What is it they say? The best time to start grilling was 10 years ago but the second best time to start is today? I don’t actually know if anybody says that, but I stand by it. Grilling can seem intimidating if you don’t know where to start, but the only requisite to joining grill club is to have a grill. I’ve put in my grilling hours, but also my research hours and I’ve put together this grill guide so you too can join the grill club.
Simply put, the most defining aspect to grills is how they are fueled. The 3 main fueling types are gas, pellets, and charcoal/wood. All of them are good, and there’s benefits to each type. If you’re not sure which type to get, I would consider what you value most as a griller. In other words, do you want the convenience, a great char or sear, or a smoky flavor? You can have it all, but I would say each grill type mainly crosses over into two main categories. Here’s a diagram to better illustrate.
Positioned as the most convenient machine, a gas grill can be sneered upon by hardcore grillers. But like I said before, there’s no gatekeeping to grilling. Additional to convenience, you’re going to get a really good sear with gas. Cooking can begin soon after firing it up, and although the flavor isn’t going to be as deep or nuanced, you can buy wood packs to add to the grill to impart some smoke. Gas technology has advanced so that you don’t get the gas flavor as much too.
All that to say, don’t let anybody tell you that the way you want to grill is a lesser way. Gas grills are amazing.
1. Char-Broil Classic 280 Liquid Propane Gas Grill $160 No barriers to entry, low price point, easy to use – this is a great budget option for anyone that’s new to grilling.
2. Char-Griller E3001 Grillin’ Pro 40 $343 Char-griller is a great brand. This is one of their more entry-level grills but it has great features and performance for the price point. Good corner to corner coverage, and a decent BTU range. Plus the dome style is slick.
3. Char-Broil Signature TRU-Infrared $429 I’ve owned many char-broil grills. Once upon a time I was part of the Char-Broil Allstars grilling team and I’ve loved their TRU-Infrared grills since they first came out. No cold spots; high, even heat; great control. One of the most responsive grills you can get, and available at a range of price points. Any Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grill is a great option.
4. Dometic Twin Eagles C Series 36 (pricing obtained through dealers – link to dealer locator) This is the luxury option, and boy it’s a stunner. I’ve recently come onto the Twin Eagles + Domestic scene, and I plan to stay there (Twin Eagles + Dometic is what we’re using for our outdoor kitchen). They incorporate ceramic briquettes, along with gas fuel, to provide smooth, edge to edge heat that is both efficient and responsive. Also available with a rotisserie option, which you know I’m excited to use.
Pellet grills are my personal favorite way to grill. All things considered, they give flavor almost like a charcoal grill, and with the convenience of gas. They self-regulate their temperature so for a long cook like smoking a pork butt or brisket, it’s not as involved. I’ll even run it all night and it doesn’t need as much monitoring as gas or charcoal. The compromise you make with pellet is you’re not going to get that sear.
1. PIT BOSS PB440D2 Wood Pellet Grill $310 My first pellet grill was a Pit Boss, and I loved it. Easy to use, amazing flavor, and their built more to be a grill so you can get a better sear with the Pit Boss than you’ll get with higher end brands like Traeger that aim for more smoke flavor.
2. PIT BOSS LGrill 440 Deluxe Wood Pellet Grill $499 Another Pit Boss option, just with a few more features.
3. Traeger Grills Ironwood 650 Wood Pellet Grill $1400 Traeger is probably the biggest name in pellet grills and smokers, and there’s good reason. They work really well, have amazing flavor, and are easy to operate. Downside is you have to use their brand of pellets (I’ve tried other brands – they get clogged), and at $19 a bag, that can get cost-prohibitive pretty quick.
4. Dometic Twin Eagles Pellet Grill 36R (pricing obtained through dealers – link to dealer locator) The Twin Eagles + Dometic pellet grill is what grillers dream of. Amazing smoke flavor, cool tech, and a built-in option (which will also be in our outdoor kitchen). It uses any kind of pellet, so the ongoing cost isn’t like that of a Traeger, plus there’s a charcoal tray that can be used to sear off meats once they’ve been smoked through.
Grilling with charcoal is a long, involved process, but you’re going to get that great smoky flavor if you have the patience. Within charcoal there’s actually a few different styles including the Kamado, Kettle, and Santa Maria. These use either charcoal bricks, lump wood charcoal, or fresh wood to create coals. Because of this you can get the deepest flavor, the most smoke, and with additional wood chips you can really expand different flavors. Flavorwise, charcoal is the best option but it takes a lot of practice to control the temperature and it will take the longest.
1. Char-Griller E16620 Akorn Kamado Charcoal Grill $329 Kamado cooking is just different, so this is a great one to test out before diving all in on the pricier models. As a budget option, the walls aren’t quite as thick or insulated, but it’s still a great option from a great brand.
2. PIT BOSS 71240 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker $899 Pit Boss makes a fun Kamado with great insulation and lots of grilling space. Believe it or not, at over $700 this is the midrange option, and is a solid pick.
3. Big Joe III Charcoal Grill $2480 Too many brands to choose from for the high end, and this one isn’t even the highest. But this is an amazing Kamado ceramic grill. You could practically fire pottery off in this thing (not an actual claim I’m making so don’t hold me to that – just saying it holds heat like a champ).
4. Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill $139 Weber invented the kettle grill, and this is the entry level version they offer. Though features have been added over the years, this one will cook food as good as any other, and it’s a great budget option to get into charcoal cooking.
5. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill $219 Same overall idea as the budget option, with a few niceties that include better airflow control (for charcoal, air control = temperature control), easier cleaning, and a folding rack to easily add coals mid-cook.
6. Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill $549 Another step up, this version includes a propane-fueled ignitor to get the coals going faster, as well as a stand with coal storage and some other great features. This kit makes the charcoal experience really fun.
7. Titan Great Outdoors Kettle-Style Grill Attachment $169 True Santa Maria grills get really expensive really quick, so this is a fun accessory that can be added to most kettle grills to get the same functionality without spending so much.
8. Nuke Gaucho Santa Maria Grill $1739 I love this unit so much. It’s well-thought out, with so many smart features that help it function to the max.
9. Santa Maria/Argentine Rotisserie Grill $2399 This is the dream for a charcoal griller, right here. Easy function, wide cooking area. The ultimate live-fire cooking experience.
Grilled Carrots With Orange Tomato Glaze
Turkey & Beef Meatballs With Smoked Marinara
Grilled Sugar Snap Peas And Mushrooms
Cajun Grilled Fish Coconut Wraps
Grilled Steak Tacos With Pickled Radish & Onions
Salt & Vinegar Chicken With A Grilled Corn Salad
Grilled Pork Tossed With Fresh Herbs
It’s great post, I showed it to my husband as it’s his first summer of grilling on a regular basis. He thinks the same. We actually have grill #4 and it’s great for newbies and looks good in our small garden. Thank you Chris.
I’d love to hear about Chris’s favorite grilling tools and accessories, even seasonings, spices, and sauces he likes to use! I am always looking for ideas like that for my husband.
After switching from Gas to a Pellet Grill a couple years ago I’ll never go back to Gas. I was really afraid of losing the fast sear of a gas grill when we got the pellet grill for things like hot dogs and hamburgers that you just want to have done quickly.
We ended up getting a pit boss with the searing cover thing you can move inside the grill and it does the job wonderfully when we just want to throw a quick meal together. We had kept the gas grill “just in case” but ended up getting rid of it after a few months as we hadn’t even uncovered it again.
We’ve run a small Traeger for 5 years and use off-brand pellets. It does get clogged, every few months or so (we use it almost daily in the summer), but I never connected it to the pellet brand! We just take the shop vac and slurp everything out and it’s good to go again. That said, we need more grilling space and we’ve definitely found that it doesn’t get as hot as we’d like, so this guide will be helpful when we’re shopping for a new one! Thanks Chris!
No mention of the Weber Genesis or Big Green Egg?! Flat top grills are another category you missed.
Agree Lacy! My house is all about the Big Green Egg and Black Stone griddle. Flat top cooking is the bomb even if it’s only for finishing. It’s funny how terminology is used. For us, it’s all about SMOKING, not grilling. Can’t say the last time we technically grilled. And it’s not about convenience, it’s about the art of the process. We have a Franklin Barbeque Pit on the way to us as we speak…
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