Barbecues and grilled food are an indispensable part of the summer in America, whether you’re just firing up hot dogs for the kids after work or you’re hosting a weekend party for the relatives.
Naturally, there are some pretty strong opinions out there on what kind of grill is best to use, and there is a bewildering array of choices. Here’s our take.
Should You Buy a Charcoal Grill or a Gas One?
Ultimately, this may come down to your personal preference. Some people feel that grilled food isn’t really great unless it has that smokey flavor that comes from charcoal. Others detest the charcoal odor or taste and only use gas.
For the most part, charcoal grills tend to be cheaper and more portable than gas, and charcoal does tend to burn hotter. However, you also have to contend with the possibility that ashes will get on your food and you can’t control the heat very easily — which can leave you with spots on the grill that are either too hot or too cool for your needs.
Gas grills tend to be more expensive and they tend to be a pain to maneuver or store. However, gas grills do tend to come with more “bells and whistles” than charcoal models. When you grill with gas, you also have easier clean-up. If you really miss the flavor of a charcoal grill, you can use a smoke box or a side burner to recreate it.
For our money, the comparison puts gas grills a notch above the simple charcoal models, and roughly 60% of consumers agree, so we’re going to focus there.
What Should You Look for in a Gas Grill?
Before you even start shopping for your next grill, we have one piece of advice: Know your budget. You’ll find grills that will only cost a few hundred dollars, and you’ll find others that can run you thousands. Knowing how much you can comfortably spend before you head out the door automatically helps you narrow your choices.
Other considerations include:
- Fuel type: Do you want natural gas or propane? Natural gas gives you an unlimited supply of fuel, but it requires you to hook your grill up to a stationary gas line wherever you want to use it. Propane grills use tanks, which means you have to watch the fuel when you’re cooking out, but they give you enhanced flexibility.
- Metal: You can find grills made of stainless steel, cast iron and aluminum. Some cooks swear by cast iron because of the way that it retains heat, but those are subject to corrosion rather easily and can be hard to clean. Stainless steel tends to be more durable and easier to clean but can be pricey. A quality aluminum grill can be just as effective as stainless steel when cooking, with good durability at a price that’s far under the stainless models.
- Features and size: Do you want a grill with levels because you have a big family? Do you want a side burner for vegetables? Do you dream of a smoker for perfectly-cooked ribs? The bigger the grill and the more features it has, the higher the price tag, so concentrate on buying only what you think you’ll use.
Thinking about your options before you actually start looking can keep you from going starry-eyed over the latest, greatest enhancements on a model and overspending.
What Are Some of the Top-Recommended Grill Models in 2020?
Even knowing your preferences and your budget only narrows your choices a little bit. There are dozens of brands and hundreds of models to choose from. Even a quick stroll through your local home improvement store to look at your options can start to make you dizzy.
Here are some of the year’s top picks according to the grilling aficionados at Gear Patrol:
- GenesisⓇ II E-330: At a price range between $799-$899, you can definitely find cheaper grills, but you probably won’t find any better. It has 500 square inches of space for cooking and has an infrared burner that doubles the heat it can give. Made of heavy-gauge steel with an enamel coating, for extra durability and plenty of storage space underneath for the tanks.
- Char-Griller Grillin’ ProTM 3001: If you’re on a tighter budget, this 3-burner gas grill comes in at an affordable $179.99 that’s bound to please. With dual smokestacks and porcelain-coated cast-iron grates, you can recreate the flavor of a smoker without struggling through clean-up every time you use it. It also has a side burner for your vegetables. This is a perfect starter grill that should last for a while with proper care.
- Fuego Element Hinged 2-Burner: If you have a small family or limited space for your grill, this might be the perfect model. It comes in at a modest $349.00 and has a compact size that doesn’t affect its capabilities. This is perfect for a single person, a couple or a family of four since it can handle about 15 burgers at once.
Whatever grill you decide meets your needs, just remember that they always perform better and last longer when they’re protected from the elements. Make sure that you know how to best care for your new piece of outdoor cookware to keep it in tip-top shape for years to come.