Outdoor Grills

Prepare a delicious, fresh-cooked meal on your patio with gas or charcoal grills

Outdoor Grills - Outdoor Grills

There’s nothing quite like the taste of a fresh-grilled meal, conveniently prepared on your own patio, and advances in grill design over the last several years have vastly expanded your cooking options. This guide will walk you through the different designs, fuel types and features of outdoor grills.


When choosing your grill, consider the size, design, construction and fuel type that works best for you.


Consider the number of people you ordinarily cook for and your available grilling space. As a rule of thumb, if you typically cook for groups of 6 or fewer, 600 to 900 square inches of cooking surface should suffice. Most portable grills provide about 200 square inches of cooking area.


The grill hood and cook box should be constructed from cast aluminum, cast iron, enamel bonded steel or stainless steel for durability. Handles should be sturdy and heat-resistant. Look for stainless steel carts with welded joints. Sturdy casters with wheel locks are ideal.

Stainless Steel

Not all stainless steel is equal. Most gas grills use some stainless steel in their construction, but there are several different grades. Stainless steel graded 304 is considered commercial grade and is the most durable.

Tip: You can tell steel is graded 304 or better if magnets can stick to it.

Gas Grills

Today’s gas grills offer convenience, control and versatility that is virtually unmatched by other types of grills. Gas grills are available in two basic fuel types: propane, also called liquid propane, and natural gas.

Gas Grill Fuel Types

In terms of the grilling experience, there is not much difference between propane and natural gas. But there are some variables to consider in price, availability and ease of use. Propane grills are by far the most common type of gas grill.

Tip: BTU stands for British thermal units, and a BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. In terms of grilling, it tells you how much gas a grill uses and the amount of heat it generates. Typically, gas grills range from 15,000 to 60,000 BTU per hour.

  • High BTU doesn’t guarantee faster preheating or better grilling performance. The heat your grill actually produces is a combination of design, proximity of the cooking grid to the heat source and BTU.
  • The typical gas grill will reach temperatures between 400 to 600 F.
  • Dual fuel gas grills allow you to easily cook with either liquid propane or natural gas.


Propane tanks are portable, widely available and can be easily stored or refilled. A 20-pound tank can last you about 25 hours of grilling time depending on your grill.

  • Propane gas grills offer far more flexibility in terms of grill placement because they do not require a dedicated gas pipeline.
  • Propane also contains more than twice the cooking energy per BTU than natural gas. There’s about 2,500 BTU in 1 cubic foot of propane versus about 1,000 in the same amount of natural gas.

Natural Gas

Natural gas grills are less expensive than propane or charcoal, but they require the installation of a dedicated pipeline by a certified professional to provide fuel to the grill. As a result, they cannot be moved.

Gas Grill Features

  • Gas grills offer quick start up, reach the optimum cooking temperature in 10 to 15 minutes, and cook foods evenly across the entire grilling surface.
  • Temperature control knobs allow you to regulate heat more precisely. You can create different heat zones for searing, cooking or warming foods on the grill.
  • Cleanup is quick and easy and there are no hot coals or messy ash to deal with after you are finished grilling.
  • Gas grills with stainless steel, cast iron or cast brass burners offer the highest quality and durability. Burners should run the length of the cook box and offer independent temperature control.
  • The surface where your food cooks is called a grill grate. Thick stainless steel rods or cast iron grates offer greater heat retention, sear foods well and produce excellent grill marks. Wide, closely spaced bars sear better than thin, round rods.
  • Consider add-ons such as side burners for preparing and warming side dishes and motorized rotisseries for slow-cooking meats and vegetables.
  • Infrared burners use a gas flame to superheat a ceramic, glass or metal plate that radiates up to 700 F.
  • A smoker box filled with wood chips can infuse meats and vegetables with a taste of the rich, savory wood flavor some find lacking in food prepared on gas grills. Some gas grills have built-in smoker boxes or trays.
  • Make sure your gas grill has a manual ignition hole allowing you to start your grill by lighter or match, just in case the electric starter fails.
  • Make sure to read the warranty on your grill. Lifetime warranties are best, but make sure yours provides at least five to 10 years of coverage on the burners.

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills are the more traditional outdoor grills. They are simple and easy to operate, and grilling with charcoal imparts a special flavor and aroma to foods unmatched by any other type of grill.

Cooking with Charcoal: The 2-Zone Setup

Unfortunately, charcoal grills don’t have temperature control knobs. A 2-zone setup creates a hot direct heat zone on the grill surface for browning and searing, and a cooler indirect heat zone where food can cook more slowly by convection airflow.

When the coals are hot and ready for grilling, bank them to one side of the grill to create your direct heat zone. Place an aluminum pan half-filled with water opposite the coals for a low-temp zone where foods can cook via convection heat.

Charcoal Grill Features

  • A grill fueled by charcoal can get a lot hotter than the standard gas grill. Charcoal grills typically cook at temperatures up to 700 F, which is perfect for grilling steaks and other large cuts of meat.
  • Using a charcoal chimney or electric charcoal starter to ignite charcoal helps preserve the smoky taste of food cooked over charcoal. Chimney starters work particularly well because they light charcoal faster and don’t require an electrical outlet.
  • Lighting charcoal and getting it to the optimum cooking temperature takes a little longer than gas or electric. You must wait 20 to 30 minutes after lighting your charcoal before the coals are ready for cooking.
  • Charcoal grills with high-capacity ash catchers or charcoal access drawers make cleanup much easier.
  • Cast iron sear grate insets retain heat and sear meat to perfection, leaving nice dark grill marks.
  • Charcoal grills with cranks or levers allowing you to raise or lower the charcoal bed provide greater temperature control.
  • Hinged cooking grates let you easily add charcoal when cooking long and slow.
  • Built-in thermometers tell you when the grill has reached optimum cooking temperature.
  • Offset smokers are a nice option for preparing slow-roast, smoked meats.

Electric Grills

Electric grills are a convenient option if you live in an apartment or condo with a small patio or balcony. They require little more than an electrical outlet, and electric grills heat up quickly, cook food evenly and are easy to clean.

  • Electric grills are available in a variety of sizes and styles including tabletop and portable models.
  • They often create deep, dark pronounced grill marks on the food they cook.
  • Larger electric grills afford you the option of using a smoker box filled with wood chips to infuse foods with some of the rich, savory wood flavor often lost when cooking on electric grills.
  • It is not recommended that you cook large meals on electric grills as they are typically small.
  • If you typically cook only small meals or for very people and you aren’t interested in dealing with charcoal, propane or other types of fuel, an electric grill is perfect for you.


Choose grill covers, grilling tools, flavored wood chips and more to create the perfect outdoor grilling experience for you and your family.

  • Smokers cook by indirect smoke heat, infusing meats through-and-through with delicious hardwood smoke flavor. Choices range from simple standalone charcoal, wood, gas or electric bullet-shaped cookers to all-in-one smoker grills.
  • Grill covers not only protect your grill from the elements but keep it operating at peak performance for a longer period of time.
  • A good set of grill tools including essential cooking tools and utensils such as tongs, a long-handled fork and spatula.
  • Grill toppers and baskets allow you to cook veggies, meats and seafood with ease.
  • Flavored wood chips add a rich, smoky taste and flavor to your meats and vegetables.
  • Grill cleaning tools like brushes and cleaning blocks make cleanup much easier.
  • Heavy-duty suede or leather gloves come in handy when you have to lift a hot grate or rearrange coals.