Under The Covers

Empire Covers Blogs and Postings

Grill Cover Experts & The Grill Expert: Interview with Gary House

Everyone at Empire loves to grill, especially in the cooler months. We’re always on the lookout for new grilling techniques, so we decided to ask an expert about the ins and outs of outdoor cooking. We talked to Gary House from Cooking Outdoors about plank cooking, the best kind of grill to buy, and making dessert on the grill.

Gary House from Cooking Outdoors

Tell us a little bit about the variety of ways to grill- for example, plank cooking, fire pit cooking, etc. Which unconventional method is your favorite?

When most people think of grilling, it’s the common burgers and dogs with maybe a steak thrown in from time to time. Grilling should be as epicuriously vast as cooking with all of your basic home appliances, just manipulated to work within the boundries of your grill.

Grilling principals must include sauteing, frying, brazing, baking, smoking and combination techniques of wet and dry cooking. I can’t imagine grilling without having several of these techniques in use. If you can cook a complete meal in the house then I assure you you can do the same outdoors on the grill.

My favorite grilling techniques include plank cooking, stone cooking (I use the Island Grillstone), cast iron and baking.

Grilled Pineapple, Cooking Outdoors Recipe

What grilling recipe is your absolute favorite?

Well, this is where you would probably expect something amazingly exotic but I have a love affair with a Western Bacon Cheeseburger. Just can’t stop grilling those! I do take it a few steps further than most by grilling my own onion rings and cooking the burger on a hamburger wood plank.

Grilled Ribs and Boneless Chicken Breast

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve made on the grill?

My first “ah ha” grill moment was baking a mixed berry crisp on the grill. That truely changed the way I looked at grilling. Desserts, breads, breakfast are all amazing when grilled.

Dutch Oven Cooking

What are some of the best grilling recipes for Autumn?

If you look at the grill as more than grates over fire to grill with, then you should be looking at comfort food. Soups, stews, casseroles, roasts and holiday recipes. I use cast iron a lot when grilling. For Thanksgiving I’ll have a Turkey smoking and several Dutch oven going with all of the goodies. Potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, stuffing, apple pie, etc.

 What are some basics to remember when cooking on a grill?

Pre-heat, pre-heat and pre-heat, the number one mistake people make. High on the list also isgrilling with the heat too high and using the wrong fuels to grill with.

With propane you need to start the grill 20 minutes before you want to cook. Your not just heating the space up, your heating those grates as well. If you cook with charcoal, use lump charcoal or natural briquets to grill with. If you want smoke added then use chips for a short cook and wood chunks for a longer cook over an hour. Practice…

What make/model of grill do you use? What grills do you recommend for a first time griller?

Well, I have 13 grills and over 20 pieces of cast iron that I use plus dozens of patio accessories so it’s kind of difficult to say.

I have sold grills for years and the number one mistake people make is to buy bells and whistles. Yea, infared is cool and six burners sound better than three, led lights are impressive but what good is all of that when your just learning to cook outdoors? Be practical and choose your first grill with function in mind.

You have to decide on convience (gas) or flavor (charcoal), size (the bigger the grill, the more fuel you use). I used to tell my customers to grab one end of the grill and give it a shake, you can tell a well built grill from just that little bit of effort. Check the warranty, where it’s made will give you some clues to quality.

I read awhile back that 70% of grill buyers purchase grills with side burners yet only 2 % of them use it. Keep that in mind as well, those side burners can set you back $100 easy, that can be an expensive shelf.

One last thought on grills, they are making combo grills these days that offer both charcoal and gas grill boxes on the same unit. Great way to have variety without wasting patio space.

What are some recipes that are commonly cooked in/on the stove that could easily be prepared on the grill?

There is nothing that can’t be cooked outdoors on a grill. With the right tools and techniques you can do it all. Stir Fry, sauces, simmer, poach, fry, saute’, bake, roast and on and on…

What recipes taste the best on the grill?

Is this a trick question? Everything taste better cooked outdoors!

Visit Gary’s blog at Cooking-Outdoors.com. 

Ford Thunderbird, 11 Generations of Classics

Ford Thunderbird is one of the most well known classic cars to date. There are over 11 generations of Thunderbirds, ranging from the 1950s to late 2005. We got the opportunity to see a pristine 2005 Ford Thunderbird at the New Hope Auto Show, and it got us remembering the Ford Thunderbirds of the past.

Most classic car owners have specific memories of the Ford Thunderbird. Whether it be a faint memory of cruising along in a now vintage 1950s classic, or buying a beat up Thunderbird in your teens, the Ford Thunderbird is a special and unique automobile. We found cars from each generation for sale online.

1955 Ford Thunderbird, $24,000.

Dreamt up in the early 1950s, the Ford Company designed the Thunderbird to compete with Chevy’s Corvette.  While at first extremely popular, the addition to a spare tire mounted on the trunk added extra weight that negatively affected steering. The car was redesigned, and once again, shattered sales records. Ford aimed to have an even more successful run with the Ford Thunderbird in the 60′s.

1962 Ford Thunderbird, $39,995.

Second and third generations of Thunderbirds were sold throughout the late fifties and mid-sixties. Now featuring a new engine, new look, and sportier feel, the car continued to be extremely popular. So popular, in fact, it was used during the inaugural parade for John F. Kennedy. Today, these classics are very valuable, definitely requiring extra cover protection while in storage or parked outdoors.

1964 Ford Thunderbird, $12,995.

When the third generation transitioned the fourth generation Thunderbirds from 1964-66, small but significant changes were made, such as new turn signals and disc brakes.

1967 Ford Thunderbird, $21,995.

The fifth generation Ford Thunderbird, ’67-’71 was vastly different looking in appearance. Hoping to mimic the success of the Ford Mustang, the Thunderbird became a bit sleeker.

1974 Ford Thunderbird, $11,500.

The sixth generation of T-Birds weren’t as successful as the previous. Some blame the heavier body for it’s poor performance.

1977 Ford Thunderbird, $5,200.

Ford moved in on Oldsmobile’s Cutlass with the seventh generation T-Bird sedan. Responding to the demand for more fuel efficient cars, the ’77-’79 Seventh Generation Thunderbird was downsized.

1974 Ford Thunderbird, Price N/A.

The eighth generation T-Bird, ’72-’76, reflected Ford’s desire to create an all around more smaller and more environmentally friendly car. This model was not popular with former T-Bird enthusiasts, who felt that the integrity of their classic T-Bird was lost. However, today some classic car owners and T-Bird enthusiasts prefer the model.

1988 Ford Thunderbird, Price N/A.

The ninth generation of T-Bird, made from ’83-’88 was completely redesigned. The new model was much smaller than the previous, giving it a better fuel efficiency and a wider targeted audience.

1997 Ford Thunderbird, Price N/A.

The tenth generation of the Thunderbird, from ’89-’97. Over the better part of a decade, the interior and exterior of the Thunderbird was tweaked and altered. It was discontinued in 1997.

2005 Ford Thunderbird, On Display at New Hope Auto Show.

                         The revamped eleventh generation of Thunderbird was sleeker, and more reminiscent of the 50′s and 60′s models. Looking to capture the essence of the first few generations of T-Bird, Ford automotive was disappointed with lackluster sales, and released the last T-Bird in 2005.

What’s your favorite generation of Thunderbird?

Brace Yourself, More Leaves Are Coming

It’s officially fall. With September, October and November comes Autumn, bringing cooler temperatures, pumpkin flavored everything, and of course, gorgeous fall foliage. Brilliant yellow, orange, and red leaves fall from the trees in a beautiful cascade, gently landing on the ground.

Fast forward to mid-October. Soggy, dirty built up mounds of leaves are clogging gutters, creating slippery, hazardous patches on the road, and of course, leaving that familiar leaf-shaped print on cars and patio sets. Leaves no longer become picturesque, but instead, pesky.

For some, a few leafy patterns on their car’s pristine paint job isn’t a big deal. However, it should be. As a main source of nutrition for trees, leaves store food and water. The coating on leaves, while waxy in appearance, are loaded with sap, pollen, and acidic properties that all contribute to the mess left on your car or patio set. The outline of a leaf will be difficult to remove, requiring a car wax, or even a new paint job. That’s why it’s crucial to protect against leaf damage!

This fall, Empire Covers wants you to be proactive! Start with a good car wash- either at home or by professionals. The next step is one of our durable covers. After purchasing and receiving a cover, use the included buckles and straps to keep a snug fit on your car. Consider bungee cords or gust guards if you’re storing your vehicle for an extended period of time.

Remember that leaves aren’t the only fall hazard. Saps, seeds, bird droppings, and insects are other problematic Autumn issues. Our covers will provide the same protection against these potential damaging elements.

If you’re utilizing our patio covers to prevent leaf damage, look into storing your furniture in a basement, garage or storage unit. Be sure to use our covers even if your furniture is kept indoors- it will help prevent dust, dirt and other debris from building up. If it’s not an option, our covers will protect your patio with incredible, high-quality materials.

Still have questions?
Our sales team can answer any question you may have about preventing leaf damage!
Use coupon code FALLFIFTEEN to save 15% off your order.
Give us a call at 888.872.6855.

Which Ride? Infographic

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of fuss over fictional characters. Stephenie Meyer created the romantic and mysterious Edward Cullen in her hit series, Twilight. The character caused quite a stir, creating diehard fan clubs, passionate online communities and an obsession with vampires. This popularity has been duplicated with author E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey, with fictional rich playboy Christian Grey as the leading man. We were interested about the characters for one reason: they drive incredible cars.

With the constant comparisons between the two characters, we of course, compared their vehicles. The fictional Edward Cullen drives a Volvo, (a currently outdated model), while Christian Grey drives a sleek new Audi R8 Spyder. While both are innovative, sophisticated vehicles anyone would love to drive, we want to know, which one is better?

Well, you tell us! We did a side by side comparison of the two cars, substituting the outdated Volvo with the new 2013 Volvo C30 T5. Vote for your favorite on our ‘Which Ride’ Facebook poll!

Empire Classics, the VW Van & Camper

 The Volkswagen Van is one of the most iconic vehicles in history.  After seeing this authentic VW Camper at the New Hope Auto Show, we got Volkswagen fever.  This beautiful restoration still has the vintage, classic VW interior:

We all know the history of the VW Buses, Vans and Campers. Known throughout pop culture as “the hippie van”, the oversized VWs quickly gained popularity throughout the 60′s. Many were customized with peace signs, oversized flowers, and bright colors. In those days, they definitely could have used a cover! Today, there continues to be a large community of VW Bus and Camper fans.

Like any classic car, there are hundreds of VW groups and organizations. Some VW fans restore the vehicles to their former glory, while others choose to completely customize their VW. We were curious about the continuing support for VW Vans and Campers, so we sought out the most creative VWs. What we found were some of the brightest, most unique looking VW Vans we’ve ever seen!


“Pretty as a Posey”
“Medic Van”
“Mellow Yellow”
“Convertible VW”
“Travel Size”
“Shiny and New”
“Wheels on the Bus”
“The Dark Knight”


Would you customize a classic VW? Which VW Van is your favorite?

Do You Need an Outdoor Kitchen?

Are outdoor kitchens the next big thing in home improvement? You might be surprised. Although some home designers predict the demise of outdoor kitchens and living space, home shows such as the Southern Ideal Home Show portray outdoor kitchens as a continuing trend.

Outdoor kitchens, which began to gain popularity around the recession, provide an air of class and sophistication to an otherwise ordinary backyard. Homeowners, no longer looking to splurge outside the home, sought out to make their homes as enjoyable and functional as possible. Cue the outdoor kitchen, which expands the family home outside, encouraging lively outdoor parties, family BBQs, and cozy outdoor dinners.

“An outdoor kitchen would be great for entertaining,” says Brittney Mosher of Raeford, NC. “When we host parties people are always going in and out. In for the food and out for the fun. With an outdoor kitchen the food and fun could all happen in one place.”

So what does an outdoor kitchen consist of? For most, it’s just like a wet bar with a stove, refrigerator, and additional storage. Of course, the perfect outdoor kitchen isn’t complete without patio furniture, and the proper protective outdoor materials.

While some homeowners see it as an unnecessary addition, others see it as a worthwhile investment. “I’d rather enjoy meals from a functional outdoor kitchen than go out to eat,” said homeowner Jessica King of Cary, NC at the Southern Ideal Home Show in Raleigh. “It’s the first thing I’m planning on putting in my home.”

Still unsure? Here’s 5 Things You Should Know About Outdoor Kitchens that may change your mind!

  • It’s easy to budget for. Outdoor kitchens can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000- it depends on your budget and expectations. However, seeing that most Americans spend at least $2,200 a year on eating out at restaurants, it may be more realistic than you may think to budget for an outdoor kitchen area.
  • It adds value. Outdoor eating areas have become the most social area of the home- and also add value to the overall home. Instead of the costly expense of adding a room to your house, outdoor kitchens are a less expensive option for creating more living space.
  • It’s affordable. It’s more affordable than you think. There are plenty of options to create an outdoor kitchen space, such as skipping the gas lines and just installing a standard propane powered grill.
  • You can do it yourself. DIY may be worth it- if you’re using durable materials.  Materials such as stainless steel, teak and brick are all excellent weather resistant options.
  • You may not need permits. Depending on where you live, you may be able to skip getting a permit. We highly recommend double checking with your local government. However, permits are only needed for gas, electric or water, or in the case the you’re constructing an addition onto the home. Forgo the permit process by using a propane grill, skipping electric, and go for a water heater. Regardless of your plans, check with your community first.

Get Your RV Ready for Winter

The leaves are falling and the temperatures are dropping- it’s almost time to park or store your RV for the winter. Winterizing your RV can be a daunting task, but in the end, extremely worthwhile. Taking the proper steps to winterize your RV can ensure that it will remain in great condition until it’s next use.

We’ve compiled a basic winterization process for various parts of your RV or camper. Remember, certain make and models may vary. Consult with your manufacturer or owner’s guide before beginning the winterization process.

 The Water System

Freezing water and liquids will damage your RV’s pipes, drains, etc. Water must be drained before the temperatures drop!

  • Turn off the water heater, remove water with a drain valve.
  • Drain the water tank, use a drinkable RV antifreeze to fill the tank. Makes sure the antifreeze is drinkable.
  • Run the water, flush the toilet, turn on faucets to make sure the antifreeze is moving through the system.
  • Be sure to double check with your RV manufacturer for specific instructions with how to winterize your water system. Different models may vary.

 The Tires

It’s important to keep your RV road ready- even in the winter. Taking care of your RV, specifically the tires, before winter begins will ensure that your RV will be in great shape for the warmer weather.

  • Make sure the RV is sitting level by inflating tires to maximum capacity.
  • Rinse tires of any stones or debris using a garden hose. For caked on material, extra soap and elbow grease may be needed.
  • Let tires air dry.
  • Cover the tires to prevent any possible build up of snow, dirt or mud during winter months.

The Interior

Even if your RV is closed and locked, pests such as mice, insects and birds may find their way inside. Be sure to go through the necessary steps to completely clean out your RV before winter.

  • Completely clear out the RV of any kind of food. Remember that mice and other pests will also eat inedible objects such as paper and cardboard.
  • Clean out appliances including fridge, stove and microwave. After appliances are cleaned, unplug them.
  • Vacuum and dust the entire interior of the RV. Don’t forget to vacuum behind, under and inside of cabinets, seats, and beds.
  • Close all windows and air vents.

The Exterior

 Remember that long term build up of dirt, road salt, sand and other debris can damage your RV over the winter months. It’s important to completely clean off your RV prior to parking and storing during cooler temperatures.

  • Rinse your RV front of back using cool water. Be sure to pay extra attention to the windshield, and other areas that will hold more debris.
  • Use a proper car washing liquid found at automotive retailers to wash your RV. It’s vital to only use cleaning materials specifically made for washing cars. Use a ladder to reach higher areas.
  • Completely rinse off your RV of any soap. Allow to air dry.
  • Cover your RV using Empire’s innovative, durable materials. A good RV cover will ensure that your RV will stay clean until the Spring. Be sure to use the included straps to get a tight fit.

 Be sure to visit our RV page to shop for the perfect water resistant cover!

Empire Patio- Frequently Asked Questions

Here at Empire, we understand it’s difficult to select covers- especially for patio furniture. Patio furniture comes in all shapes, sizes and materials, and it may be overwhelming to select covers that will fit properly. We frequently get asked questions about our patio furniture covers and material, so we created a patio furniture FAQ video to help answer them. If you can’t watch the video, here are all of our FAQs- with answers!

Are Empire Patio Covers waterproof? 

Yes, our patio covers are 100% waterproof. In the video, we show our material resisting water droplets. Regardless of the type of cover- signature material or our standard nutmeg covers, your patio furniture will stay nice and dry. Also, it’s important to remember not to allow water to “pool”. Pooling stretches out covers, and your furniture will not be completely protected.

How do I measure a chaise lounge?

To properly measure your chaise lounge, you need to measure the height, width and depth of your chaise. It’s vital to measure the most extreme dimensions, which is usually the arms of a chaise lounge. “Most extreme” means the widest or longest dimensions- wherever the chaise sticks out the most. See the video for clarification.

 How do I measure a table and chair combo?

Again, the most extreme measures. For a combo, push the chairs in and measure from one chair, to across the table, along the other chair. See 0:29 of the video for a specific example.

How do I measure a high backed chair?

It’s really important to measure high backed chairs correctly. You need to account for the height, width, and depth of the chair. It may be more difficult because of the awkward shape, however, the more precise the measurements, the better cover you’ll get!

How do I measure a grill?

Grills are trickier. There are hundreds of grills, all varying in dimension. We currently carry two grill cover sizes, so it’s important to not only get the one that will fit better, but to also use the included straps and buckles.

Remember, if we don’t have your specific question covered, don’t hesitate to call our sales team at 888.872.6855.

National Child Passenger Safety Week – The Ins and Outs of Car Seat Safety

50 years ago, no one would have ever thought to get a Child Car Seat inspected. Children’s car seats were equipped with basic seat belts, boosters and padding. Most car seats were put in the passenger seat.

Today, we know better. Child car seat safety has come a long way since riding shotgun in a circa 1950 Ford. Children no longer sit in the front seat. Until a child reaches the age of 12, in fact, they are supposed to sit in the backseat of your car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration strongly enforces child safety seats, and that all parents and guardians get car seats inspected after installation.

It’s actually very easy to understand why. In honor of National Child Passenger Safety Week, Empire went out and bought a car seat to explore the various safety features. What we found was that car seats, while very safe, could also be very complicated.

Here’s what we learned about installing a car seat:

  • Car seats are organized by age. Infants and toddlers will have different car seats than preschoolers and young children.
  • Infants and toddlers will have rear facing car seats, while preschoolers and young children will face forward.
  • Read the instructions included with your car seat, front to back. Call the manufacturer with any questions about safety features or installation. Also, review your vehicle manual to review how to install a car seat in your make and model.
  • When choosing a car seat, choose by height and weight over age. Some children develop later than others.
  • Fill out the registration form that comes with your car seat. It’s free to send in, and the manufacturer will have your information in case your car seat gets recalled.
  • After installing your seat, check out the Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator before use. Certified technicians will make sure the seat is properly installed.
  • If you’re involved in a serious car crash, replace the car seat. Fender benders and crashes without any injury usually do not apply to this rule. Double check with local certified technicians or your manufacturer to be certain.

List of Hilariously Overused Boat Names

Everyone at Empire wants a boat. When it comes to names, we’re stumped. What can you name a boat that hasn’t already been used? Well, one it comes to funny boat names, we’ve got you covered! We compiled a list of hilarious, yet overused  boat names and turned it into a neat infographic!

What’s your favorite hilariously overused boat name?