So you want to buy a Gas Grill? You've gone to the hardware store. You've looked through the newspaper. You've looked at Weber, Char-Broil and a dozen more. You've listened to salespeople tell you about surface areas, BTUs, rotisserie burners, side burners, infrared burners, and a dozen things you've never heard of. Now you're more confused than before and what you need is a little friendly advice.
Price: The first thing is the price. Rule number one: You get what you pay for! If you drop in your local department or hardware store (even grocery store) you will see Gas Grills in the price range of around $150 to $300. However there are sources of residential Gas Grills that can run over $10,000. So you should decide how much you want to spend before you shop because you can spend as much as you want. There are literally hundreds of grills on the market each year, though your local stores may only carry a few, so having an idea of how much you want to spend will help narrow your search. Try my Gas Grill Reviews to get a feel for what's out there. When comparing prices, find out whether or not a propane tank is included. This can add about $20USD to $30USD dollars to your total cost if you have to buy it separately.
Fuel: The second thing to take into consideration is the fuel. First, do you want propane or natural gas? Natural gas requires a gas line at the location of your grill. Many grills can be bought in either configuration but you can't run a propane grill on natural gas or visa versa. Many lower priced grills do not have the natural gas option although more and more grills do these days. Watch the price though. Some natural gas conversion kits can cost between $50USD and $100USD. Of course natural gas will cost you less in the long run and save you trips to the propane store.
Material: Next is the material the grill is made out of. The main body of the grill is usually made from cast aluminum, sheet metal, cast iron, or stainless steel. Stainless steel is the preferred material of professional cooking equipment and the most expensive, but not all stainless steel is created equally. One thing to watch for is not just the body, but also the frame. There are many "stainless steel" grills that have painted steel frames that can rust. Once you decide on the material, look over the whole grill to see how it's put together. Is it all stainless steel (try using a magnet)? Or only parts of it. Rule Two: Manufacturers take shortcuts with metal! The truth is that cast aluminum will typically outlast any quality of stainless steel.
Size: Once you have these factors decided, you need to pick the size and features you want. For the size, think about the kinds of things you will want to cook on your grill and for how many people you might want to cook for. If you're planning on a large turkey or being able to cook up 40 hamburgers at a time you'll want a larger grill. If you just cook a few steaks or chicken breasts once in a while, you'll probably want a smaller one. Also look at the space you have for the grill. Get one that will fit safely and conveniently.
Features: As for features, do you want a side burner? How about multiple level cooking surfaces, or a smoker box, side burner, rotisserie burner, lights, or any one of a dozen things that get added to a grill these days. Remember that a basic grill will do lots of stuff and most of the extras get very little use. Rule Three: Features cost Money! Only buy the features you actually want.
Heat: Another factor is the BTU rating. This is a measurement of the amount of heat created by the burner. A grill with higher BTUs doesn't necessarily produce more heat. It is a factor of the heat created, the size of the grill and how well it holds and distributes that heat. Don't buy a grill just because it has a high BTU number. Compare that number with the size and the shape of the grill. Smaller more compact grills can produce higher cooking temperatures with lower BTUs.
Durability: Materials, thickness of metals, quality of parts play a major role in how long a grill will last. However, the biggest part of the lifespan of your gas grill is how well it is take care of. Rule Four: A well taken care of grill can last a long time!. The best grill out there will rust and fall apart if it is left uncovered and uncleaned. Of course a better grill will last longer, but you can get a long time out of a cheap grill is you take care of it.
So what features or grills will make the best cook-out? None. Practice and experience make great grilled foods. A gas grill is just a tool. The product depends on the cook. However, a good quality grill is a joy to use while a poor quality grill can lead to bad experiences the leave you less likely to cookout.
One way to separate the bad from the good is to look for name brand grills versus store brands. Ask the salesperson at the store you are shopping at if the grill you are looking at is one of there brands, or a national brand. Name brand grills have replacement parts, customer support and a company that will survive or not based on the quality of their products. Store brands change factories annually and lack the depth of support that will help keep you grill working for years to come, because if you take good care of it, it should last for many, many years. Just in case you are interested I have put together a couple of lists of the best gas grills on the market today. These are broken down by price and should give you a good idea of where to start.