It’s National Barbecue Month, and judging by the grills and features we saw at a recent industry event, consumers are all fired up about the new innovations and grilling accessories they can bring to their own outdoor kitchens. Grills are getting smarter and more connected and manufacturers are offering all kinds of add-ons that make cooking in your backyard almost like cooking indoors.

"High-end grills and outdoor kitchens are trending for three reasons," says Jack Goldman, the president and CEO of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. "Consumer confidence is strong enough to encourage people to upgrade their grills. Our nation's passion for culinary adventure continues to expand. And more consumers are reinvesting in their homes."

Grills as Centerpieces

The unique design of Hestan Outdoor grills (shown above) catches your eye and the price tag—$5,000 and up—stops your heart. Hestan, a new line of high-end grills, boasts lots of stainless and a dozen colors. Hestan’s pitch is, “Grilling is a perfectionist’s game. And we just upped the ante.” At those prices Hestan makes a lot of promises about the freestanding grills, which are 49 to 61 inches wide, including motion-activated stadium halogen under-hood lighting, a concealed whisper-quiet rotisserie motor system, and a lifetime warranty on welded body, grates, warming racks, and burners.

Napoleon is perfect for outdoor kitchens
A Napoleon gas grill with a charcoal tray insert.

Grilling With Both Gas and Charcoal

Napoleon, maker of high-end grills, sells a charcoal tray insert for $50 to $80 for its gas grills (above). Replace the grill’s sear plate with the charcoal tray, add charcoal, and light with the gas burner. The American Muscle Grill (shown below) has a “multi-tray fuel system” that allows you to grill with gas, charcoal, wood chunks, and pellet fuels. The 5-burner grill sells for about $7,500. Consumer Reports has just tested two affordable hybrids, the Char-Broil Gas2Coal Hybrid 4633340516, $300, and the Dyna-Glo Dual Fuel DGB730SNB-D, $570. (Look for our review in the coming weeks.)

American Muscle Grill for outdoor kitchens
American Muscle hybrid grill

Outdoor Kitchens

True built-in outdoor kitchens have become more popular over the past decade, but they’re expensive when installed by a pro and not everyone considers this a DIY project. Beyond built-in, the Saber EZ Outdoor Kitchen (shown below) is an island that adds a refrigerator, with counter space above, double drawers, and a side burner to the grill’s cooking zone. It costs $6,300. For those of us who can't spend that much, some manufacturers offer grill cabinets, shelves, sinks, and refrigerators that you can add to your existing grill, building your outdoor kitchen piece-by-piece as the summers pass by.

"An outdoor kitchen is a phenomenal investment that you, your family and friends can enjoy six to 12 months a year," says Goldman.

The Saber EZ Outdoor Kitchens.
The Saber EZ Outdoor Kitchen

Tricked-Out Grills

More and more grills can be used with smartphone apps that let you control the temperature, monitor the propane level, or that alert you when your meat is done.

In addition to buying such add-on cooking conveniences as pizza stones, broiling baskets, woks, and rotisseries, more grill owners say they plan to improve their outdoor kitchens by adding storage, and such entertainment features as televisions and surround sound.

Shopping for a Grill?

Use our gas grill Ratings to compare dozens of models, including hybrid grills. You’ll see grills defined as small, midsized, and large, based on our measurement of a grill’s cooking area. You’ll also see portable grills. We’ve added brand reliability information to our Ratings, to help you choose. And check what readers had to say about their overall satisfaction with a grill brand.