My excuses for raising a trivial concern at a time when there are so many suffering so much grief, but what happened to gas grills with lava rocks or ceramic briquettes? Just went shopping to find a replacement propane barbecue grill for the long weekend. All the gas burning models we looked at are straight gas grills; no rocks or briquettes of any kind. They have metal deflectors over the burners, but it's not the same. And this may be another example of a larger problem, which I'll get to over the jump.
My understanding of gas grill theory is that the layer of lava rocks/ceramic briquettes that lie above the gas jets but below the cooking grill served several functions.
• They absorbed and spread the heat for more even cooking.
• They helped protect the gas jets from getting clogged by grease drippings.
• By catching and absorbing the drippings, the resultant vaporization contributed to the flavor of grilled food.
• They could be replaced when they became too cruddy or started to crumble.
The kind of gas grills that used to employ rock/briquettes seem to have disappeared from the market place. Why? Is there any evidence the new designs work better? Was there some hazard with the older grills? Do the new designs cook food that tastes as good? Do they burn more or less gas to do the same amount of cooking?
I don't have answers for these questions - what does everyone else have in the way of experience with this? Suggestions?
I'm wondering if this is the latest consequence of the way consumer products seem to work these days: a few factories off shore make most of some product category and just slap different labels on them with minor style changes to 'create' the illusion of choice. This means a handful of places determine what an entire market will get - and when one decides to change something because it's easier/cheaper/more profitable, the rest fall in line. This consolidation in the supply chain ends up having very little to do with end consumer desires or needs. Take it or leave it.
We've got a charcoal grill it looks like we'll be going back to for now. So it goes.