NOTHING SAYS SUMMER like food sizzling on the grill. Here in the US and Canada, this Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. It’s also a great time to score a deal on a new grill, since Labor Day is when big-box repair stores clear out their summer inventory. It can be overwhelming though—which is the right grill for you?
We have been testing grills for more than two years—searing, smoking, grilling, and even baking on them—to find the best choice for everyone. Below, you’ll find our top picks for each category (charcoal, gas, pellet, hybrid, and other types) as well as a few alternatives, plus general buying tips if none of these capture your fancy.
For your other outdoor needs, be sure to check out our buying guides to the Best Portable Grills, Best Grilling Accessories, Best Camping Gear, Best Tents, and the Best Binoculars.
Updated August 2022: We’ve added the Traeger Timberline.
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Best Charcoal Grill
The Weber kettle is ubiquitous at neighborhood cookouts for good reason. It’s reasonably priced, well made, and just works. It can be used to sear a steak to perfection, smoke a brisket overnight, and handle several families’ worth of burgers and hot dogs in the afternoon.
There are two versions of the Weber Kettle: Original and Premium. The Premium is $80 more and features a built-in thermometer in the lid, a hinged grill grate, and a fancier ash-removal system. Unless you really like the easier ash-removal system though, I’d suggest sticking with the Original Kettle and putting the money you save toward a good thermometer system like the Weber Connect Smart Hub. Sizes range from 18 to 26 inches. Weber sent me the 26-incher to test, and it is colossal. I have grilled for 10 people on it and had plenty of room to spare. But if you’re cooking for a family of five or fewer, the 18-inch model is perfect. Whichever size you decide on if you’re storing it outdoors with no roof, grab a cover to protect your investment.
★ Runner Up: The PK 300 ($600) is a fantastic grill. It’s made of cast aluminum, so it’s a little heavier than the Weber, but it can also be used for oven-like cooking, much like a Big Green Egg (see below). The main reason Weber wins here, for me, is price. You don’t need to spend this much just to get your grill on.
Best Gas Grill
This is by far the hardest reviewing decision I’ve had to make. The truth is, there are about five grills I could put here, but in the end I went with the Weber Spirit II E-210 for its simplicity, build quality, even cooking temps, and easy-to-adjust burners. It features nice side trays with plenty of space for platters, and hooks to keep tongs and other tools handy. It lacks some niceties, like a side burner, but it does what a good grill should: cook your food well. The porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates are solid, and clean-up is easy with a little soap and water. My favorite feature is the massive turn radius of the burner knobs, which makes it easy to dial in the perfect flame.
★ A Bigger Option: If you’re cooking for a crowd and want something larger, I recommend Charbroil’s massive 6-Burner Performance Series ($499). It’s a great grill for crowds. It also has a 10,000-Btu side burner to heat up your beans while the hot dogs are cooking.
Best of Both Worlds
The charcoal vs. gas grill debate will never be settled to either side’s satisfaction. (Those of us in the charcoal camp have to live with being right in silence.) But what if you could avoid the debate altogether by having both on the same grill? This is where the head-exploding emoji goes. Charbroil’s hybrid grill can switch between gas and charcoal modes. There’s also a side burner for heating up your mac and cheese or other sides, making it more of an outdoor kitchen than some of the other options here. Under the hood, this hybrid looks like every gas grill you’ve seen: bars cover gas pipes to distribute flames, with a cast iron grate on top of that. The results from the gas grilling are as good as any I’ve tried.
Here’s where your head explodes, though: If you remove the bars and add a tray to cover the gas burners, you’ve got a charcoal grill. There’s only room for a single layer of charcoal, which isn’t going to work for smoking, but for flavorful sears it’s perfect. To get it going all you have to do is light the gas burners and close the lid, and your charcoal will be ready in about 15 minutes. It really is the best of both worlds.
Best Pellet Grill/Smoker
If you want to become the neighborhood pitmaster without leaving the couch, Traeger’s Wi-Fi-powered Ironwood electric pellet smoker (7/10, WIRED Review) is the way to go. Like a Weber grill, it’s made of heavy, solid metal. The excellent app makes it easy to control your cooks from the comfort of, well, anywhere. You can keep tabs on the cooking progress of your meat through your phone, but the grill itself controls the temperature, the amount of smoke, and all the other details. The in-app recipes are pretty good too, and clean-up isn’t too hard thanks to the accessible grease trap.
The downside is the price. Oh, and the fact that Traeger recommends using only its own pellets. I’ve also heard stories of premature rusting in some cases, though that has not happened with my review unit.
Best Luxury Grill/Smoker
If you’re serious about grilling and smoking, Traeger’s Timberline (7/10, WIRED Recommends) is the perfect all-in-one outdoor kitchen. It uses the same wireless smoking smarts as the Ironwood above but adds some extras, like an induction burner (perfect for adding a last-minute sear with a cast iron pan). The insulated smoke box has room for six pork shoulders, or about the equivalent racks of ribs or chickens. WIRED associate editor Parker Hall managed to feed hundreds of people using it. If that’s not enough, there’s also an XL version that’s even bigger.
“All of my meats heated evenly and were perfectly cooked right when the smoker said they would be,” Hall says. If you want flawless smoking from the comfort of your couch and price is not a factor, the Timberline delivers.
Two Great Portable Grills
We have an entire guide devoted to portable grills, but it’s worth mentioning our absolute favorites here. For charcoal, I love the Weber Jumbo Joe pictured above. It’s the little sibling to our top pick here, the Original Kettle. The Jumbo Joe is perfect for car camping or cookouts at the local park. Build yourself a stand back at the house and it can do double duty as your portable and home grill—it’s what I’ve been using both at home and on the road for four years. It’s picked up a little rust in that time because I leave it out uncovered, but it still performs like the day I bought it.
If you want a portable gas grill, I’ve come to really like the Coleman Roadtrip 225 Grill. It’s relatively lightweight and gives you the option to use only one burner, so you can grill a couple of burgers without draining your propane tank. With variable controls, you can sear veggies on one side while cooking meat more slowly on the other.
Best Indoor Grill
Not everyone has a yard, and it’s increasingly common for apartments to ban open-flame grills on balconies. This is where electric grills come in. It’s grilling, sort of, but without the flames. I remain a fan of the George Foreman grill. Sure, you can say it’s just a hot plate with ridges, but if it’s all you can do, it’s better than nothing. Grill on with pride, my fellow George Foreman grillers.
There are a lot of fancy George Foreman grills at this point, but I still prefer the simple four-serving one that served me well through years of apartment dwelling. There’s a drip pan to catch all the grease, and if you’re not in the grilling mood, it doubles as a Panini press.
★ Luxury Upgrade: If you want something fancier, the Kenyon City Grill ($695) is as close to grilling as you can get without stepping outdoors. It cooks evenly and at consistent temperatures. (I was able to get up to 592 degrees, measured with a digital thermometer.) There’s very little smoke, though I suggest using it in a well-ventilated area if you’re indoors.
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