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Grill Buying Guide

Grilling is the natural cooking choice for those who believe that things just taste better outdoors. Whether you're considering a gas, charcoal or electric grill, use our guide to determine the best one for your needs.

Gas Grills

Gas grill

Gas grills use liquid propane (LP) or natural gas.

  • Gas burns cleaner and is less expensive per use than charcoal.
  • They ignite quickly with a push-button, rotary or electronic lighter that's integrated into the grill. After a few minutes of preheating, you'll be ready to cook.
  • They have greater temperature control so you can cook food quicker and more evenly.
  • Side burners on gas grills allow you to prepare an accompanying dish without running back and forth to the kitchen.
  • A standard propane tank holds 20 pounds of fuel. Depending on the cooking temperature and number of burners working, a full tank usually lasts nine hours.
  • If there's natural gas available, some models have a direct hookup option. With no tanks to replace, you don't have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of cooking.
  • Lowe's offers a quick and convenient propane tank exchange.

Infrared Grilling
Some gas grills are equipped with infrared burners as an additional cooking feature. Infrared heat is from a radiant heat source, rather than hot rising air (convection) used in conventional grilling. Infrared elements heat up faster and therefore cook faster. If you’re new to infrared grilling, experiment, follow directions carefully and keep an eye on your food until you master the technique.

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Good to Know

What's a BTU?
A gas grill's heat output is rated in British thermal units (BTU). Because this measurement is related to the size of the burner, it can be difficult to compare BTU ratings of different grills. A large grill with a high BTU rating cooks at a similar temperature as a smaller grill with a lower BTU. The ability of a grill to reach and sustain cooking temperature is more critical than how hot it can get. To ensure the best cooking performance, look for infrared burners that help to seal in juices.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grill

Charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes, wood or a combination of both.

  • Cooking on a charcoal grill produces a more intense, smoked flavor.
  • Cooking over charcoal requires time. Depending on grill size and the number and type of briquettes, you should be ready to cook 15 to 30 minutes after lighting.
  • Sizes range from small models great for tailgating or camping to large grill/smoker combinations.
  • Higher-end grills have air vents or dampers to control cooking temperatures and igniters to eliminate the need for lighter fluid.
  • Most charcoal grills are metal, but ceramic is a newer option. Advantages of ceramic grills include greater temperature control and moisture retention, which produces tender and juicy food.

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Caution

When using a charcoal grill, make sure to dispose of ashes regularly. The best way to do this is by letting the ash cool for 48 hours. Pour water over them to speed up the cooling process. Then place the ashes in foil and dispose of them in a noncombustible trash bin.

Electric, Charcoal and Gas Smokers

Smoker grill

Smokers are available in electric, charcoal and gas models.

  • Smokers are made to cook "low and slow" -- between 225 and 275 degrees F for several hours.
  • A wood chip box or water pan allows cooking with different flavors.
  • Available cooking area ranges from 250 square inches to over 1000 square inches, allowing you to cook up to 50 pounds of food at a time.
  • Some models offer dual-use design for smoking or grilling.
  • There are even electric models with w-fi capability.

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Electric Grills

Electric grill

Electric grills must plug into an electrical outlet.

  • If you live in an apartment or an area that can't accommodate charcoal or gas, you can still cook out with an electric grill.
  • You can produce some excellent cookout cuisine using ceramic briquettes and a good marinade.
  • If an extension cord is needed, select the right type.

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Outdoor Stoves

Outdoor stove.

Still another option for the outdoor cooking aficionado is an outdoor stove. They typically work with propane tanks, but some can be converted to natural gas.

  • One- to four-burner units are great for stews or seafood boils
  • Freestanding and tabletop versions are available
  • Some have rotating pizza stones, which provide brick oven-style results 
  • They're portable and can be used for tailgating or camping

Shop Outdoor Stoves

More Outdoor Cooking Options

Build an outdoor kitchen to suit your lifestyle and space.  Shop Modular Outdoor Kitchens

Add a pizza oven to your outdoor dining experience.   Shop Pizza Ovens

Find a gas or electric turkey fryer to round out your cooking ensemble.  Shop Turkey Fryers

Other Considerations

Grilling Utensils

Now that you've determined the type of grill that you want, consider a few other options to determine the best grill for your needs.

Size

  • Serving size: Is this grill for one person or a family? Do you entertain a lot? If so, for how many people? Consider the entire cooking area. Manufacturer specifications often include the warming rack or side burner on gas grills.
  • Food type: Steaks, chicken breasts and vegetables need a small space. If you plan on cooking larger cuts of meat or for a big group, you'll need a large grill or smoker.
  • Outdoor space: Measure your grill location before shopping to decide if you can have a small grill or a larger one with multiple burners.
  • Number of burners: Most grills are available with two individually controlled burners. Higher-end grills have at least three burners and may have up to six for even more cooking volume. Look for stainless-steel or porcelain-coated burners for rust resistance.


Cooking Grids

  • Porcelain-coated, cast-iron: They're the most desirable for heat retention and ease of cleaning. They wear extremely well, are rust-resistant and last longer than other grids.
  • Stainless-steel: They're rust-resistant, but may allow food to stick.
  • Porcelain-coated: They're the best bet for nonstick cooking. However, the porcelain glaze can chip and rust if not properly cared for.
  • Cast-iron: They require curing to prevent rust, but they wear well, cook well and distribute heat more evenly than other grids.


Accessories

  • With all of the accessories on the market, grilling is no longer limited to burgers and steaks. Aside from the usual utensils and skewers, you can purchase cooking baskets to grill fish or add a rotisserie to prepare the juiciest turkey or chicken. Add wood chips to enhance food's flavor. A good meat thermometer and a grilling light will ensure food is cooked at the perfect temperature. Finish off with a lined cover to extend the life of your grill.
  • The familiar flavor produced by charcoal grilling comes from the juices of food dripping onto hot coals. If you're in the market for a gas grill, consider purchasing lava rock, pumice stone, ceramic briquettes or heat plates to produce the same effect.

Shop Grilling Tools and Accessories

Caution

Fire
When grilling, use caution and keep an eye on children. A gas grill can generate over 800°F of heat. When lighting charcoal grills, use only pretreated briquettes or charcoal grill starter fluid. And be mindful of grill placement. The heat can damage your home's exterior -- especially vinyl siding.

Bacteria
Keep food chilled and covered when it's outside. Even better, leave it inside until it's time to cook. Don't rush the cooking process, and use a meat thermometer. Always keep your utensils and cutting board clean.