Shopping for a Grill

Questions to shop by when picking out your next grill

There is no doubt that Americans are engaged in a love affair with the grill. Whether it’s the open-air flavor, the ease with which a tasty and healthful dinner can be prepared, or the pure entertainment value, grilling as a favorite American pastime ranks right up there with playing Marco Polo on a sunny summer day.

However, it can be cumbersome when it comes time to purchase the right grill, entertainment table or cooking island to suit your family’s needs. We want you to have the most complete, functional and fun backyard you can afford, so we’ve worked up a few questions every serious grill-buyer should answer before heading out to collect a new culinary accessory.

How often do I cook outdoors?

If you find that you crave an occasional grilled burger then a basic charcoal or gas grill may be sufficient. However, if you find yourself wearing that white, puffy hat at every family gathering, consider buying a top-quality gas grill with lots of extra features like warming racks, side burners, prep areas and more.

How many people do I normally cook for?

Compact grills with limited cooking surfaces will sizzle enough food to feed two or three people. For more, you’ll want a grill with a primary cooking area of 400 square inches or larger. Be sure not to mistake a warming rack for a cooking area, as many manufacturers layer the two to conserve space.

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What kind of food do I like to cook?

Warming racks, however, are essential for fans of hot dogs and hamburgers, as they provide the ideal place to toast buns to perfection. Whole poultry will require a deep enough lid to house the whole bird when the cover is closed and complex meals will sometimes necessitate a rotisserie, large cooking area and side burner. In addition to the traditional gas and charcoal grills, there are also pellet and kamado-style ceramic grill/smokers. Typically used by the hobbyist, these offer unique options and flavors that may be desired by those who take their barbecue seriously.

What is my budget?

Smaller, simpler charcoal grills can cost a very reasonable $75, while even smaller, portable hibachis can be acquired for the bargain price of $25. If you want a grill with a few more bells and whistles, you can expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $1,000. Once potential-grill-buyers get to this point, it’s a good idea to go back to the first question to determine what constitutes a worthwhile price for you.

Where should I put it?

When deciding on your grill size, also consider its place in your backyard. Give thought to the family and friends who will have to navigate around it on a regular basis. Keep it away from the house where it could pose a fire risk and make sure to keep it at least 20 feet from an open spa or pool, both to prevent ashes or food bits from getting in the water, but also to ensure that pool toys don’t get accidentally flung into the flames.

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