Freestanding or built-in? Gas or charcoal? What about smokers and pizza ovens? And what’s best for quickly seared steaks versus slow-and-low barbecue? Here you’ll find answers to these questions and more to help you pick the right grill for you.
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Pros: It’s quick to heat up and quick to cool, and there will be very little to clean up, so this a good choice when you want to be able to turn out a weeknight grilled dinner. The lower, more easily regulated heat of a gas grill is better for delicate foods like veggies, fish and poultry.
Cons: Gas grills generally do not get as hot as charcoal grills, which can make it difficult to get a good sear on steak. Gas grills also tend to cost more than charcoal grills, ranging from about $200 all the way up to $5,000, depending on the size, brand and customizations.
What about infrared and sear burners? Some higher-end gas grills now come with superheated elements that allow you to cook foods like steak in a way that a normal gas grill just can’t do.
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Cool add-on: rotisserie. If you’d love to be able to roast chicken to perfection, a rotisserie add-on for a gas grill could be your new best friend. If you are planning to add a rotisserie, be sure to choose a grill large enough to handle it — check that the lid is high enough to close with the rotisserie in place.
Built in or freestanding? If you are designing a new outdoor kitchen, complete with counters, storage and other features, you can have the grill built in for a seamless look. Reasons to skip the built-ins: A freestanding grill is less costly and offers you more flexibility should you ever want a different size or type of grill — you can easily make the swap yourself.
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Pros: Charcoal grills can get really hot — ideal for perfectly searing steaks. Some folks prefer the flavor of food cooked on a charcoal grill, and they are a good choice for slow-cooked and smoked meats. Charcoal grills also tend to be much less expensive than gas grills; a good grill costs between $100 and $300 — or even less
Cons: Charcoal grills take longer to get started than gas grills, create more unhealthful smoke (which can prove problematic, especially if you have close neighbors) and take longer to cool and clean.
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Cool add-on: smoker. Some charcoal grills, like the Green Egg model shown here, are made with low and slow barbecue cooking and smoking in mind (but can also handle high heat). But even if you have a standard kettle-style grill, you can purchase an add-on designed to turn your grill into a smoker.
What about dedicated smokers? Let’s say you want a gas grill for everyday cooking, but would really love to slow cook some brisket or ribs on weekends and special occasions. You might want to consider investing in a dedicated smoker — these appliances are excellent at maintaining the steady, low heat needed for true barbecue.
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What about pizza ovens? If you are on a quest to make the best possible homemade pizza, a dedicated backyard pizza oven may be worth putting on your wish list. Pizza ovens are designed to get hot —really hot— for that expert crisp yet chewy crust everyone goes crazy for.
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What to look for in a grill. Here are a few things to look for no matter which type of grill you decide on:
â—‹ A size appropriate for your lifestyle. Do you often host family dinners for 20, or is dinner more likely to be for two?
â—‹ General sturdiness. Does it wobble?
â—‹ Thickness of metal. Thin metal parts are more likely to become dented and damaged, and will not hold heat as well.
â—‹ Heaviness. A good grill is heavy and tough, not flimsy.
â—‹ Sturdy moving parts. These are the areas most likely to break — try to choose a grill with sturdy moving parts made of metal and not too much plastic.