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Outdoor Grills: Buying Guide, Reviews, and Ratings

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.

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!

    • 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

    • Least authentic barbeque flavor
    • Easy to start – heats up quickly and evenly using existing electricity
    • Powered from a 120-volt or 220-volt power source outlets. 120-volt models are typically smaller and more portable
    • Great option for apartments or condos with residential restrictions
    • Easy to install
Natural Gas vs. Liquid Propane Grills
There are two tyes of gas grills:
  • Pipe is connected to the line where you want the grill permanently located
  • Initial cost of grill is higher, but lower fuel costs over time
  • Gas is available anytime
  • A better option for second story and roof deck installation
  • Tanks are easy to hook up
  • Affordable
  • Refillable
  • Recyclable
  • Not permitted on some second story balconies and roof decks
Choose your style: Common Grill Installations

Next you’ll want to consider the style of the grill. Each style is designed for a specific installation. So select the location, measure for size then check out the information below to make sure you get the style that is perfect for your home.

  • A built-in grill is finished only on the top and front and fits in a surrounding base that provides support. Select from models that have a cement or stone island base (usually sold separately), can be built into a custom enclosure, or used on a freestanding grill base cabinet or cart. If you entertain often, this will provide an impressive focal point to your outdoor eating area.

    Built-In Grills

  • A freestanding grill is the most popular choice due to its ability to transfer from in-box to ready-to-use quickly and easily. 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 not only convenient to install, many models offer storage that hides the gas tank or gas connection from view.

    Freestanding Grills

  • 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.

    Portable Grills

  • 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 sized yard.

    Post Mount Grills
Anatomy of an Outdoor Grill
1. Stainless easy-to-open lid
2. Halogen canopy lighting
3. Removable smoker box
4. Infrared rotisserie burner and motor
5. Collapsable side tray or burner
6. Backlit control knobs
7. Storage drawers, shelves, or cabinets
8. Rolling casters and wheels for easy transport
9. Electronic ignition
10. Stainless steel cooking grates
11. Rotisserie rod and forks
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 gorgeous 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

Pro Tip: Give it a shake

Quality, sturdy construction in both the grill body and frame are important whether it is made from ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron. An easy way to test construction is with a simple shake. A poorly made grill will wiggle unevenly and may sound loose or flimsy. If a grill isn’t solid on the sales floor, chances are it will fall apart rather quickly on your patio or deck. Not all grills are created equal, but there are several components that are common to nearly all models.

BTU stands for British Thermal Units. But BTUs alone cannot measure a grill’s effectiveness. Size and shape, construction, design elements such as distance from the flame to the grilling surface and burner controls all play a part in how a grill heats and maintains its temperature. As a guideline you can look at the size of the primary grilling surface and figure 80-100 BTUs per square inch for a regular gas grill and 60-80 BTUs for an infrared gas grill.

Grill Features

Consider before you get your grill on: Certain features simplify the way you use and maintain your oven. There are several features you should look out for depending on your cooking preferences, aesthetic tastes, capacity needs and demand for easy maintenance.
The primary or main grilling surface is measured in square inches and should be your most important consideration. The secondary work surface includes other areas such as warming racks and side-burners.
Come in either cast iron, porcelain coated cast iron, stainless steel, and porcelain coated steel or steel. Look for strong, high quality grates that will resist heat damage and hard weather corrosion.
Help control the heat. A good grill will have two individually controlled burners; three on high end grills. Stainless steel or porcelain coated steel burners are known to be rust resistant.
For preparing vegetables or sauces can be useful if your grill is located far from your kitchen.
Cooks food quickly using infrared radiant energy that sears the outside of meat, locking in the juices and flavor.
Illuminates the grills surface making it easier to cook at night.
Infuses food with flavor and make meat mouth wateringly tender through slow cooking at low temperatures. They require a chamber to hold the smoke and smoke source, like wood chips. Some grills come with a smoker box. Freestanding smokers are also available in charcoal or gas fueled models.
Rotates food within the heat-filled grill chamber, for slow roasted meats with a juicer more intense flavor. This requires less heat than flaming grilling. Grills may have an integrated rotisserie and /or built-in motor with a dedicated rear rotisserie burner.
Built into most grills to allow for monitoring the temperature of the grill without lifting the lid. Some models have digital displays with meat probes.
Transform your deck or patio into your favorite place for entertaining family and friends by adding an outdoor kitchen to the backyard. Outdoor kitchens at minimum start with a built-stainless steel grill or grill with a base cabinet. If you want to entertain with style consider installing a fully equipped kitchen complete with countertops, sink bar, refrigerator, icemaker, warming drawer, storage cabinets and more. Depending on how plan to use the kitchen – for a typical barbeque or a gourmet meal – will determine the appliances and accessories you choose. Then all you’ll need is a bright sunny day and yard full of guests.

Imagine the convenience of having everything you need at your fingertips without running to your indoor kitchen. If you do, plan to include stainless steel cabinets and drawers for storage space in your outdoor kitchen. There are options available to meet every countertop or space you need. So you can store your grill brush, outdoor dishes, pots, pans and more to make it much easier to cook and serve a delicious meal.

Outdoor Living Essentials

Just like in your indoor kitchen, consider outdoor storage solutions. There are many options for cabinets and drawers for storage or deluxe options such as a refrigerator unit, marinating drawers, warming drawers or adjustable shelves.
A great way to have cool drinks ready for your guests on a hot day. Sizes vary from 30”-60” and can be freestanding or built-in. And for the weekend bartender, it can be as elaborate as you want – Stainless Steel Sink, Faucet, Ice Storage, Bottle Boots, Cutting Board and Towel Bar.
Recommended if your outdoor kitchen is going to be located under the eaves of your home or a closed patio cover. A range hood for ventilation will make your outdoor kitchen safer and keep the fresh air fresh.
All-weather units that work even in extreme high and low temperatures. Available in compact, under-counter (under the grill), or refrigerator drawer models they can be used to keep food cold nearby. Freestanding or built-in they are usually 24” wide with 5.5 cu. ft. capacity.
Generally 15” wide and provide a steady supply of fresh, crystal clear ice – some models producing up to 65 lbs. in 24 hours.
Ideal for cold drinks – some models include wine racks, even convert to a kegerator. Freestanding or built-in they are typically 15” wide with 3.2 cu. ft. capacity of 24” wide with 5.5 cu. ft. capacity.
Warms you with infrared radiant heat from propane, natural gas or electric. Providing cozy mood lighting and warmth like the model shown from an attractive single, luminous flame.
Adds 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 screened0in porch, gazebo or any other enclosed area.
Take your outdoor entertaining game to the next level with an outdoor kegerator. Sold with either one or two taps, you can wow your guests at your next party.