With summer on the way, grill-buying season is approaching. So whether you're a seasoned grillmaster or just an occasional burger flipper, one USA Today report says there are five questions you need to ask to get the right grill for you. Grab a pen and take notes because they're spelling it out for you in fine detail:
1. Charcoal or gas?
Just like electric vs. gas stoves in the kitchen, deciding between the two types depends on what you want out of your grilling experience.
Most fans of charcoal maintain that their grills cook more-flavorful food because of the smoky taste from the coals. Gas grill advocates point to the time savings of gas, and the efficiency of buying a propane tank every few weeks instead of a bag of charcoal more regularly. The choice isn't always that clear: Some gas grills include options such as "flavorizer" bars that sit over the gas burners and try to infuse the smoky taste. And while preparing and cleaning a charcoal grill may take longer, a good quality charcoal grill tends to heat up more quickly.
But gas grills are more popular. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, there were 2.4 million more gas grills than charcoal grills shipped in the U.S.
2 . How often am I going to use it?
If you're only going to grill hamburgers and hot dogs a few times during the summer, there are plenty of options in the $75-$200 range that offer good performance. For example, the Coleman RoadTrip LX gas grill doesn't have great controls, but its performance was right up there with high-price grills tested by Reviewed.com, and it costs just over $200. Plus, it folds up to fit into your car for camping trips and tailgating.
3. How much cooking surface do I need?
There is no point in having a big grill if you just do a couple of burgers at a time. The RoadTrip LX has a cooking area that's only 285 square inches, but it cooks just as well as grills with larger cooking areas. The problem is that you can't cook large quantities of food at once - only about three burgers at a time on the LX compared with about nine on the Vermont Castings VCS401SSP. If you plan to do a lot of large cookouts, consider the extra time and fuel that will be required if you can't fit more than a few burgers. If you're usually only cooking for a small family, the extra grill space might not be worth the price.
4. How can I store it?
A big consideration should be what to do with it when you're not using it. You can add a few years to the life of your grill by covering and storing it properly during rainstorms. Most gas grills come with a slip-on cover or you can purchase covers separately online. Charcoal grills, such as the Weber One-Touch Silver, don't come with a cover, but you can buy one online or from a grill retailer.
If you live in a climate that gets a lot of rain and snow, look for a grill with good sturdy wheels and handles for easy moving. Even after you've covered it, it's not the best idea to leave it in the rain or snow during the winter. Portable grills, such as the Coleman RoadTrip, can fold right up to be taken indoors for easier storage.
5. Should I pay more for extra options?
Many top-of-the-line grills come with side burners, extra heating elements, or large warming racks. These are certainly good purchases for experienced grillers who want as much flexibility as possible and the latest and greatest grill technology. But don't be swayed by these add-ons if all you're looking for is a respectable grill that offers solid performance. Inexperienced grillers may even find that some of these extra features are hard to use. There are plenty of grills out there that don't include these extras but cook very well at a much more reasonable cost.
Most innovative grill
Char-Griller Duo S-5050: The Char-Griller Duo S-5050 (about $300) lets you sit on the fence of the charcoal vs. gas grill argument by providing one of each grilling surface. Traditionalists who love the taste of charcoal-grilled food and those who stand by the efficiency of a gas grill get what they want with this dual grill.
Best inexpensive grill
Weber One-Touch Silver: Looking for an inexpensive, effective grill that you can bring to the tailgate? At $99, the Weber One-Touch Silver is a perfect choice. You'll be able to fold it up and place it in your trunk with ease after the game.
Big Green Egg Medium: The Big Green Egg is right out of the dark ages, with its simple and unique ceramic structure. You might balk at the $649 price, but this simple charcoal grill performs well and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Best gas grill
Vermont Castings VCS401SSP: While you'll have to drop some serious cash on the Vermont Castings VCS401SSP (about $1,500), this heavy-duty grill is built to last and offers great performance. For veteran grillers who want slow cooking, there's also a rotisserie burner.
Best charcoal grill
Primo Kamado: A ceramic body and lack of controls on the Primo Kamado (about $830) shouldn't make you lose sight of this grill's exceptional performance. The Kamado heats up lightning-quick and cooks evenly and consistently.
Best compact grill
Coleman RoadTrip LX: Sure, the Coleman RoadTrip LX isn't the most aesthetically pleasing grill out there, and its cooking space isn't huge.
However, for just a bit more than $200, you'll get an easy-to-use product that isn't lacking in performance.
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