How To Choose The Best Outdoor Grill

Outdoor cooking is as popular as it’s ever been and is a great way to enjoy food with family and friends. When you plan to buy a grill there are so many different models around that it can be difficult to choose the right one.

Before you buy a grill you’ll need to consider a few things, for example, how much you want to spend and what type of grill you want. Size, design and portability are all things that you need to think about.

We’ll talk about different fuels and designs which should help you to make the correct choice.

Charcoal, Gas or Electric?

A grill can be powered by charcoal, gas or electric and they each work in different ways. Charcoal is the more traditional way of outdoor cooking, but gas grills are more modern and cleaner.

Electric grills also have their place in the market and you should choose a grill that suits your needs.

Whichever grill you select it needs to be affordable, functional and easy to use. It’s useful to look at the different types to see how they work and find out the pros and cons of each one.

Charcoal Grills

There are various types of charcoal grill and many people prefer to cook over coals because of the flavor it produces.

Charcoal is a good heat source and it cooks food efficiently and evenly. The types of charcoal grill most used are basic grills, kettle grills, barrel grills and kamado grills.

Basic Charcoal Grills

Charcoal Grill

If you’ve never tried grilling before, then a basic charcoal grill is the perfect way to get started with outdoor cooking.

These grills are easy to set up and light, and they cook food as well as any other grill. Basic grills are cheap and you can even buy single-use grills that can be disposed of afterwards.

A basic charcoal grill consists of a tray which holds the fuel and a rack where the food is cooked.

After lighting the charcoal you’ll need to wait for it to get hot and you’re ready to grill. These grills are a great choice for days out because they’re lightweight and easy to carry around.

One of the downsides of these basic grills is that many don’t have vents to regulate the temperature.

Some care is needed when using the grills so that meat, fish and other foods are not overcooked.

Kettle Grills

Charcoal Kettle Grill

Kettle grills are one of the most popular types of grill used and they are a good choice when you need something portable.

The grills consist of a rounded base, a grill rack and a lid that’s either on a hinge or removable. The charcoal is placed in the bottom before being lit and the food is cooked on the rack.

Kettle grills are available in different sizes and they’re usually made from metal. The grill is normally on some type of metal stand which may have wheels to make it easy to move around.

The grill will also have vents that can be opened and closed to regulate cooking temperatures.

Kettle grills are suitable for smoking meat and you are able to add your favorite wood chips to enhance the food’s flavor. The shape of the grill combined with the lid keeps the smoke in so it penetrates the meat.

A kettle grill is an ideal choice if you’re new to outdoor cooking as they’re reasonably cheap and easy to maintain.

When you’ve finished grilling you need to clean the rack and empty the ash from the base. Cleaning kettle grills will take a little time and it can get messy, which may put some people off using one.

Barrel Grills

Meat On Grill

Barrel grills were originally large steel barrels cut in half so that they could be filled with charcoal.

A grill was placed over the charcoal and it’s an effective way to cook a large amount of food. These days you’re able to buy ready made barrel grills which come with stands and hinged lids.

If you plan to use a barrel grill you’ll need a lot of charcoal and it will take some time to heat up. It’s worth lighting the coals a couple of hours before you want to grill to ensure the heat is correct.

Barrel grills are easy to clean and when you’ve finished cooking the coals are emptied. These are great for large get-togethers.

Kamado Grills

Using Kamado Grill

Kamado grills are egg shaped and they’re much heavier than kettle grills, which makes them less portable. The grill has a base that holds the fuel and one or more cooking racks.

Due to the fact that a kamado grill is heavy, the lid is usually fixed to a heavy duty hinge which is often spring-loaded.

Different sizes of kamado grill are available and they tend to be made from thick ceramic which holds heat effectively.

You are able to preheat a kamado grill and use it more like an oven if you prefer. Some kamado grills have a heat deflector which is used as a barrier between the hot coals and the food.

Due to the fact that kamado grills hold heat well they’re a good choice for smoking meats. These grills are able to hold heat but at low temperatures which is ideal when you’re smoking.

Some kamado grills are fitted with a rotisserie so that poultry and meat can be slow cooked.

Kamado grills get extremely hot and some care is needed when you’re cooking on one. When the lid is closed you are able to control the heat by using the vents that are fitted to the base and lid.

These grills are much more expensive than kettle grills and they’re a good choice for experienced grillers.

Gas Grills

Natural Gas Grill

Gas grills are extremely popular due to their stylish looks and ease of use, and many homes now have one.

Gas grills get hot quickly and you don’t have to wait for coals to get to the correct temperature. Most gas grills are fueled by propane which is contained in a cylinder and connected to the grill.

You are able to by small gas grills, suitable for 2 - 4 people, or there are huge grills that will feed large groups of people.

These larger grills are not easy to move around and some need to be permanently fixed. The grills will have a number of gas burners that cook the food, as well as cooking racks and a lid.

Gas is probably the safest way to grill food outdoors as you have more control over things. If there are any problems you're able to turn off the gas and kill the heat quickly. A charcoal grill will stay hot for many hours after you’ve finished cooking.

One of the reasons gas grills are popular is that there are a number of useful accessories you can buy. Side burners, warming trays, lights and smoke pots can be fitted to a gas grill.

One downside to gas grilling is that you don’t get the charred meat taste associated with a charcoal grill.

Standard Electric Grills

Using Electric Grill

A standard electric grill is the easiest way to cook outdoors and all you need is a power supply to plug in to.

Electric grills are usually compact, which makes them ideal if you have limited space. Once the element has heated up you’re able to place your food on the rack and begin grilling.

Although electric grills are clean and convenient you don’t get the flavors obtained from other ways of grilling.

Electric grills don’t get as hot as charcoal or gas grills and the meat won't be seared. You don’t get the charred lines on your steaks, and meat usually takes longer to cook on these grills.

Electric Pellet Grills

Wood Pellet Electric Grill

Pellet grills are the latest variation and are quickly becoming popular. They’re powered by electric, making them convenient to use.

A hopper dispenses hardwood pellets and transfers them via an auger to a chamber. A hot rod then ignites the pellets to create the heat that cooks and smokes the food.

The bottom of the grill is fitted with a fan which helps to keep the fire going at a steady rate. The grill is fitted with a control panel which allows you to regulate the temperature when grilling.

These grills are a great choice for fans of smoking and your food will take on the flavor of the hardwood.

One drawback with pellet grills is they don’t tend to brown meat as well as charcoal or gas powered grills. If you like to see char marks on your steaks you’re better off with a different type of grill.

Progress is being made with these grills, however, and manufacturers are looking at ways to improve them.

What Foods Can Be Cooked on an Outdoor Grill?

When you think of grilling, most people think of burgers, steaks and chicken, but there’s so much more you can cook.

Rack of ribs, briskets, pork belly and game all taste good when grilled. Many grillers smoke meat on a grill which cooks it slowly and gives it more flavor.

Various types of fresh fish and other seafood can be grilled and it seems to taste better when cooked outdoors.

Whole Fish On Outdoor Grill

Most fish cooks well on a grill; however, if you plan on grilling fish, it’s worth using a fish rack. A fish rack is double-sided and holds the fish in place, which allows you to turn them to get an even cook.

Vegetables work well on a grill and they make a great side dish to your grilled meats and fish. Vegetable kebabs are always a winner at parties and bell peppers taste great when they’re smoked.

Mushrooms, potatoes and corn on the cob are all grilling favorites that will enhance your main dishes.

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Outdoor Grill

When you’ve decided which fuel option to go for, there are other important things to look at when choosing a grill.

You need to make sure your grill is big enough to accommodate the food you plan to cook. Some grills have more than one rack which is useful to keep food hot while you’re still grilling.

Choose a grill that’s well-built with quality materials, so that it’s durable and reliable. The grill needs to cope with high temperatures.

Poor quality steel will buckle when exposed to high heat. You should check all areas of the grill you plan to buy, including the shell, rack, lid and temperature controls.

Outdoor Grills

If you plan to take your grill on a hunting trip or when you’re attending a sporting event you’ll need one that’s portable. A small to medium-sized kettle grill is ideal for transporting in a car or a pickup. Look for a grill that’s lightweight or one that can be moved on wheels.

If you intend to buy a large grill such as one of the bigger gas grills or a pellet grill, you’ll need room to site it. Some grills need to be supported with bricks or a metal frame and you should consider this before buying. You may also need a supply of electricity to power the grill and accessories.

Choose a grill that’s easy to clean when you’ve finished cooking so that it’s ready to use again. Gas grills are easily cleaned and you don’t have to worry about removing charcoal ash.

Keeping your grill clean will prolong its life - and food tastes better when cooked on a clean grill.

Final Thoughts

When you’ve chosen your grill, you’re ready to start cooking and explore the wonderful flavors that come from outdoor cooking.

You can entertain your friends and family or impress your buddies on your next fishing trip.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get into the world of grilling and it’s a great way to cook food.

As you get more experienced you can experiment with different meats and flavors and maybe even upgrade to a professional grill.

About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.