While many expert reviewers and consumers swear by the fancy features, luxury designs, and long-term durability of top-end grills, those looking to partake in this beloved backyard ritual without burning thousands of dollars have plenty of options. Our research found a variety of outdoor grills — charcoal kettles, gas grills, portable grills, and even electric grills and smokers — that fall at or below the $300 mark, come with desirable features, and deliver solid performance. Of course, they may not survive for decades, but the best cheap grills should serve for a few summers, at least.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925

Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925 Review

Our Picks
Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925

Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925 Review


  • Grill temperature is easy to regulate and maintain, according to users, and there's plenty of heat.
  • 4 10,000-BTU stainless steel burners.
  • 562 square inches of cooking space (480 square inches plus a 159-square-inch warming rack).
  • Cast iron cooking grates porcelain-coated.
  • Convenience features include electric (battery) ignition, a temperature gauge, and side shelves.


  • Several users complain of missing or damaged parts.
  • Assembly can be a bit tricky and time consuming, according to some owners.

Takeaway: There's a lot of value built into this budget-priced Nexgrill gas grill, according to reviewers. There’s no side burner — a noted absence — but the four main burners and fairly large cooking area give grillers plenty of room to work with. While it may not be as sturdy or last as long as more expensive models, complaints are relatively few; in fact, the most common gripes refer to difficulty with assembly as opposed to flaws in performance. Given the incredibly low cost, the majority consensus is that this Nexgrill four-burner delivers pretty impressive results, and many owners say they don't regret stepping down from pricier brands they've used in the past. The stainless steel edging and front panel add a nice touch, too, lending this cheap gas grill a more high-end look. There’s a five-year warranty on the burners and one year on the rest.

Weber 22" Original Kettle 741001


  • 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 space.
  • 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.
  • Height of cooking grates 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 and is one of the best cheap grills around. 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. If you need a larger cooking area, 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.

Char-Broil Classic 3-Burner 463773717

Char-Broil Classic 360 3-Burner 463773717 Review


  • One of the least expensive liquid propane gas grills 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 10,000-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 easy to transport.


  • 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 haven't been especially wowed by the cooking power of previous versions of this Char-Broil gas grill, they agree that this line of grills has a lot going for it given the incredibly cheap price. Small and simple (no fancy stainless still exterior here), this Char-Broil Classic model has three burners and a good-sized cooking area for less than $150. Satisfied owners praise its 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 the lid and fire box, and one year on all other parts.

If you’re rarely grilling for guests and want something even smaller and cheaper, there’s the Char-Broil Classic 280 2-Burner liquid propane gas grill. As the name implies, the cooking area on that model is just 280 square inches, which users say will fit about three steaks.

Dyna-Glo DGB390SNP-D Smart Space Living


  • 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.
  • 507 square inches of total cooking space (primary cooking area of 390 square inches, plus a warming rack) in a compact design.
  • Sturdy, porcelain-coated cast iron grates to prevent sticking; double-walled lid for heat retention.
  • Temperature gauge, electric (battery) ignition, single-door cabinet, drop-down side shelves with utensil hooks and towel bars, and 4 wheels (2 with locks).
  • Easy to assemble and clean, according to reviews.


  • Experts at Top Ten Reviews report hot and cold spots in testing.
  • Scattered concern about limited long-term durability.

Takeaway: This Dyna-Glo Smart Space Living 3-burner propane gas grill is a stylish, compact little model that should appeal to both newbies and more experienced outdoor cooks. It's one of the best gas grills if you’re cooking in close confines — just the right size for a deck or small yard, with a cooking surface that's big enough to feed a small group. Burgers and steaks cook to perfection, users say, and the combination of good looks, a higher-quality build, and a relatively modest price is hard to beat. The manufacturer offers a five-year warranty on the burners and a limited one-year warranty on parts.

Supplies may be limited for this highly rated gas grill, however, and it tends to sell out quickly. If you’re not too attached to the model with the stainless steel finish, the bronze-colored version seems more likely to be in stock, although it's also more expensive (est. price: $264; buy it from Amazon).

Nexgrill 5-Burner 720-0888N

Nexgrill 5-Burner 720-0888N Review


  • Quick preheating, even cooking, and decent heat consistency, according to experts.
  • Liquid propane gas grill has 5 11,000-BTU stainless steel burners; 12,000-BTU side burner.
  • Large cooking area totals 639 square inches (480 square inches of primary cooking space, with another 159 square inches on the warming rack).
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates.  
  • Electric (battery) ignition, a temperature gauge, and stainless steel side tables.


  • Some user and expert concern about build quality and long-term durability.
  • Flare-ups and issues with food sticking to cooking grates in expert testing by TopTenReviews.
  • Many owners complain about difficult assembly.

Takeaway: This Nexgrill five-burner liquid propane gas grill provides a lot of space for the price. Five main burners plus a side burner offer a range of meal-prep options, and both owners and expert reviewers laud the generous amount of cooking space, high heat output, and versatility of this grill. A stainless steel lid and stainless steel side shelves add a sleek appearance to an already attractive package. At this cheap price, it's not a grill that's made to last forever, but most budget-minded consumers agree: If you're looking for a larger model that will serve for at least a few summers' worth of cookouts with the crew, and you don’t want to spend more than $200, this Nexgrill is by far the best gas grill that fits that bill. It comes with a five-year warranty on the burners and one year on the remainder.

Char-Broil Performance Tru-Infrared 3-Burner 463280019

Char-Broil Performance Tru-Infrared 3-Burner 463280019 Review


  • 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, and side work areas.


  • Too new to have accumulated many owner reviews.
  • Grates on similar models are hard to clean, prone to rusting, some users say.

Takeaway: Char-Broil has a loyal following for their relatively inexpensive, yet reliable gas grills. This liquid propane-fueled infrared model is one of the company’s newest, meaning few reviewers have weighed in yet, but feedback was very strong for an older version, and we expect this grill to perform equally well. Char-Broil’s proprietary infrared technology is praised by many outdoor cooks, some of whom say they’ve left charcoal grilling far behind after trying it out. Although the unique design is intended to minimize cleanup — juices are supposed to vaporize once hitting the grates — some owners of earlier models 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 firebox, and one year on the remainder.

Char-Broil Kettleman TRU-Infrared 22.5" Charcoal Grill


  • 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 best 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. Consumers love how quickly this grill heats up, faster than other charcoal models, and flare-ups are no worry at all. It also uses less charcoal when grilling than competitors. It’s worth noting, however, that some otherwise-satisfied owners complain that the grill doesn’t handle low temperatures particularly well and airflow control can be a bit difficult. Still, if you’re intrigued by infrared technology, and don’t want to pay a lot to try it out, this is one of the best cheap grills for infrared first-timers.

Weber 18" Jumbo Joe 1211001


  • 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: The Weber Jumbo Joe is a compact, portable version of the brand’s signature kettle grill. It’s small enough to take to a picnic, a tailgate party, or campout, as well as a great option for people who want to grill at home but don’t have the space for a full-sized grill. Like its larger sibling, the dampers make it relatively easy (for a charcoal grill) to find and maintain the desired cooking temperature, although some reviewers say a good meat thermometer is a worthwhile investment, too. And while a handful of owners complain about build quality that’s a bit flimsier than the full-size model, these small gripes are outweighed by the abundance of 4- and 5-star reviews. For grillers willing to sacrifice some of the versatility along with a good bit of cooking space, there’s an even more demure, 14-inch version, the Weber Smokey Joe (est. price $35; buy it at Amazon).

Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet


  • Surprisingly strong performance and generous cooking surface for small, portable grill, reviews say.
  • Stainless steel gas burner delivers 5,500 BTUs and heats to more than 500 degrees.
  • Cooking area of 145 square inches 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-coated cast iron grill grates 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: This Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet tabletop gas grill 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. Also, while many buyers are fans of the standard red version, some suggest that the black or stainless steel units might be a better bet as the red lid is more prone to discoloration or chipping. Aesthetics aside, for those willing to pay just 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 the Cuisinart  Petit Gourmet is the best portable gas grill for shoppers on a budget.

Char-Broil Patio Bistro 17602066


  • Compact, convenient, and user-friendly electric alternative to a charcoal or gas grill.
  • 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 be the best compared 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.

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado 16620


  • 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.

Pit Barrel Cooker


  • 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.
  • 1-year warranty is relatively short.

Takeaway: The 18.5-inch Classic Pit Barrel Cooker isn't the cheapest or prettiest smoker on the market, but experts and the many consumers who give it 5-star ratings say it's one of the best. 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.

Weber Spirit II E-310 49010001


  • 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; porcelain-coated cast iron 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: If you don’t have the budget to shell out for a coveted Weber Genesis II grill, the entry-level Weber Spirit II line boasts some of the best gas grills around — at much more affordable prices. Weber Spirit II grills have 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. The Weber Spirit II 49010001 is the natural gas version of the 3-burner E-310, which is also available as a liquid propane grill. The reviews that have come in thus far for this model indicate users are thrilled with its performance, and experts agree that Weber seems to have gotten it right again — and gotten even better — with this newest series of comparatively inexpensive Spirit grills. Both the liquid propane (Weber Spirit II E-310 45010001) and natural gas models carry the same price tag, and they cost about $250 to $300 less than their upscale Weber Genesis II E-310 counterparts..

Buying Guide

Grill Reviews: What We Considered

In researching the best cheap grills, we read product reviews from sources such as AmazingRibs.com, BBQGuys.com, Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, and Top Ten Reviews, which judge grills on factors such as overall quality, long-term durability, value, and grilling performance. These reviewers are familiar with so many models that they know what kind of craftsmanship, features, and end results make a grill stand out from the rest.

Accustomed to judging expensive grills, experts tend to have fairly high expectations and can be somewhat harsh in their judgments of basic models. Grills they deem merely passable may more than satisfy the average bargain shopper, however. To get the best sense of real-world functionality and value, we supplemented the expert perspective with reviews from consumers posting on sites including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and manufacturers’ product pages. Scores of consumers provide positive feedback on both the cooking prowess and the life expectancies of the grills on our list.

Gas Grills

For this buying guide, we researched primarily freestanding liquid propane gas grills, sometimes known as LP models. Gas grills, which can cost from less than $100 to well over $1,000 for commercial and high-end models, are popular because they take little time to heat up and allow more precise control over the flame, which means the cooking temperature is easier to regulate and you get more even heat distribution than you would with a charcoal grill. Many of the best gas grills, including cheaper models, come with convenient features like side burners, side shelves, and warming racks to make preparing food easier. Gas grills generally have two to five burners under the grilling grates, ideally with individual controls. Within the same model “family” — that is, grills with the same features — prices rise with the number of burners. Natural gas grills are an increasingly popular option — they’re more environmentally friendly and burn cleaner than liquid propane grills, and they can save quite a bit on fuel costs in the long run — but a nearby gas hookup is required. Many grill models will be available as both liquid propane gas grills and as natural gas versions, although the natural gas units frequently cost a little more than their LP counterparts.

Charcoal Grills

Many grilling aficionados extol the virtues of charcoal fire over gas. Inconveniences aside — such as less heat control, slower cook times, and more cleanup (all that ash has to go someplace) — using charcoal briquettes (and perhaps wood) as fuel imparts an authentic smokiness undetectable with a gas grill. There's just no comparing the flavor or the sear on meats when you cook with a standard gas grill, charcoal fans assert. Plus, charcoal models typically take up less space than gas grills.

Prices for the best entry-level charcoal grills top out at about $200, but some can be had for less than $100. Again, the size of the grill and, by extension, how much cooking space you’ll have for grilling, affects the price; for example, a charcoal grill with a diameter of 14 inches in one model "family" will be cheaper than its 22-inch sibling. The tags on premium charcoal grills can hit $700 and beyond, and they may include features like electronic ignition, timers, and higher-quality components.

Infrared Grills

Infrared technology has been around for a while and shows up in some product lines. While most gas and charcoal grills rely on heated air to cook the food, infrared grills direct heat toward a solid surface that sits below the grates, radiating infrared waves to the food above. This barrier allows the grill grates to sit closer to the direct heat source for super-quick searing and minimizes charring caused by flare-ups. Meats and vegetables tend to retain more moisture as they cook because of the reduced reliance on airflow, which can dry out food. Infrared grills also claim to prevent hot and cold spots, providing more even heat distribution for more consistent results and cooking food quicker. Typically, infrared models are liquid propane grills, but you’ll see the technology appear on a few other makes, as well. While infrared grills were once much more expensive, several models now fall into the Cheapism price range.


Unlike traditional grills, which cook food directly above the flame and expose it to high heat, smokers — whether electric, gas, or charcoal-powered — cook meat at low temperatures in a closed, thickly insulated casing for even heating. Casings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from bullet to barrel, from offset to cabinet. In general, smoking meat takes much more time than gas or even charcoal grilling. True enthusiasts agree that the rich, complex, succulent flavor can't be achieved any other way, but most people searching for a cheap BBQ grill simply don't have the time to devote to slow-cooking or the money to splurge on a dedicated smoker, which can run from $100 to $10,000 depending on the make, model, and amenities. Instructions from Weber can help you get started smoking on a standard charcoal grill.

Kamado Grills

The modern descendant of an ancient Japanese cooking urn, kamado grills are egg-shaped and very well insulated. The ones on the market these days are most often made from ceramics and sometimes steel. Their high domes catch the heat and redirect it to the food cooking below, while an insulated shell helps hold temperatures steady. Kamado grills are fuel- and oxygen-efficient — they use less of each than traditional grills — and can produce very low and very high heat. Leftover coals (be sure to use natural lump charcoal rather than briquettes) can be reused, and with less air circulating, meats stay juicy and tender. These grills excel at smoking, roasting, and baking, and are available at all price points. Big Green Egg is perhaps the best-known maker of kamado grills, with prices starting at about $500 for a mini version.


The main difference between cheap grills and their upmarket counterparts is the materials, which affect long-term durability and cooking performance. High-end grills tend to have more durable materials, like stainless steel, both inside and outside. Frequently, budget grills are made of lower-grade painted steel and are not quite as sturdy.

The composition of the grill grates determines whether food is likely to stick, as well as how evenly the heat disperses and, thus, how well the food cooks. Cast-iron cooking grates heat up quickly, hold the heat on the surface, and last a very long time. However, they must be oiled to keep food from sticking too much. A high-quality porcelain coating serves the same function, cutting down on maintenance. Not surprisingly, cast-iron grill grates tend to be more common on pricier models, although some of the best cheap grills boast porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates. Others have simple steel grates that may or may not feature porcelain coating. 

Cooking Area

The size of the cooking space depends on both price and grill type. The cooking area on less expensive grills typically measures between 200 and 700 square inches; the higher end of that range is generally reserved for gas models. It's important to note that a side burner or warming rack is often counted as part of the cooking space when listed in the specs, so look for distinctions between measurements for total cooking surface and primary cooking area.


One of the most prominent features of a gas grill is its BTU rating (specifically, British thermal units per hour). Manufacturers make it sound as though the grill with the most BTUs is the most powerful, but the size of the primary cooking area must also factor into any comparison. Experts generally say a gas grill should feature a range of 80 to 100 BTUs per square inch. For example, a three-burner grill with 36,000 BTUs (total of all burners) and 370 square inches of primary cooking space boasts about 97 BTUs per square inch.

There is some leeway to this rule of thumb, as the cooking grates affect heat transfer. A grill with wire grates may need more BTUs than one made with cast iron cooking grates, because the lower-cost grates won't hold heat as long as the cast iron grill grates. All told, buyers should be wary of grills that swing too low or too high in BTUs per square inch — any lower than 80 and the heat output may not be sufficient, while a higher number suggests an inefficient design that allows heat to escape.

Infrared grills are different. Because of the high radiant heat of infrared burners, gas grills that employ this technology require fewer BTUs — only 60 to 80 per square inch of cooking space — to achieve desired temperatures. Char-Broil, for example, advises those using its Tru-Infrared gas grills to plan to decrease the heat settings they're used to by about one-third and to expect food to cook in about half the time.

Temperature Control

On gas grills, knobs attached to each burner can modulate flame levels and the heat directed at different surface areas. It's a pretty basic setup that affects how evenly food cooks. All our picks for the best gas grills offer individual control over each burner. With a charcoal grill, heat regulation is more difficult. It depends how close the cooking grates are to the coals, as well as the configuration of the damper and air vents that control how much air circulates during cooking. Users open the damper to let in additional oxygen to fuel the fire and close it to lower the heat.

As noted above, infrared grills require less fuel to achieve higher heats. Learning to regulate the temperature on these grills may take some getting used to. Once mastered, however, many users assert that the results are well worth the trial-and-error learning process. Most new grills have lid-mounted thermometers that ideally let you monitor the heat, and adjust it if need be. But experts caution that they're notoriously inaccurate and suggest using an accessory thermometer.


Convenience features to look for on grills include warming racks, side shelves, and utensil hooks for those essential tools. One accessory that we'd highly recommend is a grill cover to protect your purchase against the elements and prolong its life — most grills, regardless of price, don't come with one. It's up to owners to decide whether it's worth paying for a custom cover from the manufacturer that's specifically designed for the particular make and model, or whether to save a bit on a generic brand.


Every model has its quirks, but for the most part, it's not difficult to get the grills on our list up and running. That said, user feedback indicates that some may be tougher to assemble than others. Problems tend to arise from missing screws or bolts, poorly drilled holes, or parts that just don't align correctly.

According to the reviews we read, the instructions drive some people to distraction. Grill assembly instructions often are conveyed through visuals, but many consumers express frustration with the diagrams and make a plea for written directions that provide logical and clear sequencing. Figure on a good hour or two, and possibly more, when setting up a gas grill. Some retailers will assemble your grill for free or for a small fee.


Warranties on low-cost grills range from one year to 10 years, depending on the manufacturer and the model. Some warranties cover the components differently: five years on the burners and two years on other parts, for example. Manufacturers also tend to provide longer warranties on cheap charcoal grills than on gas, and there's a lot more that can go wrong with the latter.