Some Recent Grill Purchasing Advice
Lately, I’ve been responding to quite a few emails in regard to purchasing grills. It seems perhaps the second grill purchasing season, Fall, has approached. It’s a time when grills are starting to go on sale to start clearing inventory for next year’s models, so keep your eye out for sales and clearance items!
I’ll admit. I’m biased. I love Weber grills, but there are a lot of options out there that are also good. This post is basically a summary of recent advice I’ve given to our fellow readers. Most of my experience has been on Weber hardware, but there’s some good tidbits on other manufacturers as well. I encourage you to offer up your own experiences either through the comments or by dropping us a line from the contact form.
Weber grills are basically the beginning of ultra high-end grills. They’re spendy, but not considering the class that they’re in when grills can reach $8,000.
When buying a grill, the biggest question is, “What’s your budget?” The second biggest, what types of things do you typically cook? I personally use a Weber Summit S650 for my gas grill. The S670′s are out now and are really nice as well. I like the versatility, the cooking space, the grate, and the smoker box. Plus, it’s rock solid heavy gauge stainless steel. If you live in a windy area (as I do), that’s going to be extremely important. Flimsy grills will not hold heat, especially in the winter, and they’ll often blow out leaving your grill filling with the stench of sweet and humid propane.
If you’re shopping around at a store, I’d suggest opening the lid and giving it a good right to left wiggle. Observe how much the steel bends and changes shape. If it feels pretty “bendy,” stay away. Try the old lid shimmy on a brand such as Weber, Napoleon or Viking and feel how solid it is. That’s what you’re paying for: sturdy construction that maintains heat in the elements.
The Summit is Weber’s top of the line model and gets up to around $2000. If that’s over your budget, here’s a rundown of some of their other models.
The Genesis series is a pretty solid line of gas grills. They have a nice, thick gauge of steel in the hood to maintain temperature and protect the grill from whatever mother nature wants to throw at it. Genesis also comes in a variety of colors and has a nice lineup of accessories. This year’s style has three burners arranged left to right (which is awesome because it used to be front to back). Genesis also comes with a gas gauge that tells you when you’re running low and a built in thermometer. It’s usually priced around $600 or $700.
The step below the Genesis would be the Spirit series. This would be Weber’s entry level grill (aside from the Que series which is geared more toward portability and quick even heat). The Spirit will also have good quality steel and includes a built in thermometer. I do not think it has a gas level gauge though, and accessories are a little more limited. I’d recommend the 3 burner version over the 2 burner version because you’ll want the flexibility when cooking with direct and indirect heat. This grill will be right around $500.
Advantages to these Weber lines include even heat distribution and electronic ignition systems that will fire your grill every time for probably the next 10 years without replacing parts (other than a battery or two). Also, each assembles in 10-20 minutes, which is far different from other manufacturers. The pieces are large and sturdy as opposed to many screwed together parts.
The Genesis line includes a cast iron grill grate, which I’m in love with. You’ll achieve great sears and the grate will season itself much like a cast iron pan allowing for better and better flavor as it ages and producing a natural non-stick coating as it soaks in oils and fats.
There’s other good brands out there as well, but like I said I’m pretty much a Weber fanboy. Charbroil has some great products in their Commercial series. They have electronic ignitions as well and you can usually get a side burner included for the same price as a Weber without. Charbroil is also doing some experimenting with infrared burners under the grate. That produces really even heat and nearly no flare ups because they’re often putting the burners under a sheet of glass that catches fat drippings. To me, though, that starts to take some of the grilling out grilling. Infrared burners are also only ideal for fast cooking at high temperatures. Don’t expect beautiful roasted chickens or ribs. Do expect great burgers, steaks and brats, though.
Napoleon has also been consistently making rock solid grills for decades. Their entry level grills start a little higher in price than Weber’s, but they have quality to back it. They also have a wide variety of models that can suit any need, especially when building a full on outdoor kitchen. Their higher-end Prestige series tops out around $5500 and includes a massive 1102 square inches of cooking space coupled with an array of heating methods: ceramic infrared bottom burner, infrared rotisserie burner, standard tube burners and even an optional charcoal tray. Yowza!
Kenmore has some promising looking products as well, and they seem to be getting good reviews. The thing to watch out for is the steel quality with them. From the ones I’ve seen they seem pretty poor and flimsy. If you’ve got cheap protection from the elements it will show in the food and make cooking more difficult.
Also watch out for cheap gimmicks that are often just distractions from overall quality. Things like bottle openers or clunky timers are thrown in to offer the perception of more value when really they are often cheap and end up breaking anyway. Go for solid construction – not toys.
Keep in mind that most grills no longer include propane tanks, so that will add an additional $30-40 to your end cost. A good set of grilling tools is also essential. Weber’s Style series is my favorite so far. I don’t recommend Weber’s mitts though. I’ve burned through a couple already. I like the more sturdy leather mitts.