With all the variations and options, finding the right grill for you can be a complicated task. They are certainly not created equal and to make matters more difficult, more features do not always mean better quality. In fact, the opposite can often be true. This is why it's so critical to do your research beforehand. To make sure you're getting the most value for your dollar, you should figure out exactly what you want and have a good idea in your head before you start shopping.
First you'll want to decide what type of grill you want to purchase: gas, charcoal or electric. This is really a matter of preference. Frankly, each type of grill has its advantages. Charcoal grills are great when you desire a slower-paced experience and rich, smoky flavor. However, they can be messy, cumbersome and time consuming. On the other hand, gas grills are always fantastic when you want to fire up your grill and start cooking within minutes. The results are great, there are no briquettes to deal with and the wait time is minimal. Of course, you miss out on some of that smoky flavor inherent to charcoal. Keep in mind, electric, or infrared, is also an option for those that may have residential restrictions to deal with. The results are not quite as good as gas or charcoal, but they're more than satisfactory if flameless grilling is your only option.
You'll also want to consider the style of grill. For instance, do you want a built-in model or freestanding? Is portable more appropriate for your lifestyle? Perhaps you have an existing post already installed but need a new grill to mount on it? Each style is designed for a specific type of installation. Assess your needs to ensure you get the style that best suits your home.
Next you'll want to figure out your price range. It's important to remember that buying a grill can be quite an investment. Gas grills can range anywhere from $300 to $3,000 and charcoal grills can be pricey as well, so make sure you decide what features are most important to you and how much you're willing to spend. One factor that's constantly overlooked is grill performance, so steer clear of models that boast lots of features, but don't have the quality to pull them off.
Once you've figured out fuel type, style and price, it's time to assess the key components of every grill:
Features to Consider
Not all grills are created equal but there are some components that are common to nearly all models. Here we illustrate them on the most complex of the options, a large gas grill with rotisserie and side burner.
Bear in mind, this is just an example. Features and placement of such features will vary from grill to grill.
A built in grill is finished only on the top and front and fits flush with the surrounding island base. These grills require support in the form of a base, most commonly a cement or stone BBQ center.Back to top ^ Ceramic Briquettes
Ceramic briquettes are radiant materials compacted into a brick shape; used in some gas grills. Ceramic briquettes don't burn completely like charcoal. Lava rocks and metal plates are similar alternatives.Back to top ^ Charcoal Briquettes
Compacted ground charcoal, coal dust, and starch used as fuel in charcoal grills.Back to top ^ Charcoal Grill
A charcoal grill requires store-bought briquettes to cook. These small blocks of flammable matter are lit with a lighter or match and burn slowly over the course of a few hours. This cooking method requires a bit of patience and a close watch for an even cook but provides a smoky flavor impossible among other grill styles.Back to top ^ Chimney Starter
A chimney starter is a metal cylinder which holds hot coals for starting a fire.Back to top ^ Direct Grilling
Direct grilling is a method of quickly cooking food by placing it on a grill surface directly over the heat source. Food is often cooked uncovered on a charcoal grill but covered on a gas grill.Back to top ^ Drip Pan
A metal or disposable foil pan placed under food to catch drippings when grilling. A drip pan can also be made from heavy foil.Back to top ^ Dry Smoking
A method of cooking food by placing it on a grill rack indirectly over the heat source with the lid down and vents adjusted. This allows the fire to burn, which creates smoke.Back to top ^ Electric Grill
Similar to your electric stove top, electric grills get power from a 120v or 220v power source outlets. 120v models are typically smaller and more portable. These grills heat up quickly and evenly using existing electricity.Back to top ^ Firebox
A firebox is the bottom part of the grill that holds the fire or heat source.Back to top ^ Freestanding Grill
A freestanding grill is the most popular choice due to its ability to transfer from in-box to ready-to-use quickly and easily. A freestanding grill can stand alone because it has matching paneling on all sides, giving it a complete and finished look from every angle.Back to top ^ Grates
All grills require steel grates to suspend the food over the heat. This is essentially your cooking surface. They are often stainless steel for both longevity and durability. Typically, they are 100% removable to allow access to the grill interior, which also makes them very easy to clean.Back to top ^ Grill Basket
A grill basket is a hinged wire basket that is used to hold foods for grilling. This is placed on the grate to make smaller, oddly shaped foods from falling through the grates.Back to top ^ Grill Wok
A grill wok is a wok made specifically for grilling. With its sloped sides and numerous small holes, it makes small pieces of vegetables, meat, or seafood easy to stir-fry on the grill.Back to top ^ Ignition
Most gas grills come with an electronic ignition switch designed to make lighting fast and easy. Indirect Grilling – This is a method of grilling slowly, to one side of the heat source, over a drip pan in a covered grill.Back to top ^ Infrared Grill
Infrared grills are one of the latest options within the electric grill category. Because of their recent popularity, some gas grills even offer an infrared burner to complement the standard gas elements. Infrared cooking is extremely effective at producing high quality results in a very short period of time. However, these grills get hot very quickly, so it requires a watchful eye with sensitive items like vegetables and fish.Back to top ^ Kettle Grill
This is a round charcoal grill with a heavy cover. It usually stands on three legs and can be used for either direct or indirect grilling.Back to top ^ Liquid Propane (LP) Grill
Energy for these grills comes from a portable metal tank filled with liquid propane. These tanks are affordable and available for purchase at many of your local grocery stores. This option is compact, easy to store, and easy to hook up. Plus, the tanks are recyclable and refillable.Back to top ^ Natural Gas Grill
Energy for these grills is extracted through a pipe connected to the gas line that heats your home. With one quick hook up, your grill is constantly ready for use, simply using the gas already present in your house.Back to top ^ Portable Grill
Grills that are able to be moved easily are called portable grills. Available in liquid propane, charcoal and electric, these grills can be freestanding grills with wheels attached to the legs or small tabletop grills that can be placed on any flat surface.Back to top ^ Post Mount Grill
A post mount grill is built on a singular stand meant to be permanently installed in your patio area. Different from a built in grill, a post mount is fully finished all around, allowing for a beautiful look 360 degrees around.Back to top ^ Rotisserie
A Rotisserie spit will enable you to rotate your food within the heat-filled grill chamber. Unlike on the grill, it does not cook with direct flame. Instead it is slow roasted and requires less heat. Results are similar to that of roasting in an oven but often juicier and with more intense flavor.Back to top ^ Side Burner
Some grills offer a gas powered side-burner for preparing other foods while you're manning the grill. You can use it make sauce, or side dishes like boil corn or anything really. They can be very useful if your grill is located far from your kitchen as it will save numerous trips back and forth to coordinate all your dishes.Back to top ^ Smoker
Some grills come with a smoker while others can double as a smoker. Preparing smoked food requires a chamber to hold the smoke and a smoke source, like wood chips. It can take anywhere from 1-2 hours up to 20 hours, or even more. The benefit is extremely flavorful and tender meats.Back to top ^ Smoker Box
A smoker box is a vented metal box for wood chips; when placed within a grill's heat source it provides smoke for smoking meats.Back to top ^ Thermometer
Most grills offer a built-in thermometer to monitor the temperature of the grill without lifting the lid, thereby releasing much of the heat. This is a very useful tool for grilling a variety of foods. It will most likely be the most used feature on your grill.Back to top ^