Okay, so this is going to be part 2 of my all encompassing, world-renowned LTB Barbecue Buying Guide. Part 1 is over here and it is directed mainly at people who already have a barbecue and have decided to buy a new one but don’t really know where to start.
This section of the guide is for people in a slightly similar but yet radically different boat – those of you who haven’t actually purchased a barbecue before.
What? You’ve never owned a barbecue? How is that possible? What do you mean? I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. I heard it all when I was in the 5th grade and wanted to try my hand at Little League. Well, the questions were about baseball, not barbecues, but the gist was the same. Hopefully for you you’ll have a great experience buying and enjoying a barbecue, unlike my summer playing Little League (still don’t like baseball).
Perhaps you’re starting out on your own, just moved out of your parent’s house, been borrowing a friend’s or family member’s grill from time to time or perhaps you grew up as a vegetarian in a vegetarian house and now simply want to try something different. Maybe you’re trying to buy a gift for someone. Whatever the reason, suddenly you find yourself in the market for a barbecue grill and, like many people new to the world, dazzled by the options available.
We’re here to help.
There’s going to be lots of things to figure out before you get to the point of plunking down your hard earned cash (or well-worn plastic) but once you start to wrap your head around them, it’ll get easier.
Location Location Location
The first consideration you should figure out is where you will be using your grill. This will affect all others, so think well. Outdoors or indoors? Balcony or deck? Apartment or house? Dorm room, RV or boat? Being able to use a grill outdoors in the backyard of a house is going to open up many many options in regards to which grill to choose. If you have your heart set on grilling but only have a small area on a balcony to use, then you’re going to be rather limited. However, don’t think that by limited we mean no options. There’s always options, and luckily in the world of the barbecue grill, some of those options are going to be great.
A secondary consideration to where you will be using it is going to be where you plan on storing it. If you’re able to let it sit outside without worrying about it getting stolen then you’re set. If you’ve got a garage or storage area you can easily put the grill in at night after it’s cooled down and cleaned up then you’re golden. However, if you’re going to have to shove it into a closet, under the kitchen sink or in a cupboard, then you’re going to need to really think long and hard about the next consideration.
Gas, Charcoal or (gasp) Electric?
This is going to be the primary thing you’ll need to figure out when buying a grill. Your choice is going to depend entirely on your needs and situation, not on the needs and situation of the person selling you the grill. Yes, take into account the advice of people you know and even the salesmen, but ultimately you’re going to be the one living with and trying to make the grill produce great food, not them.
The Case for an Electric Grill
Electric grills in some ways don’t make much sense. If the purpose of grilling is to cook food over an open flame, why cook on something that doesn’t even produce a flame, right? Well, it’s not always about the open flame. Grilling is often about cooking outdoors with friends and family. About enjoying time together over food. Having an electric grill can come pretty close to approximating that experience. And by pretty close, I mean the only thing that is different is the food is going to taste slightly different than if it was cooked on a charcoal or gas grill. The time spent with friends and family is going to be just as great.
Many people will often say the flavor and smokiness that are part and parcel of cooking on a grill are not present on food cooked on an electric grill. Maybe so. Well, honestly, it’s totally true. But if you simply don’t have the option of using a charcoal or gas grill, don’t give up on grilling for your and your family. Whether it’s a little George Forman grill, a smokeless DeLonghi, a good sized Napoleon electric or a Weber Q 280 electric, they all can do a pretty good job of grilling most anything you want.
Don’t give up on your grilling dreams just because you have to buy electric. Ask yourself this: Which is more limiting, having an electric grill or no grill at all?
Charcoal or Gas
If your living situation is one where you can buy a charcoal or gas grill, then congratulations. You’ll have so many grills to look at you’ll probably go dizzy. The first thing you’ll need to figure out is if you want a charcoal or a gas grill. Generally people who have an opinion about this have a strong opinion. Here are some things to consider –
Charcoal or gas is going to be a fairly personal opinion dictated by what your personal living situation is, what kind of cooking you plan to do, what level of convenience you are after and what kind of grilling experience you want to have. Here’s the good news – if you buy an inexpensive to medium priced grill, you aren’t out a lot of money, so if you don’t like it you can probably sell it and buy a different kind that is more suited to your tastes.
Fat Wallet or Thin Wallet?
Price is going to be the next consideration for most people and rightly so. Not everyone has thousands of dollars to throw down on a monster grill for their first time grill purchase. So what kind of money are we talking about here?
Well, it goes back to your charcoal/gas/electric decision. If you choose electric you’ll probably find a decent grill anywhere from 50 dollar range up into the 500 buck range. Charcoal is going to run you around 40 bucks or so for a Weber Smokey Joe or 100-150 for a Weber Classic Kettle (they like to call it the Weber One Touch. Fools.) on up into the multiple thousands of dollars. A good gas grill is going to start around 400 bucks or so and go up also into the multiple thousands of dollars. Note that I said a good gas grill is going to start there. Yes you can get them cheaper but that doesn’t guarantee they are good. Weber (there’s that name again) does make some quality gas grills in the sub 400 dollar range, but make sure you know what you’re getting.
If you’re inclined to buy a gas grill but are on a fairly tight budget and don’t want to spend much on the actual grill itself, we’ve got two suggestions:
As I mention in part 1 of the LTB BBQ Buying Guide (that sounds awesome. I need more acronyms, though), price isn’t something you should be focusing on at this point. Right now what you want to be doing is figuring out what kind of grill you want to buy, what size you’ll need and what features you’re looking for. Remember, you can always just pick up a Weber Smokey Joe or Kettle charcoal grill for between 40 and 100 bucks. Best barbecue I ever had was cooked over a Smokey Joe so they can do the business. (hint, it was the company that made the meal, not the grill)
What you really don’t want to do is look at your wallet, decide you have X amount of money to spend and then find the grill with the most features for that price. You can end up with much more grill than you’ll ever need. You can also find yourself overlooking the accessories and other needful things that go along with a new grill purchase.
The best thing is to figure out what kind of grill is best matched to your situation and then find something that matches your requirements and your budget.
As in “matters of size” not “size is all that matters”. Cooking areas is something that gets thrown about when discussing grills. Primary cooking areas, secondary cooking areas, warming racks, all that stuff. Kinda confusing. Most barbecue experts (not referring to the LTB crew – we’re experienced enthusiasts, not experts) recommend 300 square inches and up for a reasonably sized grill. 400 plus is considered ample grilling space. I’ve only found one resource that tells how much size per person. It said to calculate about 50 square inches per serving. So if you plan on cooking 3 burgers or 3 hot dogs or 3 steaks, then you’ll need about 150 square inches of grill. Now, everybody knows that a hamburger, a hot dog, and a big t-bone steak are going to be different sizes. This is just a rule of thumb. Don’t take it as gospel.
Another thing to consider is if you plan on cooking vegetables and other things along with your primary meal. Those will all take up grill space as well. Corn, kebabs, potatoes, etc. all add up. Warming racks will keep these things warm after they are cooked. Nice to have if they are a feature on the grill you’re looking at, but not crucial.
Still confused? Stick with the 300 rule of thumb, then. Family of four? Maybe up to 8 or so when company comes? Yeah, 300 – 400 will work, but you’ll have to eat in shifts. Like, all the burger lovers eat when the burgers are done, all the steak lovers next. You’ll find a way to make it work. Does that mean you should pass up the previously mentioned Weber Q220 because it’s only got 280 square inches of cooking space? If you plan on regularly cooking for lots of people and everyone needs to eat at the same time, then yeah, get something bigger. But if there are no concrete plans to have a steady rotation of large amounts of people or if the occasional larger group can eat when the food is ready and not fall over from hunger, then it’ll be fine.
This is going to be pretty simple, but it needs to be said – you get what you pay for. Cheaper grills are going to generally be made out of cheaper materials, have cheaper designs, or will cut costs in less than obvious ways. Like having sub par materials for the inner workings of the grill while making the outside look all fancy. How can you fix this? Two ways, really. Well, three.
This is where things get tricky. Grills and their subsequent parts can be made out of many many different kinds of materials. Aren’t they all steel, you say? Nope. Steel isn’t always what you want, either. The main body of the grill is more than likely going to be made out of stainless steel, cast iron, cast aluminum, enamel-coated steel or plain old sheet metal. Which is best is going to depend on your point of view. Stainless steel is generally going to be more expensive, is considered to be higher quality and is often the choice or professionals. Try to stay away from plain sheet metal. Enamel-coated steel can be a fine choice if it is made by a reputable manufacturer. Cast iron is great but heavy and needs to be oiled well. Cast aluminum, when done well, can last a very long time. A word of caution about stainless steel – not all stainless steel is created equally. Cheaper stainless steels aren’t worth much at all.
Horse Before the Cart
While the body may be made of a nice quality material, there is no guarantee the cart is going to be made of the same stuff unless it specifically says so. Many times the cart is made of cheaper material. That’s not a reason to run away screaming, but it needs to consider into your decision. Why are they made of different materials? Cost. In effort to bring a stainless steel bodied grill in under a certain price point, compromises elsewhere may need to be made, such as making the cart out of sheet metal or plain steel. Problem is, those two materials rust faster than stainless steel and won’t last as long. If you know what you’re getting, that’s great. If you’re okay with the compromise and know the conditions the grill will be stored in and can mitigate any durability issues with the cheaper cart, then go ahead. Just make an informed purchase, that’s all.
It’s all about the grill, man.
Grill materials, like the grill body and the cart, can be made out of a number of different materials. Popular choices (by the manufacturers) are: stainless steel, cast iron, porcelain coated stainless steel or porcelain coated cast iron. Stainless steel is nice and should last for a good long time. It will, however, develop chips and the meat will stick to these chipped areas. Cast iron is an awesome choice but it will need to be cleaned well and oiled well. Porcelain coatings aim to solve both of the problems of chipped stainless steel and the need to maintain cast iron. However they introduce problems of their own. Cheaper porcelain coatings are thinner which mean they will chip more easily. Chipped coatings of course mean food sticks to it and rust can start. Be sure to keep metal tools as far away from porcelain coatings as you can. That means scrapers, spatulas, tongs, meat forks – they all can weaken and chip the material. Brushes made with metal bristles to clean – great. Metal scrapers – poison.
If you can swing it, cast iron is probably the best. Heats well, holds heat and if taken care of can last a really long time. Like decades long. Yes, plural. If you aren’t willing to put in the work, porcelain coated cast iron is going to be a good second choice. Stainless steel is probably the cheapest yet will still last a long time. Just do your best to keep metal implements away from the grill and it will last a whole lot longer.
BTUs (Hint, if you’re buying a charcoal grill or an electric grill, you can skip this)
Ahhh, BTUs. The love of marketing folk and competitive people everywhere. By competitive people I mean the guys who look at your awesome grill and ask “How many BTUs that baby pump out?” Here’s a secret, something you can mention offhand to the next guy who asks you that –
BTUs have nothing to do with how good the food tastes.
So what are BTUs? BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. They are used when discussing the merits of different gas grills. It is a measurement that basically tells how much heat is generated. For the technically minded folks, a BTU is how much heat is required to bring the temperature of one pound of water up by one degree Fahrenheit.
More BTUs are good, right? Not so fast. Smaller grills will require less of course, while larger grills require more. A poorly designed grill may use more BTUs to achieve the same amount of cooking heat as a well designed one. Generally, a 500 square inch grill will need anywhere between 35,000 and 50,000 BTUs to do their job well. Again, smaller grills less, bigger grills more. Higher BTUs mean you should be able to control the level of heat well. However higher BTUs also correlate to higher fuel consumption. And again, design plays a part as well.
And now for our feature presentation
Grilling, at its most basic, is cooking food over an open flame (sorry, electric grill folks). Modern grills, however, can do sooooo much more than that. It’s all in the features. What features, you ask? Glad you asked (you may be sorry, though). This list, while not complete, may give people looking for their first barbecue grill a starting point to understand what all the terminology is about.
There are a whole lot of other features that companies cook up (bwahhh ha ha, cook up) in order to convince you theirs is the grill to buy. Some are useful, some are a draw and some you should pass on. If you’ve got any questions about something you see, be sure to leave a comment or send us an email. We’ll put it on the list and explain it to you to the best of our abilities.
Yes, many companies offer a warranty. No it’s probably not everything you’ll expect. The different parts of the grill will have differing levels and periods of warranty. Read it closely and understand it. For example, as I mention in this article, Napoleon has a “Limited Lifetime” warranty which means for major things it’s replacement if it fails because of manufacturing defect in 5 years, 50% off full retail after that. Some parts of the grills under this warranty only have 1 year of coverage, some 2. Personally I like Weber’s warranties – not because they’re better or cover more than other grills, but they are very clearly explained on their website. Other companies have either awesome, good or less than stellar warranties, so check them out thoroughly before you buy. Be sure to search around online and see how well a company stands behind their warranty and how good their customer service is as well. Companies in all industries may drag their feet or make it hard for a person to get them to stand behind their warranty. Best bet is to check around online or talk to your friends about a company’s reputation.
Auld Lang Syne
Wow, that ended up being a much longer article than expected. I’m sure there’s stuff we left out or glossed over that you may want more explanation for. Tough! Just kidding. Let us know what you think and we’ll do our best to help. Hopefully those who are looking for their first barbecue grill (yes, even the people who will buy electric) have learned a bit and are closer to making an informed decision. Ultimately that’s what this guide is all about – information and wise purchases.
Please remember that the most important thing when buying a grill isn’t the BTUs, the price, the size, the fuel source or any of that. It’s the cooking you do on it and the time spent with friends and family. I keep repeating that but that’s because it’s true. And also remember that an expensive grill won’t make you a better cook. It’d be nice if they did, but they don’t.
Good luck and happy grilling.
(PS – If you’ve read this far and still feel like checking out Part 1 of the LTB BBQ Buying guide, it’s over here. It’s more for people who are in the market to replace their grill, but may offer some help for those who are looking for their first grill as well.)
Hey folks, this is part one in what I’ve planned to be at least a 2 part buying guide. It may end up being a 4 part buying guide, it depends on how long winded I get and how much time I’ve got. We’ll see. If you’re looking to buy your first barbecue grill, you might want to start with Part 2 of the LTB Barbecue Buying Guide. It goes into more detail than this guide and is geared for those wonderful people who have yet had the joy of buying their first barbecue grill. If you’ve already experienced this joy, then keep reading for some guidance towards the rapture of buying your second (or third or fourth) barbecue grill.
The LTB Barbecue Buying Guide
So you need to buy a new grill. Well, maybe need is too strong of a word. Want? Desire? Obsess? Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a new barbecue grill. So you go to your local hardware store or big box store of your choice and are dazzled by three things – the size of grills nowadays, the features and above all the price. Sticker shock? Yeah, that’s what it’s called when you mouth hangs open despite your best efforts when you see the price of a grill you like the looks of.
What’s an average Joe to do?
Read this article, that’s what. This article and the ones associated with it represent the best barbecue buying guide you can find on the internet. Well, maybe not, but it’s a good starting point, right? Since you’re here, have a look around. Odds are good you’ll have learned something and hopefully are closer in your search for your new awesome barbecue grill.
Now, if you’ve never bought a grill before in your life then you need to go over here to our nice and shiny guide for people, like you, who have never bought a barbecue grill before in their life. Its chock full of information and terminology explanations that will set your mind at ease. Those of you who already know a little about grills should keep reading. Why? Because this guide here is for people who already have a grill and are looking to replace what they have for whatever reason. People just like you.
First things first
Take into consideration how often you will realistically be grilling outdoors. “Every day!” you say. “Every weekend!” Well, while the enthusiasm is commendable, the reality will more than likely fall short of that. There are lots of things that will conspire against your best laid plans to migrate into an all-barbecue all-the-time lifestyle. Family, work, sick kids, bad weather, allergies, the incessant cleaning of the grill – all these and a myriad of other reasons can keep you from your dream. So take a dose of reality and try again. A good rule of thumb is to start with how many days you actually grilled outdoors the previous season. That’s probably how many you’ll barbecue this year. Maybe add 50% on top of that, but much more than that may be wishful thinking.
No, not that kind. We’re talking grills, man, grills. Take a look at what you have now. What are the pros and cons of your setup? What would you like to have? What features have you found on your current grill that didn’t work? What were some that did? What have you seen on grills in stores, on the internet or at friend’s houses that you thought were rather cool. Is there a direction you’d like to take your family’s grilling experience that you cannot do without a special feature your grill currently does not have? Answers to these questions will go a long way in helping you figure out what you’re looking for. They may even set a clear direction for your grill shopping.
Good Enough for Santa Claus
Some may find it useful to write out a wish list of things they would like. While this is a good way to start, it can also be a frustrating time waste. Sitting around, making a list, checking it twice, fretting over this feature and that. Examining the BTUs and grilling space. BE A MAN as Don Corleone would say. Perhaps it’s just the nature of this writer, but going back and forth between the extremes of pouring over the endless minutiae of a gourmet grill and longing for just a rack over some coals helps me get to the point where I can buy a grill in peace.
Here are some of the things you will need to put some serious consideration into before you buy your next grill. If you care. If you are overwhelmed, don’t pitch in the towel, just go the easy route, get a Weber Charcoal Kettle Grill or a Smokey Joe and be done with it. For those who want something more than that, read on. The list that follows comes in no particular order.
Yes, I listed this first, but that doesn’t mean it should come first. While it is important, some people focus on this too much but not in the way you may be thinking. Some people will say “I’ve got 1000 bucks to buy a grill with” and if they are unlucky, one of three things will happen.
Don’t be that guy. Price is important but don’t fixate on it. Remember – you get what you pay for. Quality doesn’t usually come cheap. Buy the best grill you can afford and don’t look back. Pay for quality and only cry once.
These can be divided up into three basic categories – things you can’t live without, things you’d like to have and things you don’t care about. There may be some things you actually hate and won’t buy a grill that has them, but I don’t really think you’ll need a separate category for those. You may find out that things you think you can’t live without, after a bit of reflection, can move to the other two categories, freeing up your options quite a bit.
Fuel source – charcoal gas or electric.
Wait, did you say electric? Yes, I did and believe it or not, it does have its place. But as far as the great debate between charcoal or gas – the choice is yours. Like the time spent on getting the charcoal just right? Charcoal’s for you. Hate it? Go with gas. Like the smokiness that comes from a charcoal grill? Go, charcoal, go! Hate it? Gas, here I come. Hate the concept of cooking over open flame connected to a can of highly pressurized exploding gas? Charcoal, sweet charcoal. Comfortable with it? Gas is your friend. Truly, there are great arguments to be made for both and people whose opinions I respect come down on either side of the fence for this. One thing you will find – the sheer number of gas grills available on the market today outweigh the number of charcoal grills. I think this is owed primarily to the cooking convenience of gas compared to that of charcoal.
You can go another route – get yourself two grills. Crazy, I know, but hear me out. If you like the futzing with the charcoal on the weekends then get yourself a reasonably priced charcoal grill for the weekends. Weber’s classic charcoal grill runs between 100 and 150 bucks. But for those times when you want to grill quickly, like during the week or for unexpected guests, get an inexpensive gas grill. Good gas grills are around 500 bucks. If you’re really on a budget, join the 7% of Americans who have an electric grill. Cheap, easy, and while many people claim they’re not “authentic grills” it’s better than cooking a steak or a burger in a pan. Medium sized quality electric grills can be about 250 bucks or more. So for about 400 bucks including accessories (charcoal chimney, tongs, spatula, fork, etc.) you can set yourself up with a good charcoal grill for the weekends and the big cookouts and have a cheap electric or gas grill for the times you want to grill but don’t have the time to mess with the charcoal.
This is more about honesty than anything else. How many people will you honestly cook for? Do you see yourself cooking for maybe 4-10? Or is it closer to 15-20? Or more? Seriously try to estimate the number of people who you will realistically be cooking for over what you imagine the lifetime of the grill to be. Start with a smaller grill and want to upgrade in 3-4 years? Possible, and may be a good decision. You might even be able to sell your old grill for a bit of cash. Buy an enormous grill and never actually use it to its full potential? That’s a waste of money.
If you’re going with gas, this is going to be a consideration. Do yourself a favor – don’t get wrapped up and caught up in the BTU race. Yes, BTUs are important. But the marketing guys at the barbecue companies and the stores that sell them love the BTU factor. Why? How often do you catch yourself debating horsepower with your car buddies or phone battery life when purchasing a new phone? Or zoom capabilities on a new camera. It’s in most guy’s nature to want more. More zoom, more horsepower, more BTUs. A well designed grill can have lower BTUs and do a great job of cooking, better even than a poorly designed grill with higher BTUs. Point? Keep BTUs in mind, but cost, features, and size are going to be more important than BTUs.
Those 5 things (price, features, size, fuel source and heat) are going to be the basic things you’ll need to get sorted out first before you get much closer to buying your new grill. Once those things get narrowed down a bit, you can start to focus on smaller issues. Like what, you say? Like the following things you’ll need to take into consideration down the road before you plunk down your cash.
Materials – what’s it made of? Stainless steel? Aluminum? Cast iron? Cheap metal painted over with something black? Each choice will have an impact on the price of the model you buy. While we here at LBT are fans of stainless steel and would recommend narrowing your preference to that, aluminum does have it’s place, as well as cast iron in some situations. Stay away from cheap metal, though. It won’t last long and you’ll end up needing to replace the grill sooner rather than later.
Durability/Stability – If you’re shopping at a place where you can actually handle the grill itself, give it a good shake or two. If it feels rickety you may want to pass on it – floor models should be set up as well as they can be. If it’s still shaky, then it’s shaky and not something to be relied upon. If you don’t have the luxury of looking at your top choices in person, then read as many reviews as you can before you buy online. And be sure the place you buy from has a good return policy. Amazon comes to mind.
Name brand vs. store brand – Name brands are the big boys. Store brands are either made by the store (hence the name) or made by big companies and rebranded in a deal between the store and the company. A deal that may only be in place for a year or two making replacement parts difficult to find down the line. Although store brands can do a fine job and be good grills if you take care of them, LTB recommends that whenever possible you stick with name brands.
Now, go to it. Figure out some of the things that only you can answer – how many people will you be cooking for? What will your fuel source be? What’s your budget? What features can you live without and which ones are must-haves? Keep durability in mind as well as BTUs and what the grills are made of. Try to stick with a name brand whenever possible. And remember these last two very important points – 1) A grill is simply a tool – it allows you to be the best cook you can be. 2) If you take good care of that tool it should last a fairly long time, no matter how much it cost. the flip side is this – if you don’t take care of it, it will last a very short time, no matter what the cost.
Good luck and happy grilling.
Outdoor kitchens can be a great addition to an existing home, or an interesting development in one being built. Typically built in areas of nicer weather year-round, they can be built anywhere a person loves barbecue, grilling or cooking and entertaining outdoors.
The first consideration in building an outdoor kitchen is whether or not you will continue to cook outdoors to justify the expense. In all honesty, if you like grilling and do it a few times a month, it really will end up being a big waste of money. Outdoor kitchens are not cheap, beginning at around 5,000 dollars on the low end and running up into 50,000 dollars and beyond for the extravagant ones. If you enjoy cooking outdoors and want to build something, maybe a nice deck with a new barbecue would be the best choice. Cheaper than a full outdoor kitchen, the deck could add value to your home and be the starting point if, a couple years down the road, you decide you really do want to build an outdoor kitchen.
However, if you realize that you are barbecuing and grilling several times a week or more all summer long, try to grill as much as the weather will allow during the spring and fall, and even brave the cold weather for a few barbecues during the winter, an outdoor kitchen might be just the right addition to your home. Although adapted from the Mediterranean region of Europe, they can be built in any part of the country where people love cooking and entertaining outdoors.
At its most basic, outdoor kitchens are a place to grill with a place to store the stuff you use when grilling. Of course, just this small definition could be used to spend a lot of money if you go all out. Functional and serviceable outdoor grills for permanent installation can be found in the 500 to 1,000 dollar range, but it doesn’t take much to find them ranging up in the 5,000 dollar range, or even more. Add in some custom counter space and cabinets and you’re talking about a 10,000 outdoor kitchen – one that has just a grill and nothing more. Add a refrigerator, a sink, more storage, table and chairs, a pergola, some more outdoor kitchen appliances, maybe some custom lighting, and soon, you’re in the 30,000 dollar plus range.
However, if you stick to the less expensive grills, don’t opt for custom cabinets, find your outdoor kitchen plans for free on the internet, do some of the work yourself, choose things that are on sale, and realize that you don’t have to build the entire thing at once, your costs will be much lower. Most projections for lower-end outdoor kitchens will come in around 3,000 dollars, however, in reality, 5,000 dollars is a more realistic budget. Buying used equipment and having friends help with the work can bring these estimates down somewhat. Just make sure to do everything by the book and up to code for your area. One of the great things about outdoor kitchens is their ability to add value to the house if and when you decide to sell. A hastily slapped together one with multiple code violations and safety hazards will do the opposite.
Outdoor kitchens can be great as centers for not only cooking delicious food, but wonderful memories of time spent with family and friends as well. If you really think an outdoor kitchen is right for you, take some time to look around on the Internet for outdoor kitchen plans and outdoor kitchen ideas before jumping in with both feet. Talk to people you might know who already have outdoor kitchens to gauge their feelings. We here at Love That Barbecue love outdoor kitchens. They are great social and culinary hubs for the family. However, they are not right for everyone and every location. We hate to see people spend a bunch of money on something that isn’t a good fit for themselves or their situations. So take a good hard look at your personal situation before going too far and building an outdoor kitchen when you may not really need or want one. You might save yourself a lot of frustration and expense in the long run.
However, if after exploring outdoor kitchens, you truly think that is exactly what you need to do, then have at it. Our experiences with outdoor kitchens have been overwhelmingly positive and the people we know who have built them after much consideration absolutely love them and wouldn’t consider living without them.
So you’ve got your new Weber grill and you’ve got your new grill accessories and you’re ready for everything. You’re ready to start cooking and making some great food and great memories. But do you have your grill cover. Wait, you didn’t buy a Weber grill cover? Well, you need to, and sooner rather than later.
A Weber grill cover is exactly what it sounds like – it is a cover for your Weber grill, whether gas grill or charcoal grill, it doesn’t matter, you need to get a bbq cover for it. Why? Think of all the rain. And snow. And ice. And dew. And humidity. And bird droppings. And insect droppings. And slug trails. And snail trails. And every bit of wet thing falling on your beautiful fire-offering and food-giving grill. Slowly and irrevocable damaging and eating away at your grill. Piece by piece by piece. Get the picture? Stainless steel rusts. Aluminum corrodes. Unless you have a grill made from either gold or titanium you need to be getting a grill cover for it.
So you’re sold, a grill cover is in your near future. What do you buy? Well, if you have a Weber gas grill, then we highly recommend getting a Weber grill cover. Made for your grill and most likely your grill alone. It will fit better and be easier to get off and on than grill covers from other manufacturers.
The only possible exception is for the Weber grill covers that have ventilation holes in them or have cut-outs for the sides or trays. The entire purpose of grill covers is to protect the grill inside and that cannot be done if there are holes or ways for water or the elements to get inside.
If the grill cover that Weber offers for your model of grill comes with ventilation holes or cut-outs, and honestly not many do, it would be best to avoid them.
But if you don’t get a Weber grill cover, what do you buy? Well, you can go with the generic, ill-fitting option, you can go even worse and just use a tarp, or you can go the best route and buy yourself a custom-made grill cover. A custom grill cover? Surely that’s expensive, isn’t it? Not as much as you might think. Of course you can find expensive ones, but there are reasonably priced ones available. For example, Mel over at Mel’s BBQ Grill Covers sells a variety of grill covers that come in generic sizes that run from small for a grill 50 inches wide, 41 inches tall and 24 inches deep up to the large which runs 78 inches wide by 60 inches tall and 28 inches deep. Prices depend on size and, oddly enough, color with black being the most expensive and gray and sandstone being the same price. How much different? About 15 dollars regardless of size. The small black one is 50 bucks while the small grey or sandstone is 37. Honestly, the Love That Barbecue staff appreciates the color options and would buy either the grey or the sandstone over the black. Also, shipping runs 15 bucks, although these things are heavy, some as much as 20 pounds, so it’s not unreasonable. In fact, these aren’t all that much more expensive than the bbq covers that Weber makes. I bet if you contact Mel he’d make a custom fitting one for your personal grill. Just a hunch, though.
If you’ve bothered to spend any money at all on your Weber gas grill or charcoal grill, then you owe it to yourself to buy a Weber grill cover. You just need to get something over your grill to keep it safe and functioning. If you love that barbecue, you’ll cover it up.
No joke – electric grills have come a long way in the past five or ten years. Gone are the days of them being nothing more than a glorified frying pan… with bars.
If you absolutely cannot use a gas or charcoal grill to satisfy your grilling desires, then fear not. A modern electric grill can be expected to do a pretty decent job of grilling up a meal for you and yours.
Now, don’t get us wrong. In a head-to-head competition, gas or charcoal grills win on sheer firepower alone. Not to mention the authentic taste electric grills sometimes lack.
But if you absolutely positively cannot use an open flame in your situation? The days of electric grills being unable to cook a decent meal are long gone.
Let’s take a look at what we’re talking about.
|Models||Our Star Rating||Where to Buy|
|(4.6 / 5)||Amazon
Zojirushi EB-CC15 Indoor Electric Grill
|(4.2 / 5)||Amazon
George Foreman GGR50B Indoor/Outdoor Grill
|(4.4 / 5)||Amazon
Cuisinart CEG-980T Outdoor Electric Tabletop Grill
|(3.7 / 5)||Amazon
Philips HD6371/94 Indoor Smokeless Infrared Grill
|(4.3 / 5)||Amazon
Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Patio Bistro Electric Grill
|(4.4 / 5)||Amazon
Fire Magic E250s
|(3.7 / 5)||Amazon
While many people are going to focus on the cons of electric grills, we here at LTB believe in giving things a fair shake. We’re going to look at the pros first and finish up with the cons.
Now, don’t let the greater number of cons scare you. That single solitary “pro” at the top of the list can outweigh all of the cons. It’s simple – if gas or charcoal grills are out of the question then you’ve gotta go electric.
Luckily we live in a day and age where good quality electric grills are plentiful and reasonably priced. So stop hemming and hawing and go out there and find yourself a fine electric grill. Because if you Love That Barbecue, it’s what you’ve gotta do.
If you’re looking for an electric grill for outdoors, you’re in luck. Most of the models made today are designed to be used outdoors.
That doesn’t mean you can use them in a downpour or in soaking wet grass. It does mean, however, that with a long enough extension cord and some common sense you can grill up a nice meal in places where gas and charcoal grills aren’t allowed.
Think verandas or patios in apartment buildings and condos. Or outside football games or really dry areas in the middle of summer.
So which is our pick for the best outdoor electric grill?
The Weber Q2400.
Weber is one of the biggest names in grilling, so when they put together an electric grill, you can bet it’s going to be put together correctly. The Q2400 claims to get up to 600 degrees under the hood – more than enough to cook up whatever you want to cook.
Sizewise, it’s not that bad. It’s got double the grilling area of a Smokey Joe and there’s no charcoal ash to clean up. Plus, it’ll fit in the trunk of your car without taking up the whole trunk.
How does it grill? People have reported being able to throw down a number of steaks and other grillables on the porcelain-enameled cast-iron premium grates. The lid is reasonably tall, allowing you to shove something larger than a thick burger or chicken breast under it.
Keep in mind it takes about 20 minutes to heat up to cooking temps. And the more you open it, the longer the cooking will take. Searing is going to be a mixed bag – some people have good luck, some people say no go.
Add in the Weber Portable Cart and you’ve got yourself a real decent setup. The cart raises it up and turn it into an approximation of a full size grill. Well, full size but smaller. There’s also a cover available for the whole thing.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller (or cheaper) the Q1400 is basically the same grill, minus about 100 square inches of grilling area and about 50 bucks. Both come with a six-foot cord.
We like the Weber Q2400. Although we don’t need an electric grill, we like it so much we’re considering moving to a condo just so we’ll have to buy it. Okay, maybe not that much, but it’s a seriously awesome grill. If we needed an electric grill, this would be our top choice.
No desire, possibility or plans to grill outdoors? Then you’re looking for an indoor electric grill, and we’ve got you covered.
What makes an indoor grill? Primarily it will be covered heating elements. In order to get things going faster and hotter, many outdoor grills will have exposed heating elements. When cooking, juices of the item being cooked drip onto the elements, burning and smoking as they go.
Not so with the Zojirushi EB-CC15 Indoor Electric Grill.
Its heating elements are entirely protected from the cooking surface. While this may cut down on the ability to sear or really cook items as well as some of the outdoor-only powerhouses, it will also dramatically cut down on the amount of smoke created when cooking.
This grill bills itself as an indoor electric grill and it passes. 12.5 by 9.25 cooking surface isn’t gigantic, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to cook well for a few people. Or those eating in shifts.
It’s not porcelain or porcelain-coated, but still comes with a non-stick surface that earns good marks. In fact, the little Zojirushi gets high marks in reviews everywhere I’ve found it for sale.
If you want to grill something indoors and fill the house with wonderful smells (not carbon monoxide) then an indoor grill is your end goal – and the Zojirushi EB-CC15 is our top choice.
All in all, the Zojirushi is our top choice for an indoor electric grill. However, if you’re looking for a grill with a lid to both cook thicker foods convectionally as well as cut down on the mess of grilling with an open-top grill, take a look at the Secura GR-1503XL. It’s got a lid plus a reversible cooking surface, allowing it to go from grill to griddle easily.
Sometimes you feel like an outdoor cookout. Sometimes you just want to relax inside and enjoy cooking in the peace and quiet of your own home. Is the only option to buy an indoor and an outdoor grill?
Hardly, my hungry friend.
If you’re in the market for an indoor and outdoor electric grill, you’d best take a good hard look at the George Foreman GGR50B Indoor/Outdoor Grill. It’s kinda got all the bases covered.
Tabletop grilling ability? Check. Removable pedestal for outdoor ease? Check. Reasonable price? Check. Thousands of complimentary reviews? Check.
It does it all, right?
Kinda. The biggest drawback is the unit is a little top-heavy when mounted on the pedestal. Just looking at it and you can see that you might want to be a little careful with bumping into it.
Other than that, the reports are in line with most electric grills – does a great job if you know the limitations of the unit.
Also, be aware that the pan to collect grease drippings is under the surface of the grill. Meaning that you’ll need to wait until the grill cools to remove and clean the grease tray.
The George Foreman GGR50B is an excellent choice if you’re looking to bridge the gap between indoors and outdoors. It’ll do fine on top of a table or a kitchen island inside or on the pedestal outside. Just make sure to use it away from rowdy people (or pets) and you’ll go far.
Most electric grills are, by definition, portable. They’re not that big and if you have a long enough extension cord, you can take it anywhere. But a portable electric grill is designed to be packed up and carried, and in the realm of portable electric grills, the Cuisinart Outdoor Electric Grill.
Although we discuss the Tabletop model here, they do offer one with longer legs that will raise up the unit to approximately waist-high. The tradeoff? Bulkier to carry and store.
Whether you choose the Tabletop version or go with the Versistand model, you’ll be getting a good grill that is designed to be transported. Oh, and it can cook a mean steak.
One thing to keep in mind – the Cuisinart is smaller. That’s the tradeoff of a portable outdoor electric grill – it’s not going to feed an army. Smaller groups or shift eating are key here.
While they claim 8 burgers or 8 steaks or 6-10 chicken breasts, etc. those aren’t huge burgers. Or steaks. Or breasts. We’re just sayin’ – 145 square inches isn’t going to get you eight big burgers.
But also keep in mind – that smaller size makes it more portable. Wanna know how much trunk space a Weber Smokey Joe takes up? More than you can imagine. The Cuisinart Outdoor Electric grill? Far, far less.
If portable is your main concern when buying an electric grill, then the Cuisinart should be near the top of your list. It’s designed to be easily portable. Go with the VersiStand or the Tabletop – it’s essentially the same. One has longer legs, one has table top length legs.
If you’re looking for something a little bigger and are willing to sacrifice a little portability, then we recommend the Weber Q2400. It’s not as portable, sure, but that tradeoff gives you more cooking area.
It also gives you a better-rated grill.
Going camping but the facility outlaws all open flames? Found out too late to change the reservations? No worries – an electric grill can solve many of your problems.
The best electric grill for your camping situation is going to depend on a variety of factors: storage space in your vehicle, how many people you’re cooking for, the setup at the camping area (tabletop ability or do you need a stand) and the distance to a plugin.
All those things aside, the LTB top choice for a non-open flame grill for your camping excursion is the Weber Q2400.
Yeah, yeah, we know. We put it in the Best Outdoor Grill spot above. I hear you. But the same outstanding features and capabilities that put it in the top spot for best outdoor electric grill mean it’s going to get top marks for a camping unit as well.
The only drawback? Size and, well, size. The size of the Q2400 means it’s going to eat up trunk space. If you’re dead set on having a grill, you might want to do a trial packing run before your trip.
On the flip side is this – while the Weber Q2400 is large for an electric grill, in the overall scheme of things, it’s really not that big of a grill. If you’re cooking for a whole lot of people, you might want to do a trial cooking run. Or buy two.
Yeah, crazy as it sounds, if you’re camping in a place that forbids open flames, have a lot of people to cook for, and just have to have grilled food, then two of the Weber Q2400 units might be a good plan.
But if you’re doing that, make sure there’s a stable surface to cook them on, preferably waist high. Because while those Weber carts are nice, if you’re doing that much grilling, you’re gonna need more prep space and cooking space.
The Weber Q2400 is top choice as both the best outdoor electric grill and the best electric camping grill for a reason. It’s just that good. While it is expensive, you get what you pay for. What you’re paying for is a top-notch grill that will take what you throw at it and spit back awesome food.
Tailgating – an American tradition almost as old as football. Okay, not that old, but you get the picture.
When you’re thinking of that picture, you’re likely thinking of three things – good times with friends, alcohol, and grilling. And you’d be right. The smoke rising from grills can smell fantastic outside a stadium.
Unfortunately, like many camping areas, stadiums are increasingly shutting down the old dream of tailgating. Limits on open flames in the parking lots of stadiums are increasingly common.
Sure, it’s safer. But the stadiums would rather have you inside, spending money on concessions instead of grilling up a magnificently tender and juicy burger in their parking lot with your pals.
While an electric grill may not be able to stand toe-to-toe with its charcoal or gas-powered cousins, you can come close. And to come close you’re gonna need power. As much as you can muster in as reasonable a package as you can find.
You know where this is going.
The Weber Q2400 gets our vote as the best electric grill for tailgating.
Of course, if you can use gas, then there are a wide range of portable gas grills that would make great tailgating grills.
But if you’re confined to electric, then you’d best look long and hard at the Weber Q2400. Oh, and just get the cart. You’ll kick yourself the first time you try to use it on an actual tailgate.
Best Outdoor Electric Grill, Best Electric Grill for Camping AND Best Electric Grill for Tailgating? It’s a three-peat. For a reason.
Smokeless grill? Seriously?
Okay, not that serious, but a smokeless indoor grill is going to be exactly what you want when you’re looking to cook up some fine grilled meat.
Keep in mind, though, smokeless isn’t actually smokeless. More like reduced smoke than anything.
How does it work? Simple – what causes smoke on a grill? Fire.
Second? Moisture, meat and drippings hitting the heat source.
While some grills have exposed heating elements (looking at you, Mr. Q2400), smokeless grills will have heating elements that are protected by the grill surface itself.
As the food cooks, the moisture and drippings it creates are channeled through various means into a drip pan, which is then cleaned up after the meal is finished.
That’s the basics.
Some companies get fancy and try various methods to actually get a smokeless grill.
But truth be told, if you’ve gone to the trouble to get a relatively smokeless grill, you’ve probably already gone far enough. Most smokeless indoor electric grills will satisfy the average consumer.
For example, our best pick for indoor electric grill, the Zojirushi EB-CC15 Indoor Electric Grill does a great job, but like most indoor electric grills, it will produce a little smoke. Not a lot, a little. But it’s a stretch to call it smokeless.
Likewise the equally popular Livart Orange grill is a good choice if you want to do Asian style cooking (Japanese and Korean barbecue come to mind). Although, truth be told, the Zojirushi would work just as fine in this aspect.
But all these choices will smoke a certain amount. If you’re looking for a an indoor electric grill that can sear a steak yet produce the absolute minimal amount of smoke, you’re going to need the Philips HD6371/94 Indoor Smokeless Infrared Grill.
It’s unique heating element utilizes infrared technology to heat the grill rack to 446 degrees. The heating elements are out from under the grill and utilizing technology and a fair bit of wizardry (heat reflectors), the heat from the elements is redirected from the sides of the grill to the grill itself.
Underneath is a drip pan that, free from the heat associated with the heating elements, allows the fat and moisture to drip down without sizzling and burning.
Again, nothing is smokeless in the world of the grill. You’re cooking meat and there will be smoke in some form or another. But the Philips Indoor Smokeless Grill is about as close as your going to come unless you’ve got a ventilation unit.
But it comes at a price. It runs 3-6 times the prices of other indoor smokeless electric grills. But keep in mind, those grills are unlikely to sear a steak.
If you’re looking for a smokeless indoor electric grill and have a bit of coin to spend, the Philips HD6371/94 Indoor Smokeless Infrared grill is the one you should be looking at. Keep in mind that everything is going to smoke a little, plus the infrared cooking technology can take a little getting used to. Other than that, enjoy your grilling, oh indoor wizard.
Okay, the fine folks here at LTB are not scientists.
That said, infrared grills are a little unique in the world of grilling.
Essentially, with a regular grill, the hot gas or rising heat from the coals will cook the food on the grill.
However, with infrared cooking, it’s not that easy. What happens is the heat source (usually electric or gas) heats a metal or ceramic plate. The heat from that unit radiates up and cooks the meat.
But don’t think you can just plunk a piece of metal between the flame and the grill and you’re infrared. The science behind it means that not just heat, but heat in the infrared range of the spectrum is involved in the cooking as well.
Again, not scientists here. But with more and more companies coming out with infrared grills, there’s got to be something to it. We’ve tried infrared grills with varying levels of success and are intrigued. Some of our friends swear by infrared cooking.
Thus comes the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Patio Bistro Electric Grill.
At 240 sq inches, it has a little less primary grilling space than the venerable Weber Q 2400. However the Charbroil adds in an 80 sq inch warming rack.
The lid is highly domed, allowing you to possibly stuff something birdish or at least decent sized under it.
If you don’t like or need the stand, Charbroil offers a tabletop version called the Char-Broil TRU Infrared Patio Bistro 180 Electric Grill. There’s another version of the standard Patio Bistro that has dual folding side shelves. And don’t forget the fact that most versions come in up to six different colors. Including a lovely Moss Green.
If you love infrared cooking or want to give it a shot, the CharBroil TRU infrared Patio Bistro is a good-looking, well-constructed grill that looks at home on most patios. It’s stylish and can cook decent food without the need for gas or open flames. But learning the ropes of cooking with infrared can take a little time and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
It’s a fair guess the majority of people looking to buy an electric grill are doing so because of their living situation. Many apartments or condos do not allow open flames or gas grills. But humankind’s love affair with grilled meat cannot be quelled.
Neither can humankind’s need to have nice-looking stuff.
Many of the electric grills leave a little something to be desired in the looks department. I’m not pointing fingers, but why design and sell something that looks like a grill sold back in the seventies? And no, we’re not talking about Webers here.
Luckily for the person who has a higher sense of design and asthetics, the Fire Magic E250s is available and it is one handsome looking stainless steel patio grill.
Now, we’ll get this out of the way up front – it’s not cheap. But Fire Magic makes decent grills, and you wouldn’t want a cheap stainless steel grill anyway. Cheap stainless steel may be stainless steel, but it’s also cheap and unlikely to last very long without a lot of babying.
Not so the Fire Magic E250s. The wide base provides a fair measure of stability, much greater than a number of electric grills on the market today. The pedestal is well-constructed, looks nice and isn’t cheesy.
But all that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t do the deed of grilling. Which the Fire Magic does. How does 725 degrees of firey goodness under the hood sound? Sounds hotter than a…well, make up your own joke here, but it’s hot.
One drawback? Like most electric grills, the Fire Magic E250s has one burner. Meaning turning off part of the grill to get some convection heating going is unlikely to happen. Okay, it’s not going to happen. If you don’t mind grilling everything with direct heat, then you’re golden. Otherwise, you might want to think twice. Especially since this grill isn’t anywhere close to cheap.
And should you ever need, there is a rotisserie attachment available, as well as replacement pedestal and shelves set. Which, while I hope none of my readers will ever need, is nice to know is there.
Expensive grill, but gobs of gorgeous stainless steel so you can leave it outside without stressing too much. Just don’t think stainless steel is magical – it will rust if you neglect it too much.
As you can see, there are lots of situations where one can use an electric grill: camping, patio, indoors, general grilling, etc. There’s no one grill that can be perfect for each and every situation one can find themselves needing an electric grill in. That being said, if we had to choose one electric grill to recommend over every other grill, our top pick would be…
Come on, you had to see that coming.
Coupled with the cart, the Weber makes an excellent all-around grill for the times when you need an electric grill. It isn’t as pretty as the Fire Magic, isn’t as portable as the Cuisinart and it sure ain’t as smokeless as the Philips. But for an electric grill, it’s probably as close to perfect for most situations as you can get. Sure, it’s a little on the spendy side. But here, you really are getting what you are paying for.
PS – Not sold on the idea of an Electric Grill? Got a little more flexibility in your cooking dictates? Still looking for something compact? Check out these posts:
You just might find the awesomest grill for what you need.