Outdoor Grills: Complete Guide

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Hosting a cookout is a tradition among American families as the weather gets warmer. Gathering around the grill to cook your favorite cuts of meat is a relaxing and rewarding experience. If you’re looking at purchasing a grill, then you have plenty of options available.

Grill technology continues to advance, and you have to wade through dozens of models with unique features to find the grill that’s right for you. There are dozens of options for burners, smokers, rotisseries, as well as the traditional charcoal and gas grills. How do you know which one to choose?

We put together this buying guide to give you all the information you need when buying your new grill.

Types of Grills

Before you settle on your ideal grill, it’s a good idea to check out what’s available. Do you prefer the taste of a charcoal grill? OR maybe you like the flavor of a smoker? Here is a comprehensive list of the types of grills.

Electric Grills

These grills plug into an electrical outlet, using a heating element for cooking your food. Electric grills won’t alter the taste of the meat, and they produce a consistent heat that’s easy for you to control. Electric grills don’t reach the same high temperatures as charcoal or gas grills, but they are more than sufficient to cook a tasty meal.

Electric grills are also the only model that’s suitable for use indoors, as it does not present the same fire risk as other models. This grill is the ideal choice for people that live in the city. It’s the perfect balcony grill that won’t offend your neighbors with clouds of smoke from burning charcoal.

Charcoal Grills

This grill is the classic BBQ choice for Americans. Charcoal grills are starting to lose ground in the popularity contest with gas grills. However, many Americans still enjoy that authentic charcoal taste for their food.

Charcoal grills are the most affordable type, and the solid construction of the grill makes them virtually indestructible. There’s no working parts, gas lines, or electrical outlets to worry about when cooking. With a charcoal model, you dump some briquettes and firelighters into the grill and light it. 40-minutes later you are ready to cook.

The high heat of charcoal grills make them ideal for searing steaks and fish, and you’ll have to watch that the drippings don’t catch fire and burn your food. Charcoal grills require more effort to clean, and they take longer to reach cooking temperature. Therefore, they aren’t the best grill if you need to cook right away.

Charcoal grills suit backyard cookouts with family and friends, where you have the time to relax on the weekend.

Propane Grills

If you want to grill with gas, then you have two choices. Both propane and natural gas grills are gaining in popularity across America as the ideal grill for a cookout. Propane is cheaper than natural gas, making it one of the most affordable grill models available.

With a propane grill, there’s no waiting for the charcoals to whiten. You flip a switch, turn a knob, and you’re ready to cook. Propane grills also come with exciting accessories that enhance the grilling experience. You can also adapt your propane grill for natural gas, and gain access to handy accessories such as side and infrared burners.

This grill suits anyone that enjoys a cookout but doesn’t mind missing the authentic flavor of a charcoal grill. With easy setup, cleaning, and maintenance, propane, or natural gas grill is your best choice.


If you want to grill food with an authentic BBQ flavor, then you can’t beat a smoker. Smokers slow cook meats over lower heat than a charcoal or gas grill. As a result, the meat absorbs waves of smoke that give it an authentic BBQ taste. The slow cooking process also produces meat that’s so tender it falls off the bone.

If you want to host a cookout on a Saturday afternoon, and you’re looking for a tasty BBQ flavor in your meal, then you can’t best a smoker. Cooking on a smoker takes time and requires patience, but the result is well worth the extra hour or so of cooking time.

This grill suits a BBQ enthusiast that loves the rich and smoky flavors produced by the grill. It also suits those grillers that want to sit back and enjoy the afternoon while the smoker does the work. While you can achieve the same smoky effect using a charcoal grill with a lid, a smoker suits those individuals that prefer less involvement in the cooking process.

Wood Pellet Grills

These grills use hardwood pellets for cooking your food, and they have many of the advantages of gas and charcoal grills as well. Wood-pellet grills use an electronic feeding system to dispense the right amount of pellets into the grill to meet your temperature requirements when cooking.

The grill also utilizes a convection cooking process using a fan to pull in air from outside the grill. This feature speeds up the time it takes to cook the food to perfection. As the pellets burn, they release smoke into the grill, flavoring the meal with an authentic BBQ flavor.

You also have the option to use different types of wood to produce various flavors in the food. A wood-pellet model gives you the best of gas and charcoal grilling. As a drawback, these grills tend to be the most expensive models available, and they depend on electricity to operate.

Ceramic Grills

These grills are similar to charcoal models, with the difference being the materials used in construction. Manufacturers use ceramic instead of steel for the charcoal basin and lid of the grill. As a result, the grill retains its temperature, producing a higher cooking temperature.

Ceramic grills also feature dampers at the bottom of the grill and on the lid. The dampers let you control the airflow through the grill, keep them open to increase the heat, or close them for a lower cooking temperature. Most dampers are steel, so remember to wear gloves when opening or closing the flues.

This grill relies on charcoal for fuel, so it produces an authentic BBQ flavor in your food. As a drawback, these grills are expensive, as ceramic is a premium material.

Choosing Your Grill Size

As you start your search for the perfect grill, it’s essential to think about the power and space requirements. Are you going to be grilling for you and the family? Or do you want to host cookouts for large groups at the office? Do you live in a freestanding home or an apartment? All of these considerations play a role when selecting your ideal grill.

Manufacturers will list the grills primary square inches and secondary square inches – but what’s the difference? Primary square inches refer to the total cooking area on the grill. The more primary square inches on the cooking area, the bigger the grill. Secondary square inches provide a warming effect, and many grills have warmer trays that keep your cooked food warm while cooking other meat on the grill.

If you want a gas grill, make sure you check out the manufacturer’s guidelines for BTU output. The BTUs the grill has, the larger the cooking surface.

Grill Materials and Costs

Grills come in a variety of materials, from stainless steel to ceramic. Most professionals prefer using stainless steel models due to it being easy to clean and maintain. However, ceramic grills are gaining in popularity across the United States.

Unfortunately, ceramic grills are the most expensive option. Gas and propane grills are also on the higher side of the price range as well. If you’re looking for an affordable grill, then start with a stainless steel charcoal model.

You’ll also need to consider the costs of fuel for running your grill. Charcoal, wood pellets, and gas or propane all cost money. Propane offers the cheapest cooking option, while wood pellets are the most expensive, especially if you’re using cedar.

Maintenance and Support

When purchasing your grill, you need to take maintenance into account as well. A charcoal grill offers the most effortless cleanup and maintenance. With this model, you leave the briquettes to burn out and then toss away the ash. A quick wipe down of the basin, and scrub of the grill rack, and you’re ready to use the grill again.

Gas and propane grills are harder to clean. It’s challenging to get all of the fat and grease off of the components under the grilling surface, even if you use a drip tray. Keeping your grill in tip-top condition extends its service life, and you can expect it to last for decades.

Make sure you pick a model with excellent customer service. If you have any issues with the grill, the service consultants can walk you through a solution over the phone.

Grill Features and Accessories

Each model of grill comes with a unique selection of features to enhance your grilling experience. The following is a list of key features and accessories you’ll need with your grill.

  • Grating – Cooking grates come in two materials, stainless steel and ceramic. Ceramic grates are the best option, as they protect the steel from rust, and they increase the cooking temperature on the grilling surface.
  • Infrared Burner – Use this accessory to sear your food perfectly. The system directs heat from a gas burner towards a ceramic tile. The tile converts the heat into infrared energy and then radiated onto the food.
  • Electric Igniter – Why burn your fingers with matches when lighting your grill? An electronic ignition lets you start things with a click of a button or dial.
  • Rotisserie – If you want to cook a roast chicken on the grill, you’ll benefit from using a rotisserie. The rotisserie connects to the grill and allows you to turn the bird for even cooking. You can get your rotisseries with an electronic turning arm for a hassle-free grilling experience.
  • Side Burner – If you have pots or sauté pans, you need to keep warm while you’re cooking, consider getting a side burner. The burner keeps your food warm and on-hand, letting you avoid walking to the kitchen to put the food in the oven after it finishes cooking.
  • Thermometers – Monitor your grill’s temperature with a thermometer. Some grills come with the thermostat built into the hood of the grill. Others require you to use an external thermometer.
  • Warming Rack – Keep your potatoes or corn warm while you finish off the food on the grill.
  • Brushes and Cookware – Keep your grill clean with brushes, and keep your hands off your food with a pair of tongs and a fork.
  • Drawers and Carts – Keep everything you need on hand with a side drawer or cart.
  • Covers – weatherproof your grill from the elements with a cover to prevent rust.
  • Drip Pans – Collect your drippings for easy cleaning of your grill after cooking.

Grilling in the Wintertime

When most people think about a cookout, they picture a warm, sunny summer day as the backdrop for the event. However, you can use a grill during the winter as well. If you’re looking for a grill as an alternative to your stove, then you’ll need to invest in a gas or propane model.

A gas or propane grill offers the most affordable cooking option, and it’s ready to cook the money you hit the ignitor button. Waiting around on a cold winter night for the charcoal to settle will leave you with numb fingers and a cold nose.

Wrapping Up – Order Your Grill Online

When it comes time to order your grill, we recommend you use an online retailer for two reasons. The first reason is that you have a more extensive range of price comparisons and models, and you’re likely to find a good deal. The second reason for ordering online is the shipping.

Trying to pack your new grill into your Tesla isn’t going to work. As a result, you’ll have to spend money on transport to get it to your home. By ordering online with a retailer like Amazon, the seller covers the cost of delivering your grill to your home.

Robin Watson

Robin owns his own Landscape Gardening company based in the UK and has over 10 years professional experience working outdoors, creating beautiful landscapes for his clients in the UK. He is also a keen garden-grower and maintains his own fruit and vegetable gardens. He also has a level 3 Certificate in Practical Horticulture from The Royal Horticultural Society and is currently working on his first book about gardening. Contact him at

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