Until this year, I’d never done much grilling (the grilling section of The Boat Galley Cookbook was written by my co-author whose husband grills almost every night). That all changed when I was diagnosed with diabetes last November and switched to a very low-carb way of eating. All of a sudden, all my go-to meals were off limits. No potatoes, rice, pasta, beans. Limited portions of most veggies. Very few “sauces” and virtually no casseroles or skillet meals.
Grilling is a great way to prepare the foods that I now eat quickly, easily and with lots of flavor. I started experimenting with grilling aboard and quickly discovered that (a) I loved grilling and (b) I hated our grill.
I knew that I wanted a gas grill — while I love the flavor that charcoal imparts, we just don’t have space to carry much or store it in a dry spot. So that eliminated some great choices, such as the Cobb Cooker.
After researching, I bought a Magma Newport II Infrared grill. Boat grills in general are not cheap, and this was not the least expensive. It was a big decision, particularly as I’d never grilled that much before — would I really grill enough to make it worth spending that kind of money?
Six weeks in, I think I made a great choice. I love my Newport 2 Infrared and cook at least 5 nights a week on it.
- Doesn’t Blow Out. In the last few years (I don’t know exactly when), Magma redesigned all their grills so that they don’t have nearly the problem with blowing out. This is not just marketing. I’ve used this grill with steady winds of 15 and some gusts over 20, and it has never blown out.
- Infrared. Magma makes both a “regular” Newport II grill and the infrared model. The infrared model has heat-intensifying screens in it so that you can sear meats (think steak or tuna fillets). Our previous kettle grill notwithstanding, it can be hard to get a gas grill to produce a high enough heat to really sear. This works as long as you let it preheat (the owner’s manual says no preheating necessary; I find that preheating gives a far better result if I want high heat).
- Low temps. Being able to turn the grill down to cook some foods — such as chicken breasts — more slowly was also important to me. On the previous grill, the outside would burn before the inside was fully cooked. The low setting on this one is much better, although I’ve learned to sometimes turn the gas off if the temperature is getting too high — and then I can re-light the grill if the temperature drops below optimal.
- Thermometer. Yes, this grill has a built-in thermometer of the interior temperature. Now, it’s not to exact degrees, just a gauge with low-medium-high sections but that is great for judging when it’s time to put food on the grill or turn the gas off, etc.
- Sufficient space. Grill space was another big issue on our previous grill: there just wasn’t enough space for both meat and most veggies. If I was going to do the grilling, I wanted to be able to do the whole meal on the grill so that I wasn’t trying to monitor foods in two places. For the two of us, the Newport’s size is great. It would also be large enough for cooking meat for 6 to 8 people. (Magma does make larger models if more space is needed.)
- Single burner. I’d really like to have dual zones and be able to do more indirect grilling. But I couldn’t find any boat grills that had this feature. Instead, I create a cooler area for indirect grilling by crumpling some heavy duty aluminum foil and putting it over or under part of the grate when needed (keep it and reuse it). This is my only real grumble with the grill but my workaround does work.
- Grease catcher. There’s a good-sized grease catcher under the grill, which makes flare-ups much less likely. I’ve only had one real flare up and that was because I was a little overly-enthusiastic about brushing an oil-based marinade over the meat. Lesson learned! The grease catcher is easy to remove and clean.
- High-quality stainless. You can find less expensive “stainless” grills at all the home improvement and big box stores. The ones I’ve looked at are thinner and less rust-resistant stainless. In a saltwater environment, friends that have tried going this route reported they just don’t last more than a year or two. I think the Magma one will last — plus I can get parts as needed.
- Installation. Magma makes a number of different attachment mechanisms to put the grill on a rail or in a fishing rod holder. This is a fairly heavy grill and we opted for the double rail attachments. However, if you attach yours to the rail, BE SURE TO tighten the rail clamps as tightly as you possibly can. Otherwise, the grill can rotate on the rail: that happened to us as I opened the grill to light it and several pieces went into the water. Yes, I dove and retrieved them, but this is not something you want to do in the middle of preparing dinner. Since re-tightening, we haven’t had a problem.
I’ll admit, I had a bit of a learning curve with the grill, but I got a wonderful book called How to Grill and quickly was putting great meals on the table. Another add-on that really helped was getting flat metal skewers for kabobs — the bamboo ones I first had tended to burn (I lost half of my first kabob overboard when a burned section broke as it took it off the grill) and meat and veggies would spin so that the heavier side was always down.
My grilling gear (all available on Amazon):
- Magma Newport II Infrared Grill
- Shelf for front of grill
- Mounting brackets (1″ rail, dual mounts)
- How to Grill book
- Metal skewers
- Grill brush/scraper (I have an older one; this is the one I’d choose if I were buying a new one)
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