Cooking on an outdoor grill is the best way to enjoy summer, and the best outdoor grills can become centerpieces for entertaining friends and family. Of course, you’re going to need to find the right grill for your needs, and this means knowing what to look for, as well as having a few options to get you started in your search. Not everybody needs a large hooded grill, and sometimes a flat top grill or even a portable grill might be right for your needs.
Here are the things you should consider when looking for the best outdoor grills, as well as some examples of specific models that have impressed us in our testing.
Charcoal Grills for the Classic Experience and Authentic Flavor
Many grill enthusiasts swear by charcoal grills, and it’s not hard to understand why. Charcoal grills are simple to use, they provide plenty of heat for your favorite food, and they can be taken almost anywhere, without needing to worry about a gas tank. Another reason why charcoal grills are popular, is because of the unique flavor that they can provide. Using charcoal, or even combining charcoal with wood chips, can allow for a unique smoky flavor in meats and vegetables. Many describe this as the most authentic grill flavor, but it often comes down to personal preference.
While a charcoal grill will be incredibly straightforward in operation, it can take some more effort to keep the grill going. For longer cooking sessions, it can become necessary to top up the coals, and sometimes a blower, basic hand fan, or bellows will be required to keep the coals burning at the ideal intensity. Many people love the experience of cooking with charcoal, but others find that using gas is much more convenient.
If you’re one of the people who prefer charcoal grilling, or even if you just want to get started with your first charcoal grill, then the following options are some of the best on the market.
The Weber Master-Touch Charcoal Grill 22” comes from the masters of charcoal cooking. Weber has been known for decades as America’s favorite charcoal grill brand, and they’re highly popular around the world. This grill offers a large cooking area, and a familiar kettle drum design. It has a convenient ash-catch pan, which makes cleanup much easier than on a traditional charcoal grill. The large domed lid also helps to keep this grill versatile, for cooking all of your favorite meats, or even for slow roasting and smoking.
The Weber 10020 Smokey Joe is another option to think about, and it’s suited for small homes or for people who want to cook with charcoal at campsites. The Smokey Joe has a 14” diameter cooking area, but retains the familiar kettle design that Weber is famous for. This is one of the best outdoor grills for camping or even for picnics, and could even be used at the shore side for cooking the day’s catch.
Weber isn’t the only company that makes high quality charcoal grills. One of the best outdoor grills for charcoal enthusiasts, is the Char-Griller 2828 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill. It’s larger than the standard Weber grill, and it uses a barrel design which makes the cooking area more similar in shape to a gas grill. The 50” model provides up to 580 square inches of cooking space, which is perfect for family cooking and for large cookouts. The design of this grill incorporates a stand with wheels, as well as a side shelf, and the hinged lid is convenient, and it also includes a temperature gauge. If you want something large but still want to stick with charcoal grilling, then this model is definitely worth considering.
Looking for a charcoal grill but want something that’s even more premium than the best Weber and Char-Griller models? The Pit Boss 71240 Kamado BBQ Ceramic Grill Cooker is one of the best outdoor grills for high-end buyers. Everything about this grill is of high quality, including the ceramic body with a hand beaten finish that is entirely unique. There are two side shelves incorporated into this grill, made from natural bamboo. It looks impressive and it would be a great focal point for your outdoor entertainment area. The large domed lid includes a temperature gauge and it has an adjustable vent to get the perfect cooking conditions inside. A unique feature of this grill is the dual cooking grate design, which gives you two levels of cooking inside. This premium grill comes with a premium price, but it is a great investment that would last for many years when cared for properly. If you love charcoal but don’t want to compromise on aesthetic appeal or construction materials, then this is the grill to look at.
The Best Outdoor Drop-In Grills
Maybe charcoal is not for you, and maybe you already have the perfect outdoor setting that is waiting for a drop-in grill.These types of grills come without stands, and are designed for permanent installation in an outdoor counter or barbecue station. Drop-in grills typically use premium components and construction materials, making them the best outdoor grills for architecturally designed patios and decks.
Bull Outdoor is one of the most well-known names in drop-in grill systems, and their 87049 Lonestar Select Natural Gas Drop-In Grill Head is one of the best models that they offer. This particular unit comes with an integrated lighting system, it can be connected to your natural gas line (there’s also a propane kit available), and it can provide an impressive 60,000 BTU heat rating from four stainless steel welded burners.
The body of the Bull Outdoor grill is made from stainless steel, and the fire box and lid are double insulated. This helps to prevent heat from escaping, and will ensure that internal temperatures can be maintained. There’s a thermometer integrated into the large hood, which makes this a great grill for slow cooking, roasting, or even baking. This grill comes without a rotisserie attachment, but it is compatible with a number of models on the market. Rotisserie cutouts are already provided along the edges of the firebox, so if you want to cook a whole chicken, turkey, or a large roast, then this grill would be ideal.
The premium materials on this grill are formed into an appealing design, with chromed parts that will make this model stand out in your permanent installation.
Who Makes the Best Outdoor Grills with Flat Top Designs?
The majority of consumers look for grills with large lid designs, but a hooded grill is not for everyone. When cooking restaurant style foods
over a grill plate, a flat top is often preferred. Grills of this nature are perfect for burgers, steaks, vegetables, and complex meals inspired by today’s celebrity chefs. If you want to feel like a professional in your own backyard, then a flat top grill could be exactly what you need.
A model like the Blackstone 36” Outdoor Flat Top Gas Grill is one of the best outdoor grills for people who simply need a large hotplate surface, with no extra features that will never be used. If you don’t need a hood, side burners, or rotisserie cooking, then this is definitely a grill that will impress you. Just because this grill doesn’t go overboard with the features, doesn’t mean that it’s not of high quality, and Blackstone has used the best stainless steel and other hard wearing materials to ensure that this can provide many years of grilling at home.
The Blackstone grill uses a propane gas source, and the 36” version offers an impressive 720 square inches of flat grilling space.
Small Propane Grills for Portable Use
There’s something special about cooking outside, but when you can grill at the campsite or even at the side of a lake or on the seaside, then you’ll have a unique experience. Portable grills take camping or picnicking to the next level. Instead of just having cold prepared foods available, you’ll be able to cook all of your favorite grilled meals. Whether for use on a family camping trip, a hunting trip, or even after fishing, a portable gas grill will make the experience special.There are a number of models which could be considered the best outdoor grills in this market segment, and the trick is to find the design that is best for your needs.
For tailgating, camping, or grilling anywhere outdoors, the Coleman Road Trip Propane Grill has to be considered. This is a small and portable grill, and it’s one of the best outdoor grills, because of its unique design. Despite being easy to transport, it has side shelves, a hinged lid, a fairly large cooking surface with two gas burners, and it even includes a folding stand. This is the perfect grill for people who want something similar to a home grill when on the road, and it uses premium materials and an excellent design that will be appreciated by any owner. Because of the above average cooking surface for a portable grill, you could even use this model at home for a small family.
If you don’t need a stand, and simply want a highly portable tabletop grill, then the Coleman NXT Lite Table Top Propane Grill would be a good choice. Great for camping and picnics, or even for home use, the 168 square inches of cooking space is good for a group of four, or it could be suitable for more people when being used on longer cooking sessions. In addition to being a portable grill, it would be a great backup grill for home, or for use any time that firing up your main grill would be inconvenient.
For a camping or portable grill that is small, lightweight, and extremely affordable, the Char-Broil Portable Gas Grill is one of the best outdoor grills that you’ll find. The sub-$50 price point makes it an easy purchase decision, and the 190 square inches of cooking surface means that this is a practical cooker for both small groups and solo cooking. The lid on this unit is slightly raised, which is fairly unique in the portable segment. While you wouldn’t be able to get a full roast onto this model, it could be used for cooking chicken, burgers, or thick steaks that would benefit from oven-like cooking conditions.
Standup Electric Grill for Indoor and Outdoor Use
For some buyers, neither a gas nor charcoal grill would be appropriate. Small apartments, condominiums, or anywhere that a gas or charcoal grill would not be safe, can be better served by an electric grill. Electric grills don’t get quite as hot as gas or charcoal grills, but they can be much more convenient, and with a standing grill like the George Foreman GFO201R Indoor / Outdoor Electric Grill, it’s possible to cook many of your favorite grilled foods.The George Foreman grill is made from lightweight materials like aluminum, the George Foreman grill is one of the best outdoor grills that run from electricity, thanks to its fairly large 240 square inch cooking surface, and the addition of a domed lid that you won’t find on most electric models.