What to Know Before Buying a Grill

When it comes to good grills, you get what you pay for.
'Tis the season, after all.
'Tis the season, after all. / Westend61, Westend61 Collection, Getty Images
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For a lot of folks, grilling is synonymous with summertime. From succulent beer brats and burgers to grilled veggies and kebabs, the dishes you can make over those seasoned grates will help set the mood for the months ahead and make your cookouts even more memorable.  

But if you’re a first-time buyer, there are a few important things to keep in mind while you’re checking out the most popular grills on the market today. Here are key factors to consider before you invest in a grill, beyond simply determining which type is best for you.

Which Types of Grills Are Best? 

Couple standing over a grill during the summertime.
Not all grills are created equal. / RgStudio/E+ Collection/Getty Images

Even if you’re not quite a grill master yet, you probably already know that there are multiple types to choose from—and that they rely on different heating and fuel sources. From charcoal to gas, electric, and pellet grills, the right one will probably depend on your budget, space, grilling style, and most of all, the sorts of foods you’re planning to sear. 

Let’s take a closer look at what distinguishes them, along with some pros and cons of each. 

Grill type

Fuel source



Charcoal grills

Charcoal briquettes, lump charcoal

Imparts a smoky, aromatic flavor on food; no maximum temperature settings; highly portable; can be more affordable than other grill types.

Charcoal can be messy to clean up and not very eco-friendly; takes longer to heat up compared to other grill types; charcoal may burn unevenly, meaning less temperature precision.

Kamado grills

Lump charcoal is usually preferred

Ceramic material can be corrosion-resistant and easy to clean; durable; can reach high temperatures and be great for heat retention.

Expensive; very heavy; can be difficult to move around and not very portable.

Gas grills

Natural gas or liquid propane

Heat up quickly; offer more precise temperature control; multiple burners mean you can prepare multiple dishes at once; easier to clean than charcoal grill types; minimal learning curve.

Regular gas grills without a smoker won’t offer the same flavor as charcoal grill types. Can be expensive and more parts included might mean higher maintenance fees. Propane tanks may require frequent refills; if grill uses natural gas, it requires professional installation and can’t be moved.

Pellet grills

Wood pellets

Emits an aromatic smoke like charcoal grills do, so it’s great for added flavor; eco-friendly and may emit fewer emissions than charcoal; many come with digital controls, so may offer more temperature precision than charcoal grills.

Take longer to heat up compared to gas grills; most only reach a maximum temperature of 450°F, so may not be ideal for all food prep; pellets may be a hassle to clean up after.

Electric grills


Suitable for indoor/outdoor use; usually affordable and easy to maintain; light and easy to move around for portability; may offer more temperature control than charcoal or pellet grill types.

Can use up a lot of electricity, could get expensive over time; no smoky, aromatic flavor on food; less durable than other grill types; may not be able to use in all areas (camping, the beach); difficult to cook in large batches.

Infrared grills

Natural gas and/or propane, although some may run off electricity

Heat up very quickly and can reach very high temperatures; even heat distribution; meats may retain more juiciness; easy to clean.

Bulky, heavy, and difficult to move around, so not very portable; can be expensive. Propane tanks may require lots of refills.

Charcoal Grills: These classic grills typically use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal as a fuel source, and they’re a popular choice among foodies because the escaping smoke gets absorbed by meats and veggies and imparts a distinctive, charry-like flavor onto food. (Grilling food on cedar planks over a charcoal fire only enhances its delectability.) They also can be highly portable, so they are a popular choice for campers. The process of heating up a charcoal grill can take time, though. It’s often harder to control the internal temperature inside the unit, too, meaning you may have less precision than you might with other grill variants.

Kamado grills: Technically speaking, kamado grills are a type of charcoal grill—as are charcoal kettle and charcoal barrel grills—but most manufacturers recommend lump charcoal over briquettes because of the high temperatures they can reach. These egg-shaped grills also have a bit more sophistication because they’re usually made from ceramic, which some believe is the superior choice if you’re looking for great heat retention and temperature control. Comparatively, most charcoal barrel and kettle grills are made with plated or stainless steel grates. While kamados can reach temperatures up to 1000°F, they’re usually expensive and pretty heavy (due to the ceramic construction), and can be a hassle to move around, so they might not be ideal if you want something that is easily portable.

Gas Grills: While some might crave that smoky taste from food fresh off a charcoal grill, others strongly prefer the convenience that gas grills deliver. With a unit powered by natural gas or liquid propane, you won’t have to sit around and wait for it to warm up. Most can be fully heated within 10 minutes. If you want even temperatures, these types of grills are perfect; they’re also less frustrating to clean up than charcoal-fueled models because you don’t have to worry about any leftover ashy residue. But you won’t get to enjoy that rich added flavor (unless you have a smoker), and if you opt to use natural gas as a fuel source, it will require a permanent installation by a professional, meaning you lose out on portability. 

Pellet Grills: These grills are fueled by food-grade, aromatic wood pellets sourced from oak, alder, apple, cherry, hickory, and other trees. They’re sort of a middle ground between charcoal and gas models, as they function as both a grill and smoker so you get that kick of smoky flavor. You can even use cedar or other wood planks on top of the grate to impart an extra zing to meats and seafood. These types of grills do tend to be fairly user-friendly, heat up faster than charcoal grills do, and offer better temperature control. As a downside, however, cleaning up the burnt pellets after the fact might be just as annoying as it would be with charcoal grills. Also, most pellet grills only reach a maximum of 450°F, so if you’re looking for high heating capability, they might not be the best choice.

Electric grills: Live in an apartment? You might want to consider an electric grill. There are plenty of models—including countertop and pedestal varieties—that you can just plug in and use right at home. These compact, convenient devices are great for quick and easy cooking year-round, and some are designed for outdoor use too (you’ll just need to have an exterior outlet nearby). One potential downside is that they tend to use up a lot of electricity, so they’re not always as economical in the long run, and while they tend to be lightweight, you probably won’t be able to use one while camping or at the beach. Additionally, most average electric models can only hit up to 450˚F.

Infrared grills: While typical gas and charcoal grills work via convection heating (meaning the air gets heated, rises, and then circulates around the food on the grill’s grate, causing it to cook), these types of grills don’t. Instead, they produce actual heat, usually through a hot object inside the grill, and that is what causes the food to cook. As such, they can reach very high temperatures—up to 1200˚F—and they can warm up within minutes of use. Many infrared grills are powered by natural gas or liquid propane but can be very pricey (they can cost well up to $2000 and beyond). Some are powered by electricity, however. Regardless of the fuel types, these kinds of grills can be bulky and not very portable.

What Are Grills Made Of?

Grills are made from all kinds of materials, but stainless steel is usually the most common component. Cast aluminum, powder-coated steel, and cast iron are often used, too. For grates, porcelain-enamel cast iron pops up a lot because it’s great for heat retention, although stainless steel, plated steel, and regular cast iron grates are widespread.

How Much Do Grills Usually Cost?

Woman's hand over meats on a grill top.
Want a grill that will really last? Expect to spend around $400 and up. / 10000 Hours/DigitalVision Collection/Getty Images

Setting a budget before you go shopping can be helpful, but how much you ultimately end up spending really depends on the type of grill you want. For the most part, charcoal grills are available at affordable price points starting at under $50, especially if you’re looking at brands like Cuisinart or Weber’s Smokey Joe line. Generally speaking, though, you can expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $600 on a solid charcoal grill (like Weber’s Original Kettle Premium) that will last for multiple seasons.

When it comes to gas grills, makers like Char-Broil and Coleman have units available for under $400, but most experts say you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a reliable model that could last a decade or longer (with proper upkeep). In this regard, Weber is the gold standard, and models like the Weber Spirit II E-310 get consistently high marks from reviewers. 

If you’re interested in a pellet grill, Traeger specializes in that type and popular units run for anywhere from $450 to $2000. Meanwhile, electric grills can pretty much run the gamut, as brands like Hamilton Beach have offerings under $100, while others—like Breville—have models that cost just under $400. 

While you’re at it, grab a grill cover. Most are going to be priced at well under $50, and it’s not just for cosmetic reasons. Because rust can be such a problem with grills, a cover can be a useful way to protect your investment during rain showers. Not only that, but a cover will help keep spiders and other small beasts from making a home in your model.

What Foods Work Best On A Grill? 

BBQ ribs on a grill
Some grub is better over charcoal. / Lisa Romerein, Stone Collection, Getty Images

Hot dogs and burgers aren’t the only things you can cook on a grill. Because of how versatile they are, you could whip up a wide variety of meats, fish, fruits, and veggies on one, but certain types of grills may be better choices than others.

With charcoal grills, steak will absorb all that smoke in a really flavorful way, as will shrimp, ground beef, and even veggies like zucchini and eggplant. Salmon in particular can also be good to prepare using planks on a pellet grill. If any of those foods are cookout mainstays for you, prioritize a charcoal or pellet-fueled model. Though steak and burgers can come out perfectly delicious on a gas grill, foods that cook faster—like chicken breasts, hot dogs, and pork chops—are great for this grill type.

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