Outdoor grilling has caught on in a big way. These days, most people use gas grills because they cook fast, are easy to clean, and can be used in any weather. But gas grills can be dangerous with their open flame and pressurized propane tanks. That's why engineers at Christopher Associates Inc., Sherborn, Mass., designed the Dual Power High Performance Electric Outdoor Grill as an alternative to gas grills.

By using both ac and dc power sources, this new outdoor electric grill produces extremely high heat levels to quickly and safely sear steaks and other meats. Traditional electric grills take a long time to warm up and, because they only supply about as much heat as a hair dryer, usually don't get hot enough to grill meat properly. The new patented electric grill, however, gives off 3,600 W of heat -- twice the heat produced by conventional electric grills. It uses an 1,800-W rechargeable dc battery and a 120-Vac electrical wall outlet that also supplies 1,800 W.

The battery system and charger store conveniently under the grill in the space normally reserved for a propane fuel tank on a gas grill.

Front ac and rear dc burners mounted 0.5 in. below the grilling grate give off intense radiant energy, producing a surface temperature of about 1,100° F. An ac heating element is serpentine and runs along the forward half of the cooking surface. Its temperature is regulated by a conventional ac electrical control.

Dc heating elements, on the other hand, are located along the rear half of the grilling surface and have a dedicated control unit for varying the temperature independently of the front burner. The

24-Vdc heating unit contains four 450-W tubular elements. Each element is surrounded by a compacted magnesium oxide sheath. This sheath isolates and protects an internal, helically coiled, nickel-chromium resistor wire. The dc elements are each supplied with 18.75 A, are threaded at opposite ends, and connected in parallel to a pair of heavy copper bus bars which support the elements and supply them with 75 A of battery power.

Some gas grills can vary in temperature by as much as 400° F from one spot to another. This grill's electric heating elements, however, are closely spaced and cover the entire cooking surface to provide even heating. And the grill cover can be opened frequently to check the food without affecting the cooking cycle.

Using the electric grill is said to be as easy and safe as turning on an electric oven. Because it doesn't produce pollutants or carcinogens like open-flame charcoal and gas grills, it is also environmentally safe.