As the weather warms up, it’s prime time to buy a new grill for those backyard barbecues. To keep your guests coming back for more, choose a grill to match your level of cooking skill. Here are the basics to consider when shopping for a new grill.
Types of grills. Outdoor grills are available in gas or charcoal-fueled models. Both have pros and cons, but the best type for you depends a lot on your lifestyle and personal taste preferences. Gas grills heat quickly, and offer easy cleanup. However, they don’t provide that great smoky flavor that charcoal grill fans love. Gas grills start around $200, but premium models will cost you thousands. Many grilling enthusiasts swear by charcoal, even though it takes longer to heat up and cook. It’s also messy and not as environmentally friendly as gas. But if you’re smoking meat, charcoal can’t be beat. Charcoal grills are also cheaper than gas, with models priced between $100 to $400-plus. A final option is a kamado-style grill. These egg-shaped cookers employ charcoal and a thick, insulated body (ceramic or cast iron) to allow optimal smoking, roasting, and grilling. Many enthusiasts swear by them, but they aren’t cheap. Plan on spending $400 minimum.
Construction. Since a grill is a major investment, you’ll want to make sure that your selection holds up over time. Check a grill’s construction by shaking the floor model. The unit should not wiggle or make noise.
Power. Power for gas grills is measured in British thermal units (BTUs). Look for models that offer 12,000 BTUs per burner. Adequate power means your grill will heat up and cook faster, but Consumer Reports testing didn’t reveal a difference despite different BTUs. Make sure that whatever model you choose has enough flame/flavorizer bars or added heat sources to distribute heat evenly. Gas fuel sources include propane or a dedicated natural gas line. A gas line may require a service call from your gas company, but will save the time and frustration of changing empty propane tanks.
Cooking space. An important consideration when selecting your grill is size. Experts recommend 100 square inches per person. In general, 600 to 900 square inches should be enough room for cooking at home.
Must-have features. According to grilling experts, the top features of the best grills include the following: a side shelf to provide a spot for food prep, tool storage, and accouterments, a cover to protect the grill from the elements, and a temperature gauge so you can tell when foods are properly cooked. Some grills also come with extra burners (gas or infrared) that allow more versatility and better searing.
Features to skip. Unless you are a grill master, you probably don’t need extra accessories like a smoker box, a pizza stone, or a rotisserie. They take a fair amount of knowledge and effort to get good results and most people don’t end up using them.