Our battery of tests show that a higher price tag doesn't guarantee better grilling. Many lower-priced models now have at least some stainless trim, along with side burners and other perks once found only on the priciest grills.
Basic grills. These are ideal if you want a good small or medium-sized grill that fits 15 or more burgers on its cooking surface. Features include a painted cart and cast-aluminum firebox and hood, thin porcelain-steel grates, a side burner for some, and more stainless trim as you spend more. Price: about $100 to $300.
Midpriced grills. These are best for most. Options include medium-sized grills with more features and large models that can handle 30 hamburgers. Features include higher-heat, recessed side burners, an electronic igniter, a rotisserie or smoker tray, double storage doors, and more stainless. Many midpriced models have premium grates or burners with long warranties, but few have both. Price: $300 to $500.
High-end grills. These are best if you want a medium-sized or large grill with more style. Features include those on midpriced grills plus mostly or all-stainless construction, lifetime burner warranties, more burners with more heat, a fully rolling cart, more storage space, and - at the upper end of the spectrum - a toe-kick that hides the wheels. Price: $500 to $1,000-plus.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Most gas grills should perform at least adequately at your next alfresco feast. As with indoor ranges, some models do so with more style.
Take a head count. If you often entertain large crowds, look for a large grill with lots of grilling, shelf, and storage space. You'll find several capable choices.
Inspect the burners. These distribute the gas and flames, and are a grill's most-replaced part. Main burners with warranties for 10 years or more should last longest. And if you don't cover your grill, look for a side burner with its own cover.
Check the construction. Make sure the rolling cart that supports the firebox and lid doesn't rattle when shaken. If you want a stainless-steel grill and you're picky about stains, look for stainless fasteners and better, 300-series stainless (pricier stainless isn't magnetic). Or consider buying a grill made with 400-series stainless and protecting it with a cover (about $40 to $50).
Most of the grills we tested for this gas grills review turned out juicy steaks and moist, tender chicken and fish. But not all the news is good. One grill was dangerous and we judged it Not Acceptable.
The $650 Broil King Signet 90 is the first gas grill to receive that judgment since 1986. The firebox melted on two of the three grills we tested. The third grill's firebox had started to crack and become deformed when the test ended. For more details, see Broil King Signet 90 Not Acceptable.
The Broil King underscores the importance of considering safety when shopping for and using a grill. Plenty of grills in our Ratings (available to subscribers) combine safety with top-notch cooking and stylish looks.
Stainless steel continues to be popular, but its rising cost is forcing manufacturers to look for alternatives. Porcelain-coated steel is durable and won't rust, as long as it doesn't chip. Porcelain is easier to maintain and available in a variety of colors to jazz up your patio or yard.
For this gas grills review, our experts spent months searing steaks, grilling chicken, and cooking salmon on 37 grills. We found that a premium price doesn't guarantee a better grill. A $200 midsized model outperformed grills costing hundreds more. And an $800 grill topped our Ratings (available to subscribers) of large grills, ahead of models costing $1,750 and $3,200.
HERE'S WHAT ELSE WE FOUND:
A truce in the Btu war. Manufacturers once touted the grills' British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr.) output, but our tests repeatedly found that more Btu don't guarantee faster heating or better cooking. Many grill makers have turned to infrared technology to create buzz. But infrared is just another way of saying indirect heat, and when it comes to grills, there are several ways to generate it. We tested grills that have a ceramic burner or a combination of plates and grates. A third type, radiant cavities, are U-shape troughs that heat the grates. None of these infrared technologies was better than the other in our gas grills review, nor did infrared outperform regular grilling.
Other cookers were so-so. In addition to grills, we tested the $139 Orion Cooker and the $129 Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer. Both can be used to cook whole chickens, turkeys, or roasts, freeing space on the grill for steaks, burgers, and other smaller items. The charcoal-fueled Orion uses convection, steam, and smoke, if desired. We compared a whole chicken, a turkey, a pork roast, and prime rib cooked in the Orion with ones cooked on a gas grill, using a rotisserie. The Orion was in our gas grills review almost always faster than the grill, and meats were juicy and tender but not as crisp or juicy as ones cooked on a grill. And cleanup was messier and took longer.
Propane fuels Char-Broil's Big Easy Oil-less Turkey Fryer, which uses infrared heat to cook. We cooked a turkey in the Big Easy and in an electric turkey fryer. The electric fryer was faster and the turkey was moister than the one done in the Big Easy gas grills review. Pork roasts, chickens, and prime rib cooked in the Big Easy were nicely browned but drier than those cooked on a gas grill.
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