Latest posts by Eaton Miller (see all)
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It’s finally that time of the year when the sun’s out and we can all finally go around town in the most fuss-free clothes and meet up with our family and friends; basically have all the fun that we couldn’t during the colder months. Indeed, summer is finally here and one of the most fun activities anyone could ever do? Have a big summer barbecue! After all, who doesn’t love a big juicy steak or burger to go with an ice-cold drink in the summer? I’m definitely a fan.
But of course, a barbecue party won’t be complete without the grilled meats! It’s probably the most significant part of any summer party, aside from booze. You need a great tool to cook on and having a good grill can mean the difference between a summer fiesta and a summer fiasco.
If you still don’t own a grill or looking to replace it, it might be a good idea to buy now before summer arrives. And if this is your first time buying one then before dealing with what model or brand, you first need to know how to buy a grill. Not just any kind or you’ll end up with junk and just burn through your cash. You need to know how to look for a good grill and what makes its features a great value for your money.
There are tons of things to consider when you finally decide to shop around and they’re all equally important. It’s not just about the price and how pretty and shiny a gas grill is! So let me give you tips on how to buy a grill!
Here are some of the most important factors on what makes a good grill that you have to keep in mind when shopping, especially on a gas grill.
How to Buy a Grill & What to Look for in a Grill
For whatever things we buy, we’re always limited by a budget. So you definitely have to first determine how far you’re willing to go for your grill in terms of the price. Are you a budget shopper? Are you looking for something mid-range? Or are you the shopper that consistently says money is no object?
Although it isn’t always the case that higher price means better performance. Usually as far as gas grills go, higher price usually means better build quality and materials as well as more extra features. Though nowadays, manufacturers discover better, cheaper alternatives everyday and you can also probably find great gas grills that suit you for way less than the top of the line ones that you were previously eyeing.
Once you’ve figured out the price range you’re willing to shell out for that new gas grill, you can now narrow down the products available for you. You can then decide for the extra features you’ll need and want for a grill. If you’re looking for a tabletop or portable gas grills, you can get one for just a hundred to hundred eighty bucks. While you can already have a pretty cool basic grill for just under 300 bucks. For those with bigger families will require more burners and bigger cooking space, so that may set you back for not more than $1000. Now if you have some cash to burn and be the envy of your friends, $2000 budget can already get you a long way! You can own a shiny new branded grill with all the nitty-gritty specs you’ll really need plus the extra frills!
Branded or not, what’s important is to always remember to set a budget for yourself because this helps weed out unnecessary temptation and spending. It always pays to shop responsibly, after all!
Having a barbecue is fun and nothing is more satisfying than smelling the aroma of sizzling meat paired with vegetables for the amazing meal that you’re preparing. But have you ever thought about the fuel that you’ve used up to create your sumptuous dishes?
There are 6 common fuel sources for your grill which are charcoal, gas, logs, wood pellets and electric. Each of them have their own merits and can cook remarkably. However, if you really want to make the most out of your grill and find yourself wanting to cook steaks and other red meat most often, then you will need a charcoal or gas grill. You will need high heat for searing and this is achieved by having either of the two. Now don’t get me started on which of the two should you get, it will take us forever to decide on who’s the winner for the charcoal vs gas debate.
Now if you decide gas grills to be more convenient for you, there are 2 kinds of fuel you can choose from. You can either opt for a liquid propane (LP) or a natural gas grill. You cannot buy a gas grill that can use both liquid propane and natural gas at the same time. So if you buy a propane gas grill, expect to only use propane gas to cook foods with it. Although you can buy conversion kits that can switch your ordinary propane grill to natural gas grill.
Now if you’re wondering whether to buy a propane or natural gas grill, I’d always suggest you to go for natural gas grills, especially if you already have a natural gas line hooked up to your home. They just have more benefits and when it comes to being more eco-friendly as well, natural fuels are the way to go. After all, we live in an environmentally troubled time, so if there are options to lessen any harmful effects to our nature then let’s support in any way we can! Nevertheless, buying either one of these gas fuels will still boil down to your needs and lifestyle. If you can’t have access to natural fuel, then LPG grill is your best choice.
Always be sure to closely study the type of fuel that a specific gas grill needs. You can also consider which has more efficient fuel consumption for a gas grill. Also, it helps to know if the fuel is readily available in your area in case you run out.
Going back to what I said about considering the price of the grill, it always helps to determine the value that you’re getting for the money that you’re shelling out. Remember: value does not equal price. So how to buy a grill where you get what you paid for and possibly more? You find out if a grill is worth it by looking at the level of workmanship of a particular grill.
Does it have a solid built with proper welding and no sharp edges? What materials were used? Does it also have thick metals, sturdy legs, tough large wheels and well-fitted hinges and latches? These are just some of the questions you need to ask when looking on a new grill. If you’re seeing it personally, try shaking it a bit to see how it feels. It should feel solid and sturdy, and not wobble easily. You know a grill is built well when nothing shakes and everything feels hefty and firm.
While some grills are also coated with paint, so make sure it has good paint job and will not get chipped off easily as they also work as an added protection to the grill.
The popular choice to date are made with thick stainless steel bodies as these are more durable, easier to upkeep and have better resistance against rust. You can say that rust is like the cancer of any grill. So having a tough exterior, high-grade and thick stainless steel materials can assure longer life for your grill. However, stainless steel gas grill are expensive to own. But if money will not be an issue and you definitely want one as well, then get a stainless steel that is nonmagnetic because they will not corrode fast. Another is to find one with 304 grade and contains more chromium and nickel in the alloy for tougher built, made to last longer.
Top of the line grills are usually made with stainless steel, cast aluminum, cast iron and enamel-bonded steel which are all of high quality materials, but are still totally not rust-free. A cast-iron that is not properly painted and an enamel-bonded steel that has its coating already chipped off are both already susceptible to rust.
The best alternative to expensive materials such as stainless steels is to buy grills that are made with cast aluminum and steel. They are reasonably priced, retains heat well and are also easy to upkeep. However burners are the heart of a grill, so make sure to at least invest on a gas grill that has stainless steel or brass-made burners.
As for the grill grates, you can find one that are made of stainless steel as well or cast iron. They are also usually coated with chrome, nickel, and porcelain. Cast-iron grates have nice heat conduction and thus leaves nice grill marks. However, you will have to oil it regularly for maintenance and preventive measure against rust.
For more affordable units, they usually coat their grates with porcelain which makes maintenance so fast and easy. Porcelain also has great heat and chemical resistance which is why a lot of manufacturers prefer it to this very day, while professionals love it for its perfection on leaving beautiful grill marks! Although they are rather heavy so you will just have to be extra careful in handling them to avoid chipping or cracking them accidentally.
The bolts and screws used should also be of the same strong steel. Also, it pays to have rubberized edges to avoid any painful bumping.
Luckily for us, the law now requires all appliances to have some sort of safety protocol. Like with water heaters, if it short-circuits or something goes terribly wrong in its mechanism, any sort of explosion will contain within the device. The same concept is applied to all gas grills but manufacturers have approached these malfunction fail-safes in their own unique way.
When you pick a grill, you should also try to picture yourself using it and try to imagine what would happen in the unlikely case that something goes wrong. Try to think about how you would go about such a sticky situation and how you would want your grill to react to the mishap. Pick the grill with the malfunction or fire protocol that you’re most comfortable with.
The materials used in making the grill itself are usually of a high fire rating, meaning it will take a very long time before it starts to burn. So make sure to thoroughly check if the grill’s materials are high-grade and thick enough to make sure it won’t get burned easily. Grease pans should also be kept at the right place and be easily accessible for cleaning to prevent flare ups.
In the case of an accident, a gas grill made of materials with high fire ratings will burn very slowly, giving your family enough time to vacate the premises while better-equipped people help you out. Having a baking soda around while grilling are great for putting small grease fires out. Though for larger fires, a fire extinguisher is your best weapon so invest on one as well to be safe. Though I’m pretty sure it won’t come to this, but better safe than sorry, right?
APPROPRIATE COOKING AREA / SURFACE
The gas grill that you pick would, of course, have to address how many people you’re planning to serve. How many people you often cook for is directly variable to the cooking area or surface that you’re working with; a bigger grilling area can make cooking for larger crowds a lot easier, while having a big grilling surface but only serving a small family or group could be a waste of resources.
So let’s say you often host a backyard barbecue parties, then make sure to invest on a large grill. While occasional cookouts for small and intimate group, a small grill is enough to do the job and will also save you the extra bucks.
Be sure to pick a gas grill that fits the crowd you feed by checking the size of the cooking area as well as the preparation surfaces. You can easily estimate if the size of the grill is appropriate for your family. You can do so by checking on the main cooking area which should be in square inches and usually provided under product’s details. Then divide the area by 72, the total will be your estimate for the number of people your grill can cook for simultaneously.
As an example, if the cooking area of the grill is 285 sq. in. then we divide it by 72, we’ll have an equation like this: 285 sq. in. ÷ 72 = 3.95. By rounding it off to 4, this gives us a quick estimate, we can then say that the grill can cook food for 3-4 people at the same time.
While if you plan to smoke large food items such as turkey, you can do so with a large gas grill. By large I mean one where there is at least a space to fit one head between the heating surface and the inside of the lid or hood of the grill, then you will have enough space to smoke such food.
When doing the computation for grill’s capacity to cook for each person simultaneously, make sure to only apply this to the area of the main cooking grate, not the total cooking size that manufacturers tend to inform us. Since they also include the size of warming surfaces to the total cooking area of the grill to make it look bigger. Nevertheless, having extra cooking surfaces like warming racks are very handy to have.
DIMENSION & FOOTPRINT
It can be troublesome to have a grill that can’t seem to fit anywhere in your home so be sure to take measurements around your house beforehand to find the perfect spot for where you want your future grill to be. You have to take into consideration the level of ventilation, distance from flammable materials, and convenience of that particular area. Then after you take measurements of the available space for your grill, you can go shopping for one!
Although, there are some apartment buildings, condominiums or multi-family dwellings that only allow a specific type of grill you can use or has a distance requirement to follow for fire safety measures that you have to take note of before getting an oversized grill. In some places have even totally prohibited using of grills on balconies and decks such as in Connecticut. Building requirements seem to be more lenient towards using electric grills.
Still, make sure to check the fire code in your building and ask permission from your property owner(s) or fire marshals in your area before you swipe your credit card. Be sure to also check the size of the grill in the product’s descriptions and specifications to see if it matches your measurements or not.
HIGH HEAT CAPACITY (Temperature and BTU per Area)
Can’t make delicious steaks or juicy burgers without the right kind of heat! If you’re a steak lover and want to perfectly cook red meat with a nice crisp dark crust and red to pink doneness on the inside, even on thin steaks, you will want a grill that can get really hot! This is where British Thermal Unit (BTU) comes in.
BTU refers to the heat output of your unit. This means that the higher BTU of the grill, the higher levels of heat it can produce. However, having high BTU doesn’t automatically qualify the unit as the best choice because you also have to consider its cooking size. If the BTU level is too low for the size, then the grill may not produce enough heat to cook the food the way you want. While having too high BTU for a small cooking area can often generate too much heat and overcook your food and nobody also wants that.
So when you shop for a gas grill, you should definitely check its BTU rating and do a bit of calculating. The BTU/AREA rating determines how your grill efficiently distributes heat throughout its cooking surface over a specific unit of area. Ideally, a gas grill with 80 to 100 BTUs per square inch, or close to that heat ratio range, has good heat efficiency and can pretty much handle all your grilling needs. While 60 to 80 BTUs are more than enough for an infrared grill.
In addition, having a precise control on your grill’s temperature can make a difference to the taste and success of your cooking. Cooking meats directly at high heat for too long will shrink its proteins, thus, leaving us with a hard and dry meat. So, gas grills, excluding portable ones, are recommended to have a minimum of 2 burners. This will allow you to create a 2-zone setup for direct and indirect cooking. Or if you have more burners, which is a plus, you can have low, medium and high heat zones for your cooking.
However, we don’t want to have hot and cold spots on your grill so watch out for burners that are too far apart. Distributing even heat across the cooking surface with good temperature control is the key to superb cooking and grilling experience.
Don’t cheat yourself out of features that all gas grills in this day and age should have! After all, your gas grill is an investment and you should always aim to get one that gets you value for your money. Nowadays, almost any gas grill on the market has a built-in compartment for your gas tank as well as storage for starter fluid. There are also handy-dandy shelves that stretch out from the sides where you can place your plates of cooked and uncooked meats, and even your sauces and marinades!
Somewhere on the sides, there is usually a small convenient rack for cleaning rags, spatulas, tongs, or meat picks. Manufacturers usually have their own approach to these racks. Some create beautiful nodes on the body of the grill while some just put small hangers on the edge of the grill’s sides. These are the bare minimums of any gas grill in the market today.
While if having a side burner doesn’t cost too much of a difference, I would always suggest you to get one, specifically the one with flip down covers. After all, side burners are starting to become more of a staple among gas grills similar to how mobile phones have WiFi built-in on them. Having a side burner is an add-on convenience for warming up a sauce or cooking the sides like beans, corns, rice or whatever while grilling. And if you aren’t using the burner, you can still maximize it by using it as a table or extra space for your plates and stuff.
All items we buy should always come with a warranty. But better grills comes with at least 5 years of free service and even on its assembly parts. There are gas grills that come with a separate warranty for each parts of the grill such as burner, ignition system and exterior body; so if the one you’d get comes with such a warranty arrangement, make sure to clear this with a sales representative or have a clear guide on it. The warranty should provide you everything that you’ll need from it.
In addition, make sure you’re buying from a well-reputed brand and good customer service. Because what’s the point of having long warranty if you can’t reach the company to avail it. You should be able to easily find the company’s customer support hotline and clear instructions for what to do in the event that you’d need new parts.
It is always a fun experience when something you own goes the extra mile and goes from an ordinary object to a great one. Today, the competition between manufacturers have become quite intense. Everyone always has something different and cool for you to try – extra features that you will scream, jump, and holler for joy. This is especially important for different brands because it’s what will set them apart from each other and can put you to a whole new level of grilling experience!
Some high-end grills have an extra burner for a searing area while some have a nifty little compartment to keep your meats fresh, and some have a cool convenient little waste chute. I call them as extra features as the sad thing about them is that they tend to be quite exorbitant and make a grill go way over your budget even though you can actually get by and still grill without these “extras“. However, if the budget permits, you should definitely look for a gas grill with as many extra features as you can! You never know how handy they will come to you when the time comes! There are just way too many extra features to name so I’ll just give you the ones that I feel are probably the most useful.
If you’re totally serious about having steaks every day and night, you gotta have a sear burners. You’ll get to cook a mouth-watering steaks with beautiful sear marks that you might unconsciously do the Italian fingertips kiss gesture for your perfect steak! Next one would be a smoker because with a smoker, you can also create delicious cured dishes aside from steaks and burgers. Can you imagine having a platter of salmon or pastrami to go with your summer parties? Amazing!
You should also check for infrared burners as this will definitely diversify the way you can prepare and cook your food, because with infrared burners, you can cook more delicately as well as more evenly with heat that comes in electromagnetic waves. Lastly, look for a gas grill with its very own rotisserie! Thanksgiving won’t be complete without a rotisserie turkey. So why just grill and sizzle when you can do a delicious roast as well?
And with that, I think I’ve pretty much covered the A to Z of how to buy a grill! Now that you’ve learned on what to look for in a grill, it’s finally time to actually buy one. However, there’s no single best in the market. You can only find the “best for you!” as we have our own needs and wants, and of course a budget and lifestyle to also consider. But don’t worry, I’ll also help you find the right one for you.
I just think it’s so great that we now live in a time where we can easily find information and have literally anything delivered right to our doorstep so you better take advantage of this! No more getting ready and driving all the way to the store. Everything you need is at your fingertips at home. All you have to do is get your phone or go on your computer and you got yourself an endless catalogue of everything you could ever need and want, but since everything is so readily available, it can definitely be quite overwhelming especially to newbies! This is where this guide comes in handy for you.
Just be sure to keep in mind everything I’ve said here and you should be able to resist the seemingly great deals and tricks that certain products and websites may try to pull on you. If you can find a grill that has high function, high build quality, and low price, then you’ve hit the jackpot! Basically, you learn the value of what you have by comparing the function that you get for the price that you pay.
Remember, getting your very own gas grill is a very important investment. And like any investment, make sure you don’t get cheated out of your own hard-earned cash. When you shop for your gas grill, make sure you get the absolute best deal you can find. Get a gas grill that can satisfy all these factors for you, find one that works for you and your budget. And most importantly, find the best gas grill for you that is strong and sturdy enough to stay with you for a very long time. How great would it be if all your summer memories doing barbecues with family and friends will be with that one very special grill?
The infographic above summarizes the 11 most essential things you need to know on how to buy grills. You can use it as a guide when you’re in the market to buy a shiny new grill. So go ahead and save it, share it and use it!
Fire us some comments and suggestions if you have more tips on how to buy a grill. We’d love to hear them all!