Building an outdoor kitchen is a dream many of us have, and integral to that is a drop-in grill that you can build a BBQ island around.
If you’ve started any research at all into this then you have probably seen some of the costs involved in getting yourself a drop-in grill.
And for most of you these prices might have made you raise an eyebrow. Or worse.
But why are drop-in grills so expensive?
A lot of people might be amazed at the cost of a lot of built-in grills, especially if they compare them to regular charcoal or propane grills. However this sort of comparison isn’t entirely fair given the very different sizes and build differences between the two.
One key factor, like with anything, is material cost. A lot of drop-in grills are made with high grade steel that is far superior in quality than that of standard $100-$200 propane grills.
This not only means better quality, but it also means better performance as heat distribution and retention will be far better, and also far better longevity, as the materials are built to last.
Furthermore, many drop-in grill manufacturers are based in North America or Western Europe, which means that labor costs are far higher as the companies have to abide by US, Canadian or EU manufacturing laws.
What this means in costs means far better quality of grill that is guaranteed to last for years.
If you have to make an upfront investment but it’s guaranteed to last 10 years, compared to something that will be run into the ground within 2 years… I know which I would pick.
It’s not just about longevity though. The thing needs to perform well.
When it comes down to grill performance, there are two factors that I think take prevalence above all else: Heat retention and power.
With gas grilling when we talk about power, we often do so in terms of BTUs (British Thermal Units). This is the amount of heat a grill can generate at full power. This is usually expressed as a total of its burners’ output.
For example, if a grill has 4 burners that each produce 12,000 BTUs, then the grill has 48,000 BTU total power.
Generally speaking, the higher the power the better as it can mean a greater temperature range, which gives you more flexibility. It also usually means that the grill can heat up quicker, which is important for gas grills. After all, one of the reasons many people opt for gas grills is for their convenience and easy fire up time.
Drop-in grills are usually far stronger in terms of BTU power than smaller or portable propane grills. This is often because they can accommodate more burners as they have a large cooking area, but their solid build also helps set the stage for more gas power coming through the unit.
But all of that would be useless if the grill wasn’t built to retain heat. Any sort of leakage will haemorrhage air, and with that your grill will lose heat fast.
Drop-in grills are often built with elite level stainless steel with heat retention in mind. Keeping consistent heat levels is absolutely crucial to good grilling, and the stainless steel we typically see on built-in grills is testament to that.
One of the things that helps the excellent performance of a lot of premium built-in grills is the quality of their cooking grates.
These grates are coated in porcelain enamel, which helps to protect the grates from rust, wear, and the other consequences of high heat exposure. They also help to retain and distribute heat evenly across the grill surface.
For anyone experienced in grilling, they’ll be able to testify just how important that is. It means no flare-ups and no cold spots. Just reliable even heat across the cooking surface to give you thoroughly grilled meat that’s safe and delicious to eat.
It should be said that porcelain enamelled grates are becoming more and more common place on standard propane grills, but are not always included as standard.