How to Choose the Best Grill For You

How to Choose the Best Grill For You

May 26, 2023Bearded Butcher Blend Seasoning Co.

Once summer rolls around, you'll find everyone at the local hardware store window shopping for new grills. It's fun to see what features different brands offer and how different grills compare with one another. We like to see the different ways that charcoal grills manage airflow, which gas grills use high-quality materials, and which grill manufacturers are selling yard art rather than good-quality grills. But how do you choose the right one when it's finally time to buy?

Choosing the right grill will depend on a few details, but don't worry, we are here to walk you through all the features of gas and charcoal grills to help you identify the perfect grill for you.

Grill and Smoker Buying Guide

The biggest factor that will determine what type of grill you purchase is the type of fuel you plan to use. 

Gas grills typically use liquid propane that comes in a reusable propane cylinder. Gas grills can also hook up to your home's natural gas line – a solution that is affordable and convenient. 

Charcoal grills use lump charcoal that can get pretty expensive if you do a lot of grilling, but they offer the convenience of portability and a unique flavor that only comes from using charcoal.

Gas Grills vs. Charcoal Grills

Once you have decided whether you want a gas grill or a charcoal grill, you can start narrowing down the options to find the right type of grill for you. 

We'll start by discussing the features and functions of gas grills. Then, we'll break down the surprisingly complex (but far superior) types of charcoal grills.

Gas Grills

Gas grills offer great cooking performance and control. The burners make it simple to adjust temperature zones, creating direct or indirect cooking surface areas. And the grilling surface is made up of removable grill grates. 

Better quality grills have heavy-duty grill grates made from cast iron or stainless steel. Some grills also have side burners in addition to the main grilling area.

The key features you want to look at are the grill grates' material and the thickness and quality of the metal in the burner area, particularly the heat deflector. This area takes a beating in a gas grill, so look for stainless steel heat deflectors and burners. 

Gas grills will advertise the heat of the burners in British Thermal Units or BTUs. Generally speaking, higher BTUs are better but also look at the number of burners and the size of the cooking surface. Multiple burners are always desirable, and each should have independent temperature controls. 

Burners should also be distributed in such a way as to maximize the coverage. If the burners are too small or too far away from some parts of the grill, you will have difficulty controlling the temperature.

Pros and Cons of Gas Grills

Let's start out by saying that gas grills are convenient. Simply turn on the gas, light the burners, and you are ready to cook. Gas grills also offer an easy-to-learn grilling experience. 

But for us, the pros don't outweigh the cons.

The downsides of gas grills include the lack of portability and a tendency to provide little grilling flavor. Most gas grill designs are large and bulky devices that can be moved around but are not really portable – it's best to pick a spot for a gas grill and leave it there.

Charcoal Grills

Moving onto our preferred type of grill – charcoal grills come in a wide array of sizes with many different features. You'll find charcoal grill sizes ideal for tailgating, larger ones for backyard barbecues, and massive designs meant to cook for a crowd.

Kettle Grills

This is probably the most common of charcoal models around. The design features a charcoal grate set in the bottom of a dish shape, typically painted steel. An air vent is usually directly on the bottom below the charcoal grate. The lid has another vent that lets hot air escape.

Kettle grills can be affordable options, but they can also be some of the most versatile types of charcoal grills. Larger sizes make it easier to set up indirect heat zones. Most kettle grills have stainless steel grill grates, but a few may have ceramic grates.

Kamado-Style Grills

Popularized by the well-loved Big Green Egg, the Kamado grill is a two-piece ceramic bowl with superior heat retention capabilities and exceptional grilling performance. Kamado grills use hardwood lump charcoal for fuel but are highly efficient, so you can cook for long periods without adding more fuel. Many models are compatible with tons of accessories to make the grill more versatile.

The grilling process for charcoal grills requires a little more attention to control the temperature and avoid flare-ups versus gas grills. A charcoal grill requires that you learn to use the air vents to cook properly and it will take a little more practice to master excellent meals. With that said, there really is nothing quite like the smoky taste you get from lump charcoal.

Pros and Cons of Charcoal Grills

Barbecue should taste like barbecue – without a charcoal grill's smokiness, it just isn't the same. 

Different types of hardwood charcoal offer different flavors, heat, and lengths of burn time, giving you control over how your meals are cooked.

Charcoal is messy and can easily present a fire hazard. You will need a place to dispose of ashes and a way to put out fires in case of emergencies. Remember that a garden hose won't work on a grease fire, so have a fire extinguisher available.

Many people who start grilling on a charcoal grill use charcoal briquettes and often don't get the desired results. This can be frustrating, but switching to lump charcoal and practicing adjusting the air vents to get the ideal temperatures will unlock the secrets of delicious barbecue.

How Do You Know What Grill Is Right for You?

We think the easiest way to decide what type of grill you want is to consider the fuel source. 

If you want the convenience and simplicity of gas grills, that should be your biggest factor. 

If you want the sensory experience of cooking with charcoal, that is the way to go. Choosing a Kamado-style grill over a kettle grill makes for a more fun experience, but you can also find high-quality kettle designs with excellent grilling performance.

Propane grills often offer a lot more bang for the buck with numerous features and grilling tools. Propane tanks are available at hardware stores or for exchange at many gas stations and stores. 

Many of the small portable gas grills are also excellent for camping or keeping food warm. Some are even designed to work with small propane cylinders.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Grill

Gas and charcoal grills both operate at high cooking temperatures. Many gas grills can reach over 600 degrees, while charcoal grills can get even hotter. 

It is also important to consider where you will use your grill. Gas grills are somewhat safer because they tend to be sturdy and have fewer easily-touched hot areas. Charcoal grills can start fires from sparks or accidents. They also present a hazard to small children and animals who can accidentally get burned. 

A charcoal grill should not be used on a wood deck, under the eaves, in a garage, or anywhere near dry grass because of the fire risk.

Grill size can also be deceptive, and we know this from our time checking out new grills. Big grilling surfaces can make cooking smaller amounts of food difficult, while too small of a grill is inconvenient. Pick one with a cooking space you think you will use the most. Remember that even the most efficient designs will have lower temperatures around the edges of the cooking grates – which just becomes unused space.

Variations of Grills

Charcoal and gas grills are not all there is out there. You will find pellet grills that use compressed wood pellets for fuel, electric grills that can mount in or on a countertop, and even charcoal barrel grills that can be homemade. Each design offers benefits and drawbacks, but the cooking process remains the same. They are just different ways to help you enjoy outdoor cooking.

So How Do I Choose the Right Type of Grill?

There really is only one way to know what type of grill you like the best – you just have to try out different types. 

We know this isn't always possible, but you might be surprised at the friendships you can form by asking your neighbors about the types of grills they use. You'll get a chance to see how different grills perform and you might just get some great barbecue recipe ideas while you are at it.

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