Fire Up

from Garden, Deck & Landscape
Find the gas grill that’s right for your outdoor kitchen or deck, whether you’re an occasional entertainer or a master griller.

Now is the perfect time to buy a gas grill. Here's your guide to finding the best one for your budget. Whether you're a gourmet griller, a conscientious griller or a casual griller, there's a grill for you.

The Gourmet Griller
(Grills for more than $1,000)

If you grill at least once a week, often entertain crowds, and cook everything from chili to lobster outside, you’re a gourmet griller. Only professional-grade materials and a grill with all the extras will do.

You’ll probably pay $1,000 or more for one of these fancy machines. These units are mates for life, with commercial-grade construction and warranties to match. Some are installed in an outdoor kitchen island; others are on wheels for portability.

In this category, expect burners, flavor plates, grill grate, lid, and cart to glisten with heavy-gauge, high-quality, nearly indestructible stainless steel. One or both sides of the grill will host burners that can accommodate optional griddles and trivets that slip on for cooking with a wok or large stockpot. Love smoky-flavored food? You’ll like the smoking drawers and boxes on these grills.

Another standard feature: rear-mounted heating devices that use intense infrared radiation instead of flames. The high heat quickly sears the outside of food, trapping tender juices inside. Some grills also have infrared burner units under a portion of the cooking grid, but infrared’s intensity makes cooking at a slow rate difficult, so this setup is unsuitable for many foods.

“Look for sealed rotisseries,” says Dave Becker, vice president of product management for Viking Range Corp. “You don’t want cutouts or small incisions for the rotisserie rod in the canopy of the grill, as they allow too much hot air and flavor-generating vapors to escape.”

The Conscientious Griller
(Grills costing $500 to $1,000)

If you cook outside year-round and prize a perfectly seared steak with the juices sealed tightly inside, you’re probably a conscientious griller. Before buying, research grills with storage, built-in prep spaces, and high-heat burners. Durable materials will cost more, but they’ll pay off in product satisfaction. You can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000.

In this price range, grills should scream quality in look and feel, thanks to heavy-duty materials inside and outside the cooking unit. The grill lid should have double walls to keep hot air in and drafts out. If you give the unit a hands-on shake, you should hear few rattles, and wheels should operate smoothly.

Grills in this category generally feature stainless-steel burners and flavor plates, and all or part of the exterior body may be stainless steel as well. “Until recently, you couldn’t even find stainless steel for under $600,” says Steve Fines, marketing director of Coleman Backyard, “but a highly competitive market and the growing importance of design and style is changing the scene.” However, you’ll want to be sure the stainless steel is at least grade 304 (see “It’s a Steel,” below).

Grill carts in this category typically have doors and backs to keep grilling utensils neatly hidden. Flip-up prep areas, towel bars, and shelves are other common perks. Cooking space may be as much as 700 square inches, and at least one side burner is standard.

The Casual Griller
(Grills for less than $500)

If you pull off the grill cover only to cook for holidays, family celebrations, and an occasional inspired summer evening, you’re a casual griller. There’s no reason to break the bank for professional-grade equipment, so consider grills priced below $500.

In this price range, you’ll discover a big variety of choices and quality. Grills at the lower end are worthwhile purchases for novice grillers. Models at the higher end are ideal for those looking for more reliability and durability.

For grills between $300 and $500, the average cooking surface is 500–600 square inches, enough room to cook a big turkey or a bevy of burgers. The cooking grid and burners may be constructed from any of several materials, but even more important than the material (because many come with a limited lifetime warranty) is the design. For example, lower-end models may have I-shape or strip burners; H- or U-shape burners spread heat more evenly. “One U-shape burner is as effective as two strip burners,” Becker says, “and even distribution of heat is just as important as having a lot of burners.”

For better cooking results, look for a grill with a built-in thermometer. “Without one, it’s impossible to know or control how hot the cooking box is,” says Shaun Chinsky, director of marketing operations for Weber-Stephen Products Co.

Carts support the grills but typically offer minimal storage. A single side burner or side flip-up preparation space may complete the grill, but the price tag generally reflects an investment in the cooking unit rather than gadgets.

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