The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Great Grill Light

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I have been on a long time quest to find a great grill light. I have come close in the past, but so far every light has had something about it that has kept me looking. Last night was the inaugural run of a new grill light, that seems to be the closest yet to what I have been looking for in a grill light. The light in question is from Sur La Table and has the simple name of Adjustable Grill Light with Cover. Before I get into this light, I will discuss what I am looking for in a grill light in general and some of the specific models that I have used before this.

I have now owned tow versions of this light which have now both broken in the same manner. I have provided more information in a 2014 blog entry entitled FAILS & PARTIAL SUCCESS

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The Sur la Table grill light is out of the way when the grill lid is opened (left) and closed (right) which means I may be able to keep it mounted full time. It also is in positions where the grill won’t be giving off lots of heat so I don’t have to be worried about melting it.

The first few grill lights I owned were generic brand grill lights that show up in stores that also happen to carry grills. I quickly learned that these cheap lights weren’t worth wasting your time on. So what constitutes a good grill light:

  • Well the first thing is you want lots of light. When you are cooking you are trying to tell when the item is done by gauging how it is browning. In dim light dark colors, like browning food, are hard to look at and it is even harder to gauge subtle changes in that dark color. As a result you might let the food cook too long because you couldn’t see the changes in color. The first few grill lights I owned were ridiculously dim. Lately they have been getting better.
  • The second thing I am looking for is a grill light with a wide coverage area. I have a 6 burner grill with a wide grilling area. Up until the Sur La Table grill light no one grill light could spread even bright light across my grill’s entire grilling surface.
  • The grill light should have decent battery life, without being to heavy or bulky. Some grill lights use 2 AAA or 2 AA batteries to keep the size and weight down, but I have found these lights tend to be dim or have short battery life or both. Several of the newer grill lights I’ve tried use 4 AAA’s either in an enlarged head or in a box in the base near the clamp. These have been a little better. The Sur La Table light uses 4 C-batteries concealed in the “track” connecting the 3 lamp heads. This is a clever design because these lights would need to be connected anyway, so it doesn’t add much bulk concealing the batteries this way. I also expect that the battery life should be long with this grill light.
  • The light should be quick and easy to mount and remove from the grill. Once mounted it should remain secure until you choose to remove it. My grill presents challenges to most of the grill lights I’ve owned before this. Most grill lights are intended to be mounted to the grill’s side tables. My grill has tall skirts dropping down from the top of the side table. Most clamps on the grill lights operate like squeezing a clothes pin. They simply do not spread open wide enough to clamp to my side table. What this means is I have to clamp the light to the protective top that covers my side burner. This cover has sides that are short enough to fit in the grip of the clamp. This means the light had to mount to the right side of the grill and I couldn’t use the side burner while the light was being used.
  • The light needs to be durable and weatherproof. Most of the later lamps I have used seem to be fine in the weatherproof department. They have gaskets in the right places and the switches are covered by a rubber bulb to keep the water out. Most of them are made of plastic. This is good in terms of weather, but plastic melts near heat, and as I found out my grill gives off quite a bit of heat.

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Here is a closeup of my new Sur La Table grill light mounted to the handle. The chrome compartment is where the 4 C-type batteries go. Hopefully this will give the grill light a log battery life. The unit is pretty much out of your way.

I am now going to compare the last two grill lights I’ve owned with this new one. I will talk about what was good and bad about them and how my new grill light deals with the same issues. The first decent grill light I owned was the Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Clip on Grill Headlight. It looked a bit like something out of a 50’s Sc-Fi movie set in the future. It had two teardrop shaped side by side lamp heads mounted on a gooseneck. The base contained four AAA batteries in a box shaped housing above the clamp. It was the first grill lamp that I felt gave a somewhat decent amount of light. It wasn’t as bright as I would have liked, but it was quite good. It also didn’t give a wide area of coverage so you had to point it at what you needed to see at the time. It is the best lamp I have owned in terms of weatherproofing. It’s big downfall for me was where it was made of plastic in conjunction with where I had to mount it. I was warming up the grill one summer’s night with all 6 burners on high. I had the lamp mounted to the side burner cover and the head was pointed at the right end of the grill lid. With the lid up this put the light in the middle of the grill surface, with the lid closed it was pointing at the top front corner of the grill lid. Now my grill has a cover that is stainless steel on the front, top & back, but it has massive cast aluminum ends. As I discovered they heat up quite a bit and being massive, they radiate that heat quite well. I went out to start grilling and even though the lamp head was 2” (5 cm) away from the lid’s end panel, the heat had partially melted the lens and the lens rim. The lamps still worked but the lamp head would no longer be waterproof. I use an Ez-Up pop up tent 8 months out of the year, so this wasn’t a big issue. I used this grill light up until summer 2009. It was a good light for it’s time. In looking just now, I saw it is still made and it looks like they may have changed the bulbs. This may mean it is brighter than the version I have. I still needed a better spread and there was the whole plastic melting thing.

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The Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Grill Headlight was the first decent grill light I owned and I used it for about 4 years. However I managed to melt the plastic and some of the newer grill lights give more light, so it was time to move on.

The next lamp I picked up in the summer of 2009 was also from Sur La Table. It was an all metal lamp head on a gooseneck grill light. It appears that they no longer make this lamp, the model I jst bough probably replaced this one. It had a clamp at the base and about an 18” (46 cm) gooseneck. The head which contained the lamps and batteries looked like a small soup can. It was quite bright and go a decent spread, but still didn’t go from corner to corner. Where it was metal I didn’t worry about it melting, which was a good thing. Where the lamp head also housed the batteries, it tended to be a little top heavy meaning the head didn’t always stay exactly where you moved it to. It would sometimes shift 1/2” (1.25 cm) or so after you let go. Like the Steven Raichlen model, this one had a clamp that would only mount to the side burner cover. The head seemed to be decently gasketed, but the On/Off switch was a bit suspect. It was on the bottom of the cylindrical lamp housing so it faced down, but it didn’t seem to be gasketed or otherwise protected from the elements. It’s location kept it out out direct exposure to rain, but I didn’t know about runoff. Once again where my grill is covered 8 months out of the year this is less of an issue for me. This grill light was close, but I was still hoping for more light over a wider area.

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The first Sur La Table grille light I owned was all metal and had a glass lens. I was not worried about it melting, but it was a bit top heavy since the 4 AAA batteries were up in the lamp head.

This brings us to my latest grill light: “The Sur La Table Grill Light with Cover”. A new Sur La Table opened up that is only 20 minutes away from me vs. a 45 minute trip before this. I stopped in just to see what this location had to offer and spotted this grill light. This one appeared to address many of my remaining issues: It used 3 lamp heads with LED lights which on paper meant it should be quite bright. The lamp heads were pointed in a staggered fashion so as to give you a wide spread. The lamp mounted to the grill handle and could be left on the grill. They even give you a cover for it. Mounting to the handle meant I could use the side burner and the grill light at the same time. And when the grill lid is down, the lamp is suspended down by the front control panel where the knobs are, an area that doesn’t get particularly hot. Because of this I am not worried about this one melting even though it is mostly plastic. The design looked quite weather resistant. The On/Off switch is on the side of the main housing and while not as weather resistant looking as the Raichlen grill light, it looks pretty good. On my trial run last night I was pleased to see this was the brightest grill light I’ve used yet. Even more impressive was the spread. I got even lighting side to side and front to back across the entire surface of the 6 burner grill. The light was easy to mount securely and didn’t move once I mounted it and tightened down the 3 adjustment knobs. Because of how and where this light mounts it is far more out of your way than any other light I’ve used. With 4 C-batteries (not included) I am guessing it will get a good battery life.

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While you can’t tell from this flash picture, with the lid up this grill light gives off bright, white, evenly distributed light which covers the whole grill surface. As I mentioned before, the light is up and out of the way and doesn’t interfere with what you are doing.

So far I am extremely happy with this light. At $30.00 it is reasonably priced in my opinion, since I have paid more in the past for grill lights that have done less. It is brighter by far than any grill light I have owned. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether I keep it on all the time or remove it after each use. It appears compact enough that it will fit without problems underneath my grill cover. Taking it on and off the handle definitely takes more time than the spring clamp mounting method most grill lights use. But this is a minor issue. It may take longer to mount but mounting on the lid handle means I get to use my side burner and grill light at the same time. More importantly I get bright even illumination across the entire grill surface, more light than I’ve had before. And that is exactly what you want out of a grill light.

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A RELATED LINK
Here is a link for the grill light on the Sur La Table Web Site.

SUR LA TABLE “GRILL LIGHT WITH COVER” Web Link to Manufacturer’s Web Site


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