Americans love to grill, and right now, we are in grilling season. The 4th of July is reason enough to light your grill.

There are so many grill options. So many different items to cook on the grill. Here's a breakdown.

Types of grills

  • Charcoal grills have long been popular. They come in all shapes and sizes and range in price from $20 to $2000 depending on the bells and whistles. Charcoal grills get hot - really hot - and are especially good for grilling steaks and chops to "sear in" the flavor. Charcoal adds flavor to food. If you use lighter fluid or "match light" charcoal, you may not like the taste they give off. Using a chimney to start your charcoal is an easy way to avoid bad flavors.
  • Gas grills are easy to start and heat up quickly, making them the choice for year-round grilling. Prices vary drastically depending on size and features, but they generally tend to be more expensive than charcoal grills. They can be used with propane or hooked up to natural gas. Easy clean-up is in the pro column, and a con is the lack of a smokey flavor.
  • Pellet grills have been around for three decades but have only recently become popular. The most appealing feature of a pellet grill is that it acts as both a grill and a smoker, and it turns out a flavorful product. They require electricity to manage the temperature but use wood pellets as a heat source. Once you get the temperature at the right level, they don't need to be checked frequently.
  • Electric grills can be used inside and out. George Forman helped make them popular, and people realized that they are easy to use and store, cost-effective, and the best choice when cooking for one or two so they have remained relatively popular. However, they don't produce the same flavors as other grill options. 

What to grill

Growing up grilling might have meant burgers, hot dogs, or BBQ chicken (grilled chicken with BBQ sauce). Now, you can grill just about anything. Of course, meat and seafood are great options for carnivores, but don't limit yourself!

  • Some people only cook fish when they can do so on the grill to avoid the smell in the house. Any fish tastes great on the grill. Don't forget lobster tail or oysters which also benefit from the flavor of grilling.
  • Grilled vegetables are easy and amazing—a little olive oil and salt on everything from asparagus and cauliflower to sweet potatoes and mushrooms is all you need. Adding fresh herbs, hot sauces, or dressings boosts the flavor but isn't necessary. Don't forget grilled corn on the cob!
  • Vegetarians eat well from the grill too. In addition to all the vegetables that taste great grilled, tofu and certain cheeses are also appetizing. Vegetable kabobs, veggie burgers, or grilled vegetable sandwiches are great meal options. Don't forget grilled corn on the cob!
  • Grilled fruit is becoming popular. Think of pineapple, apples, bananas, or peaches hot off the grill topped with ice cream for dessert or as a side dish to a meal.
  • Pizza on the grill is unexpectedly good! Bread has been cooked on or near an open fire for millennia, so why not make pizza on a grill? It can be tricky, so you'll want to do some research, get a pizza peel (to help put the dough on and take it off the grill), and give the grill a good clean before you start.

Grilling has obvious dangers, namely getting burned or starting a fire. Forgetting to turn off the propane tank might not cause a fire, but it will delay your next grilled meal!

There is also a health risk associated with the smoke caused by fat dripping onto the hot coals or wood and the char on the meat, which are both said to contain cancer-causing agents. This risk factor increases if you consume grilled meats regularly. However, the danger may be offset by the fact that the grilled meat has less fat because the fat drips down through the grate. Grilled meat and vegetables hold onto more of their vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Finally, compared to breaded foods or food cooked in oil, anything grilled is a much healthier option.

Every grill master has a technique they swear by. Whether it's a dry rub of herbs and spices, a secret BBQ sauce recipe, or some special equipment, many believe their way is the best. There are a crazy number of cookbooks dedicated to grilling, which might mean that the options for what and how to grill are endless.

How about you? Are you a grill master?