Best Backyard Grills
Editor's Note: We've been longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. You won't find a better source for thoroughly researched and well-tested techniques, tips, and recipes for cooking with smoke and fire anywhere in the world. We're happy to welcome them to Serious Eats to drop some backyard cooking bombs this summer. Please also welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains contains 500 grills and smokers ranging in price from $30 to $50, 000. When it comes to grilling and barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
If you have a lot of money, it's as easy to select a great grill as to select a great wine. The trick is finding a great one that's also affordable. Of course, affordable is relative, so we have set the upper limit at $500 for this list, though some grills are considerably less expensive. All of these selections have won the AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold or Silver Medal.
The iconic Weber Charcoal Kettle was born in 1952 and set backyards on fire around the world. It became an emblem of backyard BBQ, but long ago gas grill sales overtook charcoal. Heated debate routinely flares up between gas and charcoal advocates. My editor Meathead Goldwyn and I have at any moment 10 of each in our yards, and both have strengths and weaknesses (read more about their pros and cons on AmazingRibs.com). But there's always more to learn, and we look forward to you letting us know how stupid we are in the comments section.
Whatever grill you choose, we cannot emphasize this enough: Pay no attention to the cheap, inaccurate dial thermometers. Those ancient bi-metal heat estimators can be off by 50 to 100°F! Furthermore, they are usually located in the lid, not down on the grill where the food is. This is useful only if you plan to eat the lid.
To achieve your goal of backyard domination, you absolutely need an accurate digital thermometer, and if you're a data nerd, we encourage you to take a look at the database of ratings and reviews of more than 150 digital thermometers on AmazingRibs. Get one now and you'll never have to make excuses for overdone meats again, or, worse still, apologize to a guest who got sick from underdone chicken.
Gas became the fuel of choice largely because most perceive it as easier to use than charcoal: just turn a couple of knobs and start cooking. The convenience of gas is clearly valuable to the grilling public. Every year mass-market grill manufacturers scramble to offer more for less. Watch out, though, because cheap manufacturers often include bells and whistles, like cut-rate sear burners, side burners, and rotisseries, to entice you into buying their flimsy, low-quality junkers.