Buy Buy, Baby: The $15,000 Outdoor Grill

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When you own a grill as tricked out as Scott Young's, the fireworks burn well beyond the Fourth of July.

Young, director of application and database development for consulting firm PRTM in Waltham, Mass., has a 42-inch Lynx Professional Series free-standing grill on his deck just outside of Boston and talks about it as a gearhead would talk about his vintage Shelby Cobra. For a list price of more than $8,000, Young's grill came stocked with a 1,200-square-inch cooking surface, 25,000 BTU main burners, 18,000 BTU infrared rotisserie burner, dual-position three-speed detachable rotisserie (lined with 7-pound chickens), smoker tray and a dedicated smoker burner (which gives his deck a lovely birch and apple aroma). After adding dual side burners for $1,700 and a $179 vinyl cover, Young has built himself the Mercedes of grills for the price of a 2009 Nissan Versa.

Lynx's 42-inch professional grill costs about $8,000 and offers a built-in refrigerator and smoker box.

"I cannot say enough great things about this grill," he says. "There have been times when I've successfully had two 16-quart pots boiling on the side burners, six half-pound filets, six pub burgers, eight drumsticks, 24 jumbo scallops wrapped in bacon, and a dozen hot dogs and buns all over the place."

Scott is the type of griller whom high-end outfits like Lynx, Kalamazoo Gourmet, Viking and others salivate over: One with tons of discretionary income looking for a toy he can't find at Sears ( SHLD), Wal-Mart ( WMT) or Kohl's ( KSS). One who blows right past the $15,000 price tag on a Kalamazoo 900HS (and the fact that it isn't sold in certain regions, like New England) just so he can use its hybrid grilling drawers to cook with charcoal, wood and gas at the same time.

While a rack on a campfire could do the same job as its rich cousins, it's admittedly less effective than halogen grill lights and engraved cooking surfaces when drawing novice grillers out to the deck.

"It's like the guy who's a car fanatic who buys a Ferrari and almost wets himself the first time he drives it," says Brian Eskew, marketing director for Lynx Grills. "A Ferrari is a much more technologically advanced machine, but a grill is a grill: It's a box that gets hot."

Those hot boxes are hot commodities for grillers who make built-in versions the centerpieces of $30,000 to $300,000 outdoor kitchens. Eskew, who lives in a coastal community in North Carolina, has surrounded his 36-inch built-in grill with an 8-foot outdoor kitchen featuring double side burners, integrated prep center and access drawers. Meanwhile, Kalamazoo Gourmet President Pete Georgiadis decided to buy the company four years ago after cooking on the hybrid grill in his own outdoor kitchen, which he now uses to smoke lasagna.

"With our grills, you have people who will put them on their private jet and fly them to St. Thomas and you have truck drivers who saved for years to buy the grill," Georgiadis says. "A Hostess truck driver in Michigan saved for three years to buy one of our grills so he could host his daughter's wedding, and we love the guy."

It just as easily could have been a wedding present, as most high-end grills are built like heirlooms. Kalamazoo's hoods are hand-folded, and their custom cooking surfaces have different patterns for meats, fish and vegetables that can be emblazoned with your initials or logo. Meanwhile, Lynx's steel grills are welded tight and have brass burners that may outlive its internal halogen lamp and blue LED knob lights. The features are what keep customers like PRTM's Young coming back, even if they're more than he'll ever need to cook a bratwurst.

"The grills are beautiful, they last forever, they have a lot of great performance and convenience features, but it's a grill -- it burns meat," Eskew says. "It's not rocket science."
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.

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