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Buying a Grill. Finally! Now....Which One?

I finally have some outdoor space in my new condo, and I am over the moon about buying a grill. The question is, what kind of grill should I buy? I'm curious about brands and sizes and all that jazz, but I'm even more curious about folks' opinions re: gas or coal. Surely this crowd has no shortage of strong opinions on the matter....

asked by Rivka over 5 years ago
35 answers 2648 views
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Peter

While Peter no longer works for Food52 he still thinks up ways to make the website better.

added over 5 years ago

Congrats on the home and having room for a grill. Before weighing in a few questions:

Weatherwise, How often do you think you'd use the grill? Just Summer or year-round? (Your profile says you live in D.C. but I don't know how brave you are about the cold.)

Budgetwise, what were you hoping to spend? $50? $250? $500? $1,000? 'Cause there are options at all price points.

Will it be easy for you to get propane refills?

How much of a purist are you? In other words, are you willing to trade convenience (gas) for flavor (charcoal).

I think that's it. Eager to help.

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Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 5 years ago

I definitely prefer charcoal -- yes, it requires a bit more in the way of prep and cleaning, but if you buy a chimney starter ($10-20), it really makes the whole process quite simple. You can get a lot accomplished with a 22.5-inch round Weber grill, and the maintenance is pretty basic. Also, if you're going to go charcoal, you should really buy natural, hardwood charcoal. And no lighter fluid! You can really taste it in the food.

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added over 5 years ago

Hey there Peter, great questions. Cheaper is better, but surely Labor Day will mean grill sales; think I'd prefer charcoal, not 100%; happy to brave the cold for good food. That said, very curious to hear others' opinions on the gas v. charcoal question.

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 5 years ago

I like my gas grill, as I can use it with minimal fuss for weeknight cooking. I also use a charcoal grill (A Kamado) for other things. The Big Green Egg is pricey but fantastic for charcoal. It's also good for making pizza as it gets very, very hot. Get the larger ones, as I found the medium sized one a bit too crowded sometimes.

I find I use my gas one more often.
I like the quality of the webber grills. Look for cast iron grates and avoid the grills with the skinny wire grates. The major drawback of gas is running out of gas mid-way--so keep and extra full LP tank if you don't have to plumbed to natural gas.

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added over 5 years ago

I have a Weber kettle, which is gathering dust, and a really big Weber gas grill. The gas grill gets incredibly hot, has a smoker built in and is right outside the door on my deck, so during the winter, it's just a couple shovelfuls away. It's also got a side burner, that I sometimes use for blistering peppers. I started using gas when my children were younger and tending the chimney stack after work wasn't feasible. (Yes, I've managed to have it go out.) Now I'm just lazy. But it sure makes smoking a brisket or pork shoulder easy. I keep three propane tanks on hand, so I never run out.

But either way, I can't say enough good things about Weber. A couple years after I got the big gas grill, the grates were dropping -- as if they were suddenly too small. One call to Weber and they had a local store come out to investigate (and it wasn't bought locally, but at Amazon). Ultimately, they replaced the box and the technician replaced bars and whatnot -- basically, it was brand new. Weber's response was: this shouldn't happen and we'll fix it. How often do you hear that from, say, Apple? I'm sure if there was a problem with the kettle, the reaction would be the same.

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sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 5 years ago

I agree about the quality of the weber, that said I have the old fashioned weber kettle charcoal grill. My next purchase will be the weber performer a charcoal grill with gas ignition. My daughter and hubby have one and love it; Has storage and other bells and whistles.
http://www.weber.com/explore...

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SKK
added over 5 years ago

I don't currently have a grill and when I did had a Weber gas grill with igniter. One home had a direct gas line, the other didn't so we used propane tanks. I much prefer gas because the heat is easier to control and it isn't so dirty. Weber is sturdy and lasts a long time out in the weather - this Northwest rainy weather.

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Peter

While Peter no longer works for Food52 he still thinks up ways to make the website better.

added over 5 years ago

I've used both and find I use the gas grill FAR more often. But starting with a 22" Weber and a chimney starter as Merrill suggests is a very inexpensive way ($100) to get rolling (as a decent gas grill is upward of $400 or $500.) Worst case, you move ot gas and find a new home for the charcoal grill. :-)

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 5 years ago

If you go for the weber, and don't like the grates. You can purchase a cast-iron grate as an add on.

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added over 5 years ago

I love my Weber Gas grill. I have had them for 18 years and just bought my 3rd in the last year.

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added over 5 years ago

I love my Weber gas grill. Ours is 3 years old, although we were content with our Weber charcoal for years prior to our big investment. I will say that the gas Weber is more convenient, it sits on our back porch, and is ready to go in a moment's notice. We live in Vermont and grill at least nine months out of the year. If the weather gives us a sunny day in the high 20's or low 30's, we will fire it up in the dead of winter for a Sunday mid-day dinner.

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added over 5 years ago

I really liked my Weber Performer (see sdebrango above), which I had for years. The Performer is basically a fanicied up kettle grill, but it is surprising how much the starter helps, though, in terms of speed and mess. When the igniter went a couple of years ago, I started using a chimney and found that I just didn't grill as much. This summer we bought a Weber gas grill and it is much easier. I kept the Performer and the chimney so that if I want the charcoal flavor, I can still use it (and luckily I have the room), but I got tired of only grilling in good weather. I think it really depends, as Peter says, on how you will use it.

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added over 5 years ago

It depends on what and how you want to cook. I have a TEC gas grill that I use for steaks, fish, pork cops, shrimp, chicken breasts and vegetables. For dishes such as barbecued chicken, ribs, a brisket and the like, nothing beats a charcoal grill. I baste and slow-cook on the pit and grill with gas. My pit, by the way, is an old Cajun Iron Works, heavy, unwieldily and very good at what it does.

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 5 years ago

I agree with Merrill about using lump charcoal, especially oak and hickory. I also soak wine barrell staves and add them to the fuel. Charcoal adds flavor you just can't get from gas. I like to cook paellas outside and that smokey essence makes them taste better.
Another feature you might explore is a model that has door on the. That way you can feed in more fuel if needed.

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added over 5 years ago

When I was younger and my husband did the grilling (what a cliche!), we had a charcoal grill. But now that I've become the primary griller in the household and I use it practically every night for dinner during the summer, I prefer the quicker, easier gas grill.
After a few years of good looking, extras-laden clunkers, we broke down and bought the tried and true Weber and I love it. In a perfect world, we'd also have the classic Weber charcoal grill, but...what can I say...our world isn't perfect!!

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added over 5 years ago

I would always prefer gas to charcoal or wood, because of the health issue's attached As far as convenience gas wins hands down..

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added over 5 years ago

I have a larger charcoal grill with 3 heavy cast-iron grates and an extra wire shelf up top, for keeping foods warm. I got it for $99 three years ago; it's called "The Professional Char-Griller." The grilling surface is large enough to cook pizzas, and is easily set up for indirect cooking. The charcoal pan can be raised or lowered to adjust the distance between it and the food. We've been thrilled with it. We also only use untreated lump charcoal and a chimney starter. I admit I've never used a gas grill, but I do much prefer this larger charcoal grill to our old Weber.

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added over 5 years ago

Decide what you want to cook,then which product to cook it on. Steaks, burgers, dogs are fine on either a charcoal kettle or a gas grill. Low and slow BBQ is better on a true smoker using charcoal and wood, though a large gas grill can be used for indirect cooking with some burners on,some off. The Ceramics like the Green Egg can do either grilling or low and slow with charcoal.

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added over 5 years ago

We've had many grills over the years but the Weber gas grill is the one we use all year round. We've shoveled a path to it during the winter! If I had to get a grill to use at a condo, gas would be the way to go. The push button ignition is great and I second the suggestion to either pay close attention to the tank level or keep an extra one on hand. You don't want to run out before the chicken is done!

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 5 years ago

One of the most familiar sights on California's Central Coast is the Santa Maria style grill rig. You'll see them parked outside everywhere from farmers markets to gas stations and liquor stores. Some are as big as trailers. But they do make them for home use. They look sort of medieval with this crank system that raises and lowers the grill. Tri-tip is the meat of choice but the fuel is almost always oak wood (not charcoal).

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added over 5 years ago

A word in favour of low-tech: I have had the same sturdy basic non-gas Weber kettle grill for about 15 years. I think its a 27 inch model. I use it a lot, with wood and/or natural wood charcoal. I love it. (I also enjoy the chimney starter.) It has never failed. It definitely gets hot enough for pizza, especially when its burning wood. I place the pizza stone right on the grill. What more can I say? Whenever I get a new one, I think I'll go for the tempting model sdebrango describes :)

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added over 5 years ago

In the birdhouse its the fight between convenience and flavor. Gas wins the convenience battle most of the time, but the extra flavors imparted by charcoal and wood improve the results. We went for gas because of convenience and we grill, we don't barbecue.
Will be grilling lots of veges and some Asian marinaded flank steak today. Orange peel and juice, sesame chili oil, fish sauce, kaffir lime,ginger infused vodka, sweet chili sauce, Szechuan pepper.

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added over 5 years ago

I have done ( like nearly everyone here) charcoal and gas over the years. Based on a friend's advice, I switched from Weber gas to (gasp) a Charbroil "commercial" infrared grill. It's still gas "powered", but has a corrugated surface just below the grate that emits even heat and prevents flare-ups. It gets very hot (700+), and has proven to be a great BBQ / smoker as well. When I want charcoal or smokey flavor, I just add some chips over the active burner.

It came with a flattop for the side burner, which I simply could not live without now. The flattop is great for finishing burgers and sandwiches, pressing and steaming. Being from Charbroil, it was almost ludicrously inexpensive for the features. I also note that Consumer Reports lists it as a best buy - not always a great indicator for features, but a good barometer for build quality and reliability.

Cheers all -

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added over 5 years ago

We put wood in our Webber Grill! Great taste. Can't imagine going back to charcoal or gas. A little more work, but well worth the effort.

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added over 5 years ago

We put wood in our Webber Grill! Great taste. Can't imagine going back to charcoal or gas. A little more work, but well worth the effort.

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added over 5 years ago

If you want some more confusion, go to Amazingribs.com and check Meathead's buying guide on grills. It's so effective, I gave up and went to my favorite BBQ joint.

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added over 5 years ago

Charcoal is the only way to go, and the simplest way to start the coals is with a chimney lighter. The trick is to use a small can, or a part of a larger can, of Sterno (or generic equivalent) instead of the newsprint typically recommended: Light it, walk away, return to find perfect coals. (And your neighbors won't come after you for smoking up the neighborhood, either, as happens when you try to light newsprint.) The other thing is this: always wipe the hot grill with a paper towel dipped into olive oil just before grilling (use tongs, not fingers), and take the grill off the coals as soon as you are done , throw it into hot soapy water, let it soak a bit, and wash it. There is really no need to act like a caveman and cook on top of the charcoal remnants of last week's, last last month's, or last year's, food-now-departed. Your grill will love you and serve you, and I bet you use it more because it's easy with these steps, even in the winter.

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added over 5 years ago

Charcoal every time!

I live in the UK and have a smallish back garden and a charcoal Weber that best used for everything all through the year. Works great as a grill and an oven.

I use newspaper and natural lighters and a good quality natural charcoal. It takes me less than 10 mins to clean and get lit and for a light evening meal I'm cooking in the centre, off direct heat in 25/30 minutes.

I use it for big roast dinners as well as through the week roast vegetables and fish steamed in foil.

Also great for multiple cooking. Today we steamed salmon fillets with some scallions and thai fish sauce - truly wonderful and simple and took 15 minutes. I then roasted a whole chicken on a beer can of herbs for our lunches through the week.

We make a lot of use of soaked wood chips for smoking and flavouring which is great.

Don't spend a fortune, buy good charcoal, don't through away your spare newspaper, wrap up warm for cooking in winter and become a convert!

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added over 5 years ago

I've had a lot of friends who went the gas route because the say charcoal is too much fuss. Every time I go over for a cook out they run out of propane and have to go get a refill. In the end they spend twice as much time and effort than they would with charcoal. If you are a gas person I suggest purchasing a grill through your local gas company as they come with life time warranties and you can have a dedicated natural gas line run to it and therefore never run out of gas.

But if taste is important gas will never compete with charcoal.

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added over 5 years ago

I've been cooking on a grill for many years. Last year I needed to get a new grill and opted for charcoal - Weber.
1. Start up time is not too different using a chimney to get things going,
2. Tip the hot coals into coal trays to enable you to position the coals and so allow for direct or indirect heat.
3. Food tastes better if you use natural charcoal.
4. Gas requires more air and so is more susceptible to flare-ups.
5. Whichever you choose, be patient! Any new piece of equipment requires a learning period.
6. If you are really lucky and have a fireplace, cook over a Tuscan grill all winter long. That's the best of all.

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 5 years ago

Ignition tip for using a chimney to light coals; parafin cubes work mighty fine. They light with one match strike and are pretty fool proof. Barbecues Galore used to stock them but I think that chain has now folded. Target might be another source. I think they carry a Weber lable on the carton.

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added over 5 years ago

I'm strongly in the charcoal camp, though I really think that folks just need both -- one for those nights when you have enough time to start coals, and one for those nights when you don't.

However, the good news is that you can find a good Weber kettle grill on craigs or at a yard sale for super cheap. I've done that twice now (I have two) and neither cost more than $10; my first one even came with a chimney starter and was a nicer model with the thermostat in the lid (which is ESSENTIAL), heavy grates, ash catcher, etc. Keep your eye out and you might have $$ left over for that gas grill too.

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added over 5 years ago

To jenmmed, The lid thermostat doesn't tell the temperature at the grill, i.e.item on the grill, and it may also be inaccurate even where the sensor is. Get a quick read digital thermometer and check actual vs indicated!

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added over 5 years ago

Has anyone had any experience with a pellet grill? Saw a demo at Costco of a Traegor Grill...seems ideal for those who do not want the mess of charcoal but desire the smoke...about $700 on Amazon...

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added over 5 years ago

Weber is the way to go, gas or charcoal. Both have their advantages and noted in the posts. I have had brinkmanns, charbroils, perfect flames, etc and nothing cooks or lasts like a weber