Buying a grill is kind of like saving for retirement—you want to reap the benefits of both (burgers and ribs for the former, a life of leisure for the latter) but you’re not entirely sure how to do it. While we can’t give you beachfront investment advice, we can help you buy a grill. After polling the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen and editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, plus a few chef friends, we’ve compiled a list of the best grills to buy, from the basic charcoal Weber that never fails to the gas grill that comes with a rotisserie.
The Best Charcoal Grills
Chances are that if you ask 10 people what their favorite charcoal grill is, more than half will say the Weber Kettle. The 22" makes charcoal grilling easy, so it’s a great option for summer grillers or those just starting out on non-gas grills. Go with the premium model instead of the basic entry-level one (the difference in price is about $50). It has an ash catcher, better lower vents, and tends to last longer. If you anticipate needing space for resting tools and trays of food, buy one with a prep table on the side.
The Kudu is what happens when a Southern entrepreneur with a natural love of grilling goes to South Africa and gets inspired by braai, the country’s tradition of communal open-fire cooking. The Kudu’s multifunctional use makes it feel like the Instant Pot of grills—aside from good old fashioned grilling, you can bake, sear, sauté, steam, and fry with it—and turn it into an elevated fire pit. The main difference between the Kudu and other grills is the tiered set-up that lets you cook different things at the same time; plus, it has a flat bottom that yields more hot surface area than the rounded bottom of the Weber Kettle. (Read about why chefs love the Kudu Grill here.)
They might not be what your mind jumps to when you think of portable grills, but Shota Nakajima, chef/owner of Adana in Seattle, recommends the stone hibachi grills of his childhood and early career in Japan, especially if you want to cook with the high-heat, minimal flame-producing binchotan charcoal. Ones like the Hitachiya Konro are made of diatomaceous earth brick, a natural insulator that keeps charcoal burning longer than other grills. It can be used anywhere and for anything, but Nakajima recommends it for proteins. His tip? “Bring it to the river when you fish.”
PK (Portable Kitchen) Grills was first founded in the ‘50s, and that many of the originals are still around—and working—today is a testament to their quality. The classic capsule grill is made of thick-cast aluminum and though it has less slightly less cooking area than the Weber Kettle (310 square inches versus 363), it’s heavier and retains heat better. It has two heating zones, one for high direct heat and the other for indirect low and slow. If you’ve mastered charcoal grilling on the Weber Kettle and want to upgrade to something that doubles as a smoker, go with the PK.
And then there’s the Big Green Egg, a culty ceramic kamado-style grill that’s been around since the '70s and really is for people who want to do more with their charcoal grill than cook a few burgers and steaks. It’s not cheap—prices ranges from $400 for a mini to $2,000 for the largest size—but it can reach temperatures high enough for firing a pizza and low enough for smoking brisket. Its range and ability to precisely maintain temperature makes it a favorite among chefs and die-hard grillers.
The Best Gas/Pellet Grills
The super high-end Lynx is the kind of appliance you get if you really do intend to grill every night of the summer, don’t want to bother with charcoal or wood, and have ample patio space. Or if you just have champagne taste. It has a total of four burners, including a rotisserie for slow-roasted juicy chicken you didn’t think you were capable of making at home.
The Weber Q 2200 is a reliable portable gas grill that at less than $250, delivers a ton of bang for your buck. It’s compact, sits sturdy on a tabletop, and is easy to carry wherever your outdoor cooking takes you. It has cast-iron grates and ample surface area (280 square inches, more than enough to fit a few burgers, some husks of corn, and a hot dog or two). The one catch is that it doesn’t get as hot as a charcoal grill, but that’s true of almost any gas grill, especially the portable ones.
For those who grill only occasionally over summer vacation and don’t need to make a big deal about it, the Weber Spirit is a solid choice. It costs less than a thousand dollars, and has three burners, porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates, and two side tables for prep. It’s also compatible with Weber’s Bluetooth-enabled thermometer system, iGrill 3, that alerts you (via mobile app, of course) when your meat has reached the desired level of doneness.
Chefs and grilling enthusiasts love Traeger grills, which require electricity to start and burn wood pellets instead of gas. Pellet grills, whether for smoking or grilling, make it easy to cook at consistent temperatures for long periods of time and impart a delicious smoky flavor to whatever you’re cooking. You can slow-cook for fall-off-the-bone ribs or turn the heat all the way up and use it as a regular grill.
Lamb deserves a spot on your grill this summer:Carla Lalli Music
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