As soon as the warm weather hits in early Spring, I am outside barbecuing just about every day. For breakfast, lunch and supper, if I can grill it over an open flame, I will.With the popularity of many of our barbecue and grilling guides, we thought we’d introduce you to our list of the very best grills on the market. While any open flame will do, for the bbq pit master having the best heat source ensures consistent cooking each time you light up the grill. By using a top of the line grill, you can ensure control over the heat source far better than you’ll be able to with a subpar grill from Walmart. If you’re serious about grilling, this article is for you.
Types of Grills
Ideally, the pit master is going to have a few different grills to choose from. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re cooking, the grill plays a pretty important role in ensuring your food comes out the way you want it to. Here is a quick list of the two primary types of grills and what they’re best used for:
The gas grill works off propane or natural gas and is best used for quick grilling and large quantities. Unless you live in an apartment where your only option is a small gas grill, I always recommend going larger than you think you need. At our home, we have a 54” six burner gas grill that is perfect for large scale cooking when we have people over. It comes into play as the primary heat source a few times a year at my kids birthday parties as well as any family event or backyard barbecue with friends. Otherwise, I reserve it as a secondary cook source for things like vegetables when my other barbecue fills up. Of course, it’s also very useful for quick grilling on weeknights when the time is an issue. While my charcoal barbecues take thirty minutes to heat up, I can get my gas grill to 700°F in about ten minutes.
Charcoal is my favorite way to cook. I enjoy a kettle style barbecue and use the Weber 22” Gold as my first pick for grilling. While it’s not perfect for smoking, it can be done. However, what it’s best for is anything quick with that extra taste of natural wood smoke. It also works well for low and slow barbecuing but does take a certain amount of practice and patience to achieve. I cook everything from steaks and hamburgers to pork shoulders and brisket on my charcoal barbecues. It is my go-to, daily grill.
What to look for in a grill
When it comes to buying any barbecue, there are a few hard and fast rules that should be observed if you want to get a lot of use out of your grill.
The best tip I can give you is to avoid the bargain brands that you find at hardware stores, grocery stores and bargain bin stores like Walmart and Target.
Sure these grills seem to come with a lot of fancy accessories and at a great price, but you’ll end up regretting your purchase after a season or two of constant grilling.
A good quality barbecue should easily outlast the lifespan of a new car. There are guys cooking on Weber grills that they bought 20 or 30 years ago. A barbecue doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive to be good, but it usually won’t come from a store like the ones listed below.
Try finding a local barbecue store or outdoor store to purchase your grill at. If your city doesn’t have a store that specializes in barbecues, most specialty stores that sell swimming pools, deck supplies, even fireplace stores will also have a fairly good barbecue section. Of course, you can also find most grills online.
The first rule when selecting a barbecue is to put the features and accessories at the back of your mind and focus on the quality of the basic materials. What type of metal is used for the barbecue? What are the grates made of? Are the grates coated or plated and do they come with a good warranty? By researching the materials used to manufacture your barbecue, you can ensure that you’re only paying for a product that will last a lifetime. The last thing you want is for your grill to literally burn or to find splinters of the coating from the grill grates on your food. You would be surprised to find out just how often that happens.
A standard rule of thumb is you want the materials to last five full seasons of grilling before you have to start replacing them. Focusing on heavier materials such as 304 stainless steel, cast iron or brass. Bring a magnet with you while shopping to make sure it’s actual stainless steel and not just a coating.
Since barbecues can range in price from $50 upwards of $10,000 it’s important to understand that, like anything, you get what you pay for. I typically suggest focusing on barbecues that cost $800 or more. Of course, there are exceptions such as the Weber Kettle grills which are some of the least expensive barbecues you’ll find on the market today.
Price is a big thing for many people. Since, in many parts of the world, grilling is a seasonal activity, investing thousands into a barbecue might seem like a waste of money unless you’re a professional chef. However, be aware that you’ll probably end up spending more money constantly replacing your barbecue or its materials if you don’t invest a considerable amount of money at the beginning. In the end though, that’s up to you how much you spend.
Size and Features
Consider what you plan to use it for. If you only barbecue for yourself, a camping grill might be just fine, but if you host pool parties for all your friends and family, you may want something a little bit bigger.
Many people look at all the features and think they want a rotisserie, an infrared burner or a built-in fridge. The fact is that most of the features you’ll see aren’t worth the original price. In most cases, you’re better off buying those features after-market or not having them at all. I use my rotisserie once or twice a year and despite being an ideal candidate for my infrared burner, I don’t think I’ve ever used it.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer when it comes to size and features is to focus on getting a grill that seems too big for what you’ll need. I remember getting my gas grill and thinking ‘there’s no way I’ll ever use even half the grill space on it’. To date, I can’t count the number of times that I not only filled it, but had to use a second barbecue as well. Trust me when I say that the time will come that you wish you opted for the bigger size. Unfortunately in my case, I bought the biggest one available.
Warranty and Parts
A good barbecue will have a great warranty. It’s the company’s way of saying ‘we believe in our product.’ Make sure that it’s not just certain parts of the barbecue that’s covered under the warranty. This is a tactic used by many manufacturers. They will cover the parts least likely to break or corrode but won’t cover the adjoining materials needed to make them work. Drip pans are one of the first things to go so make sure they’re easy to replace.
Of course, with any grill, you’ll at some point need to replace parts. This is why it’s important to buy a grill from a domestic manufacturer or a manufacturer that can service your barbecue without it being sent overseas. The parts should be easily accessible and for the most part you should be able to order them and replace them yourself with basic instructions.
After Market Accessories
There are certainly aftermarket accessories worth buying. In fact, I’ve probably spent as much or more on accessories as I have on actual grills. Things like chimney starters, pizza pans, searing grates, tools, aprons, rib racks, smoking boxes and more are all useful to the pit master. However, many of these items can be made with less costly materials. As an example, I buy foil pans of all sizes, almost in bulk. I used them for everything from charcoal separators to water pans, drip pans and even cooking pans for vegetables. They work well, and they’re cheap. However, I do recommend having the following accessories for your outdoor grill:
racks and pans
Chimney starter (for charcoal)
High-quality tool set (longer tools reduce burns)
Squeeze bottles and spray bottles (for various sauces, marinades, oils, water, etc.)
BBQ gloves (like oven mitts but easier to handle)
Aluminum foil (grill master’s best friend)
Foil pans and trays
BBQ Apron (flame resistant)
Metal or wood skewers
For more information be sure to check out our in-depth barbecue grilling guide.
Top Recommended Grills
Finally, here is our list of the top recommended grills for both gas and charcoal barbecuing.
The Big Green Egg
I’m without question an egger. This is bar none, the greatest barbecue innovation since man stumbled upon fire. The Big Green Egg is a ceramic masterpiece that is perfect for low and slow barbecuing or smoking over an open flame. There aren’t many barbecues on the market capable of maintaining consistent heat for 18-hours +, but the Big Green Egg can do it time and time again. What’s most remarkable is its ability to cook at extremely low temperatures for considerable periods of time without dying, but also to cook at insanely high temps that most grills can’t even reach. It doesn’t matter what you plan to cook; the Big Green Egg is the best barbecue to have in your arsenal if you’re only going to have one. I highly recommend going with nothing smaller than the large or you’ll be out of luck should you want to cook for a larger group.
Weber Kettle Grill
My preferred charcoal barbecue for daily use, I use my Weber Kettle almost every day. Surprisingly inexpensive, the Weber is widely considered to be the most consistently well ranked charcoal grill on the market and is renowned for its capabilities. While you could smoke on it, I don’t. However, I do use it for everything from quick grilling steaks to low and slow works of art with briskets and other large cuts of meat. It imparts an exceptional flavor to the meat, and it’s one of the most versatile grills on the market today. While the Big Green Egg is coveted in the charcoal world, I argue that the Weber is a better bet if you only plan on grilling and cooking low and slow but not smoking. It’s also far less expensive, lighter and easier to cart with you if you compete in grilling competitions. Click here to get yours today.
I use and like Napoleon grills. Made in Canada, they’re some of the best gas grills on the market today. The materials used are only the highest quality, and the construction is second to none. For the price, you can’t go wrong with a Napoleon Grill. Click here to get a Napoleon Grill of your own.
Lynx 54” Grill with ProSear 2
Lynx grills are the Rolls Royce of barbecues. If you’re a professional chef or just a grilling enthusiast, having a gas grill from Lynx is akin to a Viking stove in your kitchen. The patented ProSear 2 burners deliver a whopping 98,000 BTUs of heat and the features on this workhorse make grilling a breeze. Available both freestanding or for an outdoor kitchen, Lynx is one brand I hope I’ll have one day in the future. Click here to get your Lynx today.
Grillworks Infierno and Asador Dual 54 CRE
Grillwork has long been known as the premiere wood-fired grill for gourmet chefs. There is no denying that owning a Grillworks is an investment. These behemoth grills are ones that require a second take and an investment only the most discerning pit master should ever consider purchasing. Often used in professional kitchens, they are large, immovable or barely mobile machines that require a lot of practice and some training to master. However, if you’re looking for what can only be described as the Bobby Flay of barbecues, look no further than the Grillworks Inferno or the Asador if you want something a little less ‘industrial’.
Santa Maria Grill
If you’re looking for hydraulic grates with professional capabilities at a lesser price than a Grillworks, consider the Santa Maria for your backyard kitchen. Not the most beautiful barbecue in the world, it’s one that serves a purpose and is an excellent addition to your arsenal of fire. If you need wood-fired heat with moveable grates, this is a perfect pick for you. I don’t however recommend this style of grill for the novice or if it’s going to be your main cooking source. Click here to buy one.
There are hundreds of great barbecues on the market at various price points. The best advice is to choose one that meets your needs and your budget. There’s nothing wrong with buying a no-name grill from Target if you’re a weekend warrior serving up hotdogs and burgers to your kids. However, if you’re an enthusiast who is up at 6am to spend 14 hours watching over a pork shoulder, these aforementioned barbecues may be more your speed. What’s your favorite grill?