Grilling Guide

The Lowdown on Choosing a Gas Grill

Spring is here and with summer just around the corner, it may be time to upgrade your backyard grilling game. Maybe you’ve outgrown your old faithful or you’ve worn out the rusty grates.  Or perhaps you just want more options. Either way, choosing a new gas grill these days offers unending possibilities that can be trimmed down with just five questions before choosing a gas grill.

What’s your patty count?

Gas grill manufacturers differentiate models by the number of burners—typically two to six—but that doesn’t necessarily tell you the size of the grill. Instead, you want to know the usable cooking surface, and that is measured by the square inches of cook space. Or more easily envisioned by how many burger patties can fit on those grates. So choose wisely. Don’t exaggerate your needs or you waste money and fuel.

Grill size      # patties

  • Small                 < 18
  • Mid-size           18 –28
  • Large                 > 28

Surf, turf and soup?

A basic gas grill is fine for cooking burgers and brats, but if you enjoy grilled fish and sizzling steaks, make sure the temperature gets high enough to sear a T-bone and low enough to slow-cook ribs for hours. And make sure it’s got the room and burner configuration for indirect cooking. It’s a great way to slow-cook large or tough cuts—or bake and simmer—by placing the food over the cold side of the grill, instead of over the lit side, while the lid is closed to retain heat.

Does it have range?

Rather than focusing performance on the BTU of the burners, look for the grill’s max temperature and temperature range. A fairly low BTU count in a fuel-efficient grill can reach high maximum temperatures using less gas to get there. Well insulated hoods and thick burners and grates better utilize the same BTUs than grills with a less efficient design.

And the burner warranty says?

For gas grills, burners are the most replaced part and should last 2 to 10 years, so look for brands with burner warranties of around 10 years. BBQGuys have a Gas Grill Warranty Comparison Chart on their website. Also look for stainless steel or coated cast-iron grates for better searing and even grilling temperatures. To avoid sustained flare-ups choose a grill with greater distance between the grates and the burners or flavorizer bars. But choose less space between the grates themselves, which means more contact with the food and more delicious caramelization.

Can it take a hit?

For the long haul, stainless steel is more durable, and durability is worth the investment. But there’s more to it. Inspect the grill top to bottom. Jostle an assembled model from several angles to test its sturdiness, since you don’t want it tipping or warping. Now dig deeper and check the cart, wheels, lid and firebox. Can it take years of high heat, rain, misdirected footballs, tipsy tailgaters and being hauled across the patio or parking lot? The sturdiest tend to be stainless steel with seamless construction and welded joints.

And don’t forget to ask yourself what the next few years might hold for your grilling dreams, and invest in those. Rotisserie? A side burner for chilis and sauces? Warming rack to keep endless hoagies warm through the tailgate? Remember, this investment can serve you for more than a decade, so dream big but buy with your head.