combinatoin of let down that it is over, relief it is over and pride that the job was accomplished.

Whats Next?

I’m pretty confident we will have PodCamp Ohio 3 at the same location as this year. As long as Doug will have us back then it’s a done deal. I would also like to see us create a non-profit organization to manage future PodCamp Ohio events. Last year I had two cases and this year one other opportunity that we missed all becuase we don’t have a non profit tax id. It makes sense to make a non-profit, we certianly don’t make any money from the event plus it is educational. There are a few organizers and volunteers this year who expressed interest so in a month or so once all the PodCamp Ohio 2009 dust settles we’ll start backup the monthly meetings and see what we can get setup.

PodCamp Toronto Recap

dscf3885-largeI had a lot of fun at PodCamp Toronto! Made lots of connections and got to meet a lot of on-line friends including Whitney Hoffman of the LD Podcast. The PodCamp Toronto organizers did an excellent job putting on what I observed as a perfectly executed PodCamp.

For me, one sponsor stood out during the PodCamp. Molson Canadian hosted a Saturday evening party that was definitely worth remembering. PodCamp attendees were given tickets tickets to sample from the many beers brewed by Molson Coors company. I quickly became fond of the Molson White, which I thought tasted a lot like Blue Moon. I later found out that it is Blue Moon relabeled in Canada.

On top of the free beer samples, anyone who had a sample of Heineken received 6 free beer glasses. These are not cheap glasses either. Check out the attached photo.

Columbus Social Media Cafe – Central Ohio Bloggers, Podcasters and Social Networking

Anyone in the Central Ohio area who is a blogger, podcaster or social networking enthusiast/expert should be aware that there is a potential meetup group organizing called the Columbus Social Media Cafe. Yesterday was the 4th SMC meetup and I gathered that they are just now working on defining what the goals are of the group and plan on forming a mission statement. You can read more about the last meetup at Elephants on Bicycles and This Woman’s Work blogs.

When I arrived, I found myself briefly explaining what PodCamp and PodCamp Ohio is. I was not prepared to make any sort of presentation at the meetup but I did my best. This was a learning experience for myself, as I found myself speaking to a crowd of bloggers who are aware that podcasting should be included in their space but don’t exactly have a grasp on what exactly podcasting is. I also mentioned briefly some of the viral networking techniques that PodCamp Ohio is using in order to market the event to bloggers, podcasters and social networking enthusiasts.

I learned a lot from the meetup. What I found the most interesting was what they are envisioning; a social networking web site that pulls in feeds of blogs and podcasts and provides social networking features such as tags and comments. The group would be the perfect customer for the RawVoice Generator, which does pretty much what they want. One of the organizers mentioned someone who is in the process of developing such a tool that the group could use, so I didn’t quite feel comfortable mentioning that my company already has such a product on the market for more than 2 years now. The process they are undertaking made me feel vindicated that the past 3 years of my life that I’ve spent developing such tools is of real importance, not just globally but also for the local community. There is real potential for blogging and podcasting to connect with its local communities, and I for sure want to be involved in helping that happen here in Central Ohio.

I hope they can create a brand/logo soon and put in place a scheduled meeting time using not just meeting spaces in the public but also utilizing those social media tools that are so important such as TalkShoe/BlogTalkRadio for on-line recorded phone meetings and Google Group public mailing lists. At the moment the only way anyone can participate is by attending the public meetings, which may limit the audience size of participants. The more opportunity to let someone be herd, the more opportunities that will be used by those with the means. I’m pretty confident they will pick up on these other tools soon.

I am a little concerned that some of the founders organizing the Columbus SMC group found PodCamp Ohio somewhat threatening. I hope they did not get that impression cause it is definitely not something meant to compete with other groups with similar goals. PodCamp is a social event with the primary goal to bring bloggers and podcasters together to share knowledge and network with each other. I hope the Columbus SMC organizers don’t feel threatened by the event, that’s certainly not the events goal and I am confident that’s not what Chris Brogan or Christopher Penn intended when they created PodCamp.

New Year Update

It’s been a while since I blogged anything. I’ve been very busy. Here is my update of what is going on in my life.

RawVoice
Been very busy working on a number of projects as usual. We are about to launch a new web site on Monday, January 14, 2008. If things go well, we’ll be launching some new service each Monday for the rest of the month. We’ll see if I can keep up.
http://www.rawvoice.com/

Spaceblue
I reprovisioned the server the day after Christmas, I am happy to report that I finally have everything on-line and running strong. I quickly got the crucial items on-line. I mainly had to get web stats and a few other little things setup after the new year. Setting up the new server took much longer that I anticipated since I switched from using Apache to Lighty web servers. It is paying off though, the server is handling the same amount of traffic without using all of the system resources.
http://www.spaceblue.com

PodCamp Ohio
I’ve been leading up the charge to organize PodCamp Ohio. Over the past month, we’ve secured a venue location and launched the web site. I am pretty happy with the core podcasters participating, they are really on the ball and have no problem taking charge of items they are good at. PodCamp Ohio will be on Saturday, June 28, 2008 from 9am to 5pm at the ITT Technical Institute in Hilliard (just west of Columbus), Ohio. More details are available on the web site.
http://www.podcampohio.com/

Association for Downloadable Media
Last fall I was elected Chair of the Measurement Committee of the Association for Downloadable Media. The entire process is exciting. I purchased a copy of Roberts Rules and have been slowly coordinating all of the members of the committee. After 12 people joined the committee, I was looking for the board members to set a limit to the size of the committee so it would not become too large to manage. The consensus of the board is to allow as many ADM members to join the committees as possible. I understand the motives, as the podcasting community is oriented in a way that encourages participation, it just makes managing the committee that much harder. I am up for the challenge and started devising ideas how to manage the situation. My position as Chair of the Measurement Committee could not be more perfect for the Association since I have both a technical background with Internet Engineering and vast experience with measuring podcast downloads.
http://www.downloadablemedia.org/

The House
Dad was in town two weeks ago when I was about to fix a shower leak. The work started with Dad reminding me to buy the tool recommended to remove the faucet cartridge in the documentation I printed out. A couple of minutes later, I broke the cartridge trying to remove it with pliers. Lesson learned, still listen to your parents! At this point I think Dad was convinced we would have to call a plumber, but my plan was to buy the removal tool and a screw tap. My plan worked luckily, with the help with an extra long screw replaced in the recommended tool. The rest of the process of installing the new cartridge went smoothly. I am happy to report the shower no longer leaks! If any family or friends need to fix a Moen shower/bath leak, let me know cause I have the recommended tool to remove the cartridge. Definitely don’t try to remove it with pliers!

San Giorgio Pasta Choo Choo Wheels
I told Heather a long time ago about Choo Choo Wheels Pasta and she looked at me rather strange. Two weeks ago I came across a package of San Giorgio brand Choo Choo Wheels and snagged a box. Sam Giorgio is my preferred pasta brand. The back of the box has a recipe for spaghetti meat sauce, so I thought I’d give it a try. I don’t have all of the details here, but the main ingredient are 2 large cans of whole pealed tomatoes, 2 small cans of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, graded and 1 pound of ground beef or sausage. I used a 1 pound roll of Bob Evans Italian Sausage. Cook the sausage, then mix everything except the Parmesan, bring to a boil then cook on a medium/low heat for 30+ minutes.Ă‚ When you are ready to serve, add the Parmesan, which will thicken the sauce. I like thick sauce, so stumbling upon this tip has revolutionized my spaghetti sauce making abilities! 🙂

Anyway, the sauce on the back of the Choo Choo Wheels box was awesome and so far is the closest thing I’ve been able to get to taste like real home made spaghetti sauce the way Grandma would make. She would cook the sauce for hours and have 3 different types of meats in the sauce. It is the standard which I use to judge all other sauces. Funny how that works.

What’s Next
I’m going to restart my Compiled Weekly podcast. The recent work I’ve been doing moving blogs around for RawVoice and reconfiguring the Spaceblue server with Lighty has given me a lot of content ideas for the show. I got a lot of knowledge to share about Lighty and tips with server management. I got just about everything automated so I don’t have to manage anything now. 🙂

PodCamp Ohio

I recently started organizing and planning an event called PodCamp Ohio for 2008. So far everything is coming together, I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress.

The week before Thanksgiving, I started a Google Group and invited some podcasters who were previously interested in a PodCamp Ohio for 2008.Ă‚ Within a week the Google Group lit up with lots of participation. We’re having our first on-line meeting tomorrow night (Thursday) and our first meet-up this Saturday.

For those who are courious, PodCamp is an event for podcasters and bloggers to meet and learn from each other. Each PodCamp varies but typically they include tables for sponsors to hand out swag, a commons area for socializing throughout the day and plenty of 1 hour sessions where bloggers and podcasters talk about specific topics.

Web Site: www.podcampohio.com

The tentative date for PodCamp Ohio is Saturday, June 28, 2008. If you’re a podcaster/blogger or interested in either, please come.Ă‚ The PodCamp should be very educational.