Congratulations! You’ve decided to buy a grill and start your outdoor cooking journey. But with so many options where do you begin? We’ve put together this handy buying guide outlining the main features you should consider when investing in your new grill. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us on the Contact Us page.
The prices of grills range anywhere from about a hundred bucks to $5,000 or more. All price ranges have quality grills that will help you create a great meal. The differences in cost often comes down to size, build quality (which often translates into longevity), maximum heating temperature, finishes, and additional features such as side burners.
Now that you’ve set a budget, you next need to determine what size grill you want. You’ll need to measure the space where the grill will be located – and make sure it’s outside with nothing overhead. There’s no worse feeling than investing hundreds if not thousands of dollars in your new grill and finding it doesn’t fit.
Also keep in mind the size of the cooking surface. What may be enough when you’re cooking for your family on a weeknight may be too small when you have friends over for a cookout or you host a party. You can always use less space when grilling a meal, but you can’t add space when you need it.
All grill manufacturers provide their cooking surface size in square inches, but how do you know if 295 sq in or 375 sq in right for you? All GrillCookBake reviews include our BURGERSIZE rating letting you know how many burgers the grill can accommodate.
Keep in mind that many grills have wheels and can be rolled into position when you’re ready to cook. For example, some people keep a grill in the garage and roll it into the driveway when needed. If you’re looking for a mobile grill, keep in mind there are special limitations for natural gas and electric grills as they need to be hooked up to your house.
Outside of size and cost, no decision is more important than deciding what will fuel your grill’s cooking fires. There are common fuel types:
- Propane. The classic grill fuel. Easy to use and produces a hot flame. Propane comes in tanks that need to be refilled or exchanged, which can be accomplished easily at many hardware and grocery stores.
- Natural Gas. Natural gas cooks similar to propane. In order to use a natural gas grill you will need to connect it to your house’s natural gas supply. Choosing between propane and natural gas usually comes down to whether your house has a natural gas line or not. If you don’t, then your choice is propane. If you do, you likely will want the convenience of natural gas.
- Charcoal. The smell of summer. Charcoal gives food a desired smokey flavor, but the downside is it takes much more time to prepare and temperature control is harder. Charcoal grills are often allowed in locations where gas grills are prohibited such as certain apartment complexes.
- Wood. Going back to the basics, we are seeing more and more high-quality wood burning grills come onto the market. Using wood logs or wood pellets, these grills are often capable of being used as a large smoker.
Propane and natural gas grills have internal burners. The number of burners range from one to six or more in the largest grills. Each individual burner is temperature controlled by a knob adjusting the flame – sort of like a gas pedal where you give it more gas and the hotter it gets.
Propane and gas grills have metal grates where the food is cooked. They’re usually made out of stainless steel or cast iron. Which is better is a much-debated topic and usually comes down to personal preference.
When you’re buying a grill, or reading our reviews, you’ll frequently see references to BTUs. If you’re like us when we started, we didn’t know our BTU’s from our SUV’s. A BTU, or British thermal unit, is a measure of the maximum amount of heat a burner puts out. The more BTU’s the more heat emitted.
However, a high BTU rating doesn’t necessarily mean the grill will be hotter than a grill with lower BTU rating. Factors such as the size of the grill make a big difference as a very small grill with a medium BTU rating will likely get hotter than a massive grill with the same medium BTU’s. While BTU’s can be helpful, we’ve found that most grillers won’t see a meaningful difference between marginally different BTU ratings.
Grills can come with a host of additional features, gadgets, and gizmos. Often, the price is reflective of these additions. Some are very helpful, some you won’t use very much, so keep that in mind when you’re considering whether an additional feature is worth the added cost.
Common additional features include:
- Side burners: These gas-powered burners are located on one side of the grill and are similar to a kitchen gas stove. They can be used to cook your sauce or other dishes in a pot or pan.
- Thermometer: Many grills have an integrated thermometer so you can tell how hot things are inside. Others include connections for electronic temperature probes you can insert into your meat so you can keep track of its internal temperature while it cooks.
- Powered rotisserie: No longer do you need to crank your meat, a powered rotisseries will automatically turn your roast for you.
- Sear station: A newer feature, this smaller integrated burner heats to very high temperatures so you can give your meat the perfect crust.
- Smart technology: Like seemingly everything these days, some grills include smart technology so you can monitor or control your grill remotely.
- Smoker box: A smoker box is a built in container to hold your wood chips or chunks so you can smoke your food – and not just meat, smoked veggies are an excellent side dish.
Construction and Assembly
Grills are made out of different materials such as steel or aluminum. The stronger the material usually gives a grill a greater lifespan. Keep in mind certain metals, such as aluminum, then to be rust-proof or at least rust-resistant.
Most grills require some to much assembly. It can be a complicated project, but you won’t have to tackle assembly very often if you buy a grill to last.
Brands and Warranties
The top grill companies have been making their grills for decades and often come with comprehensive warranties. They will have licensed dealers and you’ll be able to easily source replacement parts. The brand-name grills are usually more of an investment than new or unknown brands. Being a “no-name” brand isn’t inherently bad, but you need to be cautious about subpar build quality. Plus, it’s usually much harder to source parts or make a warranty claim if something goes wrong.