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Image: Gas grills at Home Depot
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Before purchasing a gas grill, do a little homework.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 7/2/2007 7:04:12 PM ET 2007-07-02T23:04:12

Summer is in full swing, and Fourth of July is upon us. Got a hankering to buy a grill for your yard or deck?

Well, that makes sense. Grilled foods taste delicious, and grilling can be a healthy way to cook. But before you buy an outdoor grill — or an apron, chef’s hat and barbecue-sauce brush, for that matter — it’s a good idea to arm yourself with information about this potentially big-ticket purchase.

The following tips can be helpful if you’re in the market for a gas grill that lights immediately and holds up well outdoors.

1. Check your budget. Most quality gas grills cost between about $200 and $500. You can spend more than that, of course, but the added benefits may have more to do with aesthetics than cooking quality. The more you pay, the more likely you’ll be to score an attractive stainless steel design.

2. Get out the ol’ measuring tape. Make sure your grill will fit in the spot you’ve chosen for it. A large grill with shelves on either side will be about 6 feet long and almost 3 feet wide.

3. Reflect on your needs. If you cook out only occasionally, most any simple grill will suffice. But if you plan to grill often for many people, opt for a grill with side shelves, side burners and a warming shelf, and also consider spending a little bit more to get wide stainless or cast-iron grates. Such grates do a good job of keeping fish and meats juicy when you cook them.

4. Know your audience. Grills with a cooking surface of 300 to 400 square inches are fine if you normally cook for three or four people. If you have a large family or entertain frequently, you might want to buy a grill with 600 to 800 square inches of cooking area instead.

5. Think about freedom of mobility. It’s easy to move a grill with wheels out of the way or out of the elements. Grill carts that have four wheels are easier to maneuver than carts with only two wheels. If possible, look for wheels with a full axle because they hold up better over time than wheels bolted to the frame.

6. Built-ins are lovely, but more complicated. Built-in grills are often part of a major landscaping effort. Before you fork out cash for such an undertaking, make sure the grill’s design fits in with your overall plans for your yard — and your annual budget.

7. Kick the tires. Take a look at a fully assembled model of the grill you want before you make the purchase. Give it a thorough once-over to make sure it’s durable enough and its size will work for your yard, deck or patio. Check to see whether the rolling cart rattles when you shake it.

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8. Bring a magnet to the store. If you’re willing to pay more for a stainless-steel grill, make sure you’re getting the right kind. Stainless steel that’s magnetic is of an inferior quality to stainless steel that isn’t magnetic.

9. Ask about replacement parts. Since grills take plenty of punishment from hard use, wind and rain, it’s important to be able to replace parts that break. Choose a retailer that provides a good selection of replacement parts — and while you’re at it, invest in a grill cover to give your grill some added protection and keep it looking nice.

10. Know what to do about warranties. More expensive grills usually come with better warranties. For example, you may be able to get a 10-year warranty on your grill’s main burners, which is a great deal. If you buy a quality grill, the manufacturer’s warranty should be adequate.

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