Not many things in life are as great as spending the day grilling in the backyard with friends and family. When it comes to the food itself, few other methods of cooking can match the intense flavor of grilling. Of course, if you want your BBQ to go off without a hitch, you need to buy a reliable grill that meets your needs. You’ll want to consider a range of factors, including cooking space, fuel type and various other extras.
If convenience when grilling is your main priority, you’ll be best served by a gas grill like the Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill. It ignites instantly, easily maintains a consistent temperature and it doesn’t leave behind a messy pile of ashes after cooking. However, those looking for a smokier flavor on their food may want to turn to a charcoal or pellet grill instead.
Before purchasing a grill, the first thing to decide is what kind of fuel you want to cook with. Propane grills are the most convenient, are available in a range of prices to suit every budget and can achieve high temperatures quickly and then maintain them.
Charcoal grills require more work to get the fire going, and some may find them difficult to maintain a constant temperature. However, they produce a nice smoky flavor that gas just can’t match and are the most affordable.
Pellet grills are less common and tend to be pricey but combine some of the benefits of both gas and charcoal grills. Like propane grills, they have built-in igniters, and like charcoal, they can produce that smoky flavor most people love. Plus, they boast precise digital temperature control.
Both gas and pellet grills have a BTU rating. This stands for British thermal units and is a way of gauging how much heat a grill can produce. The higher the BTU rating, the more powerful the burners and the hotter the grill can get.
When looking at BBQ grills, you should consider the overall size as well as the cooking space. The overall size determines how well it will fit into your backyard or deck space, and the cooking area determines how much food it can accommodate at one time.
Most propane grills feature a push-button ignition. This is the safest and most convenient method of lighting a gas grill and it eliminates the need to use a long BBQ lighter. Depending on the type of igniter you have, it may or may not use a battery that needs to be replaced periodically.
Depending on the design of your BBQ grill, it may have one, two or no prep tables on the sides. On some, these fold down when not in use, which allows for some extra placement versatility. Having at least one prep table is very useful because it gives you a convenient place to set down a plate when putting things onto or removing them from the grill.
If you want the ability to cook food in pots or pans while grilling, choose a model with a side burner. These are only found in gas grills and are integrated into one of the prep tables. Often, they have a cover that you place over the burner when not in use so it doesn’t take away from your prep area.
Careful control of the cooking temperature is just as important when grilling as when baking in the oven. To help with this, many BBQ girls have a temperature gauge built into the lid.
Some gas and charcoal BBQ grills double as smokers. You can easily tell these by the offset smoking chamber attached to one side of the grill where you place wood chips. On some models, these offset smoking chambers can also be used as additional grilling space if needed. Nearly all pellet grills can double as smokers and don’t require a separate smoking chamber.
A warming rack is a second grate located higher up and farther away from the heat source. It can be used to gently heat up delicate foods that can easily burn or to keep cooked foods warm while you cook more.
When grilling, you’ll probably have a few utensils on hand, which may include a spatula, grill tongs, a basting brush and a BBQ fork. Models with utensil hooks give you a convenient place to hang your utensils so they won’t be left on a prep table or some other in-the-way place.
BBQ grills can cost as little as $50 if all you need is a small charcoal kettle grill. Propane grills start around $150, and pellet grills start around $200. On the high end, you can easily spend several thousand dollars. Most people can find a great BBQ grill of any type that fits their needs in the $200-$800 range.
A. Lump charcoal is the purest form of charcoal. It’s made by burning wood until all the sap and moisture is gone, leaving behind chunks of pure carbon charcoal. Briquettes are made from a combination of sawdust and various fillers and additives.
A. The size, number and power of the burners on your grill determines how long a propane tank will last. If you have a standard 20-pound propane tank and a medium grill, you can expect to get 18-20 hours of cooking time. On a larger grill, that may be reduced to just 10-12 hours of cooking time.
What you need to know: Equipped with three stainless steel burners that can provide up to 30,000 BTU per hour, this gas grill is powerful enough to get a great sear on all kinds of foods.
What you’ll love: Food doesn’t stick to its enameled cast iron grates, and it has plenty of prep and storage space.
What you should consider: The assembly is time-consuming.
What you need to know: Affordably priced yet offering 632 square inches of cooking space and a 169 square-inch warming rack, this charcoal grill is ideal for those on a tight budget who often cook for a lot of people.
What you’ll love: It doubles as a smoker for slow-cooking ribs and big cuts of meat, and it has a height-adjustable charcoal pan for temperature control.
What you should consider: It’s crafted from thin metal and can easily be dented.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: If you want that natural wood flavor but the convenience of digital temperature control, you can’t go wrong with the Z Grills Pellet Grill.
What you’ll love: It’s fueled by 100% natural hardwood pellets, can be used for smoking and grilling and comes with a free waterproof cover.
What you should consider: The legs seem a little flimsy.
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.