Today’s backyard grilling is not your father’s no-nonsense attempt at heating up some dogs and burgers on a no-frills open-air backyard grill. It’s become much more of a fine-tuned skill set with highly specialized equipment to match. In fact, some grillers have elevated backyard cooking to a well-developed, even competitive art form.
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But you don’t have to be a grill master to master this cooking method. Of course, practice helps, but so does having top-notch equipment. Whether you’re in the market to stock a brand-new outdoor kitchen or simply want a new grill to cook on so you don’t have to heat up the kitchen during hot summer days, it’s helpful to learn about various brands and models and what features are available. Once armed with that information, you can decide which designs will make the best gas grills for your budget.
• Size matters
Consumer Reports suggests purchasing a grill with a cooking area large enough to serve your family. So, if you have a large family or frequently entertain groups of people, look for a grill with a primary cooking surface that can handle large quantities. If you don’t need that much cooking surface or have limited space to store a grill, opt for a more compact version.
Best Gas Grills Over $500
No. 1 Pick
This sleek and elegant stainless steel design is capable of searing, low-and-slow grilling or simply warming up food. An electronic ignition system makes for easy lighting. And with 507 square inches, the large grate holds either lots of individual servings or large cuts of meat. A center-mounted thermometer in the grill’s hood gives cooks extra control by monitoring the interior temperature for you. Also, front-access to the grease tray/catch pan means easy cleanups.
No. 2 Pick
Each of the three main burners is capable of outputting 38,000 BTUs per hour, while a side burner boasts 12,000 BTUs and a sear station uses 10,000 BTUs. To gauge heat, the shroud includes a center-mounted thermometer. The total cooking area consists of more than 630 square inches—500 in the main grill section and another 130 for a warming rack. The grill is housed in a steel cabinet and offers side shelves to hold condiments and other barbecuing accessories. Stash supplies behind painted steel doors.
No. 3 Pick
Gas grills are not known for great smoking results, but Weber’s Flavorizer Bars help recreate the effect. These bars are designed to vaporize dripping juices, which creates a flavorful smoke that permeates the food while it cooks. This model includes these porcelain-enameled Flavorizer Bars as well as a total of 529 square inches of cooking area. A steel cabinet offers extra storage.
• Heat matters
Heat output for gas grills is measured in BTUs (British thermal units), and the more BTUs, the hotter a grill can go. This is good to know when you want searing-hot direct heat to cook your food, like steaks. Of course, you also will want the ability to cook with indirect heat at times, like you would need to grill a whole chicken or turkey. The design that works best for you is based on what you like to grill, but many products offer varying heat zones so you have built-in versatility.
Best Gas Grills from $300–$500
No. 1 Pick
Five burners with 62,000 BTUs mean this grill is great for all kinds of cooking, from the hot-and-quick method to low and slow for hours. Also, more than 700 square inches of total cooking area on three heavy gauge stainless steel grates will hold enough food to feed large groups when outdoor entertaining. When it comes to propane gas grills, easy setup is priceless. The DynaGlo model features a convenient front access to the propane tanks with a pullout to make switching tanks hassle free.
No. 2 Pick
Barbecuing is all about controlling heat, whether it’s hot to sear or low to smoke, so the last thing you want is a lid that thwarts your efforts to control temperature. The DGE486SSP-D hood is double-walled—stainless steel on the outside and aluminized metal on the inside—to minimize heat loss. The primary cooking area heats up with four burners of 52,000 BTUs and the side burner keeps food warm with 12,000 BTUs.
No. 3 Pick
Cast iron cooking grates direct more heat to your food, which is perfect for dishes that take well to caramelizing proteins, like burgers or steaks. Four steel heat tents redirect vapors back onto the food for added grilling flavor. Large dials and a wide handle make operating the grill super easy, and a bronze exterior blends beautifully in to just about any outdoor kitchen design.
• Convenience matters
For years now, serious backyard cooks have gone back and forth on which type of grill—gas versus charcoal—produces better tasting results. There are fans on each side who will hold steadfast to their arguments; however, most everyone agrees that gas grills are more convenient. Startups take only a few minutes with the push of a button or turn of a knob opposed to setting up charcoal and waiting nearly half an hour before the coals are ready to cook your food.
Best Gas Grills from $200-$300
No. 1 Pick
Infrared grilling technology turns the heat up, literally. This feature gives gas grills a heat boost to sear in super flavor. The unit’s convenient size, including shelves that fold down, allow for grilling in multiple settings and a built-in storage unit helps free up valuable space. A stainless steel lid and control panel require little to no maintenance other than an occasional cleaning.
No. 2 Pick
An electric ignition lights burners in a matter of seconds, so the grates are heated and good to go a few minutes later thanks in part to 40,000 BTUs. Keep an eye on temperatures with a gauge mounted in the lid—no opening and closing required, which lets heat and flavorful smoke escape every time you lift it. Porcelain-coated grates are easy to clean between grilling sessions.
No. 3 Pick
A push of a button and minutes later the grill is preheated and ready to cook. Although maybe smaller in size than other models, this grills produces big flavor with two enameled cast iron grates, two stainless steel p-shaped burners and two steel enameled heat tents. For extra safety, two of the four wheel casters lock in place.
• Safety matters
Be sure to follow a few gas grill safety basics, such making sure there’s enough distance between the grill and your home and having a fire extinguisher within reach in case of emergency. However, there are a few other safety elements to consider when shopping for a gas grill. Consumer Reports suggests looking out for sharp corners or edges, the fewer the better. Also make sure there’s enough space between the grill’s lid and its handle to avoid burning knuckles as you go to open the grill. Finally, give the unit a shake, literally, so see how well it moves and if it feels sturdy overall.
Grilling On a Budget
No. 1 Pick
Constructed out of steel, this straightforward model serves up anything you want to grill. The handle stays cool while the porcelain-coated cast iron grates heat up with 40,800 BTUs. The side burner has another 12,000 BTUs to warm up barbecue sauce or melt butter or steam vegetables. Handy utensil hooks keep tools nearby without occupying valuable prep space on the side shelf.
No. 2 Pick
If you do some of your best grilling in the stadium parking lot right before the big game or surrounded by nature while taking the family camping, then you’ll love this compact, ready to go grill that fits in a car trunk. When you reach your destination, wheel it out, unfold it, lock it in place, and ignite the matchless lighting system. The 285-square-inch cooking area may not handle the Thanksgiving turkey, but it will accommodate plenty of hot dogs or bratwurst. A removable grease tray means quick cleanup so you can hit the road in a jiff.
No. 3 Pick
This compact grill doesn’t skimp on features. Like the big guys, it packs plenty of heat with 30,000 BTUs. An electronic ignition system gets the burners going fast and 300 square inches of cooking areas are joined by another 120 square inches of a porcelain-coated swing away cooking surface. When you’re done barbecuing and the grill has cooled, fold down the metal shelves and tuck it away until the next meal.
Keeping It Clean
Regardless of which gas grill you think best suits your barbecuing needs, take a few moments to properly prep the unit for the first grilling of the year.
- With propane turned off, remove briquettes and grates, then detach tubes and burners. Use soapy water to clean tubes; dry thoroughly. Use a damp cloth to wipe off burners.
- To clean grill inside and out, use a grill brush and soapy water. Be careful to avoid gas valves, or better yet, cover them with foil.
- Reassemble burners and gas tubes and reconnect propane tank. Next, turn briquettes over, close the lid and turn grill to the highest setting for 15 minutes. This will burn off residual grease or food bits.
- After it’s cooled, remove grates for a scouring with a wire-bristle brush and soapy water. Put briquettes and grates back in place according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Finally, check fuel. If low, refill tanks at a designated propane dealer.
And when daily temperatures begin to drop and the leaves fall from the trees, invest a little time to winterize your grill for safe keeping during the colder months.
- Flip briquettes, close the cover, and crank the heat to high for 15 minutes to burn off leftover grease and bits.
- Allow grates to cool completely, then remove and clean with bristle brush and soapy warm water.
- Shut off propane, detach burners and gas tubes and clean using the same procedure as for spring cleaning.
- Cover gas valves, then scrub the grill inside and out with brush and soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
- Reassemble according to manufacturer’s instructions. If you have a spot in the garage to store the grill, first remove the propane tank, which should be left outdoors, standing upright in a shady location away from any dryer or other vents. If the grill stays outside all winter, then cover it with a protective cover, such as one made from vinyl. In this case, it’s okay to leave the propane tank in the grill.