Summer is, by far, the grandest of the four seasons. Summer gives us wonderful fruits like sweet cherries and ripe, juicy peaches; it gives us summer vacation and a chance to lounge on sunny beaches; and, best of all, it gives us opportunities to have cookouts.

Cookouts are the ideal summer activity: it gives you a chance to get together with friends and family, soak up the sun and the breeze, and wait for a perfectly cooked dinner to be served.

If you’ve just finished college or moved into an apartment, it’s time to start furnishing your place. It may seem like a luxury, but a grill is absolutely essential for summer get-togethers.

If you live in an apartment, your choices may be somewhat slim since many property management companies aren’t crazy about gas or charcoal grills. Gas tanks can leak and explode if not installed properly, and charcoal fires can easily get out of control. So, check out a portable grill or an outdoor electric grill: you won’t get that charred crispness that we all love on grilled meat, but you’ll also avoid a major fire hazard. And that’s a little more important than perfect grill marks.

Living in a house gives you many more choices. If you’re the person who hosts a lot of summer parties, you’ll need a large grill that can handle lots of food at once. But the big question is whether you’d prefer gas or charcoal. Both types have advantages and drawbacks, depending on how often you’ll use your grill and your price range.

A gas (or propane) grill is great for frequent use—prepping your gas grill takes just minutes, since all you have to do is flip a switch and wait a few minutes for it to warm up. Once your grill is ready to go, your food will cook more quickly and evenly than on a charcoal grill. And temperature control isn’t a major issue with a gas grill: most have control knobs that allow you to adjust the heat easily. The tricky part is replacing and maintaining tubes and valves connecting the grill to a gas tank. You’ll want to make sure those parts are in tip-top shape, and do a complete check-up when you bring the grill out of storage for a new summer.

Charcoal grills appeal to outdoor chefs who love the sight of a fiery pit and the taste of meat grilled over briquettes. Charcoal grills are also much more affordable than gas grills, and don’t have all the fancy (and breakable) knobs and tubes of a gas grill. But you’ll need to dump and clean it regularly to keep it in top working order, and that can get messy. Charcoal grills also take much longer to heat up than gas grills, and controlling the heat is much tougher. Finally, you’ll need to stay alert when using a charcoal grill, as sparks or stray briquettes could start a fire outside of the grill’s pit.

When you choose a grill, remember that you’re making an investment: it will become part of your home, and a major part of the summer parties and gatherings you host. Choose wisely, and your grill could become one of the best things about your summer.

Article by Melissa

Flickr image by Aldo Rado