For many Americans, meals prepared on the grill rank right up there with Fourth of July fireworks as an essential ingredient in summer. Nearly 90 percent of owners will be firing up their grills for the upcoming holiday, according to an annual survey by manufacturer Weber-Stephen Products. These days, so-called “outdoor rooms” are furnished with $3,000 stainless-steel mammoths. A more modest grill might look a little silly encased in custom stonework, but it’s all you need to partake in this holiday tradition for less than $200.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable grills.
- The Char-Griller Grillin' Pro 3001 (starting at $189) strikes both consumer and expert reviewers as a good value for the money. In feedback posted online, they note this gas grill’s solid construction and consistent heating across the three main burners. A powerful side burner can heat up sauces and side dishes, and porcelain grates resist sticking. (Where to buy)
- The Char-Griller Wrangler 2123 (starting at $106) outdoes other charcoal grills in this price range with 435 square inches of grilling space, convenient features such as a warming rack, and cast-iron grates that can be adjusted to provide more control over the cooking temperature. Online reviews call the grill sturdy and durable. (Where to buy)
- The Brinkmann Grill King 810-2410-SB (starting at $199) is the largest grill on our list, with four main burners, plus a side burner and warming rack, for a total cooking space of 638 square inches. It’s also the only one that boasts porcelain-coated cast-iron grates, known for heating food evenly and keeping it from sticking. Experts and users cite ease of use and cleaning in favorable reviews of this gas grill. (Where to buy)
- The Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5 (starting at $130) takes its name from the highly regarded brand’s One-Touch cleaning system, which confines the mess to a removable ash catcher. Reviewers give this charcoal grill almost universally high ratings and admire its quality. Weber makes cheaper One-Touch kettle grills as well; the 18.5-inch Silver model starts at $79. (Where to buy)
Both charcoal grills and gas grills have their partisans. Some patio chefs swear by the smoky flavor of charcoal, alleging that propane simply can’t compare. Charcoal barbecues also cost less up front, although buying bag after bag of briquettes or lump charcoal eats away any savings; it’s cheaper to refill a propane tank periodically. Gas grills heat up more quickly, tend to be easier to use and control, and promise easier cleanup, with no messy ash disposal.
Gas grills also typically have larger cooking surfaces. The models on our list come in at around 630 square inches. Note that any side burner or warming rack is typically included in the surface area listed in the specs. Consider how many people you’ll usually be feeding and also the size of your outdoor area. A hefty four-burner model with a side burner and a shelf simply may not fit on a small patio.
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