The grill is at the center of every great barbecue. Whether it’s a family reunion or dinner for two, there is nothing better than sizzling hot food from your backyard grill.
Today’s outdoor kitchens are more than just barbecues: they’re outfitted with burners, hoods, grills, pizza ovens and more. Consider upping the ante with an outdoor refrigerator, wine chiller or even a kegerator to make your open-air space work for you.
This guide will explore the latest and greatest outdoor entertaining trends essentials.
What are the different types of grills?
The first thing you’ll want to decide is what type of grill to purchase: charcoal, gas or electric. This is really a matter of preference. Each type of grill has its advantages. And no matter which you choose, you’ll be ready to start cooking in the great outdoors!
There are three types of grills: gas, electric, and charcoal. Let’s review the types more closely:
- Easy to ignite: start cooking in 10 minutes
- Precise temperature control for even cooking
- Available in many brands/sizes/colors/prices
- Sear stations provide concentrated high heat to lock in juices and flavor
- Smoker box accessory allows for flavored chips for more authentic flavor
- Side burners provide more cooking space so you can cook your entire meal outdoors
- Rich, smoky barbecue flavor only a flame can provide
- Briquettes or lump charcoal are lit with a match and take 15-30 minutes to heat up
- Cooking with charcoal can be messy. Select a grill with a high-capacity ash collection system for easy clean up
- Less expensive, but the cost of charcoal might surpass the cost of gas over time
- Great option for apartments or condos with residential restrictions
- Easy to start: heats up evenly using existing electricity
- Powered from a 120-volt or 220-volt outlet Least expensive type of grill
What is a built-in grill?
A built-in grill is finished only on the top and front and is installed into an outdoor cabinet or hardscape. It's best to install it into a non-combustible surface like cement or stone. Built-in grills can either be installed into a custom enclosure or used on a freestanding grill cart (sold separately). If you entertain often, it will provide an impressive focal point to your outdoor eating area.
What is a freestanding grill?
A freestanding grill can be used almost anywhere and is the most popular choice among homeowners. It can stand alone since it has matching paneling on all sides that give it a complete and finished look from every angle. It is convenient to install and many models offer storage that hides the gas tank or gas connection from view.
What is a portable grill?
A portable grill moves easily. It can be freestanding with wheels attached to the legs or a small tabletop model that can be placed on any flat surface. Available in liquid propane, charcoal and electric, it’s easy to take on the go for tailgating, a picnic in the park or family camping trip.
What is a 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 grill is fully finished all around, allowing for a beautiful look from any viewpoint. And the real beauty is that it doesn’t require a lot of space on the ground, so it’s sure to fit in almost any size yard.
What is the best outdoor grill?
The core of any good grill is the cooking system. For a freestanding, non-portable gas grill, you should look for models that have two or more separate burners (not just control knobs) which allow greater heat control.
Smaller, portable and electric models may have fewer burners but should still have solutions for temperature control and emit even, consistent heat.
A well-made charcoal grill will contain a sturdy, heavy-duty, plated-steel cooking grate and a charcoal grate to place the briquettes on. There should be a lid with air vents as well.
All grills should also have an efficient grease or ash collection system to keep the heat source clear of any clogs and any run-off juices from making a mess of your grill. The best systems quickly flash the drippings, eliminating flare-ups and creating flavorful smoke.
In the market for a new grill? Check out top styles and options
What should I look for in a grill?
Not all grills are created equal, but there are some of the best features to look out for.
- Stainless easy-to-open lid
- Halogen canopy lighting
- Removable smoker box
- Infrared rotisserie burner and motor
- Collapsable side tray or burner
- Backlit control knobs
- Storage drawers, shelves, or cabinets
- Rolling casters and wheels for easy transport
- Electronic ignition
- Stainless steel cooking grates
- Rotisserie rod and forks
What size grill do I need?
The size of the main grilling surface is measured in square inches and is the most important consideration. The size you buy will depend on your cooking and entertaining needs. Most families prefer a grill that has at least two burners. Many high-end grills have three or more burners. Burners help control the heat of the grill. Having two or more burners makes it easier to cook multiple items at the same time at different temperatures. Secondary work surfaces include warming racks and side burners.
What are the best grates for a grill?
Cooking grates come in cast-iron, stainless steel and other varieties. Look for strong, high-quality grates that will resist heat damage and hard-weather corrosion. Many high end grills come with heavy duty stainless steel grates, designed to withstand high heat for years to
come. Inexpensive grills tend to come with cast iron grates. Cast iron grates are another sturdy option for cooking as long as they’re maintained properly.
What is a side burner?
Side-burners are essentially outdoor gas burners.They’re for preparing vegetables or sauces can be useful if your grill is far from your kitchen. They can either come as part of your grill, or a separate appliance designed to install in your outdoor cabinetry.
What is an infrared grill burner?
Infrared burners cook food quickly using infrared radiant energy that sears the outside of meat, locking in juices and flavor. On a grill, infrared burners are typically used with the rotisserie function.
What can my grill rotisserie do?
Rotisserie spits rotate food within the heat-filled grill chamber, for slow-roasted meats with a juicier more intense flavor. This requires less heat than flame grilling.
What does a grill thermometer do?
Thermometers are built in to most grills so you can monitor the temperature of the grill without lifting the lid. Some models have digital displays with meat probes or can even send you a phone notification when the grill is up to temperature.
How do you use a smoker grill?
Smokers infuse food with flavor and make meat tender through slow cooking at low temperatures. They require a chamber to hold the smoke and a smoke source, like wood chips.
How do I design and landscape my backyard?
Transform your deck or patio into your favorite place for entertaining family and friends by adding an outdoor kitchen to the backyard.
There’s no need to sacrifice comfort or style when moving the party outside. Transform your backyard into an outdoor oasis. Blur the line between the inside and out by mimicking the luxuries of the indoors—think multiple seating arrangements, outdoor rugs and the best amenities for alfresco entertaining, as exemplified in this inviting patio space shown here. At minimum, outdoor kitchens start with a built-in stainless steel grill or a grill with a base cabinet. If you want to entertain with style, consider installing a fully equipped kitchen complete with countertops, sink, bar, refrigerator, ice maker, warming drawer, storage cabinets and more. Depending on how you plan to use the kitchen—for a typical barbecue or a gourmet meal—will determine the appliances and accessories you choose. Then, all you need is a bright sunny day and a yard full of guests.
What are the best appliances for outdoor entertaining?Beverage centers
Ideal for cold drinks—some models include wine racks, and even convert to a kegerator. Freestanding or built-in, they are typically 15 inches wide with 3.2 cubic feet of capacity or 24 inches wide with 5.5 cubic feet of capacity.
Offer the ultimate indulgence in entertaining with digital temperature control panels to monitor and manage your beer dispenser’s performance. This style shown here holds a 1/2 beer barrel.
Outdoor ice makers
Ideal for cold drinks on a warm summer day. They’re generally 15 inches wide and provide a steady supply of fresh, crystal clear ice—some models produce up to 65 pounds in 24 hours.
Built-in patio heaters
Outdoor patio heaters warm you with infrared radiant heat from propane, natural gas or electric.
Freestanding patio heaters
Ideal for keeping a large area warm (up to 24 feet depending on the BTUs of the unit) and can be moved wherever you want the heat.
Provides cozy mood lighting and warmth from an attractive single, luminous 4-foot flame with a 360° view.
Outdoor fireplaces & fire pits
Add ambience along with warmth. Most are fueled by propane but some can be converted to natural gas. Use these units outdoors in a well-ventilated space—not inside a screened porch, gazebo or any other enclosed area.