So you're in the market for a new grill? Which do you choose? Where do you go to get the grill?
In this guide we will help you through the process.
You may want to first ask yourself these questions :
What fuel source am I looking for? Gas (LP or Natural Gas), Charcoal, Wood Pellet, Kamado ... Propane is bottled gas whereas natural gas is piped from the earth.
What Style of Grill? Built-in or Freestanding Cart
Heat Distribution System? We wrote an article on Briquette Trays or Heat Plates which is worth reading. In our opinion, ceramic briquettes radiate heat much better than a metal plate.
What size Grill? That is a loaded question. How large is your family, how many bbq parties do you host. These are things to think about when considering size. Grills come in many sizes. For example, a 30" grill is plenty for a family of 4. We do not recommend adding a sear burner to 30" grills and smaller. If you have large parties you may want to consider a larger grill (though do not compromise quality). Look at who is manufacturing your grill. Purchase a real manufacturer not a brand!
Do you want a throw away or a grill that will last? Throwaway grills are typically imports from big box stores that do not have manufacturer support and generally last only a few years. They are most likely "private labeled." A private label grill is one where a brand purchases grills from a manufacturer and places a name on it. Some US manufacturers will customize grills for brands who do not have manufacturing equipment to make there own. Most of the grills in the big box stores are private labeled. So if the brand has a US presence, they may provide support. There are times where they do not or they do for a very short period of time.
Is the number of burners important? No. This is because it could take 3 U shaped burners to fill the space of 6 straight tube burners. We look at BTU output per burner and overall BTU's.
What is my budget? In order to get a grill that has a warranty and support, you will need to spend at least $399 (Weber Spirit II E-210) or more. otherwise you may be in a situation where parts that fail quickly may not be available ie; grease (drip) trays. The two best budget friendly brands are Weber and Napoleon Rogue.
Next, we will go over the different styles.
Built-in Grills : These grills are built-in to an outdoor structure. They are essentially the "grill head." There are many choices when choosing a built-in. We always suggest picking high quality appliances. This is because in order to build in a grill, there is a cut out. This cut out is not universal. It is specific to the manufacturer of the grill. very rarely will you find grills with the same cutout. It can be a hefty future expense if you need to modify your outdoor kitchen because you need to replace your grill. We suggest avoiding imported (Chinese Made Grills) as if replacement parts become obsolete, your grill is essentially a throw away.
Also... we never build our structures from combustible materials as if you do you MUST place the grill in an insulated jacket. Again, adding an expense. Build your outdoor kitchen from non-combustible materials. In addition, VENT the island. We see this all the time. In fact, we just tore down and rebuilt an un-vented island that exploded and caught fire. Hire a company that has gas knowledge!
Luxury High End Grill Manufacturers are all Made in the USA. Some of these brands include : Alfresco, Lynx, Wolf, DCS, Twin Eagles, FireMagic and Viking. All of these brands are comparable in quality and have manufacturers with longstanding history in the outdoor market. These grills will offer professional (restaurant style) quality cooking and will reach hotter temperatures than most of the mid range or imported grills. They will offer a Lifetime warranty on the firebox, hood, burners (except sear) and cooking grates and a limited time warranty on the remaining parts. Lynx is currently the only brand that covered their prosear for life.
All of these brands use briquette trays (except Firemagic that use flavor grids) which are the best at retaining and radiating heat. Lynx uses a newly introduced self cleaning heat radiating cast ceramic burner and Fire Magic uses a heavy cast stainless burner. These are great heat radiators.
Mid Range (yet still Made in the USA) Manufacturers include : Sedona by Lynx, Delta Heat, Artisan. The Sedona is a child brand of Lynx and offers an amazing bang for your buck. Delta Heat is the child brand of Twin Eagles and Artisan is Alfresco's. These grills offer a high quality grill at an affordable price. These grills do not have the lifetime warranty offered by their parts with the exception of the Sedona. You will get lifetime on the firebox, cooking grates and burners (including sear). The brands mentioned in this range all use briquette trays and stainless U burners (unless you opt for a infrared sear zone)
The imports are private labeled and/or are licensed brands (that you and I can put or name on) and import from China. These brands include and are not limited to Blaze, Bull, Summerset, Jenn-Air, Kitchen-Aid, etc. Many parts are scarce or non existent for these grills and if they are available can take months to get if they have to be imported into the country. There is only an investment in inventory when you import grills not Engineering, Manufacturing Equipment, etc. It is much easier for these brands to shut their doors than an established US manufacturer. There is also quality issues. We see many imported products with shoddy materials including valves which can be dangerous. When you manufacture gas products in the US, you have control over your quality as well as being subject government inspections insuring you get a quality product that are in line with our laws. Look at what happened to Brinkmann. They imported grills with many valve and firebox issues. These grills were unsafe and coincidentally, they filed for bankruptcy.
Furthermore, if your model is discontinued, you are SOL if there is not a replacement grill or parts available. We recently ran into this issue on a Bull Grill we were repairing. The manifold failed. When we attempted to order another one, we were told the model is discontinued and it is no longer available. This Built-in Grill is now garbage and there is not a current model or cutout that matches in any brand. The island will require modification.
Freestanding Grills are mobile grills that have carts with wheels. These are great for people who have limited space or are not quite ready for the outdoor kitchen investment. There are many choices and price ranges in this space. The imports have flooded the marketplace. Most of the brands you will find in a big box store, with the exception of Weber and Charbroil, will be a private labeled grill. These brands include: Master Forge, Jenn-Air, Kitchen-Aid, Charmglow, BBQ Grillware and more.
The only Weber grills still (partially) manufactured in the US is the Summit and the Genesis II LXE series with a closed cart. The Genesis II LX (open cart) and Spirit are imported. Though, you can get all the parts you need from Weber for grills that are decades old. Charbroil imports their grills and provides part support until the parts run out so you may find yourself not being able to repair your grill. A private labeled grill is a hit or miss if there is parts support. You will usually be out of luck when it comes to grease trays (a parts that fails often), valves and body parts.
Be weary of some of the warranties from these "private label" grills. If the manufacturer (from China) closes its US support, you no longer have a warranty. Big Box stores will license name brands to place on grills they import. Some of these well known brands are Jenn-Air and Kitchen-Aid making you think you are buying a grill manufactured by these brands. When in fact, you are not.
In short, if you are going to buy from a big box store... buy Weber. You will be able to get parts. The only thing you cannot do is convert their grills so be sure of the gas type you will be using. They do not make conversion kits.
The Built-in Grills offered in the Luxury marketplace as well as the mid-range (Made in the USA) you can get in a freestanding model. Most of them you can remove from the cart and build-in later if you choose. Just as we mentioned above, these grills have exceptional quality and cooking.
Other grills that are Made in the USA and are high quality are Broilmaster and MHP. These grills are manufactured with aluminum cast molded heads. Aluminum does not rust. These grills will last forever. They are not loaded with all the bells and whistles but they are true performers.
Napoleon Grills is the "Weber of Canada" They offer high quality grills that start at $499 for the Rogue series. They have an exceptional warranty (lifetime on some components) and are built to last.
Infrared grills use gas and reach extraordinarily hot temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees. Infrared heats the object not the air so it cooks twice as fast as traditional burners while using less fuel. Do not be fooled by brands that claim to be searing or infrared. Infrared burners will have a ceramic top not be a stainless burner. Infrared grills are more fuel efficient that traditional blue flame grills. Here is an article we wrote on Infrared vs Open Flame.
See image below.
These burners have fewer flare ups than traditional burners as well. It offers the closest charcoal like flavor in gas grilling.
TEC infrared is the only all infrared manufacturer and in fact, they held the patent for many years for this technology in outdoor grilling. Many grills offer a sear option making the grill a "hybrid." This means it is a combination of blue-flame and infrared. Solaire is a great choice for a hybrid style grill. They are manufactured in California by Rasmussen. Whom, by the way, has been in business for over 100 years.
Be weary of purchasing an infrared burners in imports as they are generally not available for replacement once they fail. There is not an aftermarket or universal option for these style burners.
Charcoal Grills : Many people think that you can only get that charcoal flavor from charcoal. Well that's only partially true.Of course charcoal gives a distinct flavor. You can get great flavor from a gas grill. It's all about the seasoning. Charcoal is also not very healthy for you. One, the lighter fluid is petroleum based. Two, charcoal produces carbon monoxide. With the introduction of wood pellet grills and the egg style grills, these are much better options.
If you are in the market for a charcoal grill there are not many choices that offer any quality. We get calls constantly from people who need charcoal pans for "off" brands. We cannot supply them as they are not offered in the aftermarket. We suggest Weber (for the low price), Napoleon (for the mid range) and Firemagic (for the high end.)
Wood Pellet Grills create some of the tastiest grilled food second to the Egg Grills. We recommend Green Mountain Grills for the Wood Pellet and Big Green Egg for the Kamado style Grills.
The Green Mountain Grill and Traeger are the two best (and well known) products in this space. Wood Pellet Grills use compressed wood pellets that go into a hopper then the get fed through the grill providing the fuel. They are a set and forget grilling style. The steel used in the Green Mountain body is thicker than the Traeger. GMG is heavier in weight than the Treager.
Kamado Grills are egg shaped ceramic grills. The Big Green Egg was the first company to introduce this ancient style of grilling to the current marketplace. They offer exceptional service and life time warranty on the ceramic body. They do not permit online selling of their grills. This is for good reason.... the hoods are fragile and can damage in transit as well as they want you to get the "Eggsperience" by touching and feeling their product at a local dealer. This grill uses lump wood charcoal as its fuel source which burns hotter than traditional charcoal. The patented air flow system allows you to precisely control your optimal grilling temperature. These grills are amazing at holding heat because of its thick ceramic body. The Egg is a grill, a smoker and an oven. Truly the most versatile product on the market. Many people have tried to copy this grill but, there is nothing like the original.
In short, do you want to spend it now or spend it later? How many grills have you thrown away when you could save for one that is a quality manufactured product, Made in the USA and provides support.
If you should need any assistance, have product questions or simply want our opinion, please call us at 877-983-0451.by Tracy Hollander