SAN ANTONIO - There may never be an answer to that great debate of whether gas or charcoal is better for grilling.
But after 20 years, Consumer Reports has resumed testing charcoal models to see which are the most user-friendly and do a good job of cooking.
Consumer Reports tests a charcoal grill's ability to maintain even temperature as well as the quality of indirect heating, which is important for foods that cook on the cooler part of the grates, like skin-on chicken or fish.
But cooking performance isn't everything.
A bigger part in the grilling experience is convenience, which Consumer Reports rates on how easy a grill will be to use.
The ever-popular 22-inch Weber kettle grill came out ahead of the other kettle grills tested.
Tests found it's a very good performer when it comes to evenness -- a plus when you're grilling a lot of burgers at the same time.
The barrel-style Kingsford, with cast-iron grates, rated very good for evenness. But Consumer Reports testers gave it excellent marks for convenience. The large front opening lets you access coals during cooking, and the easily removable pan makes it simple to clean.
If you're ready to spring for a bigger grill that will support a party, consider the Dyna-Glo, which Consumer Reports said cooks well and is easy to clean. You can replace coals through the front door, and the coal grates can raise or lower easily in order to control cooking.
Consumer Reports has two simple tips to make you a better griller.
Always take the time to get the coals to the right temperature, which happens when the coals are covered with fine gray ash.
Another suggestion is avoid using lighter fluid or those self-lighting coals, which can produce an off-taste that distorts the flavor of the food.
Consumer Reports top-tested charcoal grills:
Weber 22" Kettle-style 14402001 $150
Kingsford Barrel-style BC222 $100
Dyna-Glo DGN576DNC-D $240
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