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Summer is barbecue season, and now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated individuals — and, depending on the situation, some unvaccinated individuals — don’t have to wear masks outdoors, family and friends are looking forward to gathering in person. This means the focus is on grills yet again, similar to the steady and regular increase in interest we saw last summer around grilling accessories.
If you plan on spending quality time grilling this summer, it might be the right time to consider upgrading your wares — or investing in a new model. From charcoal to wood and pellet grills, it can be daunting to know which direction to go. But gas grills are fairly common and could be an option for your outdoor space. “It’s estimated that 62 percent of grill owners have a grill that’s fueled by gas,” said Matt Moore, author of last year’s “Serial Griller.”
SKIP AHEAD Best gas grills
Gas grills dominate the backyard barbecues game not only because they can be portable and easier to operate with the click of a switch, though. “More than anything — cleanup is a breeze,” said Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave’s. “Plus, with a charcoal grill, temperatures can fluctuate like this year’s stock market. You think you’ve found the right temperature only, within minutes, your coals have died down.”
You also don’t have to worry about a gust of wind or playing a temperature guessing game when grilling with propane — it’s a constant heat source. “And firing up hot, glowing charcoal briquettes to add to the grill is not only dangerous but it’s a royal pain,” added Anderson. “Whereas once you light a gas grill, you can cook all day at the temperature you want. Gas grills are just so easy to manage consistent heating.”
How to shop for the best gas grills
Before setting out to buy a gas grill, the first thing to know is that there are two types of gas grills:
- Propane tank gas grills are usually smaller and portable — but the tanks need to be replaced
- Natural gas grills use a dedicated line that you can have connected to your home’s natural gas line.
Once you establish the type of gas source you prefer, then it’s time to get shopping.
Grill burners, ignition and cooking area
Most shoppers want at least two burners so they can set up different heat zones. This way, meat can be cooked on the highest heat while veggies are grilling on a medium zone, and maybe buns get thrown to the lowest zone, if possible. But the number of burners a grill has isn’t the only consideration — it’s just as important to be aware of the distance between the burners. “The closer they are, the more even the heat is, eliminating any cold or hot spots,” explained Thinh Phan, the chief editor of BBQInProgress.com. He also recommended paying attention to the material of the burners. “Stainless steel is better than cast iron because the latter tends to rust quicker.”
Another consideration, he noted, is how a gas grill starts: There are two types of ignition used in gas grills: electronic and piezo.
- An electronic igniter uses batteries “so it will go dead after a while,” Phan noted.
- The piezo igniter produces a spark when you push or turn the gas buttons. “A good piezo system” is therefore ”more reliable,” he added.
However, if either version is “low-quality” or slow to produce a spark, it can be potentially dangerous. Pushing the button pumps gas into the burners until a spark ignites but the longer this takes, the more gas that's released. “Once the spark hits, all the gas buildup can explode into a fireball.” This is one reason to consider investing in your new gas grill rather than cut corners.
If you cook a lot of steaks, go with cast iron, but if you cook a lot of burgers, brats and seafood, stainless steel is a better choice.
Thinh Phan, Editor, BBQInProgress.com
Although the size of the grill itself should be taken into consideration and how much room it takes up, it’s also important to think about how many people you’d typically be cooking for. Look for the models’ total cooking area in square inches, as well as the serving size, to gauge how much you can cook at once.
“I’d always recommend going one size up, just in case. You might think you only need to cook for a few people, but things will happen,” Phan said. “I also look for any extra removable warming racks, as well, as they provide extra cooking space.” These additional racks will add some extra surface area to a smaller model.
Grill grates, lids and other materials
The two most common materials used for grates are stainless steel and cast iron. Although stainless steel is rust-resistant (which means the grates are easier to clean), they don’t conduct heat as well as cast iron. “You can sear steak better on a cast iron grate, but one caveat is that you have to spend more time caring for it or else it will rust,” Phan said. “If you cook a lot of steaks, go with cast iron, but if you cook a lot of burgers, brats and seafood, stainless steel is a better choice.”
High-quality gas grills are made from durable stainless steel but not all stainless steel is created equal. Stainless steel is an alloy that comes in different numerical grades, depending on its composition, which impacts its overall strength, heat durability and rust resistance. Among the different grades, Phan said 304 and 430 stainless steel are most common. “Grade 304 is much better than 430 and that comes with a higher price tag,” he explained. “That said, if you take care of your 430 grill, it will probably last a bit longer.”
Not all gas grill models come with a lid. Phan emphasized its importance for backyard cooks, though. “With a lid, you can turn your grill into an oven, meaning that you can cook food with convection heat,” he says. “It will cook your food more evenly than conduction and radiant heat.”
Grill safety and cleaning
There are some safety features grill owners don’t realize they’ll need until it’s too late. Here are a few safety features to keep in mind during your search.
- Does the grill handle have any heat shield to protect your hand?
- Can you lock the wheels if you want to, limiting the grill’s potential movement while you cook?
- How does the ignition system work and can you turn it off easily?
Since there’s no ash to remove from gas grills, as is the case with charcoal grills, cleaning them is much easier. But you still want to look for a grill equipping an efficient system to make your life easier. “Look for things like V-shaped flavorizer bars — they will protect the burners from fat dripping down from the food above,” Phan suggested. “Also, look for a grease tray that collects all of it for a quick cleanup.
Best grills: Bells and whistles
If you’re investing in a higher-end gas grill, Anderson appreciates the added perk of rotisseries, which he said are a must for the best tasting grilled chicken — the rotating grill cage bastes the meat in its own juices. Otherwise, you’ll find options like built-in lights for night cooking, side burners, ceramic infrared burners, warming doors for finished foods, porcelain coating, searing stations, smart connectivity and easy-packing features.
What to avoid
Before buying a new gas grill (or anything, for that matter) research how past users feel about it. Sonny’s BBQ pitmaster Shannon Snell recommended checking for review noting a grill’s structural integrity, and especially over time. “Grills are normally stored outside, and depending on the region of the country you live in, that will alter the condition of your grill,” he said. Pay attention to reviews about metal rusting, paint peeling or controls malfunctioning after only a few uses. This is a big red flag — that the grill may not last very long after purchase.”
But you should also take into consideration the materials, from the cook box to the grates and workmanship throughout the grill. “Look at the wheels: Are they cheap plastic or durable rubber, can they roll smoothly, and are they big enough?” he said. “After that, examine the screws and bolts. Are they going to rust after a few months?” And don’t overlook the importance of reading reviews, especially keeping an eye out for if the screws or bolts rusted after only a few months.
Best gas grills
From your basic backyard gas grill to the high-end models worthy of the pros, these are the best gas grills across different needs that both amateur and experienced pitmasters recommended. We weren’t surprised to find repeated veneration for Weber grills as grilling experts regarded the brand highly when we consulted them about portable grills, too.
Best gas grill overall: Weber
This isn’t your typical grill — that’s why many agree it’s the best way to go. With four stainless steel burners along with a side burner and searing station burner, you have room to cook a serious spread of foods. The grill is also compatible with the Weber Connect accessory that syncs to your smart device while monitoring food temperature as it cooks. “With quality, heavy duty construction from one of the most trusted names in grilling, this is a decade-plus quality grill, when cared for appropriately,” said Moore.
Best affordable gas grill: Weber
This compact, two-burner model is great for smaller spaces but offers an impressive 360 square inches of primary grilling area. “Plus, there’s an extra 90 square inches of a warming rack. This is actually perfect for a family of four or even a small barbecue,” said Phan. “Weber also offers a ten-year warranty for everything and their customer service is always around the clock, seven days a week.”
Best basic gas grill: Char-Griller
3. Char-Griller 3001 Grillin' Pro Gas Grill (limited availability)
This 100-pound grill isn’t just great because it can easily get around during backyard barbecues. With three main burners and a small side burner, you can accomplish your culinary work in multiple heat zones. “This really opens up your cooking options here,” said Phan. “If you don’t use the smaller burner, you can close it down and you instantly have another side table available. However, the body is made from coated steel that will rust over time if you don’t take care or cover it.” As this model seems to be limited in availability, we found a similar Char-Griller Flavor Pro 4-Burner Gas Grill option.
Best portable gas grill: Weber
Weighing in at 42.5 pounds and sporting two folding side tables, this small grill is easy to take on camping trips or tailgating adventures (when it’s safe to do so) but still has enough cooking space and power to prepare a delicious meal for four. “It has a heavy-duty cast-aluminum cook box, providing an even convection heat inside it,” said Phan. “The cooking grates are porcelain-coated cast iron, which not only maintains many features of cast iron, such as great searing, but also includes a porcelain outer layer for easy cleaning and rust resistance.”
Best high-end gas grill: Hestan
For those who want to invest in a luxury grill, this Hestan model features motion-activated lighting under the hood and a ceramic infrared sear burner for perfecting thick cuts of meat. “It’s cooler than cool with signature Hestan design and colors,” said Moore. “It’s portable with tons of workspace and halogen lighting to make cooking in the dark fully transparent. And the built-in rotisserie makes this an all-encompassing beauty that never stops working.”
Best all-in-one gas grill: Broil King
From a large cooking space that includes a porcelain coated warming rack to the stainless steel cooking system, Moore appreciates all of the feature enhancements this grill offers. “It’s quite affordable for a four-burner, stainless design with infrared technology and searing side burner,” he said. “Plus, with the rotisserie kit and LED lighting, too — all the hits for nearly one-tenth of the luxury splurge (along with a ten-year warranty).”
Best smart gas grill: Weber
Originally, Moore recommended the Lynx Professional Grill Smart Series SMART30NG as the best smart gas grill despite its steeper price point. However, it’s currently discontinued. Instead, we found a more affordable option from Weber. This smart grill uses similar integrated technology — you can receive alerts on your phone to know the temperature of food and when your meats are done to your taste.