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Whether you want a grill in your backyard, need one that's safe to use in the kitchen, or one that can travel with you, grills undoubtedly make life a little more delicious. Choosing one can be overwhelming, though. Charcoal? Propane? Charcoal requires extra materials and cleaning up, but you also need to remember to fill the gas canister if you go with propane. There are also electric options. What shape works best with your space? Do you want a grill that will allow you to also smoke meat periodically? Should it be portable for the campground?
Don’t worry, we break it all down for you to help you make your decision. Whether it’s for weeknight dinners in your backyard or for tailgating, here are the best grills to buy.
Best Charcoal: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill (22-Inch)
Dimensions (LxWxH): 27 x 22.5 x 39.5 inches | Cooking Area: 363 square inches | Weight: 37 pounds
Weber reigns supreme when it comes to charcoal grills and its tripod grill shape is iconic. With its black porcelain exterior, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Grill is still the best charcoal grill to have.
With 363 square inches of cooking space, the Weber Original can cook up to 13 burgers at once and there's enough clearance for a large turkey or beer can chicken. The lid has a hook on the inside for when it’s time to turn the hot dogs, and the lid’s handle has a heat shield to prevent burns. The steel grates inside are hinged for easy access when adding charcoal. People like that this model has a built-in lid thermometer to help monitor the grill’s heat, and that Weber’s dampers are now resistant to rust.
Many people do suggest getting a chimney starter to expedite the process of heating up the charcoal. Also, there’s a removable ash catcher on the bottom, which helps with cleanup.
Best Charcoal, Runner Up: Royal Gourmet CD1824E 24-inch Charcoal Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 58.7 x 27.6 x 50.4 inches | Cooking Area: 474 square inches | Weight: 45.6 pounds
If you want an economical charcoal grill option that also has the added benefit of being a cart then look no further than the Royal Gourmet 24-inch Charcoal BBQ Grill. It is spread over a 382-square-inch main cooking area and a 110-square-inch stainless-steel warming rack.
The grill's porcelain-enameled grates have enough room to cook for up to 10 people, with two folding side tables as well as a bottom shelf, in case you need a place to store things like trays or containers. Despite its affordability, there are plenty of treats, like the charcoal access door in the front, which makes it easy to replenish the coal supply, and the adjustable charcoal pan to allow you to control the heat. It also has a built-in thermometer and ash catcher.
The main downside with this grill is the assembly, but once you put it together it should be happy grilling.
Best Gas: Weber Genesis II E-335 3-Burner Gas Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 59 x 29 x 47 inches | Cooking Area: 669 square inches | BTUs/hour: 39,000
Four burners? Check. 669 square inches of cooking area? Check. Grill cabinet for storage? Check. The Weber Genesis II packs a big punch for those looking to grill with propane.
This gas grill is easy to light thanks to Weber's Infinity Ignition and its main burners deliver a consistent 39,000 BTUs per hour and its side burner gives another 12,000 BTUs. Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates make up the main 513-square-inch cooking space, while the warming rack adds an additional 156 square inches. Weber designed a grease management system to prevent flare-ups, and a removable catch pan makes cleanup easy. There’s also a thermometer that connects to a smartphone app so you can focus on other things.
Users love that it holds an even cooking temperature and appreciate the “sear station,” a 9,000 BTU/hour burner that intensifies heat and allows you to add sear marks to your food.
Related: The Best Propane Grills
Best Pellet: Traeger Pro 575 Wood Pellet Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 41 x 27 x 53 inches | Cooking Area: 575 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 18 pounds
If you're looking for a grilling experience that's a bit more hands-off, this pellet grill is it. Traeger is the gold standard of pellet grills, which are powered by electricity and use wood pellets to fuel the fire.
To use the Traeger Pro 575, you set your desired temperature and the grill's computer regulates it for you. It automatically adds wood pellets when necessary keeping the 575 square inches of cooking space smoky and hot. Plus, this grill connects to Wi-Fi, which means you can monitor it from anywhere in your house.
The grill, which has two interior racks, can cook up to 24 burgers at once, and the porcelain nonstick grates are a cinch to clean.
Related: The Best Pellet Smokers
Best Smoker: Oklahoma Joe Highland Charcoal Horizontal Smoker
Dimensions (LxWxH): 57 x 33.5 x 53 inches | Cooking Area: 900 square inches | Hopper Capacity: 20 pounds
The grill's interior 33.75 x 17.25-inch grate gives you 619 square inches of cooking space plus there's an additional 281 square inches of secondary cooking space. The firebox’s door makes it easy to stoke the fire safely and since it’s fully constructed from heavy-gauge steel, this smoker can create the heat you need. The porcelain grates are easy to clean post-smoking, and there's a front shelf to hold tools while you cook.
Bonus points for having heavy wheels making it easy to transport across the yard. Users report that cleaning it can be a bit tricky, but not enough to outweigh the benefit of using the grill.
Related: The Best Charcoal Grills
Best Electric: George Foreman 15-Serving Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 22.5 x 20.5 x 13inches | Cooking Area: 240 square inches | Weight: 21 pounds
An electric grill will never produce the smoky flavor beloved by charcoal grilling enthusiasts. But if you live in an apartment or want a grill that you can throw in your car and tailgate with, an electric grill is your friend, and the George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill is your best friend.
You can cook up to 15 servings of food at once on this electric grill that has easy-to-clean nonstick grates, a removable stand, and a removable grill plate. Since it’s on the small side with only 240 square inches of cooking space, it’s also very light for a grill at just 3.2 pounds and 21 pounds when assembled. The five heat settings let you adjust to the temperature you want.
Users love that it comes with a stand so you don’t have to keep it on the floor and pull a Michael Scott. They also love that it's easy to assemble and clean.
Related: The Best Electric Smokers
Best Kamado: Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 21 x 18.25 x 30 inches | Cooking Area: 262 square inches | Weight: 162 pounds
Though they originated in Japan, Big Green Egg popularized kamado grills in the United States and it now has a cult following. Many competitors have come along since its inception, but, the fact of the matter is that Big Green Egg is great at what it does.
Made of thick ceramic that retains heat and moisture, it uses lump charcoal, which lights quickly and burns hotter than charcoal briquettes. People use it as a grill, but that’s not all it can do. Cook meat on it low and slow to use it as a smoker, or throw a pizza or a pie in there to use it as an oven. Only 262 square inches of space does translate to handling 20-pound turkeys or 7 racks of ribs hung vertically.
Related: The Best Grill Brushes
Best Portable: Weber 18-Inch Jumbo Joe Charcoal Grill
Dimensions (LxWxH): 20.5 x 19.7 x 19.7 inches | Cooking Area: 240 square inches | Weight: 18 pounds
Just as Weber’s kettle grill dominates the charcoal grill options, its portable grill is the best, too. At only 18 pounds, this baby is ready to get packed up in the car and go with you to the cabin rental, stadium parking lot, or park.
The lid and bowl are enameled with porcelain, which helps with heat retention. There are 18 inches of cooking space on the steel grates, which lets you cook several burgers or hot dogs at once. The coated handle prevents burns, and an aluminum ash catcher should help with post-BBQ cleanup.
Related: The Best Portable Grills
Whether you're new to grilling or it's all old hat, it doesn't get any better than the affordable classic Weber 22-Inch Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill (view at Amazon). If you're looking for a great gas grill, the Weber Genesis II E-335 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill (view at Amazon) won't disappoint.
What to Look for in a Grill
There are two main fuel types for grills: gas or charcoal. Gas typically means propane, which you can regularly refill at hardware stores, but it sometimes means natural gas which requires a hook up near your grill. Charcoal uses charcoal briquettes, sold in bags at places like grocery and hardware stores.
If that smoky flavor is synonymous with grilling for you, then you'll want to choose a charcoal grill. Charcoal takes longer to heat up and it can be messy (hello, ashes), but it is the choice of barbecue purists. People who like gas grills like them because they get hot quickly and are cleaner.
If you’re looking to smoke your own meats, then it’s helpful to know that smokers use wood. Most woods that are free of resin will work; it depends on what flavor profile you're going for.
Keep your cooking goals in mind when choosing your grill. If you have a large family and need a grill that can handle a lot of food at once, and maybe even multi-task with burners, you should look for a grill with at least 550 square inches of space. If you're a couple who just want to quickly grill some hot dogs at the park, you can get away with much less.
Similar to the cooking area, it's important to keep in mind the size of your space. If you’re working with a tight backyard, you might want to think twice before getting the biggest grill on the market. If you're an apartment dweller with a balcony, you’ll want to put safety first and make sure you're allowed to use a grill on it (and if so, what kind). Lastly, if you live somewhere with bad winter weather, consider whether you'll need to store it during the cooler months.
Some people want all the bells and whistles on their grill—Wi-Fi, side burners, and sliding drawers—while others just want a straightforward piece of equipment that will fire up their steak. Of course, how many features you get correlates with how much you will spend.
Possibly the most important feature to consider is the material of the grill grate which comes into direct contact with your food. Grill grates are typically made of cast iron, stainless steel, or an enameled version of either. Cast iron is believed to be the best for heat retention and even temperatures, but it does require a lot of maintenance. Stainless steel heats up quickly and is lighter for portability, but doesn't have great heat retention.
Of course, grilling isn’t as simple as just buying the grill itself. You’ll likely need to purchase some tools to help you achieve grilling greatness. Among the list of must-haves is a grilling spatula, tongs, internal thermometer, a lighter, and a grill brush for cleaning. Other accessories that are fun, but not necessary, include grilling baskets (to help keep veggies separate) and a pizza stone. Some grills might include accessories, most will have brand-specific accessories you can add on.
How do you light a charcoal grill?
The process for lighting a charcoal grill is fairly simple. "Pile the charcoal, stick in a piece of paper or cardboard, and light it up," says Chef Adrian de Leon of Tarbell's in Phoenix. "Blow air into it to let oxygen get into the fire."
Why are BTUs important for gas grills?
BTUs (British Thermal Units) help you figure out how powerful your grill is and to ensure that everything works properly. De Leon says that they are "important to measure the quality, and quantity of how the grill is burning the gas." Keep in mind that if a gas grill has a high BTU number, that could translate to it burning through a lot of gas. Make sure the burners can be individually controlled, or you'll be wasting gas just for a small dinner of cheeseburgers.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
In addition to reviewing products for Simply Recipes, Lia Picard has written about food and design for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, SELF, and Wine Enthusiast. She’s also the proud owner of two grills and wants people to enjoy their summer cookouts as much as she does.
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