Best Grills

Updated March 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

25 Models Considered
1 Experts Interviewed
221 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best grills

Last Updated March 2019

Who doesn’t love grilling outdoors? It’s ideal for when you’re camping or RVing. It’s a great way to provide succulent food for a backyard gathering of friends and family. You can already taste that char-grilled steak, those hot and spicy buffalo wings, or that applewood-smoked ham, but first you need a good grill.

Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from.

For those who need a little help in deciding on exactly the right model, BestReviews has created the following buying guide. It details all your options, whether you're cooking for two or the whole neighborhood!

Types of grills

Grills are differentiated by the type of fuel used.

Charcoal

Food has been cooked with this fuel for hundreds of years, and with briquettes for more than a century. For many backyard chefs, it’s the only way to grill. The simplest kettle grills consist of a chamber for charcoal (with a lever at the bottom to clear out the ash), a steel grill rack, and a lid with a vent for controlling airflow. They are low-cost, simple, and lightweight, so kettle grills are great for traveling. Many portable grills use the same principles but are rectangular in shape. Some don’t have lids.

Pros:

  • Widely available

  • Easy to transport

  • Cheap

  • Imparts unique flavor to food
     

Cons:

  • Can be a bit dirty

  • Harder to light than gas

  • Not as easy to control as gas

DID YOU KNOW?

The Kingsford Products Company popularized the charcoal briquette in the 1920s. It was originally owned by Henry Ford, who used wood scraps left over from Model T production. Briquettes were patented in 1897 by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer.

Gas

Gas is the modern, convenient way to power your grill. There are three types of gas fuel: propane (far and away the most popular), butane, and natural gas, which are similar but not the same. A propane grill uses a different regulator than a butane model, so it’s important to buy the correct bottle, or your grill may not work. Natural gas is only available in certain areas, so compatible grills are not as common.

Pros:

  • Clean

  • Widely available

  • Easy to light

  • Very controllable

  • More options
     

Cons:

  • Heavy (full bottles weigh about 35 pounds)

  • Transporting more difficult

  • Lacks flavor

A quality grill from a market leader

Weber crafts great-looking, high-performance grills, and the Spirit II is a prime example. There’s plenty of porcelain-coated cooking space, as well as burner tubes for consistent, even heat. Drop-down side tables are just one of the many convenient features on a grill that’s an absolute pleasure to cook on. A natural gas version is also available.

Infrared

These grills are still gas grills at heart (and operate the same way), but the gas burners don’t heat the cooking plates directly. Instead, the gas heats a ceramic or glass layer that radiates heat to the grill. This cooks more evenly and virtually eliminates flare-ups. Infrared grills use less gas for the same performance, which makes them a little different to cook on than a standard gas grill, but people quickly adapt.

Hybrid

These grills combine both fuels. They can use either gas or charcoal, or use gas to light charcoal and prolong cooking times. The ability to use two fuels has made these grills popular with survivalists. Many hybrid grills are portable.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Wheels make a large gas grill easier to move around. Locking wheels will help make sure it doesn’t move while you cook.

Grill features

Materials

  • Chrome-plated steel: On inexpensive kettle and portable grills, you’ll often find racks made of chrome-plated steel. It looks good when new, and it’s relatively inexpensive to produce and moderately durable. However, heat will eventually dull the chrome, and it can wear off. That said, it’s not expensive to replace.

  • Cast iron: This used to be popular because it’s efficient at transmitting heat. Unfortunately, it rusts, so cast iron is no longer as common.

  • Enamel: Adding a porcelain coating (enamel) provides an easy-to-clean surface while still retaining excellent heat transmission. Enamel is applied to both steel and cast iron grills (which stops the rust problem). The latter are considered superior, particularly for searing.

  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel looks great, resists rust, and is easy to clean. It’s also tough and superb to cook on. The only drawback is that it’s expensive.
     

Size

  • Gas grills: For these, the cooking area is usually quoted in square inches. There may be additional warming areas and side tables, all of which add convenience, flexibility, and space. If you have a site in mind, you might also have to consider the grill’s overall dimensions. Otherwise, it’s a question of how the specifications fit the way you like to cook.

  • Kettle grills: The sizes of these can be deceptive. Although the amount of food they can accommodate depends on the diameter, the domed lid gives plenty of height. Even small ones can cook a whole chicken.

  • Portable and folding grills come in a wide variety of sizes, from those designed to cook for just two people to those capable of feeding a large group.
     

Burners and grill heat

It’s easy to look at the number of burners as a reflection of a grill’s cooking ability, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Modern burner tubes spread the heat more efficiently than older-style round burners, so a two-burner grill might be just as effective as a three-burner model.

A better measure of a grill’s heat capacity is the British Thermal Units (BTU) it generates. While this doesn’t tell you what temperatures it can reach, it does allow you to accurately compare one model to another. Infrared grills are particularly efficient, so a rating of 50 to 80 BTUs per square inch is considered optimum. With standard gas grills, that should be 75 to 100 BTUs.

Other considerations

  • Push-button electronic ignition: This is common on gas grills. Controls should be clearly marked and large enough that you can use them with cooking gloves on.

  • Temperature gauge: This is a handy feature. While it can’t tell you if the food is cooked, it will help you maintain consistent heat.

  • Portability: Is portability important to you? Kettle grills are usually light, but their shape makes larger models bulky. Space-saving folding gas grills are available, but you still have the bottle of gas to carry. Some small portable grills will run fine for a couple of hours using a 16-ounce disposable gas cylinder.

  • Grease management system: This directs fat and other cooking juices away from the grill, reducing the likelihood of flare-ups and making cleaning easier. Several manufacturers accomplish this using “flavorizer bars,” which some claim give food something of that charcoal-cooked taste.

  • Cover: Your grill probably won’t come with a cover. It’s a sensible investment, particularly if you keep your grill outdoors all year.

  • Extras: If you have the budget, you can get a grill with all manner of extras: rotisserie, smoker, searing burner, different heat zones, and even lights built into the hood so you can cook in the dark!
EXPERT TIP

It’s popular to season meat before cooking, but be careful with salt. Too much can extract the natural juices and make the meat tough.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Racks to the side or beneath the grill give you valuable space for all those bits and pieces you want to grab quickly while you’re cooking. Hooks are useful for your grill tools.


Staff  | BestReviews

Grill prices

With such a diverse range of grills available, it’s no surprise that prices vary enormously.

  • Inexpensive

An entry-level kettle grill from a well-respected brand can cost as little as $40. Folding gas grills range from $150 to $350.

  • Mid-range

Family-sized gas grills can be found for between $250 and $350.

  • Expensive

High-end models start at around $500. You can pay $2,000 and more for a stainless-steel grill, but you are investing in a fully featured, commercial-grade appliance.

Remarkable flexibility at a great price

This is a fine example of how “budget” doesn’t have to mean cheap. The specification is tremendous, with big, porcelain-coated grates, plus an additional side burner, electronic ignition, and the benefits of infrared radiant heat. Add a warming rack, temperature gauge, and enclosed storage cabinet, and you have a great family grill at a bargain price.

Tips

  • Keep a spare gas bottle on hand. A few have gauges to tell how full the bottle is, but not many. You can bet the one you’re using will need changing right in the middle of making dinner!

  • Invest in a grill cover. If you leave your grill out all year, make sure it’s got a cover. Don’t put it on until the grill is completely cool. The same applies if you store the grill indoors. Gas grills cool quickly, but don’t risk a fire by bringing it in while it’s still hot.

  • Double-check meats with a thermometer. Many grills have temperature gauges that give you a good idea of the heat under the hood, but it doesn’t guarantee that your meat is cooked. If you’re not sure, check it with a meat thermometer.

  • Watch out for flare-ups. If your grill does flare up, close the lid (if it has one) to decrease the oxygen feeding the fire. Turn off the gas, but only if you can do so safely. The fire won’t last long. If there’s no danger to surrounding property, leave it to extinguish naturally. Don’t risk burning yourself by trying to open the lid too soon.

  • Wear gloves. Grills can get very hot. It’s a good idea to wear oven or grilling gloves to protect your hands.

  • Position your grill on pavement. Keep your grill on a solid surface when you’re cooking. Lawns can be too soft or uneven, and you risk it toppling over.

  • Don’t dump hot ash in the trash!

Every grill behaves a little differently. It takes a while to get used to a new one, but think how much fun it is to practice!

FAQ

Q. What’s the best way to clean a grill when I’m finished cooking?

A. This is important, and it very much depends on the type of grill. Some people advise burning off excess fat and grease to make the grill easier to clean. Some suggest using a stiff wire brush on cast iron grills. The problem with that is that several modern versions have an enamel coating, and a stiff brush could ruin it. The only safe course of action is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Companies know you don’t want to spend all day on the chore, so most will offer methods that make cleaning as easy as possible.

Q. Does my new grill need to be seasoned?

A. Some grills have a suggested routine for first use, which generally involves heating it slowly and letting it “soak” for a few minutes at a given temperature so it can burn off unpleasant factory smells. Others have no such requirements. You can use them as soon as the packaging is off. With so many different types of grills, it’s difficult to give precise advice except the usual recommendation: do whatever the manufacturer suggests.

Q. How long do charcoal and briquettes stay hot enough to cook with?

A. It usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to get charcoal to cooking temperature, and then you’ll have around an hour to cook. You can add more fuel at any time, but this will have the effect of cooling the grill. It will take time to heat up again. Charcoal glows red, but briquettes go an ash-gray color when ready. There shouldn’t be any flame or smoke, though you will get small flare-ups if meat juices drop onto them.

The team that worked on this review
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