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Silicon Forest

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Americana The Swinger
I'm not much for cooking. I can do it, but I have no particular interest in it. A cheeseburger is my standard go-to fare, and you can get one of those just about anywhere. Occasionally, for the sake of variety, I will get a plate of enchiladas or spaghetti or something even more exotic, like a submarine sandwich, but all in all, my tastes are pretty pedestrian.

Then I got married and now we are trying to save money so we're cooking at home, or rather my wife is cooking. Except we were living in Arizona so we don't want to use the oven any more than we have to, and my wife doesn't like having anything to do with meat (except eat it), so I get to grill the meat on our charcoal grill.

Our first grill was one of the ubiquitous clam-shells, stamped out of sheet steel, that you see at every big box retailer (very similar to the photo above except the lid was a faded, rusty green). It was kind of chintzy with these flimsy aluminum legs, but it worked very well for a very long time. We got it because my wife's roommate was on the verge of throwing it out and I said 'No!, I'll take it'. Being steel, residing out-of-doors and subjected alternately to blazing heat and drenching rain, it eventually gave up the ghost.

Weber Kettle Charcoal Grill
Fortuitously, the neighbors were having a garage sale where I picked up a Weber Kettle grill for $5 (like above, but blue). It worked well enough, except that the grill was too far above the fire grate. That may have worked well for people who wanted to slow cook their meat, but I've got no patience for that. I'm gonna throw on some steaks or hamburgers for ten to twenty minutes and then eat. This means that in order to get enough heat to cook quickly, I either have to heap up a big heap of charcoal, or wait for 30 minutes or so for the charcoal to get good and hot. I made it work for a number of years, but eventually I called bullshit,

Master Forge Propane Gas Grill
and went out and bought a gas grill. I mean, middle America can't be wrong, can they? These things are the standard by which the good life is measured, right? I immediately started regretting my purchase. You see, when you cook meat on a grill, the fat liquefies and drips down onto the hot stuff down below where it bursts into flame. If these flames are left unchecked, they will incinerate your meat and you will be left with nothing but potatoes, salad and charcoal for dinner. So you need to stop these flames. With gas grills there are two methods of doing this. You can stand there with a squirt gun and shoot out the flames whenever they appear, which is fun for about five minutes, after which it becomes a chore and you find yourself wishing for a bigger squirt gun, but why do we need a squirt gun at all? We just paid good money for this machine that is supposed to be the very pinnacle of cooking technology. The other method is to trim the fat off of the meat before you put it on the grill.

Now some people like to cook, like to handle knives, like to chop things up, but I ain't one of 'em. Besides, I paid good money for that fat, fat is an essential part of your diet, and the fat needs to be cooked, just like the meat. I'm going to eat it, and if I can't cook it on the grill, what good is the grill?

Now we come to the essential difference between a charcoal grill and a propane grill. You can restrict the air flow on a charcoal grill. Closing the lid and air vents when you are done cooking is how you 'turn it off' when you are done. While you are cooking, you can close the lid and open the vents and the fire will get enough air to burn, but there won't be enough air to support those burning-fat-conflagrations that are so damaging to your food supply.

Gas grills are wide open and have no air control because the last thing you want with a flammable vapor is an enclosed container, well, unless you are a cast iron, internal combustion engine, but I don't know anybody who uses their car's engine to cook.

So I wanted a better grill, one that:

  • burned charcoal
  • has a lid and 
  • vents for air control and
  • the grill height can be adjusted.
I looked and I looked and the American Swinger (shown at the top) is the only one I found that met all my criteria.

I would have also liked to have a built in ash receptacle that would hold an entire seasons worth of charcoal ash, but I could not find one.

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