Whether you're a veteran grill master or a newbie to the barbecue universe, you can't get the job done without the right equipment. The single most important tool is a grill that hits the desired temperatures, delivers a good sear, keeps food moist, and stands up to several seasons of outdoor grilling. Cheapism.com sifted through the offerings to find the best liquid propane and charcoal models, (including two that use infrared technology) that sell for $300 or less. For those looking for something a little different, we rounded out the list with a couple of portable grills, an outdoor electric grill, one dedicated smoker, and a kamado-style grill. We've also got a relatively affordable natural gas grill from one of Weber's coveted upscale lines.
Prices and availability may vary.
Best Charcoal Grill Under $100
Est. Price: $99 | Buy it on Amazon
- Simple, effective, and time-tested; reviewers tell of excellent results with all kinds of foods, from burgers and hot dogs to pizza and turkey.
- 22-inch diameter provides a relatively generous 363 square inches of cooking surface.
- Heavy-gauge steel grate for charcoal; plated steel grate for cooking.
- Porcelain-enameled bowl and lid with integrated holder; rust-resistant damper for oxygen flow.
- Removable ash catcher; One-Touch cleaning system.
- Easy to assemble and clean, users report; two wheels help with transport.
- 10-year warranty on the bowl and lid; 5 years on the cleaning system and plastic parts; 2 years on the remainder.
- Scattered grousing about rust spots and weakness in small components, like screws and handles.
- Occasional reports of missing parts in the packaging.
- Cooking grate height cannot be adjusted; no temperature gauge.
Takeaway: An all-time favorite, the Weber 22-inch Original Kettle 741001 arguably sets the standard for charcoal grilling. It delivers top-level performance with straightforward operation and comes tagged at a modest price. It's a must for old-time cookouts and can be used as a smoker, as well. Some users say build quality has deteriorated compared with older units, but the vast majority wax enthusiastic over this no-frills Weber charcoal grill. The same design is available in 18-inch and 26-inch sizes. Those looking for a few more bells and whistles, or more color choices, might consider upscale Weber kettles like the Premium or the Weber Master-Touch.
Good Infrared Charcoal Grill Under $100
Est. Price: $99 | Buy it from Target
- Retains heat well and cooks evenly, with impressive searing, no flare-ups, and speedy, tasty results, according to expert and user reviews.
- Infrared technology provides concentrated radiant heat for even cooking, moist food, less burning, and easy searing.
- Easily reaches high temperatures; uses charcoal efficiently.
- 22.5-inch diameter and 360 square inches of cooking surface on porcelain-coated grates.
- Hinged lid with temperature gauge and latch; adjustable charcoal grate; removable ash pan; two wheels for transport.
- 10-year warranty on the bowl and lid; 5 years on the ash pan; 2 years on the remainder.
- Oversize hood damper for controlling the heat is hard to adjust, according to reviews.
- Unique cooking system requires some acclimation to achieve optimal results.
- Design of the grate can make it hard to clean.
- A few reports of chipping and warping.
Takeaway: The Char-Broil Kettleman Tru-Infrared proves its mettle as both charcoal grill and smoker, reviewers write, producing lip-smacking meats, whether beef, poultry, or pork. While the infrared technology may take a bit of getting used to, many even say they prefer this product over the vaunted Weber grills. Supplies appear limited for this well-rated model, however, so we'd suggest now is the moment to buy.
Good 3-Burner Gas Grill Under $200
Est. Price: $129 | Buy it from Lowe's
- One of the least expensive models from a brand known for quality and innovation.
- Provides 530 square inches of total cooking surface: 360 square inches of primary cooking space and 170 square inches on a swing-away warming rack.
- 3 12,000-BTU burners offer just enough heat to adequately cover the cooking area.
- Steel cooking grates and inner lid are porcelain-coated.
- Electric (spark) ignition and 2 side tables.
- Easy to put together and clean, according to reviews.
- Light weight and 2 wheels help with portability (although 4 wheels would be better).
- Silver Medal Award from respected grilling authorities at AmazingRibs.com.
- No temperature gauge.
- Experts suggest it may be worth paying more for a model with sturdier construction and a longer life expectancy.
Takeaway: While experts aren't especially wowed by the cooking power of this Char-Broil Quickset gas grill, they agree that its got a lot going for it given its incredibly cheap price. Small and simple, this grill has three burners and a good amount of cooking space for just a bit over $100. Satisfied users praise the Quickset's low weight, ease of use, and overall performance. Even if it may not last for the long term, users say the low cost makes replacement no big deal -- it also makes this grill a good choice for a vacation home. The warranty extends five years on the burners, two years on lid and fire box, and one year on all other parts.
Note: There's a newer, nearly identical model, the Char-Broil Classic 3-Burner, that's even cheaper and more widely available (est. price: $113; Buy it from Walmart), but that grill's burners deliver only 30,000 BTUs.
Good Large Gas Grill Under $200
Est. Price: $199 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Preheats quickly, cooks evenly, and delivers decent heat consistency, according to experts.
- 5 11,000-BTU stainless steel burners; 12,000-BTU side burner.
- "Flame tamers" above the main burners to guard against flare-ups and help moderate heat distribution; cast iron grates are coated with porcelain.
- 639 square inches of cooking surface (480 square inches primary and 159 square inches on the warming rack).
- Convenience features include electric (battery) ignition, a temperature gauge, stainless steel side shelves, and 2 wheels for transport.
- Some user and expert concern about build quality and limited longevity.
- In expert testing by TopTenReviews, flare-ups and issues with food sticking to grates were shortcomings.
- Many owners say assembly can be a bit tricky and time consuming.
Takeaway: This low-cost Nexgrill 5-burner gas grill provides a lot of bang for the buck, with a sleek appearance and solid specs. Five main burners plus a side burner offer a range of meal-prep options, and both owners and expert reviewers laud the 720-0888N for its generous cooking surface, high heat output, and versatility. While this grill may not be as sturdy or perform as flawlessly as more expensive models, it's still a good choice for consumers looking for a cheap party grill that will serve for at least a few summers. There's a five-year warranty on the burners and one year on the rest.
Best Infrared Gas Grill Under $300
Est. Price: $251 | Buy it on Amazon
- Infrared cooking technology produces even, intense heat, prevents flare-ups, and keeps food moist.
- 3 8,000-BTU stainless steel burners reach high heats quickly; there's also a 10,000-BTU side burner.
- Porcelain-coated cooking grates cover a generous primary cooking area of 450 square inches; warming rack adds another 150 square inches of cooking space.
- Convenience features include a built-in temperature gauge, electric (spark) ignition, side work areas, storage cabinet, and 4 caster wheels with 2 that lock.
- Some owners say they have difficulty cleaning the grates.
- Scattered reports of rusting on the grates.
Takeaway: Proprietary infrared technology infuses this Char-Broil Performance series three-burner gas grill with budget-friendly pizzazz. The no-fuss process and tasty, tender results commend this model to outdoor cooks, some of whom crow about leaving charcoal grilling far behind after trying it out. Although intended to minimize cleanup -- juices are supposed to vaporize once hitting the grates -- some reviews say grease and marinades accumulate in the grate troughs, interfere with cooking, and require lots of effort to remove. Still, owners like the efficiency and value price. The grill's warranty covers five years on the burners, two years on the lid and fire box, and one year on the remainder.
Best Gas Grill Under $300 Overall
Est. Price: $234 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Quick to heat, with good heat retention, according to experts; users praise the responsive temperature control.
- 3 relatively powerful 12,000-BTU stainless steel burners with heat tents to help with flare-ups.
- 507 square inches of total cooking surface (390 square-inch primary cooking area plus a warming rack) in a compact design.
- Sturdy cast-iron grates are porcelain-coated to prevent sticking; double-walled lid for heat retention.
- Comes with temperature gauge, electric (battery) ignition, single-door cabinet, drop-down side tables with utensil hooks and towel bars, and 4 wheels (2 with locks).
- Easy to assemble and clean, according to reviews.
- Experts at TopTenReviews report hot and cold spots in testing, which leads to uneven cooking.
- Some reviewers say the grates are not easy to clean.
- Scattered concern about limited durability.
Takeaway: There's plenty of value built into this Dyna-Glo Smart Space Living gas grill, according to reviewers. This is a basic, compact three-burner grill that should appeal to both newbie and more experienced outdoor cooks. It's right-sized for decks and small yards, while its cooking surface is big enough to feed a small group. Burgers and steaks cook to perfection, users say, and the good looks and modest price are hard to beat. The manufacturer offers a five-year warranty on the burners and limited one-year warranty on parts.
Best Cheap Portable Grill
Est. Price: $60 | Buy it from Amazon
- Good size for family meals and for portability, with excellent searing and tender, moist results, reviewers say.
- 18-inch diameter with a generous cooking surface (240 square inches) for its small size.
- Plated steel cooking grate, porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, and heavy-gauge steel charcoal grate.
- 2 rust-resistant dampers for air flow.
- Removable ash catcher; One-Touch cleaning system.
- Heat-resistant handle and lock for the lid.
- 10-year warranty on the bowl and lid; 5 years on the cleaning system and plastic parts; 2 years on the remainder.
- No built-in temperature gauge.
- Some grousing that grill can't match quality of previous Weber models.
Takeaway: Take the Weber Jumbo Joe to a picnic, a tailgate, or campout, or fire it up for a quick meal rather than hassling with the full-size grill. Users laud its convenience, efficiency, size, and performance, and many have added the Jumbo Joe to their stable of other Weber models. Some gripes about problems controlling the temperature and disappointing build quality are outweighed by the abundance of four- and five-star reviews.
Bonus: Cheap Portable Gas Grill
Est. Price: $87 | Buy it on Amazon
- Surprisingly strong performance and generous cooking surface for small, portable grill, reviews say.
- Its stainless steel gas burner delivers 5,500 BTUs and heats to more than 500 degrees.
- 145 square-inch cooking surface is a good size to feed a family of four, users say.
- Designed for simple transport with folding legs, lid latch, and carry handle; sits easily on a picnic table.
- Porcelain-enameled cast iron grill grate and porcelain-coated steel body.
- 3-year warranty is quite good for a cheap portable gas grill -- many competitors have warranties that top out in 90 days to a year.
- Scattered reports about clogged burners and electric-charge ignition that doesn't always catch (keep matches on hand).
- Can be a hassle to clean if food is very greasy, according to some users.
- Some grousing about lack of replacement parts.
Takeaway: The Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet is a dependable and practical choice for tailgating, picnicking, and camping, reviewers write, but they caution that the 13-pound grill may be a bit much to haul on hikes. Red is the standard color, although shoppers can also find black or stainless steel units that sell at a higher price. For those willing to pay a bit more to avoid the smoke and comparative hassle of our top portable pick, the Weber Jumbo Joe 18" charcoal grill, we'd say this Cuisinart portable gas grill is the way to go.
Bonus: Best Cheap Outdoor Electric Grill
Est. Price: $199 | Buy it from Lowe's
- Compact, convenient, and user-friendly electric alternative to gas and charcoal.
- Infrared technology minimizes flare-ups and distributes heat evenly; leaves meat tender and well-seared, reviewers say.
- Steel lid, bowl, and V-shaped grates and grease tray are all porcelain-coated.
- Built-in temperature gauge; temperature-control knob lights up for easy reading.
- Warming rack, folding side shelves, storage rack, and 2 wheels for transport.
- Lower fire risk than a gas or charcoal grill.
- Relatively small 240 square inches of primary cooking surface.
- Takes a long time to heat, users report; some say it fails to reach levels sufficient for optimal grilling.
- Assembly and cleanup can be difficult, according to reviews.
- Short 2-year warranty on the fire box and lid, and just 1 year on all other parts.
Takeaway: The 1,750-watt Char-Broil Patio Bistro electric grill is a decent compromise for frugal consumers keen on outdoor grilling but prohibited from, or disinclined to use a gas or charcoal grill. Although the Patio Bistro's cooking performance may not compare to traditional grills, users appreciate its infrared technology, the savings on fuel, and how easy it is to use -- just plug it in and go. Users particularly admire how well this grill prepares vegetables -- not as easy a task on other models -- and many are also drawn to the overall aesthetic and color choices; this model comes in graphite, black, and red, but graphite is more readily available.
Bonus: Combination Gas & Charcoal Grill Under $300
Est. Price: $269 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Flexible and versatile, with separate chambers for gas grilling and charcoal grilling.
- 3 powerful 13,600-BTU liquid propane burners with heat tents and a 12,000-BTU side burner.
- Whopping 1,260 square inches of cooking space: 876-square-inch primary cooking surface and 384 square inches on the warming rack.
- Adjustable, porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates; high-density steel shell for better heat retention.
- Convenience features include an electric ignition, built-in temperature gauge, easy-empty ash pan, and 2 wheels and a lift bar for transport.
- Option to add a side fire box for smoking.
- Comparatively large footprint; grill measures 66 inches across and 28 inches deep.
- Learning curve to control temperature, especially on charcoal side.
- Scattered grousing about build quality.
- Assembly may take a while, buyers report.
Takeaway: The key attraction of the Char-Griller Double Play 5650 is the dual-fuel design. Users really like the option of going gas or charcoal, and sometimes using both to cook a variety of foods or maximize the results by starting on one side and finishing on the other. Moreover, reviews say this extra-large Char-Griller dual-grill heats evenly all around and produces excellent results. As with other moderately priced grills, some owners voice dismay at the appearance of rust spots and warped metal, but most seem to appreciate the value buy. The manufacturer offers a five-year limited warranty on the main burners, hoods and charcoal grill bottom, with a limited one-year warranty on ash pan, side burner, and other parts.
Bonus: Best Kamado Grill Under $300
Est. Price: $255 | Buy it on Amazon
- Kamado grills offer fuel efficiency, heightened charcoal flavor (natural lump charcoal only), and extreme heat range.
- Diminutive, 20-inch diameter egg-shaped dome has 314 square inches of primary cooking surface and 133 square inches on its (removable) warming rack; grates are cast iron.
- Enthusiastic users say this unit's triple-wall steel shell with powder-coated exterior and porcelain-coated interior does an excellent job of holding heat in; top and bottom adjustable dampers help with heat regulation.
- Includes 2 folding side shelves, easy-dump ash pan, and 2 locking wheels in addition to a locking rear caster.
- More of a learning curve for heat control compared with traditional grills.
- Some complaints about build quality.
Takeaway: The Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker is a good introduction to the world of kamado grills. It's a versatile outdoor cooker with very high heat for rapid grilling and searing and low heat for long, slow smoking -- producing moist, tender results either way. Even better, while Kamado grills typically cost far more than this version, some fans rank it on par with those high-end models. There's some grumbling about units that arrived with dents and dampers that are finicky (making it hard to regulate the heat), but, overall, this Char-Griller kamado satisfies users' hunger for smoked ribs, roast turkeys, and perfectly seared steaks. The manufacturer offers a five-year warranty on fire box and one year on parts.
Bonus: Best Smoker Under $300
Est. Price: $299 | Buy it on Amazon
- Delivers consistently delicious results with fire-it-up-and-forget-about-it operation, according to expert and user reviews.
- Allows users to use cooking grate or hang meats for more even cooking on all sides.
- 30-gallon steel drum with 18.5-inch diameter has porcelain enamel coating and comes with 8 hooks, 2 hanging rods, charcoal basket, grill grate, hook remover, and stand.
- No assembly required.
- Hard to regulate temperature, say some reviewers.
- Scattered pushback on price for a product that could possibly be made DIY.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: The Pit Barrel Cooker isn't the cheapest or prettiest smoker on the market, but experts and the many consumers who give it five-star ratings say the design is virtually flawless, operation is pretty simple and straightforward, and meat turns out mouthwateringly juicy from top to bottom. And, while it's small enough to transport, it's meant to feed a crowd: The drum can handle a whole turkey, two pork butts, or eight slabs of ribs plus vegetables on the grill grates. True, the warranty period on the Pit Barrel is pretty limited, but a product composed of little more than a metal drum with some rods and charcoal thrown in may not need as much coverage.
Bonus: Splurge-Worthy Weber Gas Grill
Est. Price: $499 | Buy it from Home Depot
- Meets all expectations and then some, reviews say, with solid performance, easy cleanup, and perfect results.
- 3 10,000 BTU burners with heat diffuser efficiently and evenly distribute heat.
- Porcelain-enameled "flavorizer" bars guard against flare-ups and impart smoky essences from drippings.
- Offers a large amount of cooking space, with a 424-square-inch primary cooking area and 105-square-inch warming rack; cast iron porcelain-coated cooking grate is uniquely designed to tackle both large and small food items.
- Cook box diverts grease/drippings to easy-access catch pan.
- Convenience features include electrical (battery) ignition, built-in thermometer (also compatible with iGrill proprietary app-connected thermometer), 1 permanent side shelf and 1 fold-down shelf with utensil hooks, and 2 wheels for transport; 10-foot hose for gas hookup included.
- Natural gas grills may cost more for the initial setup, but will save money in the long-term and eliminate the need to constantly replace fuel tanks; they're also a little better for the environment.
- 10-year warranty on entire grill.
- Lifting arrangement using side table as handle is awkward, users report.
Takeaway: Part of Weber's new Spirit II line, the 49010001 is the natural gas version of the E-310, which is also available as a liquid propane grill. Spirit II grills boast several updated features, including a redesigned cook box with grease-management system, reversible cooking grates, more robust ignition, compatibility with a smart device that monitors internal temperature and food readiness, and a longer warranty; not to mention the new look and many color choices now available. There aren't many reviews yet for this model, but the few we found indicate users are thrilled with its performance, and experts agree that Weber seems to have gotten it right again -- and gotten even better -- with these entry-level grills. Both liquid propane (45010001) and natural gas models carry the same price tag.