The hottest trends in outdoor entertaining

Grills, pizza ovens, and fire pits that make the living easy

Published: March 16, 2015 05:30 PM
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The recent Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Expo was a feast for the eyes. On display were high-end grills, wood-fired pizza ovens, and upscale fire pits, among other inspirations for creating an outdoor oasis. If the wares on display were any indication, there will be a lot of posh parties this summer. Consumer Reports' experts walked the floor of the show and here are three trends they spotted.

Grills go wild with features

The first thing you’ll notice about the Saber Smart Edge Grill, which won best in show, is its slim profile. The lid on the infrared grill looks almost flat and you can replace it with a ceramic glass lid if you want to see what’s cooking. The smart part comes from connecting the grill to your Wi-Fi so you can use your phone to monitor cooking time, fuel level, and when the grill is cool enough to clean. The grills will ship in May. Other grills on display included:

Saber Smart Edge Grill
  • The Fervor IC300-R Grill introduced “Grillsmart” cooking plates that are designed so fat and oil from the food drips down and drains into a waste cup.
  • DCS by Fisher & Paykel introduced a 48-inch built-in grill and a 30-inch freestanding grill. Both can be incorporated into an outdoor kitchen with the company’s other built-ins including a beverage center, trash bin, and storage cabinets.
  • Twin Eagles’ super-premium grills sell at lofty prices. Now the brand is featuring two mere premium lines, Delta Heat and Del Sol, with grills that sell for an earthly $1,200 to $2,200. They’re made in America.
  • Fire Magic also featured a grill with a glass lid. The high-end built-ins can be paired with side burners and other outdoor cabinets. The company claims, “Fire Magic is the last grill you’ll need to buy.”

Wood-fired pizza ovens are hot

Unlike the $11,000 built-in pizza oven that we saw at an earlier trade show, most of the pizza ovens at the expo were freestanding or can be installed on top of a cart or other base. The models from New American Ovens can be used right out of the box, no masonry required. The ceramic oven’s two-floor cooking system separates the firebox from the cooking surface. It costs about $2,800. Other pizza ovens included:

Bull pizza oven
  • The Forno pizza oven by Morso is shaped like an Italian stone oven. It’s made of solid enamelled cast iron. The oven comes in two sizes that cost $1,400 and $1,800.
  • Fornetto makes both built-in and freestanding pizza ovens that start at $1,700. Each oven is designed to use any approved combustible fuel including wood, charcoal, briquettes, and fire starters.
  • The Bull outdoor pizza ovens are made in Italy. They’re considered portable but the large pizza oven weighs 238 pounds and the extra-large weighs 305.
  • Called a countertop oven, the Chicago Brick Oven 750 Hybrid Oven includes a two-burner gas system, with an infrared burner and an ambient burner at the back. It also burns wood to attain that smoky wood-fired flavor.

Fire pits tame the flames

Its website is called and that’s exactly what Breeo has done with its Luxeve smokeless fire pit. Designed to pull the smoke into the rim, the Luxeve does away with the annoying issue of smoke migrating to wherever you and your guests happen to be sitting. Other fire pits at the expo included:

Breeo Luxeve smokeless fire pit
  • The Alfresco Fire N Table stands at the height of the typical bar and has enough space for 8 to 12 guests to gather around. In warmer weather, you can insert an ice bucket into the pit and use it as a cooler.
  • Forshaw featured a number of fire pits in different configurations including round and rectangular tables and the more familiar low, freestanding fire pits.
  • Waterstone’s fire tables and fire rocks inset the pit in Gneiss boulders from Minnesota. The stone fire pits are one-of-a-kind and come with a hefty price tag.

How about an ordinary grill?

Consumer Reports' tests of gas grills include dozens and dozens of top-performing grills at affordable prices. And if you like to grill pizza, you can even trick out your grill with a BakerStone Pizza Oven Box for only $150. Here are top small, medium, and large grills from our tests.

For more choices, see our full gas grill Ratings and recommendations. In the next few weeks we’ll be adding more newly tested grills to our Ratings.

—Mary H.J. Farrell with Mark Allwood

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