Indoor vs. Outdoor Grill: Which Is Better?
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This guide takes a closer look at the indoor vs. outdoor grill debate.
You can’t stop daydreaming about grilled steaks. It’s time to invest in a grill of your own. However, one of the big questions when shopping for a grill is choosing an indoor vs. outdoor grill.
Both types of grills have benefits and drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about indoor and outdoor grills—and how to make the best choice for your needs.
The Pros & Cons of Indoor Grills
Indoor grills, like this popular model from Hamilton Beach ($90), allow you to whip up burgers, steaks and grilled vegetables without leaving your kitchen. We recommend indoor grills for anyone who doesn’t have enough space for an outdoor grill. They may leave something to be desired in terms of smoky flavor; however, they make up for it with a variety of other benefits. (Here are the best smokeless indoor grills, according to our Test Kitchen.)
- Compact and portable
- Better heat distribution
- Easy to clean and maintain
- More versatile
- Year-round use, even in inclement weather
- More affordable
- Less “grill” flavor
- Smaller cooking surface
- Unable to reach high temperatures
Because they’re more compact, indoor grills are typically best for cooking for just a few people at a time, and many can also be used as a griddle or panini press.
The Pros & Cons of Outdoor Grills
On the other hand, there are outdoor grills, which typically use charcoal or propane as a heating source and allow you to cook for many people at once. If you’re looking for that classic barbecue flavor, you’re going to need an outdoor grill to achieve it!
- Smoky flavor
- Larger cooking area
- Powered by charcoal or gas
- Ideal for hosting more people
- Reliant on good weather
- Charcoal delivers less consistent heat
- More work to maintain
- More expensive
As you can see, outdoor grills require a larger investment—both in terms of money, space and time—but many people think they’re worth it thanks to the delicious smoky flavor.
What to Consider When Choosing a Grill
The Flavor Factor
One of the major differences in the battle of indoor vs. outdoor grills is flavor. When you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, like this iconic Weber model ($165), your food is infused with the delicious smoky flavor that characterizes “true” barbecue. Unfortunately, even the most advanced indoor grills can’t deliver this same depth of flavor.
Ease of Use
We’ve found that outdoor charcoal grills burn hotter, and it can be tricky to keep the heat consistent across your grilling surface. Fortunately, gas-powered outdoor grills make this a little easier. With most outdoor grills, you will have to purchase charcoal or propane, clean out the drip pans or ash catcher, and scrub down the grates to keep your grill in top shape.
Indoor grills, on the other hand, are a bit quicker and easier to use. Because they use electricity, they provide a more evenly heated cooking surface, and most are quite easy to clean—a lot of indoor grills even have removable grates that can be put right in the dishwasher.
No matter whether you’re grilling indoors or outdoors, it’s important to follow grill safety best practices to keep your summer barbecue from turning into a disaster.
Never leave the grill unattended, and make sure it’s been properly cleaned and maintained before use. Choose a safe grilling location away from decorations and flammable materials, and keep children away from the hot surface. You’ll also want to have a fire extinguisher close by.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, both indoor and outdoor grills will help you whip up delicious meals. If you’re strapped for space, an indoor grill is likely a more affordable and versatile option. It will work well if you’re cooking for a small family, too.
Those who regularly host barbecues, however, may like the ample grilling space an outdoor grill provides. And if you’re a flavor fanatic, keep in mind that outdoor grills are the undisputed champs when it comes to delicious smoky profiles.
Find the best grill for your cooking style.