Outdoor Grill Buyer's Guide
- People enjoying barbecue outdoors
Almost 75% of American households own an outdoor grill. Because of our love of relaxing with family outside, outdoor grills have become a staple in nearly every American household. These days grilling is more than another means of cooking. It has become an art form. Popular grill recipes go far beyond stereotypical depictions of hamburgers and hot dogs. Surprising our families with beautifully grilled steak, seafood, veggies, and grilled pizza is the way to go!
Because outdoor grills are so popular, manufacturers began creating several types of grills so you could have the grill of your dreams. Which is better, charcoal or gas? Should you invest in a pellet grill? What's the difference between a grill and a smoker?
The decisions can feel overwhelming, so we've compiled a guide to help you keep track of what's available and narrow down which grills will work best for you. We'll also include some tips on how to care for your grill, brand recommendations, and information on how it will ship.
What Are Outdoor Grills?
For our purposes, anything that is used to cook outdoors with a fuel source, grill body, and grill grate or surface count as an outdoor grill. You can choose from charcoal, gas, pellet or electric grills, and they come in a wide range of styles and sizes.
- Cooking vegetables on an outdoor grill
The shape and styles have functional purposes but also contribute to aesthetics. Different shaped grills create different cooking environments, so an egg-shaped, ceramic kamodo style grill will give you a different cooking experience than a shallow rectangular aluminum grill.
The aesthetic part comes in when selecting from a range of sleek modern designs, color finishes, or iconic shapes. While most grills come in black or metallic finishes, the Everdure brand offers a line of grills with colorful finish options like red, orange, blue, and white.
In terms of size, the grills we carry range from a petite 14-inch grill to a whopping 81-inch model. You can also choose from common grill materials like aluminum, ceramic, stainless steel, and titanium.
Your fuel preference is one of the main factors when choosing a grill. As mentioned above, there are four common options. Gas (natural or liquid propane) and charcoal grills are the most common, but you can also buy pellet or electric grills. Here's a rundown of the pros and cons of each.
Fun fact: Charcoal isn't actually coal. Instead, it starts as packed sawdust (briquettes) or wood pieces (lump charcoal) that are heated to high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment. The result is a fuel that burns hotter than wood and creates less smoke.
- Charcoal grill being lit by a gas torch
Speaking of smoke, that's one of the appeals to charcoal fuel. It won't overpower you with smoke, but there's enough to add that signature flavor to your food. For some, the smell of a charcoal grill is reason enough to choose it.
Another bonus is that charcoal grills are portable and less expensive than most of the other options. The downside is that they take more effort to light and extinguish, and you don't have as much control over the flame height and duration.
Gas fuel is the reigning king of cost-effective convenience. Turn a knob, push a button, and voila: flames. The pros and cons are slightly different depending on the type of gas. Natural gas is often cheaper and you don't have to worry about running out, but propane is easy to obtain and portable.
- Fire Magic Black Diamond gas grill head
It's important to note that propane and natural gas are not interchangeable. Gas grills are either designed specifically for one or the other, so be careful to choose the right model. Most grill models allow you to select either option when you are purchasing the grill and you can also find conversion kits to convert a grill from natural gas to propane or vice versa.
Interested in more information on the difference between natural gas and propane? This guide gives a more in-depth look at the pros and cons.
Infrared grills are a type of gas grill, but they have ceramic plates in between the gas burner and the grill grate. The gas heats the ceramic which then radiates infrared heat. The advantage to this type of heat is that it is less likely to dry out the meat and is capable of very high grill temperatures.
- Prime pellet grill
Pellet grills use hardwood pellets for an eco-friendly, wood-based fuel. The hopper holds the supply of pellets until they are fed with an auger into the combustion chamber to burn as fuel. The design offers a high degree of automation and control for your grill since you can control the rate at which the fire is fed. Pellet fuel is also a common option for smoker grills.
The downside is that these units tend to be more expensive, and depending on where you live, the fuel may not be as easy to get.
- Fire Magic post mount electric grill
Most electric grill models are safe to use indoors on a countertop. The heating element is embedded in the grilling surface or directly beneath it. They usually don't offer the same sear and flavor as the other flame-cooked fuel options, so they are not a very popular choice for outdoor BBQ grills.
Some electric models let you add wood chips to the grill for a smoky flavor.
What's Different Between Standard Grills and Smoker Grills?
As a disclaimer, there is some overlap in these categories. For our definition, a smoker is an outdoor grill that emphasizes its use of heavy smoke to slow cook your favorite foods to perfection. You can buy smoker grills in any of the fuel options listed above.
- Fire Magic deluxe gourmet drop-in gas grill
You might be familiar with smoker grills that cook food "low and slow" in a barrel shaped, smoky chamber. However, many smoker grills can reach high temperatures and allow you to get a hot sear as well as a smoky low temp depending on the settings.
Which Grill is Best For You?
When you're ready to invest in an outdoor grill, it makes sense to get one that checks all the boxes. Wondering where to start? Here are a few steps to help you choose the best outdoor grill for your backyard.
What's your budget?
Coming up with a price range early on will help you with the following steps.
Which grills are legal in your area?
Save yourself some hassle and start by looking up any state, local, or HOA restrictions on outdoor grills.
How do you plan to use your grill?
This includes things like how many people you plan to grill for, or the types of grilled food you'll make most often.
Where do you plan to put the grill?
Knowing the location will help you determine what sizes will fit and whether you will need to run any new gas lines.
What's your fuel preference?
Armed with a plan for how you intend to use the grill and your price range, choose which fuel will work best.
- A young girl undecided to make a choice
Once you've sketched out the basics of what you want in an outdoor grill... now what? Here's a list of the top grill brands we recommend to get you started on the search for a well-made grill. You'll find a range of prices and a variety of fuel options and styles, but the common thread is quality.
- Summerset - Summerset is based in California and designs grills with luxury in mind. They carry high-end grills along with more affordable options. In addition to charcoal and gas grills, they also carry other outdoor kitchen appliances and accessories.
- American Outdoor Grill - AOG is another great option if you're looking to design an outdoor kitchen, but they also make standalone options if you're not interested in a built-in grill.
- Fire Magic - Fire Magic has been in the industry for over 75 years and makes gas, charcoal, infrared, and electric grills. They also have a lifetime warranty that covers their cast stainless steel burners, stainless steel housing, and cooking grids.
- Broilmaster - Broilmaster has been making quality grills for satisfied customers since 1966. Their grill options include gas, charcoal, and infrared grills.
How to Use, Care for, and Maintain Your Grill
Following the instructions in the owner's manual is the best way to ensure your grill has a nice long life. It's also important for safety reasons since grills can be fire hazards when used improperly. The maintenance and safety instructions vary slightly depending on the type of grill and the fuel you use, but here are some general tips:
- Make sure you have adequate clearance. This usually means at least 10 feet away from a major structure.
- Never leave a lit grill unattended.
- If using charcoal, make sure the coals are extinguished before leaving the grill.
- When lighting a gas grill, make sure the lid is open. Otherwise gas could build up and cause an explosion.
- Store propane tanks safely (never in the house).
- Use soapy water or a leak detector to inspect your propane tank or other gas lines for leaks. NEVER use a match or lighter to look for leaks!
- Gas leak fire extinguishing training
Do a thorough cleaning periodically (once per season is usually sufficient). Use a grill brush with soap and water to gently scrub away the grime and wipe it away with a damp paper towel. Detachable grill grates and the drip pan can be taken out and soaked in soap and water to help loosen up the soot and grease.
Grill covers are an inexpensive accessory that go a long way in protecting your grill from sun damage or moisture. Even if you store your grill in the garage, we recommend a cover to protect from dust or critters.
Most grills ship on pallets via LTL freight. (Small portable grills sometimes ship using normal parcel post.) When you receive a freight delivery, make sure to inspect the grill to make sure nothing is missing or damaged. If something is amiss, don't sign off on the delivery. Instead, contact the manufacturer or seller and they can help make things right.
- Group of college students enjoying a barbecue
Outdoor grills help make your backyard a place where people want to gather. And thankfully, there are options to suit whatever stage of life you're in. So whether you're investing in a massive grill head for large family gatherings, or starting out with a portable charcoal grill, you can enjoy the simple pleasure of eating good food outside.
Do you have any other questions about outdoor grills or other backyard appliances? If so, please contact us and our NFI Certified Technicians will be happy to help.
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from Canton, MA asked:
November 15, 2020
Do you recommend keeping your gas grill covered for the winter?
on November 16, 2020