A Guide To Barbecue Grills
Types Of Grills: Finding The Right Grill For You
So you’re ready to get out in the backyard and prove that you’re a true grill master, but with so many different types of grills out there, you haven’t decided which one is best for you and your insatiable taste for fiery goodness. This guide will help you on your journey to searing and grilling thick steaks, burgers and anything else you can make better with the heat of an open flame.
Before we start, consider the following
(or scroll down to the red marker to jump to grill types)
What kind of food to you like to cook? (Fuel Type)
Do you like smoky ribs, brisket, pulled pork and other large cuts of meat? You’re going to do better with a charcoal grill that has a decent amount of space. With two-zone cooking, you can smoke meats “low and slow” style easier this way. Large propane grills have enough space, but not so much on the “smoky”.
If you’re more into burgers, steaks, chicken cuts and fish with quicker results, maybe a propane grill is for you. They start faster and need less attention, however. you will be sacrificing that natural smoke flavor, in which charcoal can do all of the above.
Two-Zone Cooking (Essential Feature)
What’s two-zone cooking? It’s a key method to barbecuing right, no matter your fuel or grill type. The idea is to have two different temperature areas to better control the cooking process, not only does it keep your meat from drying out, it prevents it from getting burnt by flare-ups.
How’s The Weather? (Performance & Durability)
If you live somewhere with decent weather all year round, you’re going to worry less about insulation. However if you’re in a colder climate and like to get out there in the snow to show off how hardcore you are about barbecue, you need a grill that can keep up.
Not all grills are up to the task and you don’t want to waste all your fuel trying to compensate. Not only that, but the build materials must be able to take a weather beating. Don’t buy something because it’s cheap and then have it rust out in a year.
How big is your party? (Size)
Do you have a large family or group of friends and entertain regularly? Are you the go-to guy/gal for BBQ at neighborhood street parties or community functions? Even if you’re only cooking for you and a partner once a week, space wise it’s always better to have more than need more.
That doesn’t mean you need an industrial sized grill, just think about this. Things like burgers and steaks can be grilled and rotated out fairly quickly, but meats like chicken cannot. Do you want to spend all day juggling food, or do you want to get in there and eat? Make sure your cooking surface is sufficient!
How Tall? (Size Continued)
While surface-area is one thing, height is another if you plan on making things like a beer can chicken, whole turkey or other large cuts of meat. You don’t want to find yourself struggling to close the lid on meats that need to be cooked underneath it.
How Attached Do You Want To Get? (Gadgets)
Maybe you’re less interested in beer can chicken and more hungry for rotisserie. Maybe you hadn’t even thought of that, but you probably are now. The point is you might want to start off with the basics and give yourself more options as your grilling skills grow.
Gadgets can be addicting, but buying multiple grills to fit them would be a waste of money when you can buy one grill that can accommodate whatever you choose to get into later. Weber Kettles can double as smokers, but did you know they can become pizza ovens as well?
Things To Look For
- Heavy-gauge metal construction
- Porcelain enamel coating
- Hinged cooking grates (for easy fuel add)
- Secondary grate to hold fuel
- Adjustable vents
- Ash catcher
- Heavy-gauge metal construction
- Stainless steel or aluminum (to prevent rust)
- Quality cooking grates (heat searing and durability)
- Two or more independent burners (for zone cooking)
- Electric ignition
- Drip pan for grease collection
▼ Now let’s look at the different types of grills ▼
Charcoal Barbecue Grills
Starting with the most traditional grill type, let’s talk about charcoal! It’s great for that irreplaceable taste of smoke, mixed with the high heat cooking style of grilled BBQ. You can also turn them into makeshift smokers in case you want to go even more old school. The only issue with using charcoal is running out, you’ll definitely want to keep an extra bag handy for those long haul cookouts. But with good technique, you can keep your grill going on a lot less fuel once you know what you’re doing.
Kettle Style Grills
When most people think of charcoal grills, they think of the kettle. Visions of being out in the yard with a cold beverage followed by the smell of hot coals searing up some juicy steaks, you can’t get more classic than that.
But daydreams aside, there’s a reason why so many people go for these types of grills. They’re simple to use, don’t take up too much space, and in the case of this well built Weber kettle they’ll last you for years.
With many different sizes to choose from, they’re great for setting up a two-zone system to regulate your temps, allowing for a hot and fast or low and slow session depending on your menu. Versatile with a decent price tag to match, they’re definitely the biggest bang for your buck.
Ceramic Grills A.K.A. Kamado Cookers
Kamado style grills are all the rage lately, but the technology behind them is over 3000 years old! They’re also more than just a regular grill. These multi-purpose cookers can sear burgers and smoke briskets with the best of them, that’s why they’re also on our Types Of Smokers list. Their heavy ceramic build can hold temp in harsh conditions which is perfect for those year-round BBQ masters.
While their performance speaks for themselves, prices can vary. In the photo on the left, a more budget-valued kamado. But in the case of the very popular Big Green Egg, or this heavy duty Primo Oval (which is actually cheaper than the BGE, but better for zone heat) these cookers can get up there in cost.
While it may sound a bit much to some, owners of these beautiful ceramic grills swear by their versatility, as well as how solidly built they are.
Standard Charcoal Grills
Need a larger surface to work with? While the Weber “Ranch” charcoal kettle grill boasts a 37 1/2″ grill with 1,104-square-inches of cooking area, it may be a bit big for a regular backyard barbecue when you just want a few steaks, burgers, and kebabs.
The standard charcoal grill can come box or barrel style, it has a more rectangle shape to create even more “heat zones” for those times you’re cooking a lot of different foods at once.
Generally speaking with any type of grill, you’re going to want something with a heavier gauge metal that seals tight when you close it to keep in heat, and you might want to consider something with cast iron grates for better searing and durability.
Propane & Natural Gas Barbecue Grills
Propane and natural gas grills are great for those that don’t want to fiddle with charcoal while trying to maintain temps during a cookout. Maybe you want to entertain guests and “set and forget” your grill. Even if you don’t mind working with charcoal, sometimes you just want something quick like a steak and don’t want to waste your bag of fuel (and waiting for it to get ready). This is where these types of grills come in handy.
Average propane grills can range anywhere from $80 and up to $2000, or even skyrocket to well over $10k like this Fire Magic Echelon Diamond E1060s (wow!) so it may be confusing when first starting out. It may seem tempting to just grab something cheap for a weekend or two, but not only do they fall apart fast (and now you have to search for another grill all over again) but ultimately these cheaper made grills just suck for cooking.
But that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get a good propane grill. The photo on the left shows the Weber Spirit E310 which comes from one of the best grill makers in the business, they last a long time, have a great warranty, they cook great and you can get it in the $500 range.
For a lower budget, you can check out this Broil Mate grill which is made of cast aluminum (no rust!) and holds heat well. Broil Mates come with a limited lifetime warranty on the outer hood and 5 years on the burners. For that price, it’s a great value grill.
Natural Gas Grills
Other than the obvious difference of fuel type, natural gas grills are basically the same as propane grills with a few trade-offs. In gas grills, you still have the simplicity as with propane, but there are advantages such as efficiency and convenience. In winter weather, tanks will get cold and BTUs can be wasted converting your propane from liquid to a gaseous state. Natural gas doesn’t have that problem.
Gas also doesn’t need a refill. If you’re in the habit of long cookout days with multiple courses, you never have to worry about running out mid-cook. The only drawback with NG grill types is that they have to remain stationary because they’re hardwired to your house. You’ll have to pay a professional to set this up, and once you pick your grill spot, that’s where it stays. Still, they really are handy in terms of firing up and shutting off whenever you feel like it, so it’s a small price to pay.
Infrared grilling, sounds futuristic doesn’t? Surprisingly it isn’t. Infrared barbecues have been around since the 80s with many brands to choose from. To keep it simple, these grills place the heat source beneath a ceramic element, allowing for more even heat distribution.
With infrared, heat is sent directly to your food, allowing you to open your lid without worrying about losing temp. Another bonus with infrared grilling is the heating elements guard against any flare-ups, so you don’t have to worry about cooking over high heat, and walking away only to return to a 3 alarm blaze under the hood.
Pricing on these grills are just like any other, you can find a decent one like this 3 burner TRU-Infrared from Char-Broil for a few hundred, or click the link below to find more grills within your budget range.
Types Of Grills (Continued)
Dual Fuel, Hybrid Barbecue Grills
If you still can’t decide on fuel type for your new grill, why not do both? Dual fuel, hybrid type grills are great for those who want to do a little grilling one day, and some smoking on the next. Or, you can do both at the same time, the possibilities are endless with these units.
Dual Fuel Hybrid Grills
Dual fuel hybrid grills come in many different forms. Compact models like this Char-Broil Charcoal Gas Hybrid Grill almost defeat the purpose, since the cooking area is so small. It almost becomes just half of a grill, which would be okay for two-zone cooking but you can already do that with any of the other grill types anyway.
Other hybrids like this Dyna-Glo Dual Fuel Grill with dedicated cooking chambers are more versatile and open up a lot more possibilities. The adjustable charcoal tray allows for better heat control, and its 952 square inches of cooking area gives you enough room to cook for a large party of family and friends.
But if you really want to impress everyone at your next gathering, this Smoke Hollow 4-in-1 LP Gas Charcoal Smoker Searing BBQ Grill takes hybrid up a notch. Not only can you grill with your choice of charcoal or propane, but with the added side firebox, it becomes a “stick burner” so you can also smoke authentic barbecue style! Remember our talk about infrared? It has that too, check out the extra searing burner on the left-hand side. That’s great bang for your buck.
Portable Barbecue Grills
Some of us just need barbecue in our lives, no matter where we are. Problem is, it’s not that simple to just lug our home smoker or grill with us everywhere we go. Luckily there are some great portable grill options out there. So whether we’re camping, tailgating, or out for a day at the beach, we never have to go without our tasty BBQ again.
Portable Propane Grills
By now we’ve pretty much covered the differences between fuel sources, so let’s just take a look at a few recommended portable grills. The photo on the left is of the Weber Q1200 Portable Propane Grill. Weber is the gold standard in grilling and this little number comes with fold-out side tables, a battery powered igniter and porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates with a cast aluminum lid and body.
If you’re looking for something cheaper, this Char-Broil portable gas grill is another option. With fold out legs and heat-resistant handles (so you don’t have to wait for the grill to cool down to move it) has a 187 square inch cooking surface and will cook up to 8 hamburgers at one time. Not bad.
More infrared! That will come in handy with a small size grill (remember how we talked about its heating technology). The Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Portable Grill2Go Gas Grill has a cast aluminum firebox and high impact frame with legs and carry handles, so it’s designed for durability.
Portable Charcoal Grills
If you prefer charcoal (or just want something cheaper than the propane options without sacrificing quality) there are some great options for the grillers on the go. The Weber Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill is basically just a mini-version of the classic Weber kettle. Same build quality, just a smaller size (with a price to match).
Here’s another Weber (it’s all about quality) that might be right for your needs. This Weber Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill has built in hangers for your lid to help block the wind, triple-nickel-coated steel grates and has 160 square inches of cooking space. It looks like a lunch box with its top handle, and we all know there’ll be something much tastier inside than regular old sandwiches.
Portable Grill & Griddle Combo
Is this cool or what? It’s the Blackstone Tailgater Gas Grill and Griddle Combo and is great for versatility on the go. Do up some bacon and eggs or hash browns for breakfast, or add some onions and peppers for a steak sandwich. With the burner style on the left, you can take off the grill and make a pot of rice while doing a stir fry on the griddle, whatever you want with this handy combo.
It’s an easy portable set up, no assembly required, featuring a heavy duty grill box with vent, handle and durable cast iron grill grates. This definitely works for an all-in-one cooking solution at camp sites or tailgate parties.
Outdoor Griddles A.K.A. Flat Top Grills
Flat tops might not be the first thing you think of when talking about grilling, but since we were already on the subject of griddles and this site is all about the love of cooking outside, why not check a few out?
Outdoor Flat Top Grills
There are two grills we’ll mention in this section of flat tops for consumer use. Blackstone makes this 36 Inch Outdoor Propane Gas Grill Griddle Cooking Station with a steel frame, which is powder coated in protective black and the thick steel griddle cooking surface is cold rolled. It has four solid stainless steel burners, which allows you to create different heat zone for cooking multiple foods at once.
It boasts 60,000 BTUs of cooking power, 756 square inch cooking area, has industrial strength, lockable caster wheels, an electric igniter for a fast start and large grease catch on the side. it also has a 28″ model. Considering the price, you’re getting a really heavy duty unit to add to your outdoor cooking arsenal.
The next option is this Camp Chef Flat Top Grill. While it is smaller at 604 square inches of cooking surface, unlike the Blackstone, you can remove the griddle and use it as a regular grill with its included barbecue grill grates. That’s a really nice option for those that might not want to spring for a stand alone griddle but can make use of a hybrid version of a flat top grill.
Guide To Grill Types Conclusion
So hopefully this guide to grill types has helped you in your quest for a new barbecue. It can be a bit overwhelming at first as there are so many styles to choose from. Add in the knock off brands that appear to be the same as the good ones on the surface, but are really just thinly made junkers, and it only makes the choice that more difficult. But if you’ve now decided which type of grill is for you, you can take a look at our “best of sections” below to help finalize your choice of brand and model. Happy grilling!
Now that you know your stuff, check out the ► Best BBQ Grills ◀︎
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