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Grills to consider for the last barbecue of summer

Look for sales on the best gas grills from Consumer Reports’ tests

Published: August 26, 2014 03:45 PM
Photo: Aaron Dyer

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With Labor Day approaching you’ll see grills on sale, especially in places where the holiday signals the end of summer. But some bargains aren’t a good deal. Here’s a look at gas grills that were impressive in Consumer Reports’ gas grill tests and are recommended but expensive—so keep an eye out for them as prices drop.  
Americans haul their grills to the curb after using them for just three years on average, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. There are dozens of gas grills in our Ratings and price doesn’t always tell you how well a grill performed, but flimsy parts and construction, especially when accompanied by short warranties, are a tip-off that the grill won’t last a long time. Our user reviews may also offer a glimpse into the future.
Unless the grill is deeply discounted it’s unlikely that higher grade stainless was used in a low-priced grill. In past tests, we found that higher quality stainless such as 304 was less prone to rust and better able to fight corrosion than the less expensive 400-series stainless.
What to look for. Check the cart, wheels, lid, and firebox. Gently nudge the grill from several points to test sturdiness and press down on the side shelf to find out if it can support a heavy pot. Grip the handle. Your knuckles or fingers shouldn't be too close to the lid or your hand could get burned. Some flaring is normal, but typically the greater the distance between the grates, the fewer the sustained flare-ups.

Weber Spirit E-220 46310001

Grills to look for

Midsized grills are the most popular and their cooking area fits 18 to 28 burgers. Best of all was the $600 Weber Spirit SP-320 46700401. It preheated quickly and evenly, and was superb on high and low heat and indirect cooking, but temperature range was only so-so. Same for the Weber Spirit E-320 46710001, $550, but it was excellent on low heat and impressive on high and offers fast preheating. The Vermont Castings Tribute Series VCT323SSP, $700, wasn’t as fast at preheating but excelled on high heat and indirect cooking, and was one of the few grills to deliver an excellent temperature range.
Large grills. The cooking area on large tested grills has room for 28 or more burgers. Prices in this group range from $300 to $2,600. The $1,600 Kenmore Elite 3358 costs more than most top picks in part since it has five main burners, a side burner, and utensil hooks, lighted controls, lighted cooking area, and rotisserie motor and spit. It offers fast, even preheating, impressive temp range, superb low and high heat, and impressive indirect cooking. The $700 Kenmore 16156 is similar to the Kenmore 16136 we tested, a CR Best Buy that’s now discontinued. That grill was nearly as impressive as the $1,600 one.

Small grills have cooking space for 18 burgers or less. The Weber Spirit E-220 46310001, $450, was tops. It has four casters for easy moving. Preheating was fast and even, and high and low-heat cooking was excellent. Indirect cooking was very good, but temperature range was so-so. We expect the $400 Weber Spirit E-210 46110001 and Weber Spirit S-210 46110001, $450, to perform similarly to the top-rated Weber although they may differ in features.

Use our gas grill Ratings to find out more details and compare grills, and enjoy these last but glorious weeks of summer.

 —Kimberly Janeway (@CRJaneway on Twitter)

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