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Sizzling all Season

After spending just a few minutes in Classic Fireplaces' showroom, you should quickly become aware of one thing - you really don't know jack about barbecuing.

Oh, sure, you think you do because you've been grilling steaks for years, but you don't. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner your world will change for the better, not to mention tastier.

Cooking hamburgers and hotdogs has come a long way since the day of charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid and it's not a stretch to say it's a lifestyle for many people. One of the most popular technological innovations for barbecues is infrared grilling. This enables you to sear all of your meats on a side or rear burner and instantly lock in the juices and flavour at temperatures that can hit 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit in mere seconds.

"That's the sizzle zone," said Helen Peters, co-owner of the St. Boniface-based retailer. "That heat is intense and quickly sears the food to make it more flavourful and enjoyable."

And if you're serious about your barbecuing, isn't it time to stop all that running inside to grab your spatula or seasonings and create your own outdoor kitchen? Seriously, you can build all kinds of cabinets and drawers to store all of your cooking tools and accessories and grill like a pro.

The most common barbecue sold at Classic Fireplaces is the Napoleon Prestige 500RSIB,  which sells for about $1,500. If feeding your kid's football team or hosting a block party is more your style, may we suggest the Napoleon Prestige Pro 825 RSBI, a barbecue featuring 1,395 square inches of cooking space - enough to cook 50 hamburgers - 10 individual burners and 123,000 BTU? (A BTU, or British thermal unit, is a traditional unit of heat defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.)

"It's the Cadillac of all barbecues. It's the largest unit that they make. It's for the neighbourhood barbecue," she said.

And if you take pride in grilling the perfect medium-rare porterhouse steak, it pays to spend a little more on your barbecue.

"You're going to get better quality. You won't have to change the burners every other year. With proper maintenance, these grills can last 10 to 20 years," she said.

That makes sense if, wait, maintenance? There's more to it than just closing the lid and turning off the gas when you're done? Sadly, the self-cleaning barbecue has yet to be invented.

"You need to make sure the burners are clean. If the ports (for the burners) aren't clear, maybe there are spider webs, you're going to have blockages and the pressure of gas flow won't be right. You'll have hot and cold spots," she said.

Some maintenance is easier than you might think. One of the most common complaints is the ignition button is fried. If you remove the cap, though, chances are there's a battery underneath. If you replace it, you can stop the hair-raising (and sometimes hair-burning) practice of dropping a lit match on to the burners to get it going.

Barbecues aren't just for dinner, either. You can cook three square meals on the grill, including a breakfast of bacon and eggs, sausage and pancakes (all done on a griddle), a roast on a rotisserie for lunch and even dessert of your favourite cookies, apple crisp or pineapple s'mores.

While you might take old furniture to the cottage, Peters said a hand-me-down barbecue at your summer home might not suit your needs.

"A lot of people do more entertaining at the lake. They'll do the entire meal on the barbecue in the summer while they might just do the steaks and meats in the winter and do the rest indoors because of the climate," she said.

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