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The 9 Best Grills for Summer Cookouts

Best Grills
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Updated May 27, 2024

Summer is almost synonymous with grilling. Not only is this the season for outdoor cookouts and barbecues—but the hot weather means you don’t want to spend any time indoors stuck in a hot kitchen. If you’ve been meaning to upgrade your grill after many years of service, or want to buy your first one (even better this time of year, thanks to sales), we talked to grilling professionals about what you need to look for. Then, scoured the market to find all the best grills available now.

How to choose the best grill for your needs

“We get this question a lot and answer it with three questions,” say Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey, AKA The Grill Dads and co-authors of The Best Grilling Cookbook Ever Written by Two Idiots. “One, what is your budget? Two, what do you like to cook on a grill? And three, are you looking for easy and fast or hands-on?”

While the amount of money you’re willing to spend may limit your options a bit, it doesn’t mean you’re settling for a lower-quality grill. “Higher price doesn't always mean a better grill,” notes chef Derek Wolf, founder of Over the Fire Cooking and author of Food by Fire. “But sometimes it does mean it's made with more durable materials. This means you don't need a new grill every two to three years because the old one is broken or rusting.”

Your answers to questions two and three are going to determine the type of grill you want to hone in on. “If you love barbecue and don’t want the hassle, we’d recommend an electric or pellet grill,” say Anderson and Fey. “If you love to cook steaks and burgers quickly, go for gas. And if you want to be able to do all of these and love building a fire, go charcoal.”

Our top grill picks

Best grill for daily use: Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Smoker Grill

Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Smoker Grill

“This is an amazing all-purpose grill for the price,” says Wolf, who has over 25 grills and places this one at the top of his list of favorites. “It's amazing for direct heat, with some cast iron grill grates that create an awesome crust. It also can smoke smaller cuts like burgers, chicken, and even pork butt. The clean up is very quick.” You can adjust the height of the grated cooking tray depending on whether you want to cook over high or low heat, making it versatile enough for daily use. And with large wheels on one end, you’re not stuck grilling in one location on your deck or patio forever.

Specifications:

  • Price: $529
  • Type of grill: Charcoal
  • Burners: N/A
  • Dimensions: 47.5 inches tall x 59.9 inches wide x 26.5 inches deep
  • Grates: Cast-iron
  • Cooking area: 540 square inches
  • Features: Rubber handle grip, glow-in-the-dark temperature controls

Pros:

  • Versatile features make it perfect for any and all grilled meals

Cons:

  • It’s charcoal, which might not be ideal for busy weeknights
Best for Daily Use
Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Smoker Grill

Oklahoma Joe’s Judge Charcoal Smoker Grill

Best gas grill: Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill

Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill

Weber has long been the leader in reasonably-priced gas grills for the backyard barbecue, and for good reason. Their grills, like this one as our top pick, are reliable, easy to use, and turn out consistently and impressively cooked food. We like a 3-burner grill the best, as it’s compact enough for a small patio and large enough to cook for a minor crowd. Weber also earns raves for their exceptional warranties and customer service; when one of the knobs broke on my Weber grill a few years ago, they sent me two new ones free of charge.

Specifications:

  • Price: $569
  • Type of grill: Gas
  • Burners: 3
  • Dimensions: 44.5 inches tall x 52 inches wide x 27 inches deep
  • Grates: Porcelain-enameled cast iron
  • Cooking area: 529 square inches
  • Features: Folding side tables, bottom storage shelf

Pros:

  • It’s a quality gas grill for the casual griller that won’t entirely break the bank

Cons:

  • The propane tank hooks up to the outside, which does make it easier to use, but it’s not as nice aesthetically
Best for Backyard Barbecue
Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill

Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill

Best budget grill: Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill

Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill

We thought about going even lower with the price for our budget pick, and there are larger and cheaper grills out there, but we decided to go with a grill that’s slightly more expensive but built to last, meaning it will be a smaller investment over time. This Weber grill, the 2-burner version of our pick for best gas grill, is exactly that. It comes with all the same high quality features in a slightly smaller package and for $120 less.

Specifications:

  • Price: $449
  • Type of grill: Gas
  • Burners: 2
  • Dimensions: 44.5 inches tall x 48 inches wide x 27 inches deep
  • Grates: Porcelain-enameled cast iron
  • Cooking area: 450 square inches
  • Features: Folding side tables, bottom storage shelf

Pros:

  • Identical in performance to its 3-burner cousin above, so you get a quality grill for under $500

Cons:

  • Two burners start to get tight if you’re cooking for ten or more people
Best Budget Grill
Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill

Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill

Best pellet grill: Traeger Timberline Wood Pellet Grill

Traeger Timberline Wood Pellet Grill

“The Traeger pellet grills are a good value for their versatility and quality,” says grilling expert Cheryl Jamison, author of Global Smoke. Indeed, the Traeger Timberline comes with all the bells and whistles of a modern cooking appliance, while effortlessly delivering the mouthwatering flavor that has people going back to cooking over an open flame. These features and kitchen accessories include three levels of cooking grates, enough space to fit nine chickens, a touchscreen display with sophisticated temperature control technology, and an attached induction cooktop and magnetic bamboo cutting board prep space.

Specifications:

  • Price: $3,000
  • Type of grill: Pellet
  • Burners: N/A
  • Dimensions: 51 inches tall x 59 inches wide x 25 inches deep
  • Grates: Stainless steel
  • Cooking area: 880 square inches
  • Features: Downdraft exhaust, touchscreen display, pellet storage bin and sensor, attached meat thermometers, built-in wood shelving

Pros:

  • This pellet grill offers wood-fired flavor sans the hassle of building a fire

Cons:

  • Get ready to open your wallet
Best for Versatility and Quality
Traeger Timberline Wood Pellet Grill

Traeger Timberline Wood Pellet Grill

Best charcoal grill: Big Green Egg Large EGG Collection with Nest

Big Green Egg Large EGG Collection with Nest

“We have a few different sizes of Big Green Eggs,” share Anderson and Fey. “These can go up to 800ºF for pizza and steak or hold steady at 225ºF for an 18-hour brisket cook. And the charcoal burns clean, resulting in a great smoky flavor.” Indeed, when it comes to a charcoal grill with the ability to also cook low and slow, there’s a reason the Big Green Eggs are as popular as they are. They’re compact, easy to use, and consistently turn out delicious food. Plus, they come in seven different sizes and can even be mounted in a table for easy prep.

Specifications:

  • Price: $1,480
  • Type of grill: Charcoal
  • Burners: N/A
  • Dimensions: 21.25 inches diameter x 31 inches tall
  • Grates: Cast iron
  • Cooking area: 262 square inches
  • Features: Comes with nest, heat deflector, and charcoal

Pros:

  • This beloved charcoal grill and smoker is compact, easy to use, and consistent

Cons:

  • The cooking area is on the small side for the price
Best Charcoal Grill
Big Green Egg 18.25 in. Large EGG in Nest Package Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker Green

Big Green Egg 18.25 in. Large EGG in Nest Package Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker Green

Best electric grill: Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill

Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill

“Our Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill is great for weeknights,” say Anderson and Fey. “It’s portable, powered by electricity, and cooks food quickly and with great woodfired flavor. It turns the skin on the chicken into smoky, crispy candy.” While the grill is powered by electricity, it uses real wood pellets to add authentic smoke flavor to food in record time. Plus it has seven cooking functions, making it well worth the investment. “If we get home late for dinner and the kids are starving, we will make tacos on a gas grill or our Ninja because it gets super hot super fast,” The Grill Dads add.

Specifications:

  • Price: $370
  • Type of grill: Electric
  • Burners: N/A
  • Dimensions: N/A (countertop)
  • Grates: Nonstick
  • Cooking Area: 141 square inches
  • Features: 7 cooking functions

Pros:

  • This portable electric grill is great for folks without a yard or for bringing on a camping trip (with electricity)

Cons:

  • It’s smaller than a full-size grill
Best Portable Grill
Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill

Ninja Woodfire Pro Outdoor Grill

Best infrared grill: Char-Broil Signature Series Amplifire 3-Burner Gas Grill

Char-Broil Signature Series Amplifire 3-Burner Gas Grill

With an infrared grill, an emitter plate sits above the gas burners and below the grill grates, to evenly distribute the heat and prevent flare ups that can burn or overcook your food in places while leaving it cold in others. Plus, it makes it easier to clean your grill grates after cooking. This infrared grill from Char-Broil is one of the best. We especially love the additional features that make grilling a breeze, like the LED lights on the burner knobs, the built-in propane tank gauge, and the ability to convert the grill from propane to natural gas should you decide to tie it into your gas line.

Specifications:

  • Price: $550
  • Type of grill: Gas
  • Burners: 3
  • Dimensions: 47.2 inches tall x 52.8 inches wide x 22.5 inches deep
  • Grates: Porcelain-coated cast iron
  • Cooking area: 420 square inches
  • Features: Electronic ignition, LED lights on knobs

Pros:

  • The infrared technology guarantees even cooking every time for a reasonable price

Cons:

  • It’s the smallest cooking area of our gas grill picks
Best Infrared Grill
Signature Series™ Amplifire™ 3-Burner Gas Grill

Signature Series™ Amplifire™ 3-Burner Gas Grill

Best portable gas grill: Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill

Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill

Whether you’re an avid camper or you live alone and love to grill, the Weber Q 1200 is a great pick. The single burner is oval-shaped to distribute heat evenly across the entire small cooking surface. We like the rounded cover, which makes the grill a little larger overall (so it likely won’t fit in your backpack) but also provides additional cooking space. At 31 pounds it will be heavier than most of your other outdoor gear, but that weight adds stability that allows you to confidently place it on any surface, unless you want to purchase the standalone cart separately.

Specifications:

  • Price: $259
  • Type of grill: Gas
  • Burners: 1
  • Dimensions: 15.5 inches tall x 40.9 inches wide x 16.5 inches deep
  • Grates: Porcelain-coated cast iron
  • Cooking area: 189 square inches
  • Features: Folding side tables, electronic ignition

Pros:

  • It’s compact enough to travel with and you won’t have to worry about performance

Cons:

  • It can sit on a tabletop, but you have to purchase the standalone cart separately
Best for Camping
Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill

Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill

Best built-in grill: Twin Eagles 36-inch 3-Burner Built-In Natural Gas Grill

Twin Eagles 36-inch 3-Burner Built-In Natural Gas Grill

If you’re going to build out an outdoor kitchen, we say go big and choose items that are going to last. Our pick to do so is this Twin Eagles built-in grill. “Twin Eagles is a lesser-known luxury brand I think is especially well engineered,” agrees Jamison. The entirely stainless steel grill, which ties into your natural gas line, will look stunning and sophisticated in your outdoor kitchen. Meanwhile, features like ceramic flame tamers and an optional briquette smoker box ensure that your food is cooked evenly and is produced with maximum flavor. It’s certainly pricey, but the burners, hexagonal stainless steel cooking grates and many of the other fabricated components come with a lifetime warranty. We like this middle size, but it also comes in a 30-inch two-burner or a 42-inch three burner.

Specifications:

  • Price: $6,829
  • Type of grill: Gas
  • Burners: 3
  • Dimensions: 26.4 inches tall x 36 inches wide x 29.6 inches deep
  • Grates: Stainless steel
  • Cooking area: 640 square inches
  • Features: Interior lights, spring assisted hood, sealed smoker box

Pros:

  • The stainless steel look is sleek and modern and you can add real smoke flavor

Cons:

  • It’s an investment, but we think it's a worthy one if you’re building an outdoor kitchen
Best for Outdoor Kitchen
Twin Eagles 36-inch 3-Burner Built-In Natural Gas Grill

Twin Eagles 36-inch 3-Burner Built-In Natural Gas Grill

Charcoal vs. Gas grills

Charcoal and gas grills are two of the most popular backyard grills, yet there are a few key differences between the two. The first is convenience and speed. “Gas is an amazing option for convenience and cleanliness. It's a quick lighting system that has you cooking in minutes,” says Wolf. Charcoal, on the other hand, takes more effort and has a bigger learning curve. “The hardest part is lighting up the coals and learning how to keep consistent heat,” Wolf explains. But once you do, you’ll be rewarded with wow-worthy flavor that you don’t get from gas.

“Charcoal grills are what I prefer because they give a very pleasant smoke flavor onto all of your food,” Wolf says. “Having done this for a long time, I can actually taste food that was cooked on gas versus charcoal. That being said, unless you're grilling every day like myself then the taste will be much more subtle.”

No matter which you choose, maintenance is key to both ease of grilling (no one wants to open a lid to a mess when the craving strikes for burgers) and the longevity of your grill. Keep a cleaning kit handy in a backpack, stored away from heat, with extras like a spray water bottle, towels, back-up brushes and a dust pan.

How we tested and selected the best grills

For this article, we spoke to professional chefs, grilling experts, and cookbook authors who own tons of different grills and use them on a daily basis to find out what to look for, as well as get their insight on the best brands available. From there, we conducted market research to find the best picks based on this insight.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What type of grill is best for flavor?

While a charcoal or pellet grill is going to give you that distinctive smoke flavor, all grilled food gets mouthwatering flavor from the char, technically called the Maillard Reaction. “That is the "charring" or crust that is on the food from the fat, seasoning, and the heat coming all together,” says Wolf. “It makes the biggest difference in the flavor and texture of the food.” During this chemical process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created, which is what makes grilled food so appealing.

One thing you shouldn’t overlook when it comes to flavor, though, is a meat thermometer. This kitchen accessory should be part of your outdoor gear when grilling, to ensure that meat is cooked to perfection.

Why do grills taste better than ovens?

It’s the high temperatures and the quick cooking. “Your stove [or oven] isn’t going to let you cook a steak over 500ºF, and on a grill, you can cook them at 700ºF and higher, which is much closer to the 1100ºF tools that steakhouses use. The better char means more flavor and diversity in texture,” explain Anderson and Fey. “These high temps are great for veggies as well. When water gets drawn to the surface, it will evaporate quickly, and the natural sugars will caramelize better in a dry, hot environment.”

What are the best brands of barbecues?

The brands we included here are our top picks. As Wolf mentioned earlier, we agree that a more expensive grill is not always going to produce noticeably better, more delicious food (just as a more expensive towel isn’t going to get things dry any faster). That said, more expensive grills tend to be made with more durable, higher quality materials, which means that you will get more meals and more years out of them, especially if you are grilling regularly.

Which grills are healthiest?

There are no forms of grilling that are healthier than others. If you’re looking to maximize the health benefits of grilling, make sure you branch out from steaks, hamburgers, and other animal proteins and experiment with grilling fresh vegetables and fruits as well.

What is the world’s most versatile grill?

Charcoal grills are slightly more versatile than others because of the way you have total control over the cooking temperature. “From a cooking standpoint, both gas and charcoal perform great at medium and high temps,” explain Anderson and Fey. “However, it is hard to get most gas grills to a low enough temperature to do long, slow cooks like ribs. Charcoal can do it all.”

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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