GearThe 8 Best Grills For Making Your Neighbors Jealous (And Pro Tips on How To Choose One)
Now that there are only two weeks left to summer, grills are officially on sale. (And, no, we're not talking the Travis Scott type of grille.) But, psst, you can still grill after summer's over. So go find something that'll get you psyched to cook up some short ribs, a seafood feast, or even a whole Cuban-style hog for Labor Day (and beyond).
To Start, Be Straight With Yourself
The first question that Sarah DePalo, Senior Design Partner of Cullman & Kravitz, asks is: are you a convenience griller or an experience-type griller? "The convenience griller wants great results with minimal fuss. He wants to bring out the food, turn on the knob, close the lid and have a drink," says DePalo. "The experience griller treats the grilling as part of the entertainment, loves to tinker and adjust, and rarely leaves the grill while the process is underway. The grill is the focal point." In other words: don't get the hyper-complicated, 747-sized, wood-burning beast up top if your grilling happy place involves sipping a pilsner while checking the beer-can chicken every seven minutes.
Choose Your Flame
Now that you know what type of griller you are, designer Benjamin Vandiver wants you to ask yourself: charcoal or gas? Charcoal's more work, more mess…and more flavor. Does your average barbecue sesh generally start with a Gmail invite to six-to-20 of your friends? Go with the ease and control of gas. Too much of a Sophie's Choice? Spring for a hybrid, like one of these from Kalamazoo, and get you a grill that can do both.
Location, Location, Location
Before you begin shopping, think about where you'll grill," says Russell Groves, of his eponymous Groves & Co. "Charcoal grills can be used on concrete or stone surfaces, but should not be used on a wooden deck," he says, making almost too much sense. "Choose a built-in grill if it'll become part of a larger outdoor entertaining area." If you go that route, Kati Curtis advises springing for a built-in gas hook-up. "And be sure the gas location is where you need it."
Remember the Elements
"Grills are out in the elements, so cheaply built ones will become eyesores and need replacing more often," notes DePalo. Look for heavy-gauge (read: thick) stainless steel throughout and a brand that has both a solid warranty and respectable customer support—especially at the high end of the market. You're not going to be wrenching on a $5,000 grill yourself.
Focus on the Flame
"Stay away from gimmicks that distract from what is most important: a strong, even flame," says Groves. "For a charcoal grill, it is important not to begin grilling until the coals are fully covered in gray ash. With a gas grill, remember to preheat the grill for at least 10 minutes so there is an even heat. At my home in East Hampton, I have a KitchenAid grill with a great searing feature that I use constantly."
Consider Your Surroundings
"Don't ignore the design aesthetic of your patio and patio furniture," says Vandiver. "There are so many great grills on the market that are also aesthetically appealing." You're going to see a lot of stainless steel out there, but some brands (like Weber) have black grills, which looks a bit more modern.
You Need Some Power (Grilling) Tools
This isn't the time for stubby kitchen tongs and a dinky spatula. You need big ol' stainless steel tools with enough length to keep your arm hairs from sizzling like the steak. Consider a pair of grilling gloves, too, as well as a thermometer (our favorite's the ThermoWorks ThermaPen) for mastering medium-rare meat. And if you go with charcoal, don't forget a chimney—only rookies use lighter fluid.
Too Many Choices? Just Get Yourself a Weber
Keep It Simple
"For those on a budget, the original Kettle series from Weber is a classic option," says Kati Curtis. And Vandiver agrees: "I personally love the charcoal Weber grill because it captures the nostalgic backyard hang, and I like the way food tastes with it."
"If you're a convenience griller who doesn't want to break the bank and is happy with turning a knob for fire, go right to Weber," advises DePalo. "In Ben's experience, their grills are better built than 90% of the retail competition, and the brand is rock solid."
"I have recommended the Weber Summit series for most of our clients," says Kati Curtis. The company's top-of-the-line model comes in a slew of sizes—from a simple four-burner unit to one with six burners, a sear station, and 10,400 BTUs of bovine-burning power. Plus they can handle a natural gas hookup, if you're building your dream grill station from scratch. (Lucky bastard.)
Join the Cult of the Kamado
"A respectable choice is the charcoal fueled Big Green Egg," says DePalo. "It is flexible enough to grill or bake, the ceramic chambers are very well made, and there is a wealth of Green Egg cult knowledge out there for a new owner. It is really a Kamado oven (which was developed over 3,000 years ago in Japan) turned excellent modern day outdoor cooker."
Burn Both Meat and Money!
If you're going to spend a mortgage payment on a grill, you want more than tank-like construction and impeccable temperature control—you want all the bells and whistles. We're talking halogen lights for nighttime grilling, grease trays under each burner for easy cleaning, an infrared burner for getting a crisp sear, and a thermometer that never fogs. The built-in Viking 54" Professional 5 Series has it all, plus includes a smoker box for smoking with wood chips.
Be The Master of Meat
The Grillworks Dual 54 CRE is wood-burning, fire-breathing heaven for the guy who approaches a platter of rib steaks like brain surgery. Conduct a BBQ symphony across five-and-a-half-feet of grilling surface divided into two individually-controllable platforms. The brick backing keeps the heat firmly focused on your meaty magnum opus. Which, considering the price—almost $14,000—it better be.