I often get asked by my readers, friends and family what grill I recommend, which is why I developed this grill finder guide. Finding the best grill for you largely depends on your lifestyle and what is important to you! Because there are so many grill types on the market these days (gas, charcoal, flattop, pellet, hibachi style and combinations of these), it is important to first identify what features are most important to you and then narrow down the grill options from there. I developed the infographic below to help you understand which grills meet the criteria for you, much like taking a grill personality test.
For example, if you value a quick start time, a gas, pellet or flattop grill could be a good fit for you, or even a charcoal grill with a built in gas starter. Or, if smoke flavor is your number one driver, then a kamado style smoker could be the best fit.
Watch my video below and read my thoughts on the pros and cons of each grill style to identify which grill is the best fit for your lifestyle. Now that you know what your options are, you can find the best grill for you! And with the new tech in grills these days, some grills multi task so well that you can even do things like have a quick start time AND have smoke flavor AND be able to sear a steak- exciting I know! If you want the infographic to keep handy, scroll to the bottom and you can download it.
Step 1: Understand the Major Grill Types
In today’s market, there’s an incredible variety of grills, but I find that the majority of them neatly fit into one of five major types. I’m going to dissect each one for you, and I’ll also share my personal favorites for the best all-around grill within each category.
The Gas Grill
How It Works
Gas grills are known for their ease of use, (e.g. “turn and burn” capabilities) which make them the go-to grill for many. Gas grills are usually powered by propane or natural gas, with the ability to be built into outdoor kitchens, and are hooked up directly to a natural gas line.
Gas grills are often classified by BTUS, number of burners, cooking area, their warranty and ease of use for replacing parts. Higher-end, better quality gas grills will allow you to replace parts, versus buying an entire new grill if something goes wrong.
Keep in mind: You usually get what you pay for with gas grills, with quality and longevity likely to increase as you spend more.
Because they are easy to start and heat regulation is as simple as turning a knob, gas grills make grilling every night of the week possible with minimal mess or clean up.
Gas grills will never imbue your food with the classic smoke flavor of a charcoal grill. While you can achieve a nice maillard reaction, you won’t get that smoke flavor unless you use a smoker tube — which still can’t compete with grilling over charcoal.
Maillard Reaction = A chemical reaction between amino acids and sugar that occurs when heat is applied to food. This reaction produces a distinctive flavor common in (but not limited to) grilled fare. Foods like cookies, meats, and even grilled vegetables can undergo a Maillard Reaction in the right conditions.
My favorite Gas Grills: Napolean, Broil King – Watch This Video
I recommend you watch the video I did with Derek Riches on “Best Gas Grills under $1200” to understand which grills are offering the best value in the market these days. The Gas Grill in my backyard right now is the Aspire by Hestan as I had previously been working with them (this is a higher end gas grill in the $6k range). I also recommend Napolean as a great option in many different price points, with the added bonus that they are actually still made in North America!
The Charcoal Grill
What it Is
Charcoal grills run on either charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, and some have the capability to use real wood. Charcoal grills offer unmistakable smoke flavor and simple design (read: minimal parts to break). Charcoal grills are the gateway to fire-management and smoking techniques, since they require a more hands-on approach to cooking.
Charcoal is always the fuel for the fire in a charcoal grill, and air is the mechanism for controlling it. In other words, more air = more fire. All charcoal grills will have vents to control the flow of oxygen to the fire.
Hot Tip: Look for a charcoal grill that gives enough grilling-surface area to create direct and indirect zones (e.g. coals/no coals) for optimal control of your cooking experience. This is essential for cooking smoked ribs and grilling the perfect steak).
While a charcoal grill can take a bit more time than a gas grill to get started, everything you cook on one will have that smoked flavor, guaranteed – and nothing beats it: Smoke flavor elevates everything.
Charcoal takes about 15 minutes to get started, so it doesn’t offer instant gratification like a gas or pellet smoker will — but the taste is well worth it.
Hot Tip: Using a grill starter like the JJ George Fire Starter will make it easy to get the coals going. Some charcoal grills, like the Weber Performer, include a built in-gas starter.
My Favorite Charcoal Grill: Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Touch-N-Go Gas Ignition System
This is a 22″ classic Kettle with a BUILT IN gas starter- the best of both worlds! It also has a built in prep table with built in charcoal storage as an added bonus.
Why I Love It
As an American classic, the Weber Kettle continues to set the benchmark for charcoal grilling. With its fairly affordable price tag, it offers anyone the chance to jumpstart their grilling and smoking adventures. You can get a 22″ Mastertouch Kettle Grill at a low entry level price point of $139, upgrade to the Mastertouch Kettle with more bells and whistles including better grates and inserts for smoking, ash catcher, etc but my favorite version of the Kettle is the Weber Performer with the built in ignition system. This essentially gives all the fun and flavor of cooking on charcoal with the added bonus of a built in gas starter that makes getting the coals ignited a breeze- you can have your charcoal lit and ready to use in about 15 minutes. I simply load in my charcoal, turn on the gas starter, go prep my food, and come back and my coals are lit and ready to be cooked on!
The Pellet Grill
What it Is
Pellet Grills fuse the ease of use of a gas grill with the wood-fired flavor achieved from using wood pellets for fuel.
Pellet grills feed pellets into a motorized auger that directs them into a firebox. The firebox then distributes the heat while circulating air in the grill chamber. The controller allows you to regulate pellet temperature.
Pellet grills are as easy as cooking in your oven with the added bonus of smoke flavor.
While Pellet grills offer ease of use for smoke flavor at the push of a button, they have a lot of moving parts; and more parts often equals more potential for breakdown and replacement. Pellet Grills also need to be maintained: They need to be shut down properly and cleaned regularly to ensure they continue working properly.
Hot Tip: Consider investing in a good ash vacuum for vacuuming out your pellet grill on a regular basis. I love the PowerSmith PAVC101 10 Amp Ash Vacuum, available on Amazon.
My Favorite Pellet Smokers: Green Mountain Grills (under $1k), Coyote Outdoor (Higher End multitasking Pellet Grill $4k)
If you are in the $1000 or under price range, I recommend Green Mountain Grills. If you have a bigger budget and are looking for a built in Pellet Smoker or a Pellet Smoker that can replace multiple grills in your backyard- check out the Coyote Outdoor Pellet Smoker. The Coyote is the only Pellet Grill I know of in the market that can sear a steak with temps up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why I Love It
Green Mountain Grills: After working with Green Mountain Grills for 8+ years, I 100% recommend them. They continue to innovate when it comes to their technology, and when you call their customer service line, you will get in touch with a real person who will answer any questions you may have. Green Mountain works with a dealer network versus selling at big-box stores, which also ensures you have a local expert who can answer questions about the grill. Thoughtful features such as the ash vac clean out system and accessories such as the pizza-oven insert make this a grill that’s easy to love.
Coyote Outdoor: The Coyote Pellet Grill is a sexy looking grill that bucks the trend in pellet smokers in that it looks like a gas grill on your patio. If you are looking for an all around powerhouse grill, the Coyote Pellet Smoker functions more like a traditional grill in that it can smoke, grill, sear and bake.
The Flat-Top Griddle
What it Is
Flat-top griddles easily turn you into an outdoor short-order cook, making it easy to prepare lots of different types of food from bacon to pancakes to burgers for a crowd — great for families and tailgating.
Flat-top griddles have a large, propane gas-powered cooking surface, and are usually built on a rolling cart.
Flat-top griddles make it easy to cook virtually anything (and in large quantities) outdoors.
While flat tops are super versatile and easy to use, they don’t offer smoke flavor or actual char marks like you would get from a normal grilling experience.
Best All-Around: Loco Cookers 36″ SmartTemp™ 3 Burner Griddle
Why I Love It
Loco Cookers is newer on the market compared to other flat top griddle companies and differentiate from the market by offering Smart Temp technology. While other griddles don’t offer temperature accuracy where you have control of what temp you are actually cooking at, SmartTemp technology on the Loco allows you to set your griddle to the temperature you want to cook at. So, if you want to flash fry something you can set it to 400 degrees or get up to 500 degrees with the sear setting for searing a steak. I also like that they offer colors other than black and incorporate smart features such as fold down shelves, a built in trash bag holder, paper towel holder and lots of extra storage in the cabinet it is built on.
The Kamado-Style Ceramic Grill/Smoker
What it Is
A Kamado-style grill is a ceramic grill modeled after ancient Chinese cookers that were originally made out of clay. They cook amazingly well because the ceramic offers both heat and moisture retention.
A Kamado comprises a main body and a lid that is attached via hinges. Most Kamado-style ceramic grills will require the use of a plate setter (an item that enables the grill to cook on indirect versus direct heat). Many Kamado manufacturers are starting to make accessories that enable maximizing space on the grill for cooking multiple things at once.
Kamado grills use charcoal efficiently and prove versatile for grilling, smoking, baking and even making pizzas.
Kamados are on the more expensive side of the grilling spectrum, but a worthwhile investment that you’ll keep for many years to come. They’re also super heavy compared to other grills. Luckily, most come on a wheeled base.
Best All-Around: The Large Big Green Egg
Why I Love It
Big Green Egg was the first to bring Kamado style cooking to the masses and there’s a reason they have a cult following who call themselves “Egg Heads.” These grills really do offer an amazing cooking experience. An Egg is an investment in your outdoor kitchen: although you may need to replace parts on the Egg, the ceramic grill itself will stand the test of time. Having said that, there are plenty of great options in the ceramic market including the Kamado Joe and the Primo.
If you are looking to get a Big Green Egg, I’ve got a complete series to help you get started on the Big Green Egg, including over 100 recipes for the Big Green Egg!
The Hibachi / Portable Grill
What it Is
The hibachi originates from Japan. Originally, it was a traditional 8th Century coking bowl fueled by charcoal. Today, a Hibachi grill refers to a portable charcoal grill.
Hibachi grills are small and great for grilling on the go.
Hibachi grills make charcoal grilling attainable for anyone, no matter the size of their backyard (or whether or not they have one at all!). Hibachis are especially great for taking on-the-go to a park or for tailgating.
Hibachi grills can’t cook a lot of food at once, so if you need to cook for a lot of people, this isn’t the grill for you.
Hot Tip: I like to use my hibachi grill for recipes where I want to ensure I get a lot of smoke flavor, since the ingredients cooked over a hibachi are located very close to the coals.
Best All-Around: Lodge Sportsman
The Lodge Sportsman is a cast iron portable grill made by Lodge, the creators of the classic Lodge Cast Iron pan. It has a handle at the top so you can carry it to your next cookout spot, wherever that may be!
Why I Love It
For a true hibachi style grill, nothing beats the Lodge Sportsman. It is made of cast iron and cooks efficiently offering amazing beautiful char marks you can only get from cooking on cast iron. It is small and portable and great for searing a few steaks for a few people. True to form, it is small and can only cook for a few people at once.
Note, I have the portable version of just about every grill listed here, if you want a portable version of any gas, charcoal, flat top, or kamado- every company listed here has a portable version of their grill. I love cooking on small charcoal grills- I think they give more smoke flavor than their larger counterparts due to the proximity of the food to the coals.
Step 2: Choose the Grill that’s Right for You
Now that you’re a bit more grill-savvy about the primary types available, I’ve put together a feature-based comparison chart to help spark your decision. I wish you the best in your grill hunt, and remember, I’m just a message away for your grilling queries! Catch me on Instagram @grillgirlrobyn, I’d love to help with any grill-related questions you have!
New Grill Tech Alert, Plus, Combo Grills
Be on the lookout for grills that are revolutionizing the industry by merging old technology with new. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Masterbuilt Gravity Series™ Charcoal Grill: This grill uses digitized charcoal grilling technology, which helps you control heat automatically. It comes with a charcoal hopper that feeds charcoal into the grill with a digitally controlled fan that maintains the temperature.
NexGrill: The Oakford 1150 Pro Offset Smoker and 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill offers a grill that is both a gas grill, charcoal grill, smoker and flattop griddle- effectively combining 4 grill styles into one grill and appealing to the person who wants to multitask in their backyard without buying 4 separate grills. They also offer a gas grill that has a built in air fryer, eliminating the need to run back inside while grilling outside!
As you embark on this journey to find your perfect grill, remember that it’s all about matching your needs and preferences. Whether it’s about size, fuel type, or additional features, there’s a grill out there waiting for you. So fire up your passion for grilling and let’s sizzle the perfect story together, one grill at a time.
* Many gas grills now have wifi capabilities, which means they need to be plugged in.
**Most types of grills come in smaller portable sizes these days, including kamados and pellet smokers.