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Portable Gas Grills – Best Of Both Worlds

In many ways portable gas grills represent the best compromise in terms of convenience and flavor. While of course not as full featured as their bigger brothers they can do a fairly respectable job of grilling up some good food (assuming you’ve got the requisite skills). Add in the fact that you can take them far more places and store them in spaces that you can’t even begin to think of putting a full size gas grill and you’ve got a winning combination.

                              

Portable Gas Grills vs Portable Charcoal Grills
While we do have a love for portable charcoal grills (see here) the fine folks here at LTB do know that sometimes gas is just so much easier than charcoal it isn’t even funny. Yes, charcoal does produce a better flavor on some foods (but not all). Yes there is a traditionalist/classical aspect to charcoal that can’t be ignored. But if you factor in the portability of the grill then portable charcoal grills, while awesome, can start to lose points quickly when compared to portable gas grills.

Places And Situations Where A Portable Gas Grill Can Shine
While they aren’t going to win over the “charcoal rules” crowd anytime soon, if you’re looking for a grill that is easy to transport, easy to setup and less messy, then here are some situations where the gas grill might win out:

  • Car Camping
  • Picnics
  • The Beach
  • The Park
  • Hiking
  • Pretty much any camping at all
  • Tailgate parties/Tailgating
  • Grilling on boats, docks, or on or near water
  • When you don’t want to lug the charcoal around
  • When you don’t want to hassle with the charcoal cleanup afterward
  • When you want to grill at a certain place but the location’s rules forbid it

So when does a portable charcoal grill win out? Whenever you are willing or able to deal with lugging the briquettes around, hassle with the charcoal cleanup and are allowed to by whatever group governs where you are going to be grilling.

What To Look For
First thing is going to be fuel source. Most portable gas bbqs are going to run off of the standard 14 ounce gas canister that you can find pretty much anywhere. Make sure you can find them in your area, can order plenty to keep on hand, or can get them in the place you plan on going to. If your grill does not utilize the standard size canister, is there an adapter? Will you be able to get ahold of the canisters they require the next time you want to do some grilling? What about a few years down the road?

A fair number of these propane powered grills will have adapter hoses and connectors that allow them to be used with larger 20 pound propane tanks and canisters. Some can even be hooked up to the propane connectors on RVs. If that’s something you’re interested in or may be interested in, find out before you buy the grill, not after.

Next up is going to be cooking ability matched with what you are likely to cook. Most portable grills are going to do fine with hamburgers, hotdogs, kebabs, steaks, chicken pieces and the like. Standard grilling fare. Expect much more than this and you might be disappointed. If there is a special item you know you’re going to be cooking you might want to do some research specifically for that kind of food on the grills you look at. Other than that, take a look at reviews for the grill, make sure it can get high enough heat to do what you want and the design of it is a good one.

Finally you’ll be looking at the portability vs build quality balancing act. Making something lightweight and easy to carry is good, but if it doesn’t stand up to the rigors of your particular transport style and method, its not going to be a good purchase. When considering these things, keep the size of the grill in mind as well. Although great, you probably don’t need a Napoleon Freestyle gas grill if you’re just cooking for you and your honey down on the beach. While an awesome grill, you might be better suited with something smaller, lighter and far less expensive. However if you’re looking for something portable and compact but high quality with a warming area, the same Napoleon Freestyle might make an excellent choice.

Some of the Portable Gas Grills That We Like

We’re going to do a quick roundup of the grills we like the looks of or have heard good things about. We’ll be going in depth on many of these a bit down the road.

Weber Q Series and Go-Anywhere.

                                                 

The Weber Q series of gas grills are pretty awesome. No, they aren’t cheap and there’s a reason for that – they are quality grills. They currently come in 4 flavors – the Q100, Q120, Q200 and Q220. They differ in a few areas, size and BTU output being the two major ones. While the Q100 does not come with folding side tables, all the others do. The Q100 and Q200 come with a push-button ignition – the others have electric. Like most Weber grills there are a plethora of accessories – covers, griddles, carts, etc. They also come with decent warranty as well as a backlog of available spare parts. If you haven’t picked up yet on the fact that LTB is a fan of most things Weber, then let’s spell it out – we’re fans of all things Weber.

Another Weber contender is the Go-Anywhere gas grill. A nice little rectangular grill, it cooks fine, is compact and more importantly, is inexpensive. While it may not have many bells or whistles and kinda looks like something your dear old dad may have owned, it’s a solid little grill. Underestimate it at your peril.

Cuisinart Portable Gas Grills

Cuisinart has a long reputation for making quality kitchen appliances and recently they’ve started putting out some portable gas grills that do fairly well. The three we here at LTB like are the Petit Gourmet, Everyday and All-Foods. The Petit Gourmet is a nice little grill in an attractive package that is fairly well designed and easy to transport. The Everyday and the All-Foods are more utilitarian in their look and less easy to transport. However they are bigger and as a result offer larger cooking areas; 240 sq. inches for both the Everyday and the All-Foods as opposed to 145 for the Petit Gourmet. The Cuisinart Everyday has a taller hood that can possibly fit a chicken under while the All-Foods has a more streamlined hood that pretty much rules out cooking taller foods. All three can be connected to a larger propane tank with attachments that are of course sold separately. Reviews and ratings of these grills are complimentary and speak highly of them.

                                 

One final note on the Cuisinart grills – the Petit Gourmet model is sold as a tabletop grill and also with an attached folding “Versi-Stand” for about 20 bucks more. The All-Foods offers a similar situation with the base model being tabletop and also available attached to a collapsible rolling cart, also for about 20 bucks more. Cuisinart also sells a stand for around 50 bucks that can also hold a propane tank. The Everyday seems to be only a tabletop model, so if you’ve got your heart set on it, but want a stand, you have an option or two.
Coleman RoadTrip Series

Coleman makes a number of gas grills and frankly the lineup is a bit confusing. We’ll sort it all out in a later post but basically you’ll probably be looking at the RoadTrip series, specifically the RoadTrip LX, LXE and LXX. They all are nice little grills that come with built in folding stands, some with wheels, some without. What’s the difference? Not much. We’ll get into it more in another post, but most people seem to like these decent little grills. Not everyone, but most. There are some problems that people have run into (warping lid mostly) that can usually be prevented by reading up about them and not doing the things that made the problems for other people (cover down, heat on high). Basically the LXE is the standard model. It is red and has wheels. The LXX is black with a built-in thermometor in the lid. It also has wheels.  The LXE is blue, has no wheels and no thermomoeter. All three have the same cooking area – 285 sq. inches. All three put out 20,000 BTUs on 2 burners, except the LXX which puts out 22,000 (really? does that make much of a difference?).

                    

Basically if you want wheels (and we recommend you get one with wheels – the beasts weigh about 40-45 pounds or so) then you’ve got the choice of red (LXE) or black (LXX). If you don’t care about the wheels or really really like blue, go for the LX.

Napoleon Freestyle Gas Grill

Napoleon is another favorite company around the Love That Barbecue headquarters because they generally make pretty awesome grills (at pretty awesomely large prices). Luckily for the portable gas grill seeking crowd, they also make a portable gas grill – the Freestyle Gas Grill (not to be confused with the Freestyle Electric Grill). The Napoleon Freestyle is all stainless steel, has a 215 sq. inch main cooking area and a 105 sq. inch warming area. Yup – a portable grill with a warming area. This little devil cranks out 14,000 BTUs, can be hooked up to bigger propane tanks and has a whole handful of different mounting options if you don’t dig the tabletop design. It’s a sweet grill that comes in on the top end of both quality and price – a shade under 300 bucks. Spendy for a portable grill.And if you want the infrared heating model, expect to pay in the mid 300s. Yes, they offer a portable grill with infrared heating. Now are you starting to understand why we like Napoleon?

Honorable mentions:

Aside from the Webers, the Cuisinarts, the Colemans and the Napoleons of the world, there are a lot of other companies making portable grills. Some of the ones that we’ve heard mixed reviews on are Solaire, Holland and Magma. Solaire produces the Anywhere and Everywhere grills. They get good reviews but customers have had mixed experiences. Made in the USA but some have complained about the lack of decent customer service. Just sayin’. Holland is another brand that gets good reviews from professional reviewers but really mixed by customers – people either love it or hate it. Their Companion is probably their most famous/infamous grill. The last in the honorable mention category is the grills made by Magma. Stainless grills that cater to boaters and RVers, they have been American made for 30 years and running. We’ll be digging in to Magma grills a bit down the road because they seem to have a very devoted (almost fanatical) following. Prices are on par with what you’d expect for an American made stainless product.

There you have it – the Love That Barbecue roundup of portable gas grills. Go ahead and check them out and if you take a swing on one, let us know how it turns out.

LTB

One last thing – if a portable gas grill doesn’t float your boat and you’re looking for something a little more sizable, here are a few posts you might want to take a look at:

Why An Electric Grill Is Better Than Gas Or Charcoal (And Why It’s Not)

Buying A New Gas Grill? Check Out These Best Rated Gas Grills

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $300

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $500

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $800

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $1000

Good Luck! Check out any of our other posts and let us know what you think.

LTB

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Buying A New Gas Grill? Check Out These Best Rated Gas Grills

Spring is here (a little late and slow going) and it’s time to really start thinking about grilling more and more. What’s that you say? You need to get a new gas grill? Your old one is busted/lost/stolen/too small/not cutting it? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to hook you up with all kinds of info on the best rated gas grills. More info than you can shake a stick it. But not so much that you get lost. We’re even going to throw in several recommendations at each price point if you keep on looking.

Three of Our Favorites: the Char-Griller 3001 Grillin’ Pro, the Weber Genesis E-310 and the Broil King Monarch 20

                                 

Okay. First up. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. If you’re looking for a general grill buying guide, then go check out The LTB Buying Guide Part 1 if you’ve already got a grill and are looking to upgrade. Never bought a grill? Then you’ll need The LTB Buying Guide Part 2. Once you get done there, come on back over here. Don’t want to sift through all that and want to get straight to the nitty gritty? Excellent. We like your style.

We are going to expand on this article a bit further down the road with some more choices but essentially if you’re looking to buy a gas grill you’ll need to figure out a few things first.

Portability – do you need to lug it around? Do you want the option? If you’re looking for something that is easy to move and maybe take to a friend’s house, tailgate party, a picnic in the park or whatever, then you’ll need to take a good hard look at portable gas grills. They have their drawbacks, size being the biggest one, but if you’re looking for something that can move around easily then a portable gas grill can’t be beat. Yes, we do love portable charcoal grills as well, but they are more difficult to clean up and carrying around the charcoal is messy and heavy.

Price – what can you afford? This is going to be the biggest determining factor over BTUs, size and other assorted features. Are you looking for something in the 300-500 dollar range? 500-800? 800-1000? Over 1000? Well, you’re going to have lots of choices. Let’s start taking a look at the options you’ve got.

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $300
Honestly, at this price range, you are probably better off going with charcoal. Yes, you can find gas grills under 300. You can even find gas grills under 200. But that doesn’t mean they are going to be great quality or last very long. As mentioned other places on this website, the LTB crew recommends going with major brands over store brands whenever possible. Why? Quality and replacement parts are the two biggest reasons. If you’re looking for a cheap gas grill, consider something by BrinkmannChar-Broil and even Broil-Mate. These companies are likely going to be your best choices.

                               

If you want a more in-depth look at some nice options in the under $300 range, check out the post we did over here.

Still Want A Gas Grill Under $300?
We also highly recommend that if you’re on a budget and have your heart set on a gas grill, go with a portable gas grill instead. You can get a higher quality grill at a price more in your price range if you start looking at portables. Yes, they are smaller. Yes, you won’t be able to cook as much at one time. But you probably won’t be needing to replace it in a few years like many of the other gas grills in the budget range.

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $500
Once you start looking in the 300-500 dollar range, you can begin to get some decent grills. Most major manufacturers offer grills in this price range, albeit smaller and with fewer features when compared to their pricier cousins. Don’t get suckered into buying something with lots of features at this level either – the company likely skimped somewhere else when adding in all the fanciness. Go for brand name and quality build in this price range. A 5 – 10 year warranty is likely to be found on these grills as well with a few being made in North America, although many will be made in China. Of course, our name brand recommendation still stands here, perhaps more than the other price ranges. The grills we like in this range are from Char-BroilBroil King, Dyna-Glo and Weber.

                                          

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $800
Bumping up from the 300-500 range into the 500-800 range is going to bring lots more options. Stainless steel is going to be more prevalent here but don’t rush out and buy all stainless. The quality of the steel can be lower than higher priced grills so be wary. More features are going to be found on these grills (side burners, rotisseries, infrared heating, etc.) but the most important feature is how well it cooks. If you’re at a store, open it up and take a look at the quality of manufacture. If it looks and feels cheap it probably is, regardless of the price. Broil-King is heavy in this range, as is Weber. And if you’re looking for a Napoleon grill, (ahhhh, Napoleon) then this price range is the lowest you can go to get one.

                                     

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $1000
While there doesn’t seem to be much of a price difference between 700 and 800 dollars, there is a decent jump in features and quality in the grills in the two different price ranges. Better quality steel can be had, but we still recommend on how it cooks and satisfies your need for features than how shiny it is. Remember – all that shinyness can turn to rust if it’s not taken care of or if the steel is lower quality. Buy well in this price range and your grill will stay with you for many years, properly taken care of, of course. Weber, Broil-King and Napoleon – seeing a pattern?

                                                            

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $2000

Originally I had split this up into two sections (under $1500 and under $2000) but it was kind of a waste of space. There isn’t that much of a difference between these two price areas to justify separating them. Why? The major brands competing here are all going to be the same. If you find a grill you like for around $1300 then odds are good the same company will produce a highly similar grill with some extra niceties for about 500 bucks more. The reverse is also true – find a nice grill just under two grand and the same company is likely to have a very very similar grill closer to the one grand mark with a few things missing from the higher priced grill.

Why is this price range a good range to be buying a grill in? Well, in many ways, it is kinda the sweet spot for gas grills. You’re going to be getting a good quality grill that will last for quite some time. Major manufacturers are going to offer good service and replacement parts for these for years to come. You’ll be able to get some good features that you want that will actually work well as opposed to some of the less expensive grills. Just remember that you’re still getting what you pay for and although 1000 or 2000 bucks is a lot of money, in the grill world it’s still budget. Uber-wonder-grills (Amazon link) can run 10 times this price.

Like we said – spend a bit more and get a bit more fancy. Spend a bit less and get yourself a great grill but maybe without all the fancy that comes with putting up another 500 or 800 bucks. That being said, here’s some of the grills we like the looks of in this range. In this price range, we can only get behind two manufacturers – Weber and Napoleon.

                                          

So, there you have it in a nutshell – our recommendations for best rated gas grills at a number of different price points. Make sure to fully realize what you’re buying; you can’t get a super high quality fancy grill for next to nothing. Understand that the price is going to be the biggest factor in the initial quality of the grill. After that, how well or poorly you take care of your new gas grill is going to have a big effect on how long it lasts you. Good luck!

What? That’s not enough info? More, you say? Give you some more? Well, we’re here to serve, so if you’re looking for more details about best rated gas grills at different price point, here you go:

Portable Gas Grills – Best Of Both Worlds

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $1000

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $800

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $500

Best Rated Gas Grills Under $300

Or, just swing back to our homepage and let us know what you think.

LTB

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 your 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?

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.

Self Reflection
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.

Price
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.

  1. They focus on getting a grill that costs 1000 dollars or darn close to it. They don’t focus on what they need and can find themselves with ridiculously more grill than they could ever reasonably use.
  2. They want to get the most features for the price and by a second or third tier bargain grill that breaks down far sooner than a higher quality grill with less features. Or…
  3. They stretch their wallet farther than they should and buy a grill for 1000 bucks, but forget the extras. You know, the tongs, the thermometer, the fork, the spatula, the grill brushes, the basting brushes, the rubs and sauce and all the other stuff that you’ll end up spending money on. They find out they need/want to pony up another 300 bucks or so to actually get all the stuff they need.

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.

Features
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.

Double barreled
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.

Size
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.

Heat
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.

Location Location Location
The next 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 –

  • Flavor – studies have shown that gas or charcoal has no effect on the flavor of hamburgers but when cooking steaks, charcoal will create a smokier flavor. Some people swear that charcoal (or even wood) is the best thing to cook over because of the flavor, despite the inconvenience. Others feel that gas is close enough and the convenience outweighs the flavor issue because they think there isn’t a difference.
  • Convenience – want to flip a switch and be able to start grilling in about 10 minutes? Gas is going to be your best friend. Charcoal takes more time, anywhere from 15 minutes (for a smaller grill) up to 30 minutes or more.
  • Fuel source cleanup – do you have a way to easily dispose of the burned up briquettes? Don’t mind messing around with it? Then charcoal could be for you. If you’ve got no easy way to deal with it or don’t want to mess with it, then gas is going to be your friend.
  • Safety – this is a tossup and going to depend mostly on your fears more than anything else. Gas canisters can leak and in theory, even explode. If not connected properly the risks increase. If that is going to keep you up at night then go with charcoal (or even electric). If you think you can handle it, then gas is going to be an option
  • Costs – yes a good charcoal grill is going to cost very little when compared to a good gas grill. Good charcoal grills can be found from 50 to 200 bucks. Good gas grills are going to start in the 200-300 dollar range and go up from there. However the cost of cooking a meal with charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid is going to average around 5 bucks per meal depending on where you live. Gas should run about 25 cents per meal. So keep the operating costs in mind as well as the initial purchase price.
  • Tradition – want to cook over a big belly kettle grill? You’re probably looking for charcoal. But keep in mind that 69% of households that own a grill own a gas grill. That’s not a minority, that’s a majority. But from the same report, 47% of families own a charcoal grill and 7% own an electric grill. Yes, that’s 123% for those who are keeping score. It seems some families have more than one kind of grill, yes?

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:

  1. Reconsider charcoal. If you buy a medium priced charcoal grill in the 100-300 dollar range you’re going to end up with a far better and more durable grill than a 100-300 dollar gas grill. Just the way it is. Charcoal may take longer to be ready to cook and you’ve got to deal with the ash disposal, but there are solutions to those problems. The only solution to buying a cheap gas grill that turns to a pile of crap within a few years is to buy another grill. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
  2. Consider a portable grill. Portable gas grills, while they may look diminutive and far less than manly propped up on something just so you can get it high enough to stand and cook at the same time, will offer far better features and durability than a similarly priced standing style gas grill. The Weber Q 220 is a perfect example – portable, award winning, 280 square inches of grilling space and powered by standard gas canisters. It should run about 230 bucks (less on sale) and is a great value.

As I mentioned before, 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.

Size Matters
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.

Durability
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.

  1. First, buy from a trusted name-brand manufacturer. Buying something that sounds like a name-brand but is much cheaper is a surefire way to disappointment. Buying a lower level brand because it’s got lots and lots of features in the price range you can afford isn’t a good path either. It may have all those features, but it’s cheaper for a reason.
  2. Second – Spend more money. Figure out how much money you can spend on the grill, and then find a way to spend a little more. It may mean the difference between having to buy a new grill in 3 or 4 years and being able to use the same grill for 10 or more years.
  3. Third, talk to as many people and read as many reviews online as you can. Yes, many websites make money if you buy a grill after clicking on one of their links. This site does too. But if you read around the reviewing site a little bit you may be able to pick up on if the people writing for it are to be trusted. Do they ever say anything negative about a product? No? Pass on their advice. Do they have a real clear “voice” in their writing? Do they sound like they care not only about the product, but about making sure their readers get an honest review? If not then again, pass on their advice. You’ll be glad in the long run.

Materials
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.

  • Front shelves – little shelves on the front of unit. Often used to rest utensils and the like.
  • Side shelves – shelves on the sides of the barbecue grill body. Used to hold plates and food, both already cooked and ready to be cooked.
  • Enclosed cart – The cart framework is enclosed with sides, a back and often doors. Typically a way to hide the big ugly propane tank. Larger enclosed carts may have shelving or a basic storage area. Nice, but not necessary on cheaper barbecues and will increase the price. Lower priced units that offer an enclosed cart will either scrimp on materials used for the enclosure or on other parts of the barbecue.
  • Side burners – in place of shelves, some barbecues offer side burners. Often used to keep things warm or cook lower priority items, i.e. not meat. Side dishes are often cooked on side burners. People even use them with a griddle for cooking eggs and pancakes. Some people swear by them, others swear at them. If you’ve got the cash and are interested in it, go ahead. If you use it, then you’re happy. If you’ve bought it you might try to find some kind of use for it. Side burners on lower end grills often don’t perform as well as hoped.
  • Rotisserie – turns the chicken/meat/whatever around and around so it gets cooked evenly. While useful and great when used appropriately, I can’t honestly recommend them to first time grill buyers. Perhaps a better choice is to buy a grill that has the option for one down the road. Adding a rotisserie kit when you really think you need one is a smarter choice than spending a lot of money for your first grill just to get one built into the unit.
  • secondary cooking space – like it sounds, it’s a secondary cooking area in addition to the grill, which is then called the primary cooking area or primary cooking space. Can be used to describe a side burner. Also used sometimes to describe things like a warming rack, even though it’s not really a cooking area.
  • Warming rack – just what it sounds like – a rack elevated above the “primary cooking area” (you know, the grill) that you can put stuff on to keep warm. Nice to have but not a deal breaker.
  • Indirect heat – this is a method of cooking that some people really like. Basically, instead of having the meat directly over the heat source, you have it off to one side. The lid is then closed and the heat circulates and cooks that way. Takes more time but prevents burning and many fans of this style of cooking say it makes a juicer and more flavorful meal.
  • Heat distribution plate/radiant/barrier – this is the thing that comes between the burner of the gas grill and the grate that the food rests on. Sometimes it’s a metal plate, sometimes lava rocks, ceramic briquettes or other inventions. They need to be replaced periodically as grease and food particles drip down on them. They all perform equally well (or poorly depending on you point of view). Great thing about them – the usually protect the burners from drippings to a large degree, but not totally.
  • Burner – on a gas grill it’s where the gas comes out of. Simple as that. A heat distribution plate will generally rest over this to spread out the heat from the gas burner itself. The more drippings, grease and food particles get on them the faster they will need to be replaced. Made from a variety of different things. Stainless steel or brass is best, but even cheaply made ones can last 3-4 years if well maintained (meaning cleaned often). You’ll need to clean them periodically to keep them working well and not corroding.
  • Tube burner – basically the same thing as the burner. Some may be referring to Venturi tubes. What are those? The tubes that connect the burners to the control valve. They mix the gas with a little bit of air that allows it to produce a flame. Aren’t you glad you asked?
  • Infrared grills – this is a technology that is becoming more and more prevalent on the marketplace. I’ll be honest, for the life of me, I can’t really understand it. I even did well in science back in my school days. Basically infrared grills heat up super fast and cook things equally fast. While I’ve had it explained to me and even seen them in action, I truthfully can’t get behind something I don’t really understand. Maybe I’m dull, maybe I’m overthinking it. But if you think it’s a great idea then go for it. Prices for this feature are going to be a little higher than normal.
  • Smoker box – designed mainly for gas grills to combat the lack of smoky flavor when cooking with them. Just a little metal box you fill with your favorite variety of stuff to make smoky flavor, put it in and let it smoke. Some companies will grills specially designed to have them. Nice if you really want the smoky flavor but prefer a gas grill.
  • Lights – yes, some grills come with lights. Okay if you want them, but really, do you need lights mounted to your grill? Can’t a flashlight serve the same purpose? Or maybe buy a cheap flood lamp and use that.

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 the best of our abilities.

Warranty

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 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.
LTB

Shopping For New Gas Grills

Barbecuing is a popular national pastime here in the United States, and around the world.  All over the world, people love to barbecue.  It may not be exactly the same style of cooking, the food may be different, the recipes are not going to be the same, but the act of getting around over an open flame and cooking and eating food together is almost universal.

The first step to barbecuing is buying a grill.  While charcoal grills are still very common and very popular, many people these days love the ease of cooking on gas grills.  Especially for larger grill and crowds, gas grills are the only logical choice.

But what kind of gas grills should a person be looking at?  The first thing to consider is how portable the grill needs to be.  Does it need to be put in the back of a pickup truck often or only occasionally?  Does it need to be put in the back of a car?  Will it only be rolled from the garage to the patio?  Or is it not going to be moved at all?  Are you looking at buying an outdoor kitchen or something you can grill a hotdog or two at the park with your friends? Answering the question of portability first will help in the decision-making process.

Once the portability issue is decided, we can move on to the type of gas to be used.  No, we’re not talking about gasoline.  Virtually all gas grills will run off of either propane or natural gas with propane being the most common for portable grills.  For people who have natural gas hookups at their house and don’t plan on moving the grill that much, natural gas may be an option.  However, for the large majority of people across these United States, propane gas will be the fuel of choice for their gas grills.  It’s not epically important, but it is something that should be decided and asked about before purchasing something that may not fit your circumstance.

Once the issue of size, or portability, and the type of gas being used is decided, the rest comes down to features, price and look.  Because gas grills use gas, which is far more flammable than charcoal or wood, it would be wise to purchase gas grills from recognized brands and businesses.  Going with a no-name brand from a hole in the wall that you’ve never seen before could be a recipe for trouble.  Buy from an established business, whether in your local area or on the internet.  Also, try to purchase one of the better-known brands.  This won’t insure that you will purchase a quality gas grill, but it will help you on the road to a quality gas grill that you can enjoy for many years to come.

Although not of huge importance, be sure you look into grill covers, grill accessories and maybe even a grill set when you are shopping for gas grills.  You may have some left over from your previous gas grill, and if you are happy with them, then great.  However, some gas grills require specialized tools, so don’t be shy about buying the right accessories for them when you buy the grill.  You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

It doesn’t really matter if you buy charcoal grills or gas grills.  We here at Love That Barbecue think both are good in different situations.  But just make sure that whatever you buy, you don’t go overboard on the price.  Make a budget and stick to it.  Buying a new gas grill shouldn’t be a painful experience.  Just think of all the cookouts you’ll be having for years to come.

LTB

Buying A Weber Grill Cover For Your Grill

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 irrevocably 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.