Three best gas grills
Ah, the good old American barbecue. The entrancing aroma of sizzling spices. The juicy burgers and seared steaks. The savory, fire-licked veggies.
If you've been missing out on the backyard fun, it's time to consider buying a gas grill.
Charcoal is great and has its devotees, but let's face it -- gas grills offer the ultimate convenience. There's no need to stack briquettes, apply lighter fluid, or wait for the right temperature. Push a button and turn a couple of knobs on your gleaming, propane-powered cooking station and you're ready to start grilling like a pro.
Read on to find out what you need to know before making a purchase.
Considerations when choosing gas grills
There are so many gas grills on the market, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. It doesn't help that prices vary wildly, from less than $100 to a jaw-dropping $5,000.
To help narrow your search, we're going to rule out bare-bones budget grills and lavish commercial-grade models that usually operate on a dedicated natural gas line. Rest assured, today's mid-priced grills offer all the performance, features, and style to make you the envy of the neighborhood.
What size grill do you need?
One of the first things to decide is how much grill you'll need. Will you be hosting barbecues with lots of people or cooking just for your family?
People who enjoy hosting dinner parties should look for at least 500 square inches of cooking surface, enough to grill a half-dozen hamburger patties plus a hot dog or two. To accommodate that amount of food, multiple burners are a must. A warming rack is another useful feature, making it easier to serve everyone at once.
Gas grill features
Keep in mind that most gas grills are large, weigh more than 100 pounds, and might require partial assembly. They come with two to four wheels for some degree of portability. All have an ignition knob and a series of temperature controls on the front that allow for precise heating of the cooking surface. Liquid propane fuel is drawn from a tank that is attached to the grill with a nozzle and hose. Most grills come with handy fold-out trays on both sides and tool hooks.
Beyond those basics, there are cool features that you may find irresistible (and are willing to pay extra for). These include built-in rotisseries, sealed smoking boxes, and a separate burner designed for cooking side dishes in a pot.
Other nonessential but useful options include LED lighting in the grilling area and on the control knobs that allow for cooking after the sun goes down and a spring-assisted hood that takes the fatigue out of all that opening and closing. Most hoods are heavy!
An exciting alternative to a large backyard grill is an affordable portable model.
There are now a number of packable gas grills available from reputable companies that far outperform the old Coleman stoves of camping lore. These quality grills feature enamel-coated porcelain cooking grates, stainless-steel lids, and much more. Some have collapsible legs and fit nicely in the back of a vehicle, making them ideal for camping, picnicking, and tailgating.
Most portable grills have two burners and offer 175 to 275 square inches of cooking surface. They use smaller propane cylinders that are usually adequate for several cookouts but can be converted to use standard 20-pound tanks.
A word about safety
Place your grill at least ten feet from your home and away from deck railings and tree branches. Always light the grill with the lid open. Wait at least five minutes before relighting. As always, read the operating manual carefully before use.
Gas grill prices: Mid-range gas grills cost from $150 for a smaller cooking area and one or two burners to $600 for a large cooking station packed with features.
Look for a grill that's made with quality stainless steel and feels solid. The best grills have a seamless construction and welded joints. Those with painted steel and nuts and bolts are less expensive and less durable. Porcelain-coated cooking grates last longer and are easier to clean.
Look for heavy-duty, rust- and corrosion-resistant burners. These typically need to be replaced after about ten years. Some manufacturers are now offering infrared burners, claiming they create more uniform heat that also sears meat better. Experts who have tested those grills, however, say the results are inconclusive.
Look at temperature range and cooking power. Top-notch grills can produce more than 30,000 BTUs per hour. That's a measurement of how much gas a grill uses and the heat it can create. Quality grills offer a wide temperature range, allowing for slow indirect cooking and searing with intense heat.
Q. How long will a tank of liquid propane last?
A. With most grills, a standard 20-pound tank will provide 18 to 20 hours of cooking time. Keep an extra tank on hand to avoid running out of fuel in the middle of a cookout.
Q. Which cooking grates are better: stainless steel or porcelain-enamel?
A. They're both fine for grilling. It's a matter of personal preference.
Q. How much weight can the side tables hold?
A. The work tables are meant to hold food, condiments, and plates. They aren't designed to hold heavy pots.
Q. Should I cover my grill?
A. Yes. A quality cover will protect your grill from the elements and prevent the stainless steel from tarnishing.
Gas grills we recommend
Best of the best: Weber Spirit II Outdoor Gas Grill
Our take: We love this grill for its high quality, size, and cooking performance. It's a great product from a reputable company.
What we like: There is ample cooking area, with porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates. Features include an open cart design with two large wheels and a built-in fuel gauge.
What we dislike: Some owners have complained about rust issues.
Best bang for your buck: Coleman RoadTrip Propane Portable Grill
Our take: This bargain-priced portable grill is ideal for camping, tailgating, and picnicking.
What we like: The collapsible design allows it to fit in most car trunks. There are 285 square inches of grilling surface, and the grates can swap out for a griddle.
What we dislike: The painted steel top isn't as durable as stainless steel.
Our take: This three-burner grill offers quality features and high performance.
What we like: The grill features a stainless-steel lid and control panel, a large cooking area, and a warming rack. It also boasts an advanced infrared heating system for even cooking.
What we dislike: Sheet-metal cabinet panels feel flimsy.
William Miller is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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