Grill Buying Guide
Expert Answers to Your Burning Questions

The backyard barbecue is an integral part of the American experience. And though you may take great care in selecting and preparing the foods you serve, the success of your meal often comes down to the quality of your grill.

First, you’ll need to choose between gas or charcoal. Consumer Reports has no stake in the age-old debate over which form of fuel is the best for barbecuing, and our testing experts find advantages to each. Gas is more convenient because you simply turn on the burners to start the grill, while charcoal gives you a greater degree of control—you determine the amount of heat by the size of the fire you build. Because of these differences, we test each type differently.

CR tests grills to fit every cooking style and budget: from portable models you can take camping to larger grills designed to feed an extended family. We produce ratings of more than 150 grills, both gas and charcoal, ranging in price from $100 to more than $3,000, to suit everyone from the first-time buyer to the seasoned grill master searching for a replacement.

Gas Grills: Before You Buy

Beyond Burgers
A basic gas grill is fine for cooking burgers and hot dogs, but if you also enjoy grilling fish and sizzling steaks with sear marks, look at the temperature-range score in our gas grill ratings. The higher the score, the better the grill is at cooking a variety of foods. If ribs or a roast is on the menu, you’ll want a grill that does well in our indirect cooking tests. Indirect cooking is a great way to slow-cook large or tough cuts by placing the meat next to the fire, not over it, with the lid closed to retain heat. Check how the grills do in our indirect cooking tests.

Bringing the Heat
Btu/hr. (British thermal units per hour) tells you how much gas a grill uses and the heat it can create. But ignore it as a measure of how well a particular model might sear your steak, or how fast it will heat up. Our tests found that more Btu doesn’t guarantee faster preheating or better cooking—instead, look for a model that scores well in our preheating test. 

About Burners
Keep in mind that for gas grills, burners are the most replaced part. Expect them to last two to 10 years. Burners with a warranty of 10 years should last longer than those with no guarantee. If you need to replace them, it’s a 10-minute job

Ignore Infrared
Lots of gas grills come with infrared burners, which are meant to use intense heat to sear steaks or chops. CR’s advice? Ignore these burners when shopping. Our tests have shown repeatedly that infrared burners don’t sear any better than typical gas burners. Instead, use our temperature range score to guide you toward models that can reach high searing temperatures as well as low temps for indirect cooking. 

Look for Solid Construction
When shopping, you’ll want to carefully look over the construction of the grill. Jostle the assembled grill from several points to test sturdiness; the more stable, the better. Check the cart, wheels, lid, and firebox. Stainless steel carts with seamless construction and welded joints are usually sturdier than painted steel carts assembled with nuts and bolts. We assess the construction of gas grills in our sturdiness test. (We don’t put charcoal models through this test because they tend to be far cheaper and aren’t expected to last as long.) Wheels or casters at all four corners or legs make a grill easier to maneuver. And wheels with a full axle are better than those bolted individually to the frame.

Recipe for Safety
Sturdy grills aren’t just better poised to survive multiple grilling seasons; they’re safer, too. Grill stability is important because it can prevent tipping. Avoid grills with sharp metal corners and edges. Test the handle: Your knuckles or fingers shouldn’t be too close to the hot lid. And though some flame flare is normal, the greater the distance between the grates and the burners or flavorizer bars, the fewer the sustained flare-ups.

Check our ratings for grill brand-reliability information, too. We surveyed almost 16,000 members to learn what they had to say about the brand they bought.

Gas Grill Types: Size and Sizzle

Gas grills are classified by size. Grill manufacturers differentiate models by the number of burners—typically two to six—but that doesn’t necessarily tell you the size of the grill and is not good data to use for comparison. Instead, CR classifies size by the usable cooking surface, which we measure by how many burger patties a grill can fit.

A portable gas grill.

Portable Gas Grills

A perfect bring-along for camping trips and tailgate parties. Portable grills are also a suitable option for smaller decks and patios.
Cost: $170 to $250

Check Our Gas Grill Ratings for More
A small gas grill.

Small Gas Grills (18 or Fewer Burgers)

Compact, nonportable grills save space and are a good option for a small cookout. Most small grills have fold-down shelves to decrease the grill’s footprint. Small grills vary widely in price and appearance, from painted steel carts to stylish stainless steel.
Cost: $100 to $1,000

For Top-Rated Small Grills See Our Ratings
A midsized grill.

Midsized Gas Grills (18 to 28 Burgers)

This is the most widely sold grill size. You’ll see basic grills and souped-up models with plenty of storage, and LED lights and backlit knobs for cooking after dusk. Many mid- to higher-priced gas grills have burner warranties of 10 years or longer.
Cost: $150 to $2,500

For the Best Midsized Grills Go to Our Ratings
A large gas grill.

Large Gas Grills (28 Burgers or More)

Large grills usually have the biggest cooking areas. The higher-end models boast the highest-grade stainless steel and have seamless construction, thicker grates, gliding drawers, extra storage space, and more burners of better quality and longer warranty. 
Cost: $350 to $3,500

Gas grills Ratings

Need Help Installing a New Gas Grill?

You can find a qualified pro to help at Porch.com. Porch connects you with local contractors for your maintenance, installation, or remodeling projects to make home improvements that much easier.

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Gas Grill Features

Certain features may help you choose a grill. High-end features, such as gliding drawers for storing utensils and condiments, offer convenience. Other features, such as a pullout grease tray, make grilling and cleanup easier. Here are key features to consider:

Charcoal Grills: Before You Buy

Airflow 
Charcoal grills rely on airflow to regulate heat. More air moving over the coals lets a fire burn hotter, while limiting the flow keeps coals just lit, for low and slow cooking. Look for a model with a tight-fitting lid and solid dampers or vents. 

Accessible Coal Bed
When you cook for a prolonged period, you’ll need to add coals. Our testing shows that the temperature of charcoal peaks about 20 minutes after it’s lit and starts to die off dramatically after about 90 minutes. Look for a charcoal grill with a dedicated door to add coals to your fire, or one with hinged grates that allow you sneak in more coals or rearrange them while you cook. 

Grill Size and Shape
Because charcoal briquettes all burn at about the same temperature, the size and shape of your grill will dictate how that heat is concentrated or diffused. Wider models, such as most barrel-style grills, can cook more foods at once, but over a thinner coal bed, so they’re better for a burger and bratwurst cookout. Kettle- and kamado-style grills tend to have deeper and narrower coal beds, which can concentrate heat for searing or, if you close the dampers, slow the rate at which coals burn, for long, slow cooking. 

Adjustable Coals or Cooking Grates
Foods close to the coals sear faster but are prone to burning before they cook through. Look for grills with a coal bed or cooking grates that can be raised or lowered with a crank—it’ll give you one more way to tame the flames and control the heat.

Charcoal Grill Types: Cost and Construction

You’ll see more variety in the shape and material construction of charcoal grills than in gas models. Classic kettle grills are round, and widest at the cooking grates—they taper down near the coal bed. Barrel grills resemble a barrel turned on its side, and they tend to be the largest charcoal models—they typically use a lot more charcoal but also hold more food. Kamado grills are by far the most expensive, and they have deep charcoal beds, so you can concentrate the heat of the coals on a small cooking surface for searing or cook for an extended stretch—on some models 8 hours or longer without adding coals. 

Charcoal Barrel Grills

Pros: They hold more food than kettle or kamado grills.

More models have helpful features, such as a door to add charcoal, or adjustable cooking grates.

Most have a removable ash pan.

Cons: They use more charcoal than kettle grills.

You’ll need to add a lot of coals to build a layered bed of coals for prolonged cooking.

Cost: $90 to $250

A charcoal kettle grill

Charcoal Kettle Grills

Pros: They tend to be smaller and take up less space on a deck or patio.

The tapered shape lets you build a deeper charcoal bed, for searing or prolonged cooking, without adding a lot of coals.

Cons: Most hold less food than a larger barrel grill.

Models with three legs aren’t always as sturdy as barrel grills with four legs.

Cost: $80 to $250

The Big Green Egg is an example of a Kamodo style charcoal grill

Kamado Grills

Pros: Most are designed to be airtight, amplifying the level of temperature control you get from the dampers.

The deep, narrow shape allows you to build a deep coal bed for searing or prolonged cooking.

They’re designed to retain heat—some models can cook 8 hours or longer without the need to add additional coals.

The precise level of control granted by dampers allows cooking at the broadest range of temperatures.

Cons: They’re expensive for a charcoal grill—some models cost nearly $2,000.

They can be heavy, especially those made from ceramic.

While they hold a lot of charcoal, the usable cooking surface is often smaller than that of kettle or barrel grills.

Cost: $200 to $2,000

Charcoal Grill Features

While extra features are nice to have on a gas grill, they can make or break the experience of cooking on charcoal. Because charcoal grills are all about controlling the coals, ease of use is the most important test we perform on charcoal grills—because features that make cooking easier also tend to ensure better results. Features play a big role in this score, and here are the ones our testers look for. 

Gas Grill Buying Guide

For more, watch our interactive buying guide below. You can skip to chapters based on your interests, such as grill basics; accessories; charcoal, electric, and other types; and other topics.

Grill Brands: What Readers Are Saying

Before you buy a grill you’ll want to know what other consumers have to say about the brand they bought. We surveyed almost 7,000 subscribers in the fall of 2015 and asked how satisfied they were with the brand’s grilling performance, durability, ease of use, ease of cleaning, and appearance after about a year of use. 

The Broil King lineup includes portables all the way up to large grills with the styling of pro-style ranges. The grills are in the upper-middle to high price range, from $300 to $2,200. Readers gave top marks for appearance and high marks for grilling performance, durability, ease of use, and ease of cleaning.
Broilmaster gas grills are sold at specialty stores for $800 and up, with the Super Premium Series costing around $1,500. Readers gave high marks for ease of use and appearance but were lukewarm about grilling performance, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Char-Broil is one of the top-selling brands and has a wide product range that includes innovative features and a hybrid grill that allows you to cook with charcoal and gas. We tested it, and you’ll see it in our gas grill ratings. Sold at retailers nationwide, Chair-Broil gas grills cost $100 to $600. Readers gave high marks for grilling performance, ease of use, and appearance but were lukewarm about durability and ease of cleaning.
Char-Griller’s gas grill lineup is narrow. Models cost less than $200 and are sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and online. Readers gave high marks for grilling performance, ease of use, and appearance but were lukewarm about durability and ease of cleaning.
Coleman conjures up images of camping, but the company also makes portable gas grills for the patio for $400 to $600. Readers gave high marks for grilling performance, durability, ease of use, and appearance but were lukewarm when it came to ease of cleaning.
Dyna-Glo gas grills are widely available and cost around $200 to $600. A dual-fuel grill that allows you to grill with charcoal and gas has been added to the lineup. We tested it, and it appears in our gas grill ratings. Readers gave high marks for Dyna-Glo’s ease of use and appearance but were lukewarm about grilling performance and ease of cleaning.
Kenmore gas grills cover a wide range of prices, from $200 to $2,000. They’re sold at Sears as well as online at Amazon, Home Depot, and Wayfair. Readers gave high marks for ease of use and appearance but were lukewarm about grilling performance, durability, and ease of cleaning. Note that our brand-reliability survey found that Kenmore gas grills were among the more repair-prone, and we cannot recommend them at this time. You’ll see brand-reliability information in our gas grill ratings.
KitchenAid is a well-known name in cooking appliances and extends the brand name to cooking outdoors. KitchenAid gas grills cost between $400 and $1,500. Readers gave top marks for appearance and high marks for grilling performance, durability, ease of use, and ease of cleaning.
Member’s Mark grills are sold at Sam’s Club. The grills usually cost between $200 and $500. Readers gave high marks for ease of use and appearance but were lukewarm on grilling performance, durability, and ease of cleaning. Note that our brand-reliability survey found that they were among the more repair-prone, and we cannot recommend them at this time. You’ll see brand-reliability information in our gas grill ratings.
Excluding portable models, Napoleon gas grills boast stylish stainless steel at higher prices—$700 to more than $2,000. Readers gave Napoleon grills top marks for appearance and ease of use, and high marks for grilling performance, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Nexgrill gas grills typically cost $200 to $400 and are available at Home Depot. Readers gave Nexgrill grills high marks for ease of use and appearance but were lukewarm about grilling performance, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Weber kettle charcoal grills have long dotted suburbia, but Weber is also known for gas grills in the upper-middle and higher price range—$400 to $2,500. Weber grills are widely available, making the brand one of the top sellers. Readers gave Weber gas grills top marks for grilling performance, durability, ease of use, and appearance, and high marks for ease of cleaning. Weber came out ahead of the other 13 brands for overall consumer satisfaction.
Big Green Egg is one of the first widely sold kamado grills in the U.S. These iconic grills have developed a cultlike following, with devotees (who call themselves Eggheads) that swear nothing cooks better. It has inspired a number of copycat cookers from other brands.
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