Need-to-know grill purchasing guide If you're looking for a new barbecue, grilling season is in full swing. These outdoor stoves can handle pellets, charcoal, or gas. Choosing the ideal barbecue entails considering fuel, size, pricing, style, and extras.
You may buy gas, charcoal, or pellet grills while shopping for a barbecue. Consumer Reports has no opinion on which gasoline is best for barbecue; our experts like all three.
To start a gas grill, just switch on the burners. Whether you use a standard charcoal barbecue or a kamado grill, charcoal provides you with more control over the heat. Pellet grills utilize wood pellets and include digital thermostats for accurate cooking temperature control. We test each kind individually due to their peculiarities. We've compiled and updated our greatest patio suggestions. Here are a few key features to consider.
How CR Tests Grills
Grills from compact ones you can take camping to bigger grills meant to serve an extended family are tested by CR to ensure they meet your needs and your budget. Every year, we rate hundreds of new grills on the market, from those for beginners to those with years of experience looking for a replacement. Prices start at over $3,000 and go down to less than $1000.
Gas grills: Our product lab connects each gas grill to a thermocouple and performs four temperature checks. Each grill received 3,240 readings. We rate the preheat performance after 10 minutes because that's when most people start cooking. If you're cooking a lot of burgers, you want them to finish at once.
Our indirect-cooking test examines a grill's ability to sustain moderate heat for cooking thick chicken breast without burning. We examine each grill's temperature range to ensure you can sear a steak and slow-cook ribs.
We test each model's durability using a huge instrument that pushes and pulls it to replicate deck or patio wear. We gather data from tens of thousands of CR members to evaluate which gas grill brands survive longer. These data feed into our gas grill ratings' expected dependability score.
Charcoal grills: We test charcoal grills with a full chimney of charcoal. Wire thermocouples to the grill grates to measure how uniformly the embers heat the surface. We evaluate charcoal grills for evenness and indirect cooking to ensure tender, not burned chicken.
Many recent versions include a trap door that lets you put coals beneath the grates without disturbing the meal. We examine how simple it is to change the heat vents. Finally, we check how simple each model is to clean and dispose of ash.
Kamado grills: Kamado grills burn charcoal, but its tall, deep design and tiny cooking surface help most models heat evenly. We forego assessing these models for evenness and instead evaluate them for retaining high heat. Kamado grills can reach temperatures up to 1,000° F. Quick-grilling thin-crust pizzas tests each model's heat output. We test kamado grills using low-heat pork shoulder.
Pellet grills: Pellet grills combine gas and charcoal barbecues. We hybridize gas and charcoal testing. We use thermocouples to assess surface evenness, indirect cooking, and temperature range. We don't preheat pellet grills since they heat very rapidly.
We also consider cleaning ease and conveniences like locking casters, hooks, and side shelves.
Below is additional information about gas, charcoal, kamado, and pellet grills, including characteristics of each. See our grill ratings for information on gas, charcoal, and pellet grills.
Gas Grills: Factors to Consider
If you like grilling fish and steaks with sear marks, check at the temperature-range score in our gas grill ratings. Higher scores indicate a grill's versatility. If ribs or a roast are on the docket, you'll want an indirect-cooking grill. Indirect cooking involves putting meat adjacent to the fire, not over it, with the lid closed to preserve heat. Our indirect-cooking tests rate grills.
Bringing the Heat
Btu/hr measures a grill's gas use and heat output. Ignore it as a measure of a grill's ability to sear steaks or heat up quickly. More Btu doesn't ensure quicker preheating or better cooking—look for a model that performs high in our preheating test.
With Regard to Burners
Bear in mind that burners are the most often replaced component of gas barbecues. Estimate a lifespan of between 2 and 10 years. Burners covered by a 10-year warranty are more likely to last than their nonwarranted counterparts. It takes no more than ten minutes to switch them out.
Infrared burners, used on many gas barbecues, generate very high temperatures for searing meats. Insight from CR? Pay no attention to these naysayers. Repeatedly, our testing has proved that infrared burners don't produce better sears than regular gas burners. Use our temperature-range score to narrow your search to models that are suitable for both high searing temperatures and low temperatures for indirect cooking.
Check the grill's structure while buying. The more sturdy the grill, the better. Check cart, wheels, lid, and firebox. Stainless steel carts with welded connections are generally sturdier than painted steel carts with nuts and bolts. Gas grills are tested for durability. Charcoal, kamado, and pellet models aren't tested. Grills with four wheels or casters are easy to move. Full-axle wheels are superior than frame-mounted ones.
Sturdy grills not only last longer, they're safer. Stability prevents grill tipping. Sharp metal edges should be avoided. Handle test Don't touch the lid with your knuckles or fingers. Some flame flare is typical, however increasing the distance between grates and burners or flavorizer bars reduces continuous flare-ups.
Gas Grill Varieties
Various sizes of gas grills exist. Manufacturers often label their grills with the number of burners they have (anything from two to six), but this isn't always indicative of how large the grill really is. Size is categorized by CR based on the amount of available cooking space, which is quantified by the number of burger patties that can be cooked at once. Then we sort them into three sizes:
- Small grills: Grills that are too small to fit more than 18 hamburger patties.
- Midsized grills: Grills in the middle size range may accommodate between 18 and 28 patties.
- Large grills: Huge barbecues, accommodating 28 or more burger patties at once.
We also evaluate small, medium, and large gas grills that may be taken anywhere.
Ideal for picnics, tailgating, and other outdoor gatherings. Smaller decks and patios may also make use of portable barbecues.
Grills, gas, small (18 or Fewer Burgers)
To avoid taking up too much room, tiny, stationary barbecues are a viable alternative for a casual barbecue. Smaller barbecues often include shelves that slide down to reduce their overall footprint. There is a vast range in both price and look for portable barbecues, from simple painted steel carts to sleek stainless steel.
Midsized Gas Grills (18 to 28 Burgers)
This size barbecue is the most popular option on the market. You’ll see simple grills and souped-up ones with lots of storage, including LED lighting and backlit controls for cooking after nightfall. Some of the most expensive gas grills have burner warranties of ten years or more.
Gas Grills, Big Ones (28 or More Burgers)
Most large barbecues include sizable grilling grates. The higher-end versions are made from the best quality stainless steel and have seamless construction, thicker grates, sliding drawers, greater storage capacity, and higher-quality, more burners. In addition, their guarantee period is longer.
Considering Charcoal Grills
Airflow regulates charcoal barbecue heat. More air above the coals makes a fire burn hotter, while less air keeps them lighted for slow cooking. Choose a model with a tight-fitting lid and sturdy vents.
Coal Bed Accessible
Long-term cooking requires charcoal. Charcoal reaches its highest temperature 20 minutes after lighting. Find a charcoal barbecue with a door to add coals or hinged grates to add or rearrange coals while cooking.
Because charcoal briquettes burn at nearly the same temperature, grill size and shape determine heat concentration or diffusion. Wider types, like barrel grills, can cook more meals at once over a thinner coal bed, so they're excellent for burgers and brats. Kettle and kamado grills feature deeper, narrower coal beds that may concentrate heat for searing or slow coal burn for long, slow cooking.
Adjustable cooking grates
Foods near the embers sear quicker but burn before they're done. Look for a grill with a coal bed or cooking grates that can be raised or lowered with a crank.
Charcoal barbecues provide unique dangers. With a charcoal barbecue, you create and control the fire, unlike a gas or pellet grill. Most grills feature a maximum charcoal limit to avoid damage or an out-of-control fire. Because grilling flames may be higher and harder to manage, utilize long-handled utensils like tongs and spatulas. Wear a short-sleeved or tight-fitting shirt to prevent flames. Charcoal grilling requires a combination fire extinguisher. Class ABC signifies the extinguisher can put out wood, electrical, and grease fires. While water will extinguish hot coals, a grease fire can spread if doused with a hose.
Types of Charcoal Grills
Charcoal grills have more shapes and materials than gas versions. Classic kettle grills are spherical and largest at the cooking grates, tapering toward the coal bed. Barrel grills are the biggest charcoal versions, using more fuel and holding more food.
These rectangular grills replace the kettle grill. Many include movable cooking grates and a door to add charcoal. They hold more food than kettle or kamado barbecues. Most have an ashtray. You'll need to add a lot of coals to make a tiered bed for longer cooking.
These traditional charcoal barbecues take up less room than barrel or kamado-style grills. The tapered form enables you generate a deeper bed of coals than in a barrel barbecue, so you can cook longer without adding coals. The three-legged kettle grills we've seen aren't as strong as the four-legged barrel grills.
FAQs: grill buying guide what you need to know
Q. What should you look for when buying a grill?
When looking at the components and features on a grill, always check the main components for quality before getting sold on add-on features:
- Burners. ...
- Grates. ...
- Grill Cooking System. ...
- Stainless Steel Grate. ...
- Storage cabinets and drawers.
- Side shelves for keeping accessories and spices handy.
Q. What are 3 rules for using the grill?
How to Grill Safely
- When handling raw meat, chicken, and seafood. Separate it from other food. Refrigerate it before grilling. Wash your hands before and after handling it. Make sure its juices do not touch other food, utensils, and surfaces. ...
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
Q. How do you know what size grill to get?
What size grill do I need? The primary factor in determining grill size is cooking area. Cooking area is expressed in terms of square inches. A typical three burner gas grill features 450-500 square inches of cooking area, which is generally sufficient for the average household.