How To Buy a Grill

May 14, 2011

Grills are a staple in American BBQ cooking, and there are loads of guides out there informing consumers on just which grill to buy, when, and for how much. We've taken to the internet to compile and condense all that information into a handy-dandy reference guide for our very favorite consumers: you! If you'd like to read a really good, really in-depth guide about grills, I recommend the one written by Greg "Meathead" Goldwyn. But if you just want the cold, hard facts, read on. 

Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Grill:

Size: Square inches of cooking space calculated by multiplying the length by the width of the primary cooking surface. When deciding how much surface you need, remember that you do not want to crowd a grill, and that you should leave at least an inch between steaks or other things being cooked. Goldwyn's Rule of Thumb: "Allow about 100 square inches (10" x 10") per person. Ask yourself how many people will you normally be cooking for. Don't forget the July 4 party." 

Price: Grills can range in price from $20 for a flimsy tripod charcoal grill (which is actually pretty handy for spur-of-the-moment park visits), to $5000 and up for state-of-the-art, fancy-pants gas grills. That's a pretty intimidating range. In our opinion, good charcoal grills run between $100-300. You can get a really nice gas unit for $200-400, and be the envy of the neighborhood for $800. Don't be fooled into spending tons more than that. Quality does not necessarily increase with price. As Goldwyn says, "a lot of the $1000 units I've seen do not out perform some $400 units."

Temperature Control: A good grill should allow you to setup multi-zone cooking with at least two zones. One zone for high heat cooking, another for slower, lower heat cooking. If you like red meat with a nice dark crust and red to pink inside, even on thin steaks, then you want a grill that can get 600F or more. Charcoal grills can do this, especially if you raise the coals to just below the cooking surface. Most gas grills cannot hit that temp unless they have the new infrared burners.

Materials: In our opinion, the best grills are cast aluminum, cast iron, enamel bonded steel, and stainless steel. Stainless and aluminum will not rust. Cast iron can rust if it is not painted properly. Enamel will not rust unless you chip it. These are the questions Goldwyn poses to all new grill buyers: "How well is it painted? How heavy is the metal? Heavy steel holds and distributes heat better than thin steel. Is the metal thick enough that it will not warp? How are the welds? Does it have sharp edges? Sturdy legs? Big hinges and latches? A lot of plastic parts? Do the moving parts look like they'll last?"

Keep all these tips in mind and you'll be the neighborhood grill master in no time. Happy grilling!