Summer is bearing down fast, and no man passes up the opportunity to get outside and burn some meat (ok, and perhaps a vegetable or two). It’s a nearly sacred summer activity, whether enjoyed in the backyard, at a tailgate, in the campsite or on your tiny urban front step.
My dad had a saying: “When it’s burning, it’s cooking. When it’s black it’s done.” This might explain the lack of repeat visitors, but maybe it was the limited tools he had to work with that contributed to his cynical approach to backyard grilling. With any of the 10 excellent grills below, you’ll not only find the right one to suit your particular needs — everything from searing steaks, to cooking a pair of burgers, to smoking an entire pig — you’ll guarantee a line around the block for your ‘cue, and a long list of friends who won’t stop asking when you’re having them over again.
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 nice sized steaks. Once properly seasoned, it’ll impart flavor other grills can’t match and 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.
Dimplex PowerChef Electric Grill
Best Indoor Grill: Urbanites get the short end of the skewer when it comes to grilling options, but something is still better than nothing. The 120-Volt maximum restriction in North America makes it tough for the category to reach searing temperatures, but the Dimplex PowerChef line performs admirably as a tabletop electric grill thanks to a 1,630-Watt heating element placed in direct contact with the 216-square inch grilling surface (which is about as big as it gets with electrics). That design, combined with its overall compact size, allows the unit to reach temps at a near-searing 650 degrees Fahrenheit. Programmable cooking options allow chefs to designate their cooking level and simply respond to beeping cues when it’s time to flip. Be wary of the auto pilot for exceptional cuts, however, since the grill’s timing doesn’t take the thickness or style of meat into account.
Weber Performer Platinum 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 Platinum version comes with a 22.5-inch diameter grill and a convenient removable LCD cooking timer. The large ash catcher makes clean up 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, is 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. 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: Its name is a bit ironic, considering you could cook Big Bird to a crisp inside it. We have the Japanese to thank for the Kamado-style grill, of which the Big Green Egg is a perfect example: 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 extra-large model provides 452 square inches of cooking area; in tasty terms, that’s two twenty-pound turkeys, 24 burgers or 12 steaks. 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.
THE DIY SMOKEHOUSE
I built this thing when I was 20 at my house in New Hampshire: pulled a few hundred pounds of granite out of the ground to make room for a foundation, stacked some cinder blocks, fashioned a door using one of those Dremel tools, strapped a chimney on it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but it was an awesome idea — and that’s a good litmus test for any project, any decision for that matter.
Pork shoulder was cheap so I bought that. Applewood was abundant, so I chipped it with a hatchet and bagged it in water, for smoking. Burned a quarter of dad’s firewood pile for coal. Took my shirt off. Wiped my brow with coal dust. Washed my hands good to Google some recipes. These newfangled ‘cue restaurants in Brooklyn don’t hold a candle to the shit I was making in 2005. I’d spend 12 hours mopping the Boston butt, keeping the temperature below 200 F, tinkering, pacing, making slaw. It was borderline swine idolatry.
We wondered whether the smoker would crumble under the first snow. It’s still there eight years later, looking stronger and more resolute than ever. Squirrels and mice live inside it. I believe it increases the property value. My parents believe otherwise. But truth is, building that smoker gave me the confidence to get my first kitchen job during college outside Boston, which led to the next two in Mississippi, and if it’s not too much of a stretch I’d say that made me believe I’d always find some kind of work — and that attitude ultimately allowed me to quit my 9-5 for a more interesting life. That’s sort of awesome. – Jeremy Berger
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.
At $1,100 just for the basic grill, the Oval XL isn’t cheap for the category. And if you splurge for the extra cooking grates and matching cart, expect to pay closer to $2,000. Considering its versatility, size and overall excellent build quality, though, it remains an easy recommendation.
Best Fully Automatic Grill: The Traeger grills, smokes, bakes, roasts and barbecues using virgin wood pellets (vice recycled wood potentially tainted with chemicals from paint or binders) automatically auger-fed into the burner to maintain your set temperature. An auto-start features initiates the pellet burn, leaving you to just add your food once the grill reaches the selected temperature. Grill at temperatures as low as 180 degrees, or as high as 600 — the convection fan ensures even heat distribution regardless. Those 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 grillmaster. 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; 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.
Yoder Smokers 24 x 48 Charcoal Grill
Best Grill for Whole Hog Smokin’: Go hog wild with a grill big enough to slow cook an entire pig. Yoder Smokers’ biggest charcoal grill gives you 1152 square inches of cooking surface. The 35-inch basket depth and a variable height charcoal basket allows precise temperature control and indirect grilling of the biggest cuts of meat. Brisket for a battalion, a pig pickin’ for 30 — you’ll be the king of the neighborhood.
Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Built-in Grill
Best Grill for Bentley Owners: If your home is referred to as an “estate” and you drive a hand-made car, perhaps it’s time to have one these masterpieces from Kalamazoo, Michigan installed. Gear Patrol previously showcased the standalone version; now that you’ve decide to put down roots, the built-in upgrades your outdoor kitchen permanently.
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 and cooks with any combination of charcoal, wood and gas, and switches between the 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.