The Most Common Types of Grills, Explained

In the market for a new grill? We're cookin' up some recommendations for the most popular types of grills.

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The warm weather is finally here and like us, you’re probably ready to get some tasty grilling recipes on the table! But if you’re in the market for a new piece of equipment, it can be hard to know exactly how to choose a grill, because you’ve got way more options than charcoal vs. gas.

Don’t worry—we did all the research so you don’t have to. Whether you’re cooking burgers for two or smoking turkey for the whole fam, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the top types of grills:

Charcoal Grills

Ideal for: People who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a grill, love the charcoal flavor and are cooking for small groups of people

A true classic! Charcoal grills are portable, easy to use and create a smoky flavor that’s hard to beat. They are slower to heat up than gas or electric grills, but can also get a lot hotter. With no temperature control knobs, grillers will need to arrange the coals to create indirect and direct heat cooking zones.

Using a charcoal grill is messier and more time-consuming than a gas grill (briquettes turns to ash, which needs to be cleaned out after each use), but we’d say the flavor is worth the extra effort. Check out our guide to the different types of charcoal for best-ever results.

We recommend Weber’s Original Kettle Charcoal Grill ($109). Our Prep Kitchen Manager, Catherine Ward, owns four of them for grilling outside all year long. “I have tried less expensive brands over the years,” she says, ” I’ve never had the same quality of heating or longevity that I get from a Weber.”

Charcoal Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Amazing smoky flavor
    • Easy to use
    • Relatively portable
  • Cons:
    • Less accurate temperature control
    • Takes longer to heat
    • Harder to clean

Gas Grills

Ideal for: People looking for more space on the grill grates, plus easy-to-use operation

These are your most common backyard grills. Gas grills start fast, heat up quickly, are easy to operate and require much less cleanup than other types of grills. You don’t get the exact same smoky flavor you get from cooking with charcoal, but you can still grill up all kinds of great tasting food, including these tasty grilled side dishes.

ƒGas grills come in a wide variety of sizes. They tend to be the most expensive option, so be prepared to make a longer-term investment. With proper grill maintenance and care, your gas grill will last for years to come. Most gas grills are designed to run on propane, and you will have to refill and replace the tanks as needed.

Senior Food Stylist, Shannon Norris prefers gas grills and recommends the Char-Broil Performance Series 6-Burner Gas Grill. as it’s large enough for entertaining and simple to use. Plus, it has great features like a top rack for keeping food warm and a side table that holds all your favorite grilling accessories. The built-in thermometer is a nice perk, too.

If you’re ready to invest in a top-of-the-line grill that’s built to last, our Test Kitchen recommends the Weber Genesis II E-335 Gas Grill ($950). Recipe Editor Alicia Rooker has had her model for nearly 10 years.

Gas Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Simple to use
    • Easy to clean
    • Heats quickly
    • Numerous size options
  • Cons:
    • Can be more expensive
    • Imparts less smoky flavor
    • Needs care for a propane tank

Outdoor Electric Grills

Ideal for: Anyone who lives in a condo where gas or charcoal grilling is not allowed, or who doesn’t have a large outdoor space.

If you never want to worry about the hassle of running out of propane or cleaning up an ashy charcoal mess, try an outdoor electric grill. You simply need to plug it into an outlet and get cooking. On average, outdoor electric grills offer the smallest footprint. (They fit perfectly on a balcony!)

Options like Better Chef’s Electric Barbecue Grill ($102) are compact but still can deliver a great tasting meal.

Outdoor Electric Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Compact
    • Safe for small spaces
    • Easy to use and clean
  • Cons:
    • Can be expensive
    • No smoky flavor

Smokers

Ideal for: Barbecue enthusiasts who crave flavor and don’t mind waiting a little longer to enjoy the final product.

Gas and charcoal grills are great for everyday grilling, but nothing delivers rich flavor quite like a smoker. The slow-cooker version of a grill, smokers cook foods at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. Used by some of the best barbecue pros across the county, smokers are now becoming more common for at-home enthusiasts. Because of their size, smokers are also good for grillers looking to cook larger cuts of meat at one time.

The Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker ($329) is a staple piece of equipment at grilling competitions across the country. We love that it has two-tiered cooking grates that allow you to smoke plenty of meat at once. Don’t want to splurge? Here’s how to turn your gas or charcoal grill into a smoker.

Smoker Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Deeply smoked flavor
    • Large cooking area.
  • Cons:
    • Long cook times
    • Can be expensive

Portable Grills

Ideal for: People who do more grilling on the road than in the backyard.

For anyone who loves to camp or grill on-the-go, portable grills can make cooking easy. These grills are designed to be sturdy and convenient, so you can set up your grill with you when you’re tailgating, camping or on the beach. These easy-to-use grills run on small 16 oz propane tanks that can be stored under the grill lid when in transport.

Senior Food Stylist, Josh Rink recommends the Weber Q 1000 1-Burner Portable Propane Gas Grill ($180). “The grill is the perfect size for cooking for two people and was easy to use.” He explains, “I particularly like that it uses small gas tank canisters—no lugging giant or heavy tanks around!”

Portable Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Portable
    • Durable
    • Simple controls
  • Cons:
    • Expensive if used infrequently
    • Needs a separate propane tank

Indoor Grills

Ideal for: Those without an outdoor space.

Great for apartment or condo owners who don’t have access to a backyard or balcony, indoor grills are smaller counter appliances that won’t fill your kitchen with smoke. There are three main types of indoor grills: a grill pan, an open grill and a griddler (like a panini press). Whichever type you go with, indoor grills are relatively inexpensive.

They’re great for beginners, too. Culinary Assistant, Maggie Knoebel explains, “I do little to no grilling, but I do like my George Forman.” It’s a classic for a reason! Try this family-sized George Foreman Electric Indoor Grill ($55) which has a nifty sloped surface that allows grease to drain into its attached drip tray for easy cleanup.

Indoor Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Easy to clean
    • Inexpensive
    • Can be used indoors
  • Cons:
    • No grill flavor
    • Small cooking area.

Wood Pellet Grills

Ideal for: People who want a hands-off smoker.

Wood pellet grills are one of the easiest ways to add a rich smoky flavor to your foods. Simply set your temperature and cook time and the electric-powered grill automatically adds wood pallets a firepot as need. The specialty pallets come in a range of wood flavors and can be purchased online or at a home improvement store.

The Traeger Ironwood 650 TFB65BLE grill ($1,200) may be a splurge but is totally worth your money. It heats evenly and performs impeccably for hot-and-fast or low-and-slow grilling. What’s more, the grill comes with built-in wifi that allows you to adjust temperatures, add smoke and check in on your meal from an app on your smartphone.

Wood Pellet Grill Pros and Cons:

  • Pros:
    • Set-and-forget controls
    • Fast to heat
    • Great smoky flavor.
  • Cons:
    • Expensive
    • Requires an electric outlet

Pick the right grill and you’ll be the hero at your next cookout. It sure doesn’t hurt to have perfectly juicy burgers, too!

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