Head outdoors, put on some music, grab a drink, and fire up the grill. From simple burgers and hot dogs to steaks, kebabs, and ribs, there are a wide variety of different meals that can be prepared on a grill. Grilling can be a nice change from a routine and an enjoyable experience for many people, but the best part can be the delicious meal prepared for family and friends.
Gas and charcoal are the two most common fuel options for an outdoor grill, while electricity can be used for both indoor and outdoor grills. While the fuel type is an important factor to think about when deciding on the best grill for your next get-together, there are more features to consider.
Check out the list of some of the best grills below, then continue reading for more key information on choosing and operating a grill.
- BEST OVERALL: Weber Spirit E-210 Gas Grill
- BEST BUDGET: Char-Broil Classic 280 2-Burner Propane Gas Grill
- BEST NATURAL GAS GRILL: Weber Spirit II E-310 3-Burner Natural Gas Grill
- BEST CHARCOAL GRILL: Kamado Joe Classic Joe II Charcoal Grill
- BEST INFRARED GRILL: Char-Broil TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Cart Style Gas Grill
- BEST TABLETOP GRILL: Cuisinart CGG-306 Chef’s Style Propane Tabletop Grill
- BEST PORTABLE GRILL: Weber 51010001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill
- BEST SMOKER & GRILL COMBO: Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Grill and Smoker
Grills by Power Source
Grills are powered by various fuel sources, each with its own benefits and limitations. The ideal fuel type can likely depend on personal experience with the various grill types, convenience, and preference.
Gas and Natural Gas
Many backyard grills are powered by propane, which typically comes in a refillable 20-pound tank. These gas grills feature burners and automatic igniters that fire up at a touch and dials that adjust the heat. Propane grills offer serious power and heat up quickly. For many users, the best gas grill type is propane due to its fuel efficiency, convenience, and low initial cost.
Outdoor grills that run on natural gas are often designed for permanent installation in an outdoor kitchen, requiring connection to a natural gas line. Natural gas grills produce lower emissions and less exhaust compared to propane models. While they’re more expensive upfront, the fuel is usually cheaper than propane.
Charcoal and Wood
The original outdoor fuel for grills is charcoal, in the form of briquettes. Charcoal grills offer the cook a high degree of temperature control—the more briquettes used, the hotter the temperature. This type of grill lends foods a distinctive smoky flavor that can be reminiscent of campfire cooking. They’re also some of the most affordable non-electric grills.
Like charcoal grills, pellet grills impart a light smoky flavor to foods from the choice of hardwood. A fuel box holds the wood pellets and dispenses them automatically into the fire chamber to maintain a preset temperature for cooking. Since automatic dispensers run on electricity, an exterior outlet or an extension cord is needed to cook.
Electric grills are usually lightweight, so they tend to be easier to transport. They also are suitable for apartment balconies because they don’t use potentially hazardous fuel sources like propane or charcoal. However, electric grills cannot typically produce the same high heat output as gas, charcoal, or pellet grills.
Electricity is the only acceptable fuel source when a grill is used indoors, so it’s expected that most tabletop grills operate on electricity. There are some electric grills that are made to be used both indoors and outdoors with the help of an extension cord. There also are some pellet smoker/grill combos that use pellets for fuel and electricity to connect to Wi-Fi in order for the smart grill to function properly.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Grill
When shopping for a grill to add to the patio, the deck, or an apartment balcony, consider several important factors. Determine the best type of grill and fuel source for the situation, but also consider the material, the cooking surface, the heat output, and a few additional factors detailed below.
There is a wide range of grill types that are based on the method used to produce heat, the size of the grill, and the style. The types include standard, kettle, Kamado, smoker/grill combos, flat-top, tabletop, and built-in grills.
- Cart-style grills are the standard backyard barbecue type, usually with a square or a rectangular base and a rounded, hinged lid. They have a main cooking surface and may have one or two heating racks above the main cooking surface.
- Kettle grills have a classic rounded shape and are commonly run on charcoal. The grill is a steel chamber on legs that holds a charcoal grate and a cooking grate. A removable lid and vents at the bottom and top of the grill help control airflow.
- Kamado grills, also known as ceramic grills or egg grill smokers, take longer to heat up but will hold and radiate heat longer than a standard steel grill. They have a narrow egg shape that reduces airflow on food so steaks stay moist while cooking.
- Smoker/grill combos can grill food at high temperatures in a short time or smoke food over low heat for hours to achieve a nice, tender result. Combining a smoker and grill into one device helps save space on a cramped patio or deck.
- Flat top grills employ grates suspended over a rectangular metal chamber. The chamber of these smaller, more portable grills holds charcoal or one or more propane burners. Hibachis don’t have a lid, and while some charcoal models have ventilation in the bottom for heat control, this isn’t a standard feature.
- Tabletop grills overlap with other types, like flat top and kamado grills. These small grill varieties are affordable and easy to store due to their compact footprint. Tabletop grills can save space in a small backyard or be used for indoor cooking where certain grills are not permitted, such as an apartment or balcony (depending on power source).
- Built-in grills are semi-permanent, installed fixtures of outdoor or indoor kitchens. These premium grills are built with tough construction materials such as brick, mortar, concrete, cast iron, tile, and steel. While they do require a significant initial investment of both time and money, they last much longer than standard grills.
Grills can be made from several different materials, like powder-coated steel, ceramic, or stainless steel. The cooking grates also can be made with more than one material, including cast iron, stainless steel, and porcelain-coated cast iron.
- Stainless steel is a high-durability material that is typically used on the exterior of a grill, though a stainless steel grill may also have stainless steel grates or warming racks. It’s a lightweight material that’s resistant to water, UV radiation, and impact damage.
- Powder-coated steel is not quite as durable as stainless steel, but it does enjoy a higher resistance to water, corrosion, and rusting. However, when the powder coating on the steel bubbles and chips, the exposed material will quickly degrade.
- Ceramic grills are an ideal choice for high-humidity and rain-prone locations because ceramic grills cannot rust. Ceramic also has the benefit of heating up gradually and holding on to the heat for a longer period of time, making them great for long, slow cooking. Just keep in mind that ceramic isn’t as durable as stainless steel, and it is susceptible to chipping.
- Cast-iron grill grates retain heat well, and they can be seasoned to help protect the grates from water damage and corrosion. The cast iron transfers heat well, helping to provide consistent temperatures across the entire surface of the grill.
- Porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates are specifically made to protect the coated cast iron from water, corrosion, and rusting because porcelain is rustproof and has a high resistance to water and corrosion damage. However, as with powder-coated steel, when the porcelain begins to chip, the exposed material degrades rapidly.
When sizing a grill, the most important measurement is its total cooking surface. A small grill that’s suitable for cooking 10 to 12 hamburger patties needs to have at least 300 square inches of cooking surface. A medium to large grill with 450 to 500 square inches of cooking surface will hold up to 24 hamburger patties.
Most backyard grills contain between two and four burners. Two burners usually offer enough space to cook a meal for up to four people. Three burners will serve around eight people. For bigger gatherings, large freestanding grills provide between four and six burners. Some built-in grills surpass that number, while tabletop models typically only have enough space for one burner.
Some grills come with attached side burners that will hold a small griddle or pot, which helps extend the cooking area. When it comes to grill size, it’s usually better to choose a bigger grill in case there’s a desire to cook additional items, such as corn on the cob or shish kebabs.
Heat Output and Control
Before deciding on a grill, find out how the temperature is controlled for that specific product. The heat output of a grill can be controlled in a variety of ways, depending on the type of fuel and grill.
- Standard gas grills typically have a simple dial to control the flow of gas, which increases or decreases the heat output.
- The heat output of a charcoal grill is controlled by adjusting the dampers to adjust the oxygen flow through the cooking chamber.
- Gravity-fed pellet smoker grills have an automatic feed system that ensures the temperature remains constant according to the setting entered in the digital control.
- Electric grills may only have an on/off switch instead of a temperature control dial. Any time the grill is on, it heats up to the maximum temperature possible for the device.
Weight and Portability
Grills range in weight from 10 pounds to more than 200 pounds, so there are many different sizes and shapes. If the goal is to be able to move the grill around a small patio or deck area, then all that’s usually needed is a set of wheels. Some grills have a pair of wheels at one end and a pair of feet at the other end, while others have four locking wheels that move the grill quickly across a flat surface.
Portable grills may have folding legs that lock into place on top of the lid and double as a lid lock during transport. These products are great choices for a travel grill that’s made for going to the park, hitting the beach, or taking on a camping trip. There also are some flat-top grills that have removable legs so campers or tailgaters can disassemble the grill to pack it in the car.
Often, it’s the extras that make certain grills stand out from the rest. Some of the features included with today’s grills include the following:
- Infrared technology: Prized for uniform heat distribution, infrared technology is found in some higher-end gas grills. The gas warms a radiant heating element, which then radiates heat throughout the grill’s cooking chamber. Users report radiant heat offers a consistent cooking temperature, which can be desirable if you’re cooking a large cut of meat like a roast or baking a stone-pan pizza.
- Rotisserie: Some grills include a steel rotisserie bar for inserting through a large cut of meat or a whole bird, which is then suspended in the center of the cooking chamber. From the outside, manually rotate the meat as it cooks. Some have an automatic rotisserie that will slowly turn the meat.
- Griddles: If the preference is to enjoy a pancake breakfast outdoors, consider a grill that includes a griddle surface. Some grills feature only a large griddle surface (no grates), while others break up the cooking surface with both grates and a griddle.
- Built-in thermometers display the current temperature inside the grill. Using this simple reading, grill chefs can raise or lower the heat output so that food is prepared at the desired temperature.
- Warming racks increase the total cooking surface and give users a place to prepare foods that don’t need as much heat, such as buns. The racks also keep cooked food warm until it’s time to plate it.
- Side burners are an excellent addition to any grill, giving users more than one way to cook without having to run back and forth from the grill to the stove. A side burner uses the same fuel as the main grill, but instead of the grill grates, it’s equipped with a circular burner that’s great for a pan or a pot.
Our Top Picks
Some of the best products listed below feature durable construction, innovative design, and a range of different sizes and fuel sources. These grills were selected based on the important factors mentioned above, as well as their overall quality in order to help you find the best grill to prepare food the whole family can enjoy.
The Weber Spirit E-210 grill features two propane burners, each with individual controls for temperature and gas flow. Side tables on either side add space for tools, cutlery, plates, rubs, and spices. A 360-square-inch grilling surface and 90-square-inch warming surface provide room enough to cook for the whole family. A built-in thermometer displays the grill’s internal temperature while the lid stays shut.
In the base of the cart-style grill, enclosed storage space will hold the 20-pound propane tank needed to power this beautiful appliance. Thanks to a handy fuel gauge next to the tank’s housing, an empty propane tank will never catch the grill master by surprise. This Weber grill weighs 20 pounds and includes two caster wheels for smooth movement.
- Ample 360 square inches of grilling surface
- 90-square-inch warming rack
- Built-in thermometer displays grill’s internal temperature
- Closed storage for tank and tools
- Lightweight at 20 pounds
With two stainless steel burners, this budget-friendly grill provides even heat output across the entire 280-square-inch cooking surface, helping to ensure that there are no cold spots on the grill. A push-button ignition system gets this grill started easily, and two large metal side shelves provide space for plates, grill tools, condiments, and spices.
At just 45 inches wide and 24 inches deep, which makes it a great option for small yards, decks, and patios. This model has a side burner for cooking other dishes, as well. The cart-style grill stands on two sturdy legs with padded feet and two legs with wheels so that the grill can be tipped up toward the wheeled end and moved around the patio or deck.
- Affordable cart-style grill
- Compact and suitable for smaller outdoor spaces
- Side shelves, including an extra burner for cooking side dishes
Grilling a delicious meal doesn’t require dealing with bags of charcoal or regularly replacing propane tanks. The Weber natural gas grill is built to use the natural gas delivered by the local utility through a preinstalled pipeline system. This grill features three stainless steel burners, porcelain-coated cast-iron grills, and folding side shelves, as well as grill tool hooks and an open cart design for easy access to items on the storage shelf.
The exterior of the grill is made of powder-coated steel, which helps to protect the interior from water damage, though the powder coating is susceptible to bubbling and peeling if it’s not properly maintained. This grill has a generous 529-square-inch cooking surface, including a warming rack that is 105 square inches. Rolling the 114-pound grill inside for winter storage is easy, thanks to its large wheels.
- Impressive 529-square-inch cooking surface
- Large 105-square-inch warming rack
- Folding side shelves and hooks for tool storage
- Rolls around easily on large wheels
- Expensive compared to other grill types
- Heavy at 114 pounds
This Kamado Joe offers 254 inches of cooking area on an 18-inch split grate. This allows users to adjust both sides of the grate to sit higher or lower in the smoker body, to simultaneously prepare foods that cook best at different temps. There’s a helpful temperature gauge, and vents at the bottom and the top of the unit are used to manage airflow and heat. The firebox features a six-panel design to increase cooking efficiency.
The body of the Kamado Joe is made from powder-coated cast aluminum, and the interior is ceramic. It weighs a hefty 250 pounds, but the cart-style grill moves on sturdy locking casters and wheels. This kamado grill also includes a grill cover and two side shelves with hooks to hang accessories.
- Versatile cart-style grill and smoker
- Split grate design ideal for cooking foods at different temperatures
- Six-panel firebox design increases cooking efficiency
- Includes temperature gauge, grill cover, and two side shelves
This impressive infrared gas grill from Char-Broil looks like a conventional grill, but the three gas burners are directed at heat tents, which are used to generate infrared heat, providing even heating across the top of the grill. With 450 square inches of cooking space, this grill is suitable for many family or casual outdoor gatherings.
The exterior is made with durable, corrosion-resistant stainless steel, but the grill grates are porcelain-coated cast iron, ensuring that the grates are protected from water and rust. It’s a standard cart-style grill that has a side burner and weighs 96 pounds. Despite the weight, it can be tilted up on a pair of wheels and moved around the patio, deck, or any other flat surface for moderate portability.
- Infrared technology distributes heat evenly
- Ample 450 square inches of cooking surface
- Cart-style design offers reasonable mobility
Despite its many features, this tabletop grill has an affordable price point. The tabletop grill is made of water-resistant stainless steel and features a two-burner system controlled by simple dials on the front. It has a 277-square-inch grilling surface that’s suitable for preparing a meal for a small family.
The Cuisinart tabletop grill uses a built-in hose to connect to standard 20-pound or 1-pound liquid propane tanks for fuel. It weighs just 22 pounds and has foldable legs for a compact and portable profile when loading into a vehicle. The top secures to the base with four separate latches, so the lid handle can also be used as a carrying handle.
- Affordable grill option
- Easy to control using front-facing dials
- Lightweight at 22 pounds
- Portable; includes foldable legs and a carrying handle
- Limited cooking surface
- Limited grease control
This propane Weber grill is a top choice for cooks on the go. With its compact design and mere 20-pound weight, this grill can tag along to the park, a campsite, or a tailgate party, saving the trouble of packing up a full-size model. The tabletop grill has a single stainless steel burner with an elongated shape, distributing heat evenly across the entire 189-square-inch grilling surface.
The cooking portion attaches to a broad, shallow grill stand made of heat- and water-resistant glass-reinforced nylon. The grill also features two side tables that can fold down to reveal built-in carrying handles.
- Compact and lightweight (20 pounds)
- Two side shelves fold up into carrying handles
- Attaches to a tabletop stand that resists heat and water damage
- Only 189 inches of grilling surface
- Fueled by disposable LP cylinders
Forget standing over a hot flame. This premium smoker/grill combo features wireless technology that connects to a mobile device through Wi-Fi and the Traeger app. The app lets the cook monitor and change temperature as well as set timers. The grill can also be controlled using voice commands through Amazon Alexa.
The Traeger Pro Series has a 575-square-inch cooking surface and a built-in meat probe, with enough space to hold 24 burgers, four chickens, or five rib-racks. While this model features an electronic ignition, it uses hardwood pellets for fuel, giving the food an authentic wood-fired taste. The 124-pound smoker grill moves around in a tilted position on its two wheels.
- Combination grill and smoker extends cooking options
- Impressive 575 square inches of cooking surface
- Smart grill connects to Traeger app or Alexa through Wi-Fi
- Built-in meat probe
- More expensive compared to other grills
- Requires electrical outlet
- Heavy at 124 pounds
For a grill that can handle family meals and small gatherings, the Weber Spirit E-210 propane grill is a top pick for backyards. This classic cart-style grill has ample cooking space, plus a warming rack, without taking up too much space on a deck or patio. For those on a budget, the Char-Broil Classic 280 is another cart-style propane option to consider, with great storage and other features at a very affordable price point.
How We Chose the Best Grills
There is plenty to consider when choosing the best grill for your family and outdoor activities. We looked at fuel or power source (gas, charcoal, pellet, and electric) to include a range of sources in this list. Buyers should also consider grill type, such as tabletop versus standard cart-style grills; we’ve noted the pros and cons of each where appropriate. Grills need to withstand the outdoor elements and internal heat, so this curated list considers material and a grill’s ability to hold up to some “abuse.”
Controlling temperature can be important to grillmasters, so we’ve pored over numerous grills’ temperature control features. We also noted weight and portability, depending on the grill’s intended use, plus additional features like side shelves, storage, and warming racks. We looked at cooking surface size, since grilling 10 to 12 hamburgers at once requires at least 300 inches of cooking surface, and we’ve noted when a grill’s surface is much smaller or larger to help you select the best grill for your needs.
Q: Should I buy a charcoal grill or a gas grill?
Whether a charcoal or gas grill is right for you depends on personal preference, experience, and situation. Gas grills are easier to use, so inexperienced individuals who don’t want to learn something new may find these grills better than charcoal grills.
Experienced users and adventurous beginners may prefer the smoky taste of food prepared on a charcoal grill. The heat output on a charcoal grill is controlled by adjusting the airflow with top and bottom dampers that can be difficult to use.
Q: What should I look for when buying a grill?
There are many important considerations to keep in mind when looking for a grill, including the type of fuel, grill type, heat output, heat control, weight, portability, material, cooking surface, and any additional features.
Q: How many burners do I need for my grill?
The size and shape of burners can differ among products, so instead of relying on a specific count, consider the area that the burner can heat. If a large grill has only one circular burner situated in the center, then it’s likely that the corners and sides aren’t receiving the same amount of heat. Burners that are evenly distributed throughout the grill ensure that the heat output is balanced across the entire grill surface.
Q: Can a propane BBQ use natural gas?
No. Propane grills have smaller valves and orifices, so they won’t emit enough natural gas to reach proper cooking temperatures, and they may leak gas, causing a significant hazard to both the grill cook and anyone nearby. Stick to using natural gas for a natural gas grill and propane for a propane grill.
Q: How do you clean grill grates?
Grill grates are cleaned before and after every meal with a grill brush to remove any large pieces of food, burned sauce, and grease. Once per month, the grill grates should be scrubbed with a grill grate cleaner to remove any built-up grease, caked-on food, or burnt deposits of fat and carbon.
Extremely dirty grill grates can be soaked overnight in a soapy water solution to loosen any stuck-on food and grease. However, keep in mind that oil can be used to protect some grill grates from water damage, so soaking is only advised for extreme circumstances.