The Best Grills Under $300

Best Cheap Grills

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Best Cheap Grills
Giang Nguyen/istockphoto

Best Grills Under $300

2021-Cheapism-Choice-Best-Grills-Under-$300While 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 — that fall at or below the $300 mark, come with desirable features, and deliver solid performance for occasional use. We've also highlighted a couple of highly rated options that exceed our price limit but are worth the investment if you're serious about grilling or smoking.

Price and availability are subject to change.

Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925
Home Depot

Nexgrill 4-Burner 720-0925

Best Value Gas Grill

Available from Home Depot.
Price: $229 at time of publishing


  • Temperature is easy to regulate and maintain, according to users, and there's plenty of heat.
  • 4 stainless steel burners with 10,000-BTUs each.
  • 562 square inches of cooking space (480 square inches plus a 159-square-inch warming rack).
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates.
  • Convenience features including 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.

2021-Best-Value_Gas-GrillTakeaway: 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

Weber 22" Original Kettle 741001

Best Value Charcoal Grill

Available from Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Ace Hardware.
Price: $119 at time of publishing


  • 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; 2 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.

2021-Best-Value_Charcoal-GrillTakeaway: 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 at a modest price. It's a must for old-time cookouts and can be used as a smoker, as well. Some users say the build quality has deteriorated compared with older units, but the vast majority wax enthusiastic over this no-frills Weber charcoal grill. If you're looking for a slightly lower price or larger cooking area, the same design is available in 18-inch and 26-inch sizes. Those who want a few more bells and whistles, or more color choices, might consider upscale Weber kettles like the Premium or the Weber Master-Touch.

Dyna-Glo DGC310CNP
Home Depot

Dyna-Glo DGC310CNP

Best Small Gas Grill

Available from Home Depot.
Price: $139 at time of publishing


  • Even heating across the entire cooking surface.
  • Small footprint ideal for patios and other tight outdoor spaces.
  • 3 stainless steel burners with 8,000 BTUs each.
  • 449 square inches of cooking space (310-square-inch main grille plus 139-square-inch warming rack).
  • Porcelain-coated steel grates.
  • Convenience features including electric (battery) ignition and side shelves.


  • Some owners have found this 2-wheel grill awkward to move.
  • A minority complain about poor fit and finish, or difficult assembly.
  • No built-in thermometer.

Takeaway: If a compact size and low price are your priorities when grill shopping, reviewers say this Dyna-Glo propane grill fills the bill nicely. Like other cheap gas grills, this one lacks features like a side burner, and it's less powerful than other three-burner grills that cost more. But the burners distribute heat evenly and do a good job of direct and indirect cooking, according to the results of professional testing and owner feedback online (although a handful of users do complain that the grill doesn't get hot enough for their purposes). Like pricier grills, this Dyna-Glo model carries a five-year warranty on the burners, but the grate and firebox carry only a one-year warranty.

Nexgrill 5-Burner 720-0888S
Home Depot

Nexgrill 5-Burner 720-0888S

Best Cheap Gas Grill for a Crowd

Available from Home Depot.
Price: $279 at time of publishing


  • Quick preheating and decent heat consistency, according to experts.
  • 5 stainless steel burners with 11,000-BTUs each, plus a 12,000-BTU side burner.
  • Large cooking area totals 618 square inches.
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates.
  • Electric (battery) ignition.


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

Takeaway: This Nexgrill liquid propane gas grill provides a lot of space for the price. Five main burners plus a side burner and stainless steel side table 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 adds 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 $250, this Nexgrill is by far the best gas grill that fills 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

Best Infrared Gas Grill

Price: $270 at time of publishing


  • Infrared cooking technology produces even, intense heat; prevents flare-ups; and keeps food moist.
  • 3 stainless steel burners with 8,000 BTUs each, plus a 10,000-BTU side burner.
  • Burners reach high heat quickly.
  • Porcelain-coated cooking grates.
  • Generous primary cooking area of 450 square inches; warming rack adds another 150 square inches.
  • Convenience features including a built-in temperature gauge, electric (spark) ignition, and side work areas.


  • Not many owner reviews for judging performance.
  • Grates on similar models are hard to clean and prone to rusting, some users say.

Takeaway: Char-Broil has a loyal following for its relatively inexpensive yet reliable gas grills. Relatively few reviewers have weighed in on this liquid propane-fueled infrared model, 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

Char-Broil Kettleman 22.5" Tru-Infrared 16301878

Best Infrared Charcoal Grill

Price: $96 at time of publishing


  • 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; 2 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 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

Weber 18" Jumbo Joe 1211001

Best Cheap Portable Grill

Available from Amazon, Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, and Ace Hardware.
Price: $82 at time of publishing


  • Good size for family meals and 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 airflow.
  • 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 about quality vs. 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-size grill. Like its larger sibling, it has dampers to 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 ($35 and up from Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Target).

Cuisinart CGG-180T Petit Gourmet

Cuisinart Petit Gourmet CGG-180T

BONUS: Portable Gas Grill Under $300

Available from Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's.
Price: $139 at time of publishing


  • Surprisingly strong performance and generous cooking surface for small, portable grill, reviewers 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 top out at 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 20602108

Char-Broil Patio Bistro 20602108

BONUS: Outdoor Electric Grill Under $300

Available from Amazon.
Price: $179 at time of publishing


  • 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 using or disinclined to use a gas or charcoal grill. Although the 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, although graphite is most readily available.

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado 16620

Char-Griller Akorn Kamado 16620

BONUS: Kamado Grill Under $300

Available from Amazon.
Price: $375 at time of publishing


  • Diminutive, 20-inch-diameter egg-shaped dome with 314 square inches of primary cooking surface and 133 square inches on a (removable) warming rack.
  • Cast iron grates.
  • Triple-wall steel shell with powder-coated exterior and porcelain-coated interior does an excellent job holding heat in, enthusiastic users say.
  • Top and bottom adjustable dampers help with heat regulation.
  • 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, which offer fuel efficiency, heightened charcoal flavor (natural lump charcoal only), and extreme heat range. This is 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 the fire box and one year on parts.

Pit Barrel Cooker

Pit Barrel Cooker

BONUS: Beginner Smoker

Available from Amazon, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware.
Price: $350 at time of publishing


  • Consistently delicious results with fire-it-up-and-forget-about-it operation, according to expert and user reviews.
  • Option to use cooking grate or hang meats for more even cooking on all sides.
  • 30-gallon steel drum with 18.5-inch diameter and porcelain enamel coating.
  • Comes with 8 hooks, 2 hanging rods, charcoal basket, grill grate, hook remover, and stand.
  • No assembly required.


  • Hard to regulate temperature, some reviewers say.
  • Scattered pushback on price for a product that could possibly be DIY.
  • 1-year warranty is relatively short.

Takeaway: The 18.5-inch 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 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

Weber Spirit II E-310 49010001

BONUS: Splurge-Worthy Weber Gas Grill

Available from Amazon, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware.
Price: $519 at time of publishing


  • Meets all expectations and then some, reviewers say, with solid performance, easy cleanup, and perfect results.
  • 3 burners with 10,000 BTUs each and a heat diffuser to efficiently and evenly distribute heat.
  • Porcelain-enameled "flavorizer" bars guard against flare-ups and impart smoky essences from drippings.
  • Large 424-square-inch primary cooking area and 105-square-inch warming rack.
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grate uniquely designed to tackle both large and small food items.
  • Easy-access catch pan for grease/drippings.
  • Convenience features including electrical (battery) ignition, built-in 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.
  • 10-year warranty on entire grill.


  • Lifting arrangement using the side table as a 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, a more robust ignition, and a longer warranty; not to mention the many color choices available. They're also compatible with an iGrill proprietary app-connected thermometer that monitors internal temperature and food readiness.The Weber Spirit II 49010001 is the natural gas version of the three-burner E-310, which is also available as a liquid propane grill. Natural gas grills may cost more for the initial setup but save money in the long-term and eliminate the need to constantly replace fuel tanks. They're also a little better for the environment. Reviews for this model indicate that users are thrilled with its performance, and experts agree that Weber seems to have gotten it right again — and gotten even better — with this 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.

Grill Reviews: What We Considered
Jelena Danilovic/istockphoto

Grill Reviews: What We Considered

In researching the best cheap grills, we read product reviews from sources such as,, 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.