Grill Buyer's Guide
- AOG gas grill
Nothing says summertime like a backyard grill. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, fish, perfectly seared veggies...hungry yet? Almost 75% of American households own outdoor grills, and the popularity of this timeless cooking method is not expected to wane anytime soon.
Since grills are such a staple, we want to help you find the one that fits you best. Whether you're looking to purchase your first grill or need to replace an old one, you've come to the right spot.
We'll give you an overview of the different types of grills and the options available. You'll also find a list of our top recommended manufacturers and some helpful maintenance tips.
What Are Grills?
Backyard grills, also known as outdoor grills or BBQ grills are an outdoor appliance designed to cook food. The most basic definition includes some sort of fuel source for heating like charcoal or propane and a surface to place the food. Many also have covers or lids that you can adjust while you are grilling.
We'll start out by looking at the different categories of fuel, starting with the most popular (charcoal and gas).
Charcoal grills use (you guessed it) charcoal. Charcoal is made by heating wood to high temperatures without much oxygen. The result is a lump that burns hotter than wood and creates less smoke. There are two main varieties of charcoal. Charcoal briquettes are made from packed sawdust and binders. Lump charcoal is made from small pieces of hardwood.
- Primo charcoal grill
The advantages to charcoal include the fact that it is cost-effective, portable, and creates a signature grilled taste. However, charcoal grills are not allowed in all areas, and they do take more effort to clean since you have to scoop out the old ashes.
Gas grills rely on natural or propane gas. These grills heat up quickly, are easy to use, and can stay hot for extended periods of time. They're also clean-burning and good for the environment.
The drawbacks are that gas grills tend to be more expensive. And while propane grills are portable as long as they have a portable propane tank, natural gas grills are tethered to their hookup line.
- Built-in gas grill for outdoor kitchen
Smoker grills use wood or other fuel to cook the food at a lower temperature with lots of smoke for added flavor. If you've ever had smoked meat, vegetables, or other dishes, you know the flavor is unmatched.
Smokers are a more expensive option compared to standard gas or charcoal grills. They're also quite heavy and must adhere to any local codes and regulations.
Pellet grills have a hopper that holds pellets made of hardwood. These pellets are then fed with an auger into the combustion chamber to burn. The main advantage of these grills is that the system can be automated so you can program in your desired temperature. The ability to adjust the heat means you can smoke or sear the food.
Like smokers, pellet grills tend to be more expensive options than standard gas or charcoal. But, if you're looking for precision grilling, a pellet grill is an excellent choice.
Electric grills aren't as popular for outdoor BBQ grills because they don't offer as much of that signature grilled flavor. However, they are a convenient option because they come in compact sizes and are easy to set up and take down. Many people use countertop electric grills to grill things in the kitchen.
Before You Buy
With all of the options, how do you know which grill is best for you? Here are some tips to help narrow down your search for the perfect grill. Start by checking with your state, local, and neighborhood (HOA) authorities to see if there are any restrictions on certain types of outdoor grills.
With your budget in mind, decide on your fuel preference. Charcoal and gas are the most common options. Gas is the most convenient and has a smaller carbon footprint. Charcoal is easy to obtain and gives a distinctive grilled taste.
- Friends grilling at the park
Think through how you'll use the grill. How many people do you envision grilling for? Do you have a space to put it? Things like this will help you determine what size grill will fit best in your yard and how powerful you'll need the grill to be.
The heat output of the grill is often measured in BTUs. For more information on what a BTU means, you can check out this guide.
Types of Grills
As mentioned above, there are several different types of grills with various pros and cons. The main difference in the categories is usually the type of fuel used. In this section, we'll give a more in-depth look at gas, charcoal, smoker, electric, and infrared grills.
The basic components of a gas grill include a gas fuel source (propane tank or natural gas hookup), gas hoses, and valve regulators. The grill itself is equipped with gas burners. In addition to the main burner (over which you would grill the food), some gas grills also have side burners for things like sauces that need to be heated in a pan.
The igniter is a push-button or rotating knob that creates a spark to light the gas. Usually, this knob is part of a control panel that allows you to adjust the flow of gas to the burners.
- Everdure gas grill with rotisserie
Other components include the cooking grates, a warming rack located away from the center of the heat source, and a drip tray. Some grills come with an optional rotisserie for slow-roasting poultry or vegetables. It consists of a long metal rod that rotates slowly with a motor.
A subset of gas grills is an 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 fuel is a popular choice because of its flavor and portability. Although there are some differences between the models, a typical charcoal grill includes a base that keeps it up off the ground, the grill head (the main part of the grill), and a top vent or lid.
- Charcoal grill
Shelves or racks let you arrange food over the charcoal, and an ash trap or tray makes ash removal easy.
Another option to add to the mix is something called a hybrid grill. A hybrid is designed to accommodate both gas and charcoal fuel. That way you get the flavor of charcoal, but the longer burn time of gas.
Typical smoker grills consist of a smoking chamber, a drip shelf, and a firebox. The smoking chamber is where the meat or other food is placed to smoke. This will have racks or shelves. The drip shelf is located underneath to collect the drippings.
- Smoker grill
The firebox is where the burn takes place and can be located underneath or alongside the smoking chamber.
It's possible to buy a kit that allows you to assemble your own smoker to match the rest of your outdoor kitchen. Kits like this one come with a 4-shelf metal frame, the outer wall components (masonry firebrick), and a chimney flue. Once assembled, you can finish the outside with the stucco, brick, or rock to match the rest of your space.
- Cooking on an electric grill
Electric grills are less popular for outdoor grilling, but they sure are convenient! Simply plug it in, and you're ready to grill! Most are small enough to use on a table or countertop. They have a heating element either directly underneath a cooking surface or embedded within it. A drip pan catches the grease that runs off the cooking surface from the meat.
Not many people are fans of investing a lot of money in something and then finding out it's a dud. Same with you? 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 – Looking for a pellet grill that can both smoke and sear? Memphis Wood Fire Grills are capable of reaching over 700°F so you can sear like a pro or opt for a low and slow smoke.
- Broilmaster – Broilmaster has been making durable, quality grills since 1966. They now offer a range of charcoal, gas, and infrared grill options.
- Primo – Started 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 aims to make quality outdoor living affordable. They carry both gas and charcoal grills as well as grilling accessories to make your outdoor kitchen a reality.
How to Use and Maintain Your Grill
Proper use and maintenance are essential for the safety of your grill. Failure to follow the instructions could cause fires, burns, or permanently damage your grill. The best advice is to read and follow all the manufacturer's guidelines in the manual. In addition, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Cleaning a grill
Check for fire danger ratings and restrictions in your area. 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.
- Follow common sense when it comes to choosing which days to grill. If it's windy outside, it's probably not a good idea.
- Make sure you have enough space for your grill. Low-hanging branches or other combustible material nearby is a fire hazard.
- Don't leave the grill unattended.
- Don't use your grill in an enclosed space like a garage. (The exception to this is electric grills which are often safe to use indoors.)
- Make 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.
Specific tips for gas grills:
- Always light a gas grill with the hood open instead of closed. This prevents gas from building up and creating an explosion. The lid should also be open whenever you attach a propane tank.
- Be very careful when handling and storing propane cylinders. Do not bring them indoors, leave them in a vehicle, or keep the spare tanks next to the grill. Keep them away from high temperatures.
- NEVER check for a leak with a match or lighter.
- To clean the unit, disconnect the gas, and remove the grates. These can be soaked in soapy water and scrubbed with a grill brush.
- The inside walls of the grill and the hood can be gently scrubbed with a grill brush and wiped with a damp paper towel.
- Remove the drip pan and empty the contents. The drip pan can also be soaked and scrubbed.
Smaller portable grills can ship via normal parcel post, but the larger ones will ship on pallets via LTL freight. Even some of the grills that are technically small enough to go via parcel will ship on pallets to prevent damage. When your grill arrives, make sure to check over everything before signing off on the delivery.
If you do notice anything amiss, contact the manufacturer immediately and they can help make things right.
- Friends enjoying grilling outdoors
Ready to make some memories grilling outside with your family and friends? Whether you opt for charcoal or gas or go for something like a smoker or pellet grill, we hope you've found this overview helpful. Don't waste any more lovely days without a grill!
If you have any other questions about grills or smokers, please let us know! Our NFI Certified Specialists will be happy to answer your questions.