Is Your Gas Grill Built to Last?

CR introduces a structural-integrity test to help you avoid getting burned by a model that falls apart after one season

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Gas grills take a beating. But how do you know whether a model will stand the test of time or fall apart after a few seasons? In our test labs, Consumer Reports' engineers observed what appeared to be significant differences in the construction quality of the grills. And poor construction quality is certainly something we’ve heard about from our readers.

“We’d see cheap, flimsy grills rise to the top of our ratings because they did well in our temperature tests,” says Cindy Fisher, who tests gas grills for CR. "We wanted our ratings to reflect apparent differences in sturdiness."

More on grills

So Fisher and our engineers devised a test that would properly assess a grill's sturdiness. “The grills that fare well in this test—and our other tests for heating and temperature range—are the ones I’d tell my friends to buy for their own yards and decks," she says.

The process took two years. First we built a proprietary machine to torque and torture grills, experimenting with the amount of force to apply. Then we dispatched our secret shoppers to buy new samples of many of the models already in our ratings, ran them through the new test, and—with the guidance of our in-house statisticians—developed new scoring criteria based on the results.

Grill testing in CR labs
Technician Scott Collomb tests the sturdiness of a grill in Consumer Reports' labs.

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How We Test for Sturdiness

CR's test engineers clamp each grill to a structural steel plate, prop open the lid to negate any strengthening benefit of it being closed, and connect something called a linear actuator to the lid's handle. The actuator travels along a stationary track applying a lateral force to the lid while lasers measure deflection down to the hundredth of an inch.

This captures the degree to which the metal frame flexes or bows under the type of stress a grill might encounter when you move it over time. The best grills barely budge, while the worst suffer permanent damage to the frame during the course of our test.

A Shakeup in Our Ratings

The new structural-integrity test raises the bar for gas grills in our ratings. It also means you’ll see changes in our rankings effective immediately. Here are some of the most notable ones:

• The Weber Genesis II LX S-340, $1,299, is the new top-rated midsized grill, taking the spot from the longstanding champ, the Kenmore 6256595[PG-4030800LS] (K-Mart), $400.

• The Kenmore 16156, $630, previously in the No. 2 spot, dropped to No. 5 after being edged out by sturdier large grills from Weber and Broil-King.

• The previously top-rated Huntington 630124, $140, slipped to No. 4 overall in small grills.

Looking for Longevity

Strength and sturdiness out of the box are different from how a grill will weather the seasons on your deck. We recommend that you follow this maintenance schedule, and, for those who live in colder climates, move your grill into the garage or shed for the winter.

But some exposure to the elements is unavoidable, even if you protect your grill with a vented cover between uses during grilling season, as we recommend. For this reason, we’ve also launched a testing program of various grill materials, including stainless steel in all the various gauges used in grill construction. The goal? To provide hard evidence on what to make of different materials when you shop for your next grill.

That data, combined with our demanding testing for cooking performance, will help you find a grill that will weather the worst of whatever’s in your backyard—and cook up a storm, too.

From the 'Consumer 101' TV Show

Sturdy construction, even heating, flare-up reduction—Consumer Reports' experts explain to 'Consumer 101' TV show host, Jack Rico, what to look for when buying a gas grill.

Paul Hope

As a classically trained chef and an enthusiastic DIYer, I've always valued having the best tool for a job—whether the task at hand is dicing onions for mirepoix or hanging drywall. When I'm not writing about home products, I can be found putting them to the test, often with help from my two young children, in the 1860s townhouse I'm restoring in my free time.