Where will you put your grill? A grill with side tables can take up a lot of room on a patio or deck, so be sure to measure your available space before you shop. If you're thinking of a small grill, you will need a heat-proof surface to keep it on so that you don't have to squat down to cook.
Will you use the grill for slow cooking? If so (and if you're choosing a charcoal model), it's helpful to choose one with hinged grates to make adding coals easier.
Do you plan to smoke meats? If so, choose a charcoal grill with smoking capabilities built in or dedicated smoker (either charcoal or electric).
Are you willing to pay more for convenience? If so, look for a model with features such as a built-in thermometer, charcoal storage bin (for charcoal grills) and side tables or tool hooks.
What do you plan to cook? If you're just searing meats, like burgers, steaks or hot dogs, any type of gas or charcoal grill will do. If you want to cook larger items, like whole chickens, roasts, ham, or ribs, you need to be sure the cooking area is adequate and that the lid is roomy enough to accommodate larger items. Also, indirect cooking, which is often used for ribs and larger cuts of meat, is easier on a larger grill.
Do you have the luxury of time? If not, you may be best off with a gas grill; when using a charcoal grill, you need to wait 15 to 30 minutes after lighting before you can begin to cook.
Do you have access to natural gas? Using natural gas instead of propane will save you money in the long run and help you avoid trips to refill the propane tank -- though be sure to budget for the services of a licensed plumber to run the gas line in your initial cost. You'll also need to make sure that the grill you select can run on natural gas (or can be converted to do so).
How many people do you typically cook for? Estimate about 100 square inches of grilling surface per person. Too small of a grill could be frustrating if you have to cook in multiple batches to feed a crowd.
Do you value durability over convenience or vice versa? Charcoal grills tend to last longer than gas ones because they have fewer moving parts; but a gas grill wins out in terms of convenience.
Keep in mind that when you buy a grill, you will also need some other accessories, such as a grill cover (around $15 to $50); tools ($20 to $50 or more); a cleaning brush (between $10 and $25); and possibly a handle light or rolling cart (around $25 to $50 each). When you buy a gas grill the propane tanks are often sold separately and run about $30 to $50. With charcoal grills or smokers you'll need charcoal and wood chips.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Grills: The best grill is the one that fits your lifestyle. These are the top gas and charcoal grills for every cooking style and budget. We include the best portable grill and a great smoker, too.
Best Gas Grills: You can't beat a gas grill for convenience and ease of use -- just turn a knob, wait a few minutes, and cook. These are the top gas grills in a range of sizes and prices.
Best Charcoal Grills: The charcoal grill is the gold standard for many for getting the maximum flavor out of your barbecued foods. These are the top performing charcoal grills for any size family.
Best Portable Grills: If you want to tailgate or travel with your grill -- or just don't have the space for a full-size grill -- these are our picks for the best gas and charcoal small grills.
Best Smokers: Low and slow, that's the most traditional barbecuing technique. These charcoal and electric smokers will deliver succulent meats and can perform other cooking tasks as well.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to determine the best grills. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.