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Grill and Smoker Buying Guide

A gas, charcoal or electric grill lets you prepare easy outdoor meals on your deck or patio. Pair it with a compact smoker to take your outdoor cooking to the next level. Ready to step into the master griller category? Add the right cooking accessories and tackle breakfast, lunch or dinner with ease.

Gas Grills

Gas grill with shelf and side burner grilling salmon, asparagus watermelon and corn on the cob.

Gas grills — fueled by liquid propane (LP) or natural gas — make outdoor cooking almost as simple as cooking in your kitchen. Flip on the burners and after a few minutes of preheating, you're ready to grill.

  • Most include an ignition feature for easy lighting.
  • Available features like side burners, prep shelves, warming shelves, tool hooks and even wireless temperature monitoring put all your outdoor cooking needs in a convenient package.
  • Greater temperature control means you can cook food quicker and more evenly.
  • Some gas grill come with a fuel tank gauge so you know how much propane you have before you start.
  • Lowe's offers a quick and convenient propane tank exchange.
  • Gas burns cleaner and is less expensive per use than charcoal.
  • Some models have an option for direct hookup to natural gas. With no tanks to replace, you don't have to worry about running out of fuel in the middle of cooking.

Infrared Grilling

Some gas grills are equipped with infrared burners as an additional cooking feature. Infrared heat comes 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.

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.

Good to Know

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.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grill with chicken breasts and red and yellow sweet peppers cooking.

Charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes, wood or a combination of both to produce a more intense, smoked flavor.

  • Sizes range from small models great for tailgating or camping to large grill / smoker combinations.
  • Available features such as temperature gauges, shelf space, tool hooks, lid rests and wheels maximize convenience.
  • Higher-end charcoal 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 also an option. Ceramic grills provide greater temperature control and moisture retention, which produces tender and juicy food.
Good to Know

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.

Electric Grills

Electric grill on a small apartment balcony.

Electric grills offer quick long-running operation but must plug into a power 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.
  • Some electric grills offer infrared cooking that uses radiant heat to eliminate flare-ups and prevent hot or cold spots on the grill.
  • You can produce some excellent cookout cuisine using ceramic briquettes and a good marinade.

Smokers

Electric smoker with whole chicken, peppers and other food inside.

Smokers cook "low and slow," typically between 225 and 275 degrees F for several hours. Ribs, brisket, pork, poultry and fish are traditional favorites, but vegetables, fruit and even cheese are also possibilities.

  • Available cooking areas range from 250 square inches to over 1000 square inches, allowing you to cook up to 50 pounds of food at a time.
  • A wood chip box or water pan allows cooking with different flavors.
  • Some models offer a dual-use design for smoking or grilling.
  • Electric models with w-fi capability to let you set up and monitor your meal with ease.
  • Digital controls, temperature and fuel gauges, meat probes, timers, slide-out shelves, viewing windows, wheels and wood-chip loading systems are available to make smoking food a no-fail experience.
  • Removable racks, shelves and drip pans mean less mess when it's time to clean up.

 

Electric smokers can operate as long as you have power, but you need to keep them close to an outlet. Gas smokers are more portable and heat quickly. Look for models with gauges to help you keep them fueled during the cooking time. Electric and gas smokers heat wood chips or pellets to produce the smoky taste. Charcoal and wood smokers are often larger and less portable but offer a flavor that's hard to beat. More compact, vertical charcoal smokers are also available.

Grill Accessories

A griddle cooking pancakes, a grill sheet with seafood, a wok with stir fry and a pizza stone with pizza.

With all of the available accessories, grilling is no longer limited to burgers and steaks. In addition to the usual utensils and skewers:

  • A griddle attachment offers unexpected outdoor cooking choices. Some grills include the accessory for use on a side burner. For grills without a side burner, a nonstick cast-iron griddle sits directly on the grate to create a handy cooking surface any time of day.
  • A grill sheet or grill basket keeps small or delicate foods from slipping through the grate. The slotted sheet allows the heat to evenly reach the food. It also works well for vegetables and fish.
  • A wok accessory means the flavorful crunch of stir-fried vegetables doesn't have to be relegated to the kitchen. Choose an outdoor-friendly wok that suits your grill.
  • Invest in a pizza stone for your charcoal or gas grill. The stone evenly distributes the heat for perfect crust, marvelous melted cheese, and toppings with a hint of grilled goodness.
  • A rotisserie lets you prepare the juiciest turkey or chicken.
  • A good meat thermometer and a grilling light help ensure food is cooked at the perfect temperature.
  • Add wood chips to enhance food's flavor.
  • 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.
  • Finish off with a lined cover to extend the life of your grill, smoker or cooker.
Good to Know

When considering accessories, make sure your grill, smoker or other cooking appliance is designed to use them.

Other Considerations

Stainless steel spatula, brush, thongs and fork.

Consider a few other factors to determine the best grill for your needs.

Size

  • Servings: 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 need a small grill or have space for a larger model with multiple burners. Note that grills and other outdoor cooking devices need clearance from structures and other objects. Make sure to take this into account.
  • Number of burners: Most gas 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 grids are the most desirable for heat retention and ease of cleaning. They wear extremely well, are rust-resistant and last longer than other grids.
  • Porcelain-coated steel grids are the best bet for nonstick cooking. However, the porcelain glaze can chip and rust if not properly cared for.
  • Cast-iron grids require curing to prevent rust, but they wear well, cook well and distribute heat more evenly than other grids.
  • Stainless-steel grids are rust-resistant, but may allow food to stick.

 

Shop Grilling Tools & Accessories

More Outdoor Cooking Options

Triple-burner outdoor stove cooking burgers, pork chops, shrimp, peppers and other food.

Outdoor Cooking Safety

Gas grill cooking chickin, broccoli, peppers and onions.

A grill can generate over 800°F of heat. Use caution and follow the cooking appliance manufacturer's instructions for use and safety. Here are some basic tips for cooking outdoors safely:

  • Keep children away from the cooking area.
  • When lighting charcoal grills, use only pretreated briquettes or charcoal grill starter fluid.
  • Be mindful of grill placement. The heat can damage your home's exterior — especially vinyl siding.
  • Dispose of charcoal ashes regularly. Let them cool for 48 hours before removing. Pour water over the ashes to speed up the cooling process. Then place them and dispose of them in a noncombustible trash bin.
  • Follow an electric grill manufacturer's specifications for extension cords. See Power Cord Safety Tips for more information on extension cords.
  • Keep food chilled and covered when it's outside or leave it inside until it's time to cook.
  • Don't rush the cooking process and use a meat thermometer to make sure your food reaches the correct internal temperature.
  • Keep your utensils and cutting board clean.