BBQ Grill Buyer's Guide
- Family enjoying a barbecue in the backyard
Barbecue on bbq grills. What's not to love? We're talking more than just hotdogs here. Seared steaks, seafood, grilled veggies - and don't forget the increasingly popular grilled pizza. Almost 75% of American households own an outdoor grill, but even though most of us have one, it doesn't hurt to upgrade to a better grilling experience.
Whether you're buying your first grill, or looking to step up your grill game, we've compiled an overview to help make things easier.
You'll find a list of the different types of grills and some of the options available. We've also included a list of our top recommended manufacturers along with some helpful maintenance tips.
What Are BBQ Grills?
BBQ grills are an outdoor appliance designed to cook food by grilling, searing, or smoking. Gas is the most popular choice for backyard BBQ grills, followed by charcoal and then other options like pellet grills or electric grills. We'll start by looking at the different categories of fuel.
Gas grills use natural or propane gas. These grills heat up quickly and can stay hot for extended periods. The convenience, along with the environmentally friendly clean burn, makes them the most popular choice.
- Propane gas barbecue grill
Gas grills that use natural gas require a gas hookup, but most gas grills use a portable propane tank.
Within the category of gas grills, there is another option called an infrared grill. Instead of the gas heating the grates directly, an infrared grill uses ceramic-plate burners that radiate infrared heat. This can generate a much higher temperature (up to 1,650 °F) than any other grill and create a nice sear. They also produce a very even heat.
Charcoal grills use charcoal which is made by heating wood to high temperatures without much oxygen. The result is charcoal chunks that burn hotter than wood and create less smoke.
- Steak grilling on a charcoal grill
Although it takes more effort and time to fire up a charcoal grill compared to gas, you do have the advantage of the authentic charcoal flavor and hands-on control with how and where you build the fire.
Charcoal comes in two main types. Briquettes are made from packed sawdust and binders while lump charcoal is made from small pieces of hardwood.
Another option is something called a hybrid grill. A hybrid is designed for both gas and charcoal fuel. That way you get the flavor of charcoal, but since you also use gas, you don't have to worry about your charcoal fire going out before you're done grilling.
Smoker grills open up the world of slow-cooked, smoky barbeque. They use wood or other fuel to cook the food at a lower temperature with lots of smoke for added flavor. This makes for melt-in-your-mouth smoked meats, but you can also use it for amazing smoked veggies, mac and cheese, dessert... the list goes on!
- Charcoal grill oven
Smoker grills tend to be more expensive than standard gas or charcoal grills. They're also quite heavy and must adhere to any local codes and regulations.
Pellet grills are less common, but they certainly deserve a second look. The design allows you to have the taste of wood-fired food, with amazing precision and convenience. These grills feature a hopper to hold hardwood pellets that are fed with an auger into the combustion chamber to burn. The system can be automated so you can control your desired temperature.
- Wood pellets set ablaze
Like the smoker, pellet grills tend to be a more expensive option than standard gas or charcoal. But if you're looking for precision grilling with wood, look no further.
Electric grills aren't as popular for outdoor BBQ grills because they lack some of that authentic smoky grilled flavor. However, they make a great choice for indoor grilling and are also easy to set up and takedown.
How to Find the Right Grill for You
BBQ grills are popular, but that also means your options are nearly endless. That's good news unless you're feeling overwhelmed by all the choices! Here are five basic considerations to help you narrow down the selections and find the perfect backyard grill. You'll want something that fits your ideal in terms of size, portability, heat control, fuel, and versatility.
Let's start with size. Size affects portability, but we'll save that for the next section. What will you need when it comes to the size of the actual grilling surface? If you overcrowd the grill with raw meat, the uncooked juices from one piece might leak over to the steak that you're getting ready to pull off and contaminate it.
For those of us planning to grill for large groups, something that has a larger grilling surface will make things safe and easy.
How important is portability to you?
Tailgating fans will want something that is easily unloaded and set up. The other end of the spectrum would be backyard grills permanently installed in an outdoor kitchen. Most grills fall somewhere in between, with many options that have wheels or are light enough for two people to pick up and move.
- Friends grilling out and having fun
How much control do you want over the heat?
Charcoal grills let you choose how you build the fire, but after that, there's not a lot you can do to change the temperature other than adjusting the vents or possibly changing the height of the cooking grate. Gas allows you to turn on and off different burner knobs to adjust the temperature. Smokers and pellet grills offer the most precision control with internal thermometers and programmable controls.
Fuel preference is pretty straightforward. There are pros and cons to all of the fuel choices, so it comes down to what fuel you prefer and what works best for your backyard.
Do you want to smoke AND grill your food?
This is where versatility comes into play. For those who can't decide whether they want a grill or a smoker, some options offer both.
Before You Buy
One more thing before you begin scrolling through the grills online. Start by checking with your state, local, and neighborhood (HOA) authorities to see if there are any restrictions on certain types of outdoor grills. There's no reason to put yourself through all the planning and shopping only to realize that type of grill isn't approved in your area.
You've made your list of what you want and now you are ready to shop. We know you're looking for quality, so here's a list of our top recommended manufacturers. With any of these brands, you'll find grills we can vouch for.
- Memphis Grills - Here's an example of a versatile grill that can both smoke and sear. Memphis Wood Fire Grills are capable of reaching over 700°F, or you can opt for low and slow smoke.
- Broilmaster - Since 1966, Broilmaster has been offering quality grills. Their brand today offers a selection of charcoal, gas, and infrared grills.
- Primo - Not every brand can claim they were founded by a Greek sailing enthusiast who perfected a type of kamado grill. Primo now has a range of high-quality, American-made ceramic grills. You can choose from charcoal or gas fuel options.
- Blaze Grills - Blaze specializes in making your outdoor kitchen a reality by combining quality with affordable pricing. They carry both gas and charcoal grills.
How to Use and Maintain Your Grill
If you don't use your grill correctly it could a) start a fire, b) food-poison you and your friends, and c) ruin the grill. Makes that boring manual seem more worthwhile, huh? While reading the manufacturer's instructions is always the best advice, here are a few additional tips to keep your grilling safe and happy.
Websites that update fire danger ratings and restrictions in your area are super helpful when checking to see if it's a good day to grill. Even if gas or charcoal grills are normally allowed in your area, there may be particularly dry or windy days where they are forbidden due to fire hazards.
Preheat and clean the grill grates with a grill brush before cooking any food. Remains of leftover food is a sneaky way to introduce bacteria to the new food that will make you sick. Cleaning the grates before and after grilling also helps keep the grates themselves in good condition.
Always light a gas grill with the lid open. This prevents gas from building up inside under the lid and causing an explosion. You should also have the lid open whenever you attach a new propane tank.
Be sure the grill is extinguished and cooled off before you leave. Shut off the gas when you are done grilling or wait until the coals are cooled before disposing of them in a metal bin. You can also remove the drip pan if you have one and empty the contents. The drip pan can also be soaked and scrubbed periodically.
Small portable BBQ grills can ship using normal parcel posts, but larger grills will ship on pallets via LTL freight. Sometimes LTL freight is used even for lighter grills to offer extra protection during shipment. When your grill arrives, make sure to check over everything before signing off on the delivery.
If you do notice anything damaged or missing, call the manufacturer or the seller immediately and they can help make things right.
- Barbecue get together with friends
Put on your apron and pull out the kabobs! BBQ grills have a way of making any meal feel like a party. Whether you're smoking meat for a large gathering or grilling hamburgers for two, we hope you've found this guide helpful in comparing the options.
And if you have any other questions about BBQ grills, feel free to contact us! Our NFI Certified Specialists will be happy to help.
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