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What’s the Difference Between a $100 and $1,000 Gas Grill?

A gas grill should get hot quickly and efficiently.

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Thanks to a wealth of virtually useless marketing speak, buying a gas grill for the first time is a daunting task. What is a BTU? How much cooking space is enough? Is there a difference between propane and natural gas? More simply, what do you really get when you open up your wallet for a new gas grill? Comparing the Home Depot curbside staple three-burner Dyna-Glow grill, sold for just above $100, to Weber’s upscale Genesis II S-335 option, we find out.

Dyna-Glow: $119 Weber Genesis II S-335: $1,049

Temperature Potential

The chief concern with all gas grills is maximum temperature. Most gas grills struggle to breach the 400 to 500 degree barrier, which makes grilling grocery store steaks, pork chops and other meats that aren’t excessively thick challenging. You want a crust, but the temperature isn’t high enough to deliver one before the meat is cooked through. This is also the chief difference between gas grills and their charcoal counterparts, which get very hot.

Though the Dyna-Glow and the Weber are both propane gas grills with three burners, they are in different leagues in this realm. The Dyna-Glow is outfitted with three main burners that operate at 8,000 BTUs per hour, while the Weber is armed with a trio of 13,000 BTU per hour burners. And though BTUs are not a very reliable method for gauging grill potential, they’re an OK start. In the case of the Weber and the Dyna-Glow, the numbers bear out — the Genesis climbs into the 600s, while the Dyna-Glow peaked in the mid-400s. The difference is critical, and that’s without factoring in the Weber’s infrared burner — what they call the “Sear Station” — which pushes past 800 degrees, which is charcoal fire territory.

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Material Matters

What the grill is made of may either feed into its strengths or make clear its weaknesses. The Weber is and has always been built of an enameled steel body with an array of stainless steel, cast iron and cast aluminum component parts. The enameled steel body is prized for its heat retention, while stainless steel heat diffusers — what Weber calls “Flavorizer Bars” — are better off without enamel for durability and ease of cleaning.

The Weber S-335 (in contrast to the slightly more affordable E-335) uses stainless steel grates, too, which are better than any enameled steel, enameled iron or cast-iron grate on the market. This is because, if the heat source is powerful enough, the food will get a nice, even sear all over through radiant heating instead of conductive heating. Conductive heating can be problematic because, especially on grills that aren’t putting enough heat into the air, they create extreme differences in temperature transfer, which results in a pattern of black grill marks that taste bitter side-by-side with a gray, undercooked protein.

The Dyna-Glow’s body is also enamel-covered steel, and its grates and firebox are too. Even if both were fitted with the same burners, the Weber would get hotter and perform better.

Tool vs. Toolshed

The simplest benefit of spending more is getting more stuff. The Dyna-Glow grill comes with two plastic side trays and a warming rack. The Weber’s side trays are larger and made of stainless steel, and one of them has a dedicated side burner built into it. There’s also a storage cabinet below the main grilling area, the aforementioned infrared burner for high-heat grilling and, if you’re willing to volunteer a bit more cash, an outstanding built-in digital thermometer that really ought to come standard (it would immediately be the best built-in thermometer in the gas grill market). Cumulatively, buying a nicer grill almost always means buying an outdoor kitchen versus what amounts to couple burners that happen to be outside.

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