Weber Genesis E-330
Weber Genesis E-330

Best gas grill

Experts and owners agree: The Weber Genesis E-330 is the only gas grill you'll ever need. It's roomy, attractive, easy to use and clean, and comes with a long warranty and great customer service. This particular model includes both a side burner and sear burner, but other models in the Genesis E-series line are available with only one or the other and at a lower price. The E-330 comes in three colors -- black, copper, and green. You also can choose between propane and natural gas-powered models.
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Char-Broil Classic 4-Burner Gas Grill with Sideburner
Char-Broil Classic 4-Burner Gas Grill with Sideburner

Best value gas grill

Char-Broil makes a well-respected line of very affordable, feature-rich gas grills, and reviewers say the 40,000 Btu Char-Broil Classic 4-Burner Gas Grill is one of the best. Owners say it's incredibly easy and intuitive to use and clean. It has a 480 square inch primary cooking area, with an addition 180 square-inch secondary cooking area, making it a great choice if you grill for a crowd. The side burner earns a lot of praise too, and contributes to the exceptionally good value of this gas grill.

$196.99
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Weber Original 22-inch Kettle
Weber Original 22-inch Kettle

Best charcoal grill

There's no contest in this category: the Weber Original 22-inch Kettle is as good of a grill you can buy at any price -- but at a price that's an incredible value when you consider that this Weber can last for decades. It performs equally well at direct or indirect grilling, and is also a great smoker, according to experts and owners. The 22-inch Kettle's 363 square inch cooking space can handle a large quantity of food, and it's reported as easy to assemble, use and clean.
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$99.00
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REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill
REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill

Best pellet grill

Some think pellet grills are the grill of the future, and none get better reviews than the REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill. In expert testing, it consistently hits the desired temperature and holds it evenly across the entire cooking surface. Owners say everything they cook on it turns out perfectly -- and perfectly delicious. A few don't think this pellet grill imparts a smoky enough flavor, but some have purchased a separate smoke box to supplement that. REC TEC gets raves for its customer service.

$1,598.00
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Big Green Egg
Big Green Egg

Best smoker

Reviewers say the Big Green Egg is one of the best -- and easiest -- smokers they've ever used, but it's not just a one-trick pony; this versatile oval oven also grills and cooks things like pizza to perfection. It's so popular with owners that its fandom call themselves "EGGheads." Experts say its extremely solid construction and excellent heat retention mean that you can maintain a consistent temperature for many hours, making it ideal even for challenging foods like pulled pork. The Egg comes in seven sizes.
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Weber Smokey Joe 14" Charcoal Grill
Weber Smokey Joe 14" Charcoal Grill

Best portable grill

The Smokey Joe 14" Charcoal Grill is a scaled-down version of the iconic Weber Original Kettle Series, and reviewers say it works just as well as its big brother. Its light weight and small size make it highly portable, and it's equally popular with tailgaters, campers and those who live in homes or apartments with limited outdoor space. Many say they've had their Smokey Joe for many years and it cooks as well as it did on day one. Owners also say it's easy to use and clean.
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Grills are an integral tool in a cook's arsenal

If you're one of those people who just loves to barbecue, we've got good news: The grills category continues to improve, with models that are quicker to start, better at retaining heat and easier to clean than ever before. While gas grills are simpler to use and charcoal grills are better at imparting that delicious barbecued taste, recent innovations are blurring the distinction between the two types as now even gas grills have options for adding flavor through smoke boxes and proprietary technology, such as Weber's "flavorizer" bars.

But grilling isn't just a matter of tossing a hunk of meat on the grill. Most grills are very versatile cooking tools that can slow cook a rack of ribs using indirect heating methods as effectively as they can sear a steak over direct heat. Many grills can also do double duty as smokers, operating at very low temperatures for a very long time to cook foods to mouth-watering perfection. The best grills, no matter what type they are, should be easy to operate and clean, with a steady, even heat that is not prone to those flare-ups that can ruin dinner in a flash.

Types of grills

Gas grills heat quickly and are easy to use. They also make it easier to control the cooking temperature because gas grills have knobs that are more like an oven's. Many gas grills also have temperature gauges so you know when it's at the optimal temperature. Gas grills are versatile and can be used for both direct and indirect cooking, just like a charcoal grill -- except instead of fiddling with moving charcoal around, you just have to turn off the heat on one side for indirect. You can also buy smoker boxes that hold wood chips and can be set on the flames to impart a more traditional barbecue flavor to your food. Larger gas grills usually have two cooking surfaces -- primary and secondary. The primary cooking surface is directly over the flames, while the secondary rack is above the primary rack and is used to keep foods warm or to cook foods that you may traditionally cook in an oven, such as corn or bread wrapped in foil, while your meat cooks. You pay for all that convenience, though, because gas grills generally cost more. You can find models priced as low as about $150, but most gas grills start at a few hundred dollars and go up into the thousands.

Charcoal grills are the pick of many barbecue enthusiasts. Charcoal takes longer to light than a gas grill and controlling a charcoal grill's heat isn't as simple as turning a gas grill's temperature dial. But enthusiasts say the extra trouble is worth it for the flavor that cooking over charcoal imparts. Charcoal grills tend to be less expensive than gas grills, too, with basic models starting at less than $100 and most premium units topping out at $300 or $400. Many charcoal grills are built to last for years or even decades.

Smokers maintain a low, slow temperature better than grills. Most people think of smokers as strictly for large, tough cuts of meats like ribs or brisket, but, in fact, smokers are quite versatile -- you can even make pizza in a smoker. Many charcoal grills can also double as smokers, but they usually take more tending than a dedicated smoker because they don't maintain the temperature as well. Many grilling aficionados say they never knew what they were missing until they upgraded to a dedicated smoker.

Portable grills are available in both charcoal and gas models. These are great choices for camping, tailgating or picnics -- or if you just have a limited outdoor space and need a small grill. Charcoal portables are available for less than $100, while gas portables usually run between $150 and $400. In spite of their smaller size, portable grills should offer a relatively large cooking surface so you don't have to grill too many batches to produce a family meal.

Because grills use fire or gas, it's not surprising that some models would end up on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's list of recalled products. If you're planning to buy a used model or shop at an outlet rather than a conventional retailer, it pays to check the CPSC list before buying. Also, it goes without saying that grills get hot on the outside when they're being used for cooking. Keep children and pets away from them and take basic safety precautions like wearing oven mitts and being careful not to touch hot surfaces.

If you live in an apartment or other residence that does not allow traditional grills, or if you’re just not comfortable with fire, be sure to check out our separate report on electric grills. There we recommend safe, easy-to-use grills that can be used indoors or out, as well as a few that double as sandwich makers or griddles.

How we found the best grills

There are a lot of resources for finding grill reviews of every type. ConsumerReports.org was helpful in our search for the best gas grill because they have an exhaustive roundup of dozens of models of grills in every size, while Cooks Illustrated compares charcoal grills. We also turned to expert reviews by barbecue professionals and enthusiasts in articles and on sites dedicated to grills and grilling, such as AmazingRibs.com and BBQGuys.com.

To get a feel for how each grill operates in real-world, long-term use, we also consulted thousands of owner reviews from users at retail sites, such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com. The result is our picks for the top grills and smokers for any lifestyle or budget.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Gas Grills | Best Charcoal Grills | Best Portable Grills | Buying Guide | Our Sources

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