Some of the most important gatherings between Memorial Day weekend Labor Day are over seared steaks, grill-marked vegetables, suckling pigs or mile-high hamburgers. And, the beauty of modern-day grilling lets everyone from city dwellers to suburbanites to ranchers enjoy the same high-quality ‘cue. It doesn’t matter if your culinary skill level is “first-time burger-flipper” or “blue ribbon-winning pit master”; the best grills for Summer ‘15 accommodate you.
Lodge Logic L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill
Best Miniature Grill: Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. This robust Hibachi-style grill from Lodge certainly makes a strong case. The small but stout 33-pound cast iron charcoal cooker has just enough room to handle four burgers or two nicely sized steaks. Once properly seasoned, it’ll impart flavor that other grills can’t match, and it’ll last a lifetime, whether it’s left outside or in (it fits nicely in fireplaces). If you’ve got a wooden deck, though, we suggest placing it on bricks — its high heat retention could spark disaster.
Breville Smart Grill
Best Indoor Grill: BBQing and a city dwelling lifestyle go together like Carolina vinegar sauce and water. It’s tough to get the temperatures needed for a decent ‘cue indoors, but the Breville Smart Grill shakes things up. Thanks to 1,800-Watt heating elements embedded in the grill plate and Element IQ, the Breville not only distributes heat evenly but also detects a drop in temperature when cold ingredients are added, and injects more heat for cooking consistency. Three levels of heat (low, Panini and sear) ranging from 320 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and an adjustable top-plate height give you options from the smallest sliders to the most stacked paninis. But it’s the Breville’s party trick — a lid that opens 180 degrees for classic BBQ style — that gets it on our list. Removable dishwasher-safe grill plates also mean the classic hosing-off method stays with the outdoor grills.
Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill
Best Charcoal Kettle: Weber charcoal kettles are iconic American backyard fixtures. With their Performer Touch-N-Go gas ignition system, which lights charcoal with a push of a button, Weber adds the ease of gas to the flavor of charcoal. The Deluxe version comes with a 22-inch diameter porcelain-enameled bowl and lid, and a convenient removable LCD cooking timer. The large ash catcher makes cleanup easy, and the attached work table is the perfect size for cooking prep.
Best Gas Grill at a Steal: The Charbroil Infrared outperforms grills costing six times as much. The grill heats up quickly — over 700 degrees with three 35,000 BTU stainless steel burners — and unlike most other grills, it’s almost completely immune to the bane of outdoor cooks everywhere, flare-ups. The patented RED infrared cooking system allows smoking without a separate smoke box and rotisserie cooking with an add-on rotisserie, and 680 square inches of porcelain-coated cooking surface means you can grill a whole mess of meat at one time.
The Big Green Egg
Best Ugly Grill: The name’s a bit ironic, considering you could cook Big Bird to a crisp inside it, but that’s part of the pleasure of this grill. Thank the Japanese for this Kamado-style grill, that’s a ceramic charcoal oven perfect for grilling, smoking and even baking pizza oven. The Egg is popular because it cooks just about anything evenly and holds both high and low temps well. The XXL model provides 672 square inches of cooking area; in tasty terms, that’s 35-40 burgers, 14-16 whole chickens, or an entire suckling pig. If you don’t happen to live in Texas, there are also large (the most popular model at 262 square inches) through mini (78.5 square inches) options.
Primo Oval XL Charcoal Grill
Best High-end Kamado Grill: Kamado grills are gaining popularity for good reason stateside, but Primo has been in the business since the beginning. It’s the only American-made ceramic grill in the world, and its 400 square inches of grilling space is down right luxurious compared to competing offerings, not to mention perfect for rib fans. The real kicker, though, is its unique oval shape and divided firebox, which give more advanced grillmasters the option to create both direct and indirect grilling zones without the hassle of a diffuser plate — making grilling and smoking easy affairs. Reversible porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates that also split down the middle are an added boon for creating multiple temperature zones on the same fire. Keep in mind, that the Oval XL isn’t cheap, and if you splurge for the extra cooking grates and matching cart, expect to pay closer to $2,000. But with its versatility, size and overall excellent build quality, though, it remains an easy recommendation.
Traeger Texas Pro
Best Fully Automatic Wood Grill: The Traeger grills, smokes, bakes, roasts and barbecues using virgin wood pellets (rather than recycled wood potentially tainted with chemicals from paint or binders) automatically auger-fed into the burner to maintain your set temperature. An auto-start feature initiates the pellet burn, leaving you to add your food once the grill reaches the selected temperature. Grill at temperatures as low as 180 degrees Fahrenheit or as high as 600 degrees Fahrenheit — the convection fan ensures even heat distribution regardless. And, the Traeger pellets come in eight flavors: alder, apple, cherry, hickory, maple, mesquite, oak and pecan.
Lynx 36-Inch All ProSear
Best Classic Backyard Grill: This 304 stainless steel propane mack daddy is a beautiful tool for the serious grill master. One or all three of its main burners (boasting 69,000 BTUs) can be infrared based on your personal prejudices, its main and secondary cooking areas combine for 935 square inches of grilling area and a three-speed rotisserie enables slow roasting. On wheels, it’s a machine to make backyard party-goers tremble — and salivate. Of course, the smiling, aproned guy manning it had to throw down some serious coin for that pleasure.
Best Grill for Whole Hog Smokin’: Don’t let this steampunk-styled behemoth intimidate you — the Cheyenne helps you graduate from simple backyard grilling to the mouth-watering world of slow cooking and real barbecuing. The offset fire box draws smoke and heat down through the cooking chamber, using indirect heat to keep your meats moist and and your flavors rich. It’s a process that any BBQ pit master will tell you is the secret to award-winning results.
Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Built-in Grill
Best Grill for Bentley Owners: If your home is referred to as an “estate” and you drive a handmade car, perhaps it’s time to have one these masterpieces from Kalamazoo, Michigan installed. The Kalamazoo Hybrid gives your real estate 1,012 square inches of grilling real estate. The 51-inch four-burner grill blasts out 100,000 BTU, cooks with any combination of charcoal, wood and gas and switches between modes easily. Top-quality construction extends throughout: the cast brass burners weigh 14 pounds each and could be used to fire a battleship. Temperature control ranges from low enough for traditional barbecue to over 1,000 degrees. Finer touches include an infrared rotisserie system (whole chicken or leg of lamb, anyone?), a flip-up warming rack and included cabinetry.