Now that summer’s less than two months away, patio and grassy retreat BBQs are at the top of the list. But, as noted in our guide to buying grills, there’s no better chance for a price drop on models than right before the beginning of fall. What does that mean? You still have a number of months to get this grill research right, which shouldn’t exclude the advice from a few experts found below.
Grill Quality can’t be Skimped on
If this isn’t obvious to you yet, then you’re not ready to buy a grill. Here’s how you’d break that down for the average consumer:
Co-founder and pitmaster of Pork Barrel BBQ, Heath Hall, had the opinion that you want the grill to be well made. If you bought a grill cheap to begin with, it may have to be replaced in a couple years. He also valued the material’s thickness as being high in importance.
Some grills on the cheaper side have very little thickness to its metal, and after a number of grilling sessions, the metal is noticeably affected as it enters the stage of being “eaten away at”.
At some point, the grill will have one or two holes burned in it and will need to be replaced.
There’s really truth to how much you pay is reflected in the quality. If you only put $100 on a cheaper BBQ model, it may have to be replaced three times over the span of a decade (four if you’re unlucky). The actual amount you’re really going to spend will be closer to half a grand, at most ($300 at the low end). Compare that to investing more with a premium unit, maybe 3-$400- it may not once have to be replaced.
Author and grill expert of the novel “Grill School”- Dave Joachim mentioned how thick steel doesn’t wear away and warp as soon as thin steel does, and it also holds heat better. Heat is retained better in steel that’s heavy and thick (applies to ceramic, too) and then maintaining a temperature that keeps steady is much less difficult, which is the one “trick” to make grilling a success.
Grill Size is more than Trivial- it Matters
As far as space goes, more the merrier, right? Dave Joachim went with the opinion that you should first think about the quantity of what you typically put on the grill and the space that ultimately gets taken up. What you decide for a grill, as he pointed out, should have slightly more cooking area based on those estimations (at a minimum). What does that mean? He thinks a gas grill for the majority of outdoor BBQers should have three burners (preferably), or at least two. Or if you’re going to use a charcoal grill (w/ approx. 22 inch diameter), it should be at least 400 sq in.
The grill should have enough size to pull off a low and high heat zone, which is helpful for avoiding flare-ups and burning, allowing you to grill a variety of food (like veggies and steak) simultaneously.
Space- more important than the bells and whistles.
He ranked space (lots of it) as the #1 priority to have in a grill. He recommended to hold off on fancier features, like side burners and sear burners, if it’s out of your budget.
Girlsatthegrill.com founder, Elizabeth Karmel, suggested not to rule out a grill based on thinking it’s “too large”- you may want a turkey grilled, so the lid will need enough height. She advised that the idea of having multiple shelves in your grill (many do) is not necessarily a good one. If its height is only five or four inches from the first shelf to the bottom grilling grate, then you can’t put anything else on there except foods that are very thin.
Consider the Capacity
One of Heath Hall’s tips was to consider how many people you’re cooking for (your kids and spouse) vs grilling solo. Although you may be quickly grilling up an item like a burger; if you’re lacking space, you’ll be left batch cooking, and that doesn’t usually bring out warm hamburgers (yes, cold).
Charcoal or gas?
When all is said and done, how do these two differ?
Dave Joachim gave a good quote in comparing them to your car’s transmission type, whether your preference is for a manual or automatic. An automatic is like gas. A stick shift is like charcoal. He recommends a gas grill if you like the speed and convenience in automating, where as a charcoal if you’re the type who involves themselves directly in “making things happen”.
See Also: 2017’s Best Gas Grills Less than a Grand
Over at bbqaddicts.com, Jason Day gave the edge to gas grills for their cleanliness and convenience, but with a flavor inferior to charcoal. He’d use the charcoal grill for relaxed, longer cooks while generally employing the gas grill for mid-week, quick meals.
Grillingwithrich.com’s Rich Wachtel used his charcoal grill because of the smokey, nice flavor it gave to food, but noted having to wait for the temp to get to the desired reading (as the charcoal’s downside). As well, the food off a gas grill will really be tasted without the flavors additionally added from the smokiness of charcoal. It also takes little time for a gas grill to get hot enough, and you can grill quick with them, like on a Tuesday or Wednesday night after giving the office 8+ hours of your day.
Still can’t Decide between Charcoal and Gas?
Get a gas grill if you don’t want that hands-on, tend-to-the-grill experience you get with charcoal, but like to set it up once so you can do other things around the house without frequently monitoring it.
True hobbyists of barbecuing will need a charcoal and gas.
Next- Decide on a Grill!
After you’ve narrowed down your criteria, take a look through our index of Weber grill reviews as a good place to start for a reliable and popular BBQ brand.
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