How to buy a grill and what kind of grill or BBQ should I buy is a question we run into a lot. Reason for us to write a post on how to choose the right grill that fits your family size, your way of cooking and grilling and your budget. We will answer all questions about choosing natural gas, propane gas, electric grill or a charcoal grill in this grill buying guide.
What Size Grill Do You Need
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It is very important that you know how to choose the right grill size.
There is a rule of thumb that you need about 72 square inches for each person. With the average household, according to https://www.statista.com/, being 2.54 people that would suggest that 226 sq inches would fit your needs. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as that.
You have to take in consideration what you are planning on doing with your grill. The 72 square inches are meat and other food like vegetables. If you are just looking for a grill to cook some burgers the only question you need to answer is “how many burgers fit on a grill” But it is better to look at the other way. How many burgers am I going to grill most of the time and then decide the grill size you need.
A basis BBQ grill size calculator could look like: Persons to cook for X 72 square inches = grill size you need.
Roughly this is the size of an average dinner plate per person to make it easier.
One other thing to keep in mind is how much room you have between the grill grate and the inside of the lid. If you are looking for enough room to smoke a turkey or make beer can chicken you need at least 12-inch room there.
Depending on your preference you can buy a square, rectangle or round grill.
Calculating the surface for a square and rectangle grill is done by multiplying the length and the width. This will give you the square inches.
A round grill is a little harder. You need to a formula that goes like this: (diameter x diameter) X 3.14 – divide this by 4 = total square inches.
You can have a look at this calculator and let it do the work for you. https://www.calcunation.com/calculator/circle-area.php.
What is your budget
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Before running to the store now you know how big of grill you need it is time to think about your budget.
When you have figured out how much you like to spend you have to take in consideration that you will also need some basic things like a cover, thermometer, grill brush, and some grill utensils that have to be added to your available budget to buy a grill.
The next important step in the grill buying proccess is the decide what type of fuel fits your situation the best.
What Is The Best Fuel For Grilling
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There are basically 7 types of fuel that are used to fire up a grill. All have there pros and cons and (according to the experts) give their own flavor to the food you cook.
- Charcoal briquettes
- Lump charcoal
- Natural gas
- Propane gas
- wood pellets
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of these 7 fuels for firing up a grill.
There are two types of charcoal for grilling.
These are the most used. They burn with a consistent temperature and are widely available.
One of the most known brands is Kingsford that can be bought in most stores. I usually buy it here for a better price and get it delivered to my door.
This one is gaining in popularity because it does not contain any chemicals or other types of fillers in general.
In my experience lump charcoal burns hotter than the briquettes.
Lump charcoal is a little harder to find that is why I order them online in this store.
Pros and Cons of Charcoal
- Widely available
- Even heat
- Messy cleanup
- Needs time to heat up
- Hard to control the temperature
Starting a charcoal grill can be done in several ways. you can buy the self start charcoal. I don’t advise this because it contains chemicals that might get in the food you are grilling also. The same problem I see with the charcoal starter blocks that you can use.
My preferred way of starting a charcoal grill is to use a charcoal chimney starter. The second way is to use one of the electric charcoal starters we reviewed here.
Natural and Propane Gas
Pros and Cons of Natural and Propane Gas for Grills.
Both types of gas have in my opinion the same type of pros and cons.
- Easy to use
- Heats up fast
- Several sizes available
Pretty easy cleanup
If you need to more about how to buy the best gas grill you can Click here on this link to read my how to buy a gas grill guide.
- Can run out while cooking
- Have to check for leaks
- Not easy to see if you are running low
Propane is the most used form of fuel for a gas grill. The reason is that is widely available, although certain stores only sell one brand. Most dollar stores, gas stations or convenience store sell the larger tanks.
It is a little hard to see how much propane is left and if you don’t have a spare tank available you can run out of gas in the middle of a cook session.
There are ways to see how much gas is left and you can read an article I wrote how to see how much gas is left in your tank here.
Wood is the oldest form of fuel that is used for grilling. Way before we had grills it was used for cooking. Charcoal is made from wood that is burned and then cooled off.
Most people use wood to give their meat a smoked flavor and if it is used by itself most of the time it in a smoker in the side firebox.
If you like to read more on how to use wood-chips for smoking you can read this post I wrote.
Wood pellets are mostly used in pellet grills and smokers. They are wood dust and milled wood that is pressed into pellets. Wood pellet grills feed these pellets in the grill to maintain a steady temperature. This post is about choosing the right grill, but you can read more about pellet grills in the reviews we did here.
For many years electricity was only used to power the countertop indoor grills we reviewed here. But many brands starting to realize that customers who lived in an apartment building or other living situation where the use of charcoal or gas grills was not allowed. They started building electric grills for outdoor that in many cases come close to how any other outdoor grill performs.
For an electric grill it is, in my opinion, very important to read all about the model you have in mind because there are good and bad grills on the market. If you are interested you can find many electric outdoor grills we reviewed here.
More How To Buy A Grill Tips and Advice
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There are more things to take in consideration than just the size and what type of fuel when you look for the best grill. Charcoal grills have different needs than a propane grill. It is impossible to have a one size fits all view when you are looking to buy a grill.
Buying A Charcoal Grill
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A charcoal grill can be a simple and cheap grill that you can use for grilling a burger, some chicken or a hot dog. By looking a little deeper you can use a charcoal grill for many other types of grilling and even for smoking on a low temperature.
Indirect grilling: if you can make two zones in your grill you can use the hot zone for searing and the colder zone to finish off the meat.
This requires just a little larger grill than the 20 dollar cheap charcoal grills. Many people use the Weber Kettle grill and cook all types of meat on it.
Although this is still a smaller grill it can be used to set up the charcoal on one side and in this way cook indirect. Indirect cooking will give you so many more option to use your charcoal grill and I highly recommend to thinks about that when you are looking for a charcoal grill.
Smoking on a charcoal grill: This is a little harder to do but not impossible. I have a small barrel grill and by putting a small amount of charcoal on one side I am able to smoke all types of meat. What I am trying to say is that with a little larger charcoal grill you have more possibilities.
It does not require an expensive smoker to cook some great pulled pork or slow-cooked pork chops or chicken.
Pizza on a charcoal grill: Have you ever tasted a pizza that was cooked on a grill? This is just one of the accessories you can use on your grill.
With a simple but versatile kettle grill, you can add this kettle pizza kit and cook some great homemade pizzas.
I hope you see now that choosing a charcoal grill is easy but finding the one you really like takes looking a little more.
Buying A Gas Grill
Every website slowly has a how to buy a gas grill guide, but many have just copied it from some source and some of them don’t make to much sense to me.
Reason for me to write the ultimate guide on how to buy a gas grill and not waste money on buying a grill you do not need.
Considerations before buying a gas grill
In this how-to buy a gas grill guide I looked at every possible thing you should take in consideration before buying any gas grill.
You spend money on something you hope will use it a lot and a long time. Take your time to read my how to buy a gas grill tips and come home with the gas grill you really need and will enjoy using to grill some great food.
What size gas grill do I need
We all can have a little of the shiny object syndrome. Meaning that we get attracted to a large grill with all the extras.
Don’t fall for the shiny object syndrome but only buy what you need.
Deciding what size you need is just as important as all the other things we write about in this grill buying guide.
However, by buying the right size grill you can save on the cost of gas.
Overall I like to make the statement that size does matter. With a larger grill surface, you have more options.
You can create different temperature zones.
But the main thing is to decide what you need as a minimum grill surface.
You should calculate about 72 square inches for every member of your family is what most people suggest.
This means that for a family of 4 you need 4 x 72 = 288 square inches.
What most other guides forget to mention is that you need to leave about 20% of the surface open and not crowd your grill full of food.
This means in the family of 4 we talked about you need 360 sq inches of primary cooking space.
In my opinion, the real rule of thumb should be 80 square inches grill surface per person.
Here is also where many buyers forget to give the manual a good look.
Many times the manual mentions the total grill space and that is:
Total cooking space = Primary cooking space + secondary cooking space.
Secondary cooking space is things like warm hold racks and sometimes even side burners.
Make sure that your primary cooking area is large enough to match the required 80 inches per person.
This will give you enough room to move your meat around form hot to cold zones or create an indirect grill setup.
How many Btu’s do you need
BTU stands for British Thermal Units and will tell basically how hot your grill can get.
Let’s start with the rule of thumb that you need 80 – 100 Btu’s per square inches of primary cooking space for your gas grill.
If you use this formula you will not fall for “the let’s buy a grill with the most Btu’s” to be on the safe side.
- Too much Btu’s will make your grill use more gas than needed.
- Not enough Btu’s will not heat up your grill.
If you like searing steaks you grill needs to be 550 – 600 degrees. Read the manual to make sure you can reach this.
Like I mentioned earlier the gas grill burners are the most replaced parts. Again a reason to have a look at a good brand that offers replacement parts for their grills.
There are many types of burners. From cheap aluminum and cheap metal to stainless steel and I have even seen cast iron burners.
What I prefer are stainless steel burners form a high quality like 304 grade.
The burners should run from the front to the end and not from side to side. In this way, it is much easier to set up hot, medium and cooler zones to enable cooking multiple types of food at the same time.
Have a good look at the heat diffusers that cover the burners. They should cover the whole burner!. The reason is that grease and drippings fall down and these heat diffusers protect your grill from them.
Also, check the material of the diffusers and make sure that they are not made of some cheap flimsy metal that will rust fast and need to be replaced. If you, however, see one that is going bad replace it right away.
It is cheaper to replace a diffuser than a burner.
Some grills are equipped with so-called infrared burners. After reading on forums I came to the conclusion that they do not get any hotter than regular burners and add no value to the grill. But you might have a different opinion.
Before spending a dime I like to know what type of warranty the grill I have in mind comes with.
It is a well-known fact that better brands most of the time come with good warranties.
How much can you spend
It makes no sense to look at a 2000 dollar gas grill if your budget is 500 dollar.
Stick to your budget but realize that in many cases you get what you pay for.
Don’t expect a $500 2 burner grill to be the same quality as one that cost $1500.
Some brands offer a large grill but forget the quality of the construction.
Solid constructions will prevent your grill from falling apart after one or two seasons. But besides that, it will also help prevent the heat from escaping through all cracks and not fitting parts.
Have a good look at how the grill is built. Bolted together is in many cases not as sturdy as seamless welded joints.
Check all parts and see how solid they are. Don’t forget things like wheels and the lid. A well-fitting lid will keep the temperature in the grill and not escape through the seems.
Keep your eyes also on minor things like wheels especially if like to move your grill on your deck or patio.
A sturdy gas grill will also be a safer grill.
Gas grills need an igniter or starter. There are several types of igniters and if you read reviews none of them are perfect.
The battery-powered ones need replacement batteries and the push button ones fail sometimes. In both cases, they have to generate a spark to start the burner.
Some grill use one igniter that runs across the whole length of the grill and others have separate starters for each individual burner.
Looking at the space you have between the grill grates and the lid is advised if you like to use your grill for more than hamburgers, hotdogs, and steaks.
A chicken or that holiday turkey you like to grill needs space under the lid. How much you need is something you have to decide.
Propane or Natural Gas
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If you have natural gas it makes sense to hook up your gas grill to it and not have to worry about running out of gas anymore.
There are however also reasons not to do this. Propane burns hotter than natural gas. Adding a gas line to your patio or deck must be done by a licensed business and this can cost.
It is my opinion that grill grates are in many cases the last thing people worry about.
This is the part where your meat or veggies are cooked and should get some attention to prevent sticking or not making these nice grill marks.
Grill grates can be made of many types of material. From simple steel to stainless steel and coated with porcelain. (My favorite)
All grill grates will work fine as long as you keep them clean and use some oil before using them.
I like my porcelain coated grill grates because they are easy to clean and do not rust.
My Char Broil X200 came with infrared grill grates and that was the reason I bought it.
I like that infrared feature of these grill grates and the no flare-up part.
There are now companies that sell these grill grates to replace your original grates and use that infrared feature.
If you want to be a successful grill master on your gas grill, you must be able to control the temperature of your grill.
You grill should be equipped with multiple burners to be able to cook with multiple zones as I mentioned in the burner part.
shipping a gas grill is maybe the last thing on your mind, but can be a deal-breaker in my opinion.
Some companies offer free shipping on their grills and others charges you for it.
Still a thing to look at before buying a gas grill. Picking it up at your local hardware store is an option if you have a trailer or a pickup truck.
Extra Features on a gas grill
Now you have the basic checks done for how to buy a gas grill for your situation you can have a look at the extra features you like to have. If you have the budget you can add as many features as you like and need.
Here are some extra’s you can use to make your grill into a grilling machine.
Side burners are a great addition to your grill. It will make it possible to heat up a sauce or keep the pane with glaze warm.
It will help you not running back and forth to the kitchen all the time.
Grill lights can make it very easy to use your grill after dark.
A side table is almost a must for a gas grill to place the food on before or after grilling. Or buy a special grill prep table.
A rotisserie can be added to grill some great chicken or other larger cuts of meat on it.
Smoker boxes are a great addition if you like to use your gas grill for low and slow and still like to have that smoke flavor.
Grill mats are nice if you like to grill smaller pieces of food that falls apart fast.
Fish baskets are good to keep your fish together while grilling.
A grill tool set is also a must. Or at least a spatula and a fork.
Grill Cover For Your Gas Grill
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Now I have talked about everything to keep in mind when buying a gas grill in this how to buy a gas grill guide, it is time to talk about keeping your new gas grill in shape and protected from weather influences.
Look for the best grill cover you can afford. Nothing makes less sense to me to spend a lot of money on a grill and meat and than save money on a grill cover.
Buying an electric grill
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Finding the right electric grill should not be too hard. The main problem is that there are so many models available and it is hard to find the one that fits your needs.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind before you start shopping for an electric grill.
Pros and Cons of Electric grills
Every grill has its pros and cons. Here I try to tell you a little more about the electric grills.
- Plug it in and it works
- No messy clean-ups
- Heats up fast
- Easy to carry
- Needs an outlet
- Sometimes needs an extension cord
- Have to keep it dry
- Heating element has to be stored indoor
Cost of electricity
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They use electricity and some people think this is expensive but it is not. If you look at the average Kilowatt price in the US being 12 cents and an electric grill in many cases is 2 kilowatt (2000 watts) That means that using an electric grill with these numbers would cost you about 2 x 12 cent is 24 cents/hour.
Compared to charcoal it makes an electric grill a little cheaper to use.
Sizes of electric grills
Electric grills are most of the time smaller than charcoal or gas grills. The reason is that it would take a lot of electricity to heat a full-size grill and this cannot be done with a standard 210 Volt outlet.
You can find a lot of information on how to decide what size grill you need at the top of this article in the main section, but an average of 72 square inches per person is required if you like to grill meat and veggies at the same time. For only meat, you can use smaller model electric grills.
Most electric grills have one or two heating elements and in many cases, there is one at the outer side of the grill surface and one in the middle. This makes it hard to set it up for two zone grilling and all you can do is set it on high or medium temperature.
The power of an electric grill is measured in Watts or Kilowatts (KW) and the higher the number the warmer you grill can get.
Although there are some other facts to take in consideration like the thickness of the used materials and the distance between the element and the grill grates.
Where to use an electric grill!
Electric grills can be used anywhere where you have access to an outlet with the required amount of power and Watts for your grill. Sometimes you will have to use an extension cord and in that case, make sure it is rated appropriate for your wattage.
One great advantage of electric grills is that, because of their size, they can be used on a balcony or small patio and also in situations where charcoal, propane or any other type of open flame grills are not allowed.
Summary on how to find the best electric grill for your situation.
- Find the right size
- Look at the wattage
- Buy a good brand
- Make sure your outlet is the right one
Electric grills have compared to other grills one bad thing. The temperature is not consistent. The element cycles on and off and this causes some temperature fluctuations.
It is a good idea to let the grill cycle off and on a few times before putting your food on it. This will ensure that the grill grates are heated up well and help with the temperature a little more steady.
I have researched and reviewed electric grills and you can find them here.
Feel free to contact me with any question or when you think I left something out of this guide to buying an electric grill.
Buying a pellet grill
Pellet grills are becoming very popular and there is a growing demand for them.
This makes it necessary to have a look at how to buy a pellet grill for your needs.
Pellet grills are in general not the best for grilling. Some brands offer grill insert for above the firepot, but most of the time a pellet grill is better to be used for smoking on low settings and long sessions.
What size pellet grill you need is depending again on for how many people you will cook on your grill. The average rule of 72 square inches per person applies for about any grill if you like to cook meat and vegetable. If you just cook meat you can get away with less grill surface.
I assume that you know how a pellet grill or smoker works, but here is a short explanation.
There is a hopper that can be filled with the pellet of your choice. The pellets will be feed into a firebox that set them on fire.
There is a fan that will blow the hot air and smoke through the grill and later it will disappear in the chimney.
The temperature gets regulated by an electronic device that adjusts the speed of the auger to feed more or fewer pellets into the firebox.
Depending on the price and type of regulator this can be done by looking at the temperature and adjusting or using a set speed of feeding pellets depending on the temperature you set.
More and more pellet grill manufacturers are using so-called PID regulators that adjust the speed of the auger compared to the actual temperature and your settings.
There are slowly also more options added to them like, multiple temperature probes for either the temperature in the grill or in the meat.
Pellet grill versus smoker
A smoker, most of the time needs you to keep an eye on your grill and adjust the temperature.
For longer sessions, you will have to add more coal or wood to it.
Pellet grills have a hopper that in some cases can be filled with 40 LBS of pellets and this can help you get sessions of 12 or even 16 hours without having to do anything. This comes in very handy if you do nightly sessions and still like to get some sleep.
What is the best pellet grill for searing is a question I get and see asked a lot. This is also a question in combination what is the best-rated pellet grill to buy, which are both not easy to answer. As you might know, I am a big fan of the Rec-Tec Grills as you can read in my review. But there are more brands that offer the option of searing a grill.
Competition pellet smokers are more and more seen in the field of BBQ competitions. Although some people saying that it is not really considered cooking on a grill anymore.
There are big discussions going on online about the question are pellet grills better than charcoal and it is my guess that this will never be answered since taste is a very personal thing.
Some people mention that they miss the taste of charcoal and others mention that they taste no difference.
If you think it is time for you to have a look at some pellet grills you can have a look at my pellet grill review page and see all the brands I reviewed. As you might know, I never look at products that has a lower rating than 4 stars but I still advise you to do your own research.
Summary of how to buy a grill and my way of grilling
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I have written al lot words now and I can easily add another 2000 because there is so much to write when it comes to choosing the right grill.
Here I will tell you how I use my Charcoal and my Propane gas grill and maybe it will help you find your ideal and perfect grill. Although I believe after grilling for many years that the perfect grill does no exist.
I have a Barrel charcoal grill that I bought in 2006 and still use for mainly slow and low cooking of pulled pork. I also use it for indirect grilling of chicken, turkey, pork chops and many other dishes. Every year I clean it very good and use some black heat resistant paint to paint it again. It still looks great after all these years.
I have a Char Broil Grill2go infrared grill that I use for grilling burgers, hotdogs and other meat that you can cook on high heat. I also use this to take with us to the lake, camping trips or a pick-nick in the park.
Those two grills have cost me around 275 dollars and have served me for many years now. I can basically cook anything I like on either one of them. The only thing I am planning of adding to my barrel grill is a side firebox so I can use the full size of the grill and not just the half I am using now because of the indirect method I use.
I hope that my story in this how to buy a grill article will help you find the grill you need and the one that will fit your needs and your family size.
There is one tip I would like to share and that is to use a quality grill cover to protect your grill from the elements. Even if you store it in your shed or garage. You can find your grill cover here in the reviews.
For more tips about grill, BBQ or smoking you can click here.
PS: You can find many outdoor grill reviews and our rating here in this category to help you. Feel free to contact me with any question you have.
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