I my last segment, I discussed the things to look for in a quality grill and how to tell the difference between a quality grill and  a poor quality Chinese import grill.  I also touched upon where to purchase a new grill.

In this section, I would like to begin to discuss gas grill components, starting with the firebox.  The firebox is the major part of the gas grill.  It is the part, upon which, all ther parts attach.  If the firebox is poor, it doesn't matter how good the rest of the grill is, when the firebox deteriorates and fails, you have to buy a new grill.

There are only 2 materials, IN MY OPINION, that are used in a quality grill firebox: aluminum and stainless steel.  Aluminum fireboxes have been around since the 1960's when outdoor gas grills were first intorduced.  The technology is tried and tested.  Stainless steel grills have not been around as long.

So, which is better, aluminum or stainless steel........... drum roll please........ aluminum.  Why you ask?  Please, let me explain. Cast aluminum is virtually bullet proof.  You don't have to worry about scratching the finish if you use the wrong cleaner on it.  You don't have to worry about rubbing across the grain and scratching the finish.  It will not rust, tarnish, or change color from the heat, I have serviced and repaired cast aluminum grills that were 20 years old, and becuase the firebox was intact, I could replace the ignition, the valves, the burners, and the grill was as good as new again.  About the only thing that will happen to a cast aluminum firebox, is the paint will fade.  Cast aluminum fireboxes also do something better than stainless steel ever will........ HOLD HEAT, and isn't heat what grilling is all about?

Now, is thrre a difference between aluminum fireboxes, you bet.  Cast aluminum fireboxes are produced by pooring molten aluminum slowly into a mold and then slowly cooling it. The slow pooring and cooling process allows more of the gases to escape creating a thicker, denser, less porus, and stronger firebox.  This process is slow, and you will only find it in higher quality cast aluminum grills.

Lower quality fireboxes are produced using a "die-cast" technique (think die-cast metal toys).  In this process, molten aluminum is injected, under pressure, into the mold and cooled quickly, which doesn't allow the gases to escape as well.  Die-cast fireboxes are thinner, you can tell because the firebox will be thicker at stress points, where things are attached, than the walls of the firebox.  Advantages: faster production of parts, less material used, and more proft made.  Disadvantages: thinner and more porus walls means a weaker firebox that does not HOLD HEAT as well as cast aluminum fireboxes.  I have personally seen the sides of a  Weber Summit die-cast aluminum built-in grill, melt from a grease fire.  So, again, you get what you pay for even with cast aluminum.

OK, if cast aluminum is so much better. why are stainless steel grills so popular?  They look nice.  They are the "newest" thing, and they seem to say "upscale and sophisticated".  Stainless steel grills do not work any better, some are actually worse, but, they sure do cost a lot more and require a lot more maintenance to keep them looking "upscale and sophisticated", like the neighbors.

Just like aluminum grills, there are differences in stainless steel grills as well.  Nothing less than 304 stainless should be used in an outdoor grill.  The main grill components, like the firebox, should also be made out of a thick guage of 304 stainless steel.  In things like side shelves, the thickness is not as important, but it should still be 304. Anything less than 304 stainless steel will rust, corrode, discolor, and possibly warp. You are only going to find thick guage 304 stainless steel in high quality grills, so don't run off to Lowe's, Home Depot, Costco, or Sams Club to find a grill with 304 stainelss steel.

One other point, whether you are purchasing an aluminum or stainless steel grill, is the fastners that are used to hang things on the firebox.  Fastners should be stainless steel.  Believe me when I tell you that anything else will rust and corrode long before you call me for service or a repair.  It takes a lot of time to cut the heads off of rusted and corroded screws and bolts, whcih means the labor cost goes up and so does the service or repair cost.

Now you have even more knowledge to help you make the best choice possible when purchasing your new grill.  Next time, we will go over the different types of ignition systems you will find.