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Best grills in 2020: Gas, charcoal, and pellet compared

Best grills
(Image credit: Weber)

Whether it's charcoal, pellet, or gas, the best grills somehow make everything taste better. When you cook on an outdoor grill, everything comes out with an incomparable smoky flavor. Whether you want to smoke a brisket for hours, sear a ribeye, or even grill up some vegetables, the best grills will impart that flavor you can't get on your indoor range. Even better: all the fumes and mess stays out of the house.

If you want to keep things simple, you probably want a gas grill, which is as easy to use as the range in your kitchen. You can easily cook up steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, or chops without much fuss. However, if you love to experiment with recipes, you can go to town with any type of grill. To find the best grills on the market, we've looked at grills that use propane, charcoal or wood pellets, even electric power. We also looked at ceramic kamado grills and compact portable designs for tailgates and camping trips. Whatever you want from a grill, you'll find it in the list below.

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The best grills have features to make cooking outdoors as easy as possible. On them, you’ll find extras like hooks to store tools, side tables to hold trays of food before and after cooking, and side burners to heat up the barbecue sauce or beans. They have conveniences like removable ash catchers and drip pans to make clean up stress free. After all, one of the reasons you’re grilling is to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors!

What are the best grills?

Based on our extensive research and personal experience, the best gas grill is the Weber Genesis II S-335. Whether your idea of a cookout features hot dogs, shell steaks, or brisket, you’ll get well-browned and perfectly-cooked results. No charred but raw chicken from this grill! But as is often the case, the best comes at a price.

If the Genesis is beyond your budget, take a look at its little cousin, the Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill. It gives the same great results in a smaller package. For even less, we recommend the Nexgrill 720-0830H. This is a huge handsome stainless-steel number, that’s particularly good for searing.  

Anyone who is willing to work for charcoal flavor, will want our best charcoal grill, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22. Thanks to vents and a hinged grate, it too gives you lots of control to cook everything from brats to baby backs. If you prefer a wide and shallow grill with plenty of room to load on the burgers, consider the Char-Griller Traditional Charcoal Grill. You’ll love the drawer that makes it easy to add fresh briquets. 

We know some of you love to play around with all kinds of grilling techniques. For you, there’s the very versatile Kamado Joe Classic II 18 KJ23RHC, a ceramic cooker that excels at just about everything from pizzas to pulled pork. If you want to delve into smoking, our top pick is the Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill. And because we don’t want anyone to miss out on the pleasures of cooking outdoors, we have a best electric grill, the Char-Broil Bistro Tru-Infrared Electric Grill to recommend to anyone who can’t use gas or charcoal. 

Best grills: Weber Genesis II S-335 Gas Grill

Weber Genesis II S-335 Gas Grill (Image credit: Weber)

1. Weber Genesis II S-335 Gas Grill

Best gas grill

Fuel: LP or Natural Gas | BTUs: 48,000 | Burners: 3 | Grates: Stainless steel | Cooking Area: 513 square inches | Finishes: Stainless steel, Black, Blue | Features: Sear burner, Built-in lid thermometer, Fuel gauge, Warming rack, 6 tool hooks, Side burner, 2 side tables, iGrill3 (app-connected thermometer) compatible, Removable grease tray

Excellent performance
Sear burner
Side burner
Expensive

For a thick juicy pork chop with criss-cross grill marks,  you can’t beat the Weber Genesis II S-335 Gas Grill.  Want to smoke a turkey? Turn the heat down and you’ll get a moist flavorful bird with a burnished skin. This grill cooks evenly with minimal flare ups whether you cook on high or low. It has a sear burner for branding on those grill marks. On the grates you can cook about 25 hamburgers at once. While the Genesis won’t flip your burgers for you, it does work with the iGrill connected thermometer so you can get a beep on your phone when they’re fully cooked to a safe temp.

On the Weber you’ll find a full array of convenient features including a cabinet where you can stash things like mitts and paper towels, as well as tool hooks, two side tables (one of which has a burner for sautéing onions or warming barbecue sauce), a thermometer in the hood, and a gauge to show you how much gas is left in the tank. The grease pan is easy to access from the front of the grill for easy clean up. The only negative is that the grill  needs a bit of time to preheat before you start cooking.

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22-inch (Image credit: Weber)

2. Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22-inch

Best charcoal grill

Fuel: Charcoal briquets | Grate: Stainless steel | Cooking Area: 363 square inches | Finishes: Black, Blue, Green, Copper | Features: Hinged grate, Built-in lid thermometer, 2 tool hooks, Ash catcher

Vents for controlling the heat
Hinged grate makes it easy to add coals
Ash catcher 
No side table

The Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill 22-inch  has a grate that’s big enough for a whole mess of hamburger patties. However, because it’s easy to adjust the heat by opening and closing the vents in the bottom and in the lid, this grill is remarkably versatile and can definitely go beyond burgers and brats. It can turn out a perfectly seared medium-rare porterhouse or thoroughly-cooked chicken with a crispy golden-brown skin. The grate is hinged on both sides so it’s easy to add more briquets if you’re having a party and turning out hot dogs throughout the evening. 

Extras include a thermometer in the lid and hooks for hanging up your tools. A heat shield underneath the lid handle makes it easy to lift without singeing your hand, and the lid rests on the side of the grill while you flip the steaks or baste the ribs. Underneath the kettle, there’s a big bucket called an ash catcher; you use a lever to sweep the ashes into it and then it’s easy to remove and empty without leaving a trail of ashes along the way. The only thing missing are side tables for holding a platter.

Nexgrill 720-0830H (Image credit: Nexgrill)

3. Nexgrill 720-0830H

Best budget gas grill

Fuel: LP Gas | BTUs: 60,000 | Burners: 4 | Grates: Stainless steel | Cooking Area: 626 square inches | Finish: Stainless steel | Features: Sear burner, Built-in lid thermometer, Warming rack, Side burner, 2 side tables, Removable grease cup

Inexpensive
Stainless steel housing
Large grilling surface
Hard to keep the outside shiny

Without going for broke, you can have a large handsome grill. With its stainless steel housing, the Nexgrill 720-0830H looks like a professional model and cooks like one too.  Its grates can accommodate 25 burgers (or more, depending on size) and cooks them evenly so you don’t have to keep rearranging them. It’s a great grill in general for high heat searing but has a bit of trouble maintaining low temperatures for cooking chicken without charring the skin.

The Nexgrill is loaded with features including a side burner, a warming rack, and a thermometer in the hood. It doesn’t have tool hooks but has room under the grill to stash your gear. While the grease pan is easy to access, it can only be removed from the rear of the grill and you may find it takes a bit of elbow grease to keep the stainless steel looking spiffy. But for the money, you can’t beat the Nexgrill. 

Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill (Image credit: Weber)

4. Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill

A great gas grill at a moderate price

Fuel: LP or Natural Gas | BTUs: 30,000 | Burners: 3 | Grates: Porcelain enamel on cast iron | Cooking Area: 424 square inches | Finish: Black | Features: Built-in lid thermometer, Warming rack, Fuel gauge, 6 tool hooks, 2 side tables, iGrill3 (app-connected thermometer) compatible, Removable grease pan

Nice price
Excellent performance
No side burner

If you want a Weber but don’t have big bucks to shell out, the Weber Spirit II E-310 Gas Grill  will give you the brand’s great cooking performance and a whole host of features for a lot less. It’s smaller than the Genesis but still has room for about 20 patties so unless you entertain hordes it should be plenty big enough for the family and some guests. Whether you’re grilling skirt steaks for fajitas, salmon, or ribs, you can control the heat to get food that’s browned and cooked to your ideal degree of doneness.

You won’t find a burner here, but it does have side tables, a warming rack, tool hooks, a thermometer in the hood, a gas gauge, and a storage shelf under the grill. The grease pan is easy to access and empty. If you like, you can  hook it up to an iGrill thermometer to get an alert on your mobile device when your steak is perfectly medium rare. 

Kamado Joe Classic II 18-inch KJ23RHC (Image credit: Kamado Joe)

5. Kamado Joe Classic II 18-inch KJ23RHC

Best kamado grill

Fuel: Lump charcoal | Grate: Stainless steel | Cooking Area: 256 square inches | Finish: Red | Features: Stand, Built-in lid thermometer, Warming rack, Tool hooks, 2 side tables, Slide out ash drawer, Ash tool

Excellent cooking performance
Versatile
Easy to clean
Expensive
Heavy

Cooks who love to try new things and want to expand their repertoire beyond the basics will love a kamado grill. The best of the bunch is the Kamado Joe Classic II 18-inch KJ23RHC. This ceramic baby is heavy and will set you back a big chunk of change but it will reward you with unparalleled control over the heat so you can cook an artisanal pizza in mere minutes or smoke a pork butt for hours, as well as grill everything in between. What you don’t get is a lot of room to load on the burgers–expect to cook about 8 to 10 at once.

Instead of briquettes, you’ll need to stock up on lump hardwood charcoal. It can be hard to find but it lights easily and burns slowly. Opening the lid on other kamados can require muscles but Joe has a hinge that literally does the heavy lifting for you.  And unlike others, this kamado comes with a wheeled stand and has side tables for resting your basting sauce and a cold one. When it’s time to clean up, all you have to do is slide out the ash drawer and dispose of the ashes, safely of course.

Char-Griller Traditional Charcoal Grill  (Image credit: Char-Griller)

6. Char-Griller Traditional Charcoal Grill

Best barrel charcoal grill

Fuel: Charcoal briquets | Grate: Porcelain enamel on cast iron | Cooking Area: 519 square inches | Finish: Black | Features: Built-in lid thermometer, Tool hooks, Bottle opener, 2 side tables, Removable ash pan

Large cooking area
Easy to add charcoal
Easy to clean
Uses a lot of briquets

For slinging hot dogs and burgers for the whole gang, the Char-Griller Traditional Charcoal Grill  is ideal. It has a wide cooking surface that the manufacturer claims holds 31 patties at once. Underneath there’s a drawer that makes it easy to keep adding charcoal as the hungry crowd thickens. As you’ll find you need a lot of charcoal to keep the Char-Griller burning, make sure you stock up before the party starts. Unlike on a kettle-style grill,  this model has side tables to hold trays and platters. An on-board bottle opener makes it easy for the grill master to pop open an IPA or a cola.  

You’ll also find a thermometer in the lid to give you a rough idea as to how hot it is under the grill, tool hooks to hang your gear, and an easy to remove ash can. 

Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill (Image credit: Traeger)

7. Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill

Best pellet grill

Fuel: Wood pellets | Grates: Porcelain enamel | Cooking Area: 575 square inches | Finishes: Black, Bronze | Features: Electronic temperature control, Meat probe, Built-in timer, Keep warm setting, Warming rack, WIFIRE app, Removable grease tray

Excellent at smoking
Excellent temperature control
Easy to use
Needs outdoor electrical outlet
Mediocre at searing

Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill makes the process of smoking pretty much stress free. You add hardwood pellets to a hopper, set a target temperature, and the grill does the rest. It has an electronically-controlled thermostat that works like the one in your indoor oven. The only caveat is that if the temp you want is super-hot to get a steak browned and crusty on the outside and rosy on the inside, you won’t be getting it from this grill which tops out at 500°F.   

If you want to go about your yard work, or even just loll in a hammock while your ribs are smoking, you can connect the Traeger to an app which will let you know when it’s time to baste, raise the temp to finish them off, or alert you that they’re ready to serve.

Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill (Image credit: Weber)

8. Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill

Best portable grill

Fuel: LP Gas | Burners: 1 | BTUs: 8,500 | Grate: Porcelain enamel over cast ion | Cooking Area: 189 square inches | Finishes: Titanium, Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Red | Features: Built-in lid thermometer, 2 side tables, Removable drip pan

Compact
Nice design
Side tables
Only 1 burner

If you want to grill away from home, the Weber Q 1200 Gas Grill is the best portable grill. You can depend on it for the same great cooking results you get from all Weber grills. Rather than a big tank of LP gas, it uses 14- or 16-ounce propane cylinders, which last about a couple of hours. Most likely you’ll be taking it to a park or beach, and using it for quick-cooking items like steaks or chicken breasts (or a couple of lobsters you pick up at the shore) but not for smoking a turkey or a shoulder of pork, so a single cylinder should do per outing.

It has side tables that are just as handy on the road as when you’re grilling in the backyard, but they fold up for travel so the grill is easy to transport. Other conveniences include a lid thermometer and an easy to remove and clean drip pan.  

Char-Broil Bistro Tru-Infrared Electric Grill (Image credit: Char-Broil)

9. Char-Broil Bistro Tru-Infrared Electric Grill

Best electric grill

Fuel: Electricity | Grates: Porcelain | Cooking Area: 320 square inches | Finishes: Black, Gray, Red | Features: Thermometer in lid, Warming rack, Removable grease tray

Compact
Good results for an electric grill
Needs outdoor electrical outlet

If you live in a community where gas and charcoal grills aren’t  allowed but have access to an outdoor electrical socket, the Char-Broil Bistro Tru-Infrared Electric Grill is your best bet for results that come close to those from a charcoal or gas grill. The Bistro is small enough to easily fit on a terrace or patio but has a grate that’s big enough to hold about a dozen burgers. It has a rack to keep food warm or heat the buns.

On the bottom there’s a shelf to hold supplies and in the lid, a thermometer. Two wheels make it easy to roll the Char-Broil inside or into the garage if you don’t want it to “live” on your limited outdoor area. The Bistro will produce minimal smoke to annoy the neighbors and has a grease pan that slides out to be easily cleaned in the kitchen. 

How to choose the best grill for you

When it comes to picking out the perfect grill for your backyard picnics or tailgate party BBQ, there are several factors to bear in mind. First, you'll want to decide what fuel type is best. You'll also want to consider what style of grill is best for your needs. Once you've settled on the type of grill you want, finding the best one is about the construction and features of each model. Here are some helpful guidelines to get you started.

Grill fuel types

Propane Gas: Easy to light, quick to heat up, and a cinch to clean, these grills take the stress out of outdoor cooking. You can cook sirloins hot and fast or chicken quarters slow and low with equally good results. Some diehard grillers claim that gas doesn't give as much barbecued flavor as charcoal grills and they are pricier than other models. But gas grills offer the greatest convenience, so they’re good for anyone who wants to grill on weeknights, in the winter, and even in bad weather.

Most gas grills use liquid propane gas from a tank hooked up to the grill. If you have a tank in your backyard to fuel your kitchen range, you can have your grill connected to it, so you won’t ever run out of gas. There are also models available that can access the natural gas line to your home.

Don’t be wowed by BTUs. While they tell you how much gas the grill uses, and in theory should tell you how powerful it is, more BTUs doesn’t necessarily mean higher heat or better cooking. 

Charcoal: These grills require effort to light, control, and clean up. But hands down,  they give the smokiest flavor. Charcoal grills may use standard briquettes or the more expensive hardwood lump charcoal, but both types have their advantages.

Charcoal grilling is also more time consuming than using gas, since charcoal requires 15 to 20 minutes of burning time before reaching cooking temperatures, and has more involved cleanup when you're done.

Pellet: Using hardwood pellets, this type of grill produces distinctive deep smoky flavor. You fill the hopper with pellets and the grill’s electronics do the rest, maintaining a very even temperature. They’re particularly good for slow cooking foods like a pork roast, brisket, or side of salmon.  However, pellet grills don’t sear as well as other types of grills so if your idea of a great meal is a crusty steak, this isn’t the type for you.   

Grill styles

There are also several styles of grill, which vary based on fuel type and design.

Kettle grills take up the least space and lets you build a deep bed of briquets to hold in heat. That makes it good for longer cooking items like chicken or ribs as well as for searing steaks and burgers.

Barrel grills are, you guessed it, like a barrel lying on its side. They use a large quantity of briquets and can cook a lot of food at once; but they tend to burn out sooner so they’re better for hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks than brisket or turkey breast. 

Kamado grills look a bit like traditional kettle models, but are made of heavy ceramic instead of lightweight sheet metal. The kamado design was popularized by the Big Green Egg brand, but similar ceramic designs are now offered by several companies.

While they’re not cheap, they hold in heat and give you lots of control for cooking all kinds of food, making them very popular with serious cooks who like to grill. The ceramic construction retains heat well, making them well suited to non-traditional grilling for dishes like pizza and deserts, but they’re heavy, use a lot of briquets, and don’t have a very big cooking surface.

Regardless of what type of fuel you use or style of grill you prefer, there are other things to look for in any grill you might consider buying, from the overall quality of construction to convenience features that make grilling safer and cleaning up easier.

Construction: A grill that’s built of thick metal or stainless won’t rust. A thicker material will also hold in heat better. It should sit firmly on the ground so it can’t be easily knocked over or even blown over. Look for stainless steel or bronze burners which are durable and won’t rust.

Wheels or Casters: At least two wheels on a grill make it easy to move it from place to place.

Lid: A tight fitting lid holds heat in.

Removable grease pan or ash catcher: Under a gas grill you want a pan for the grease to drip down into and under a charcoal one, a bin or a tray to collect the ashes. Either should be easy to remove for cleanup. 

Other Features: On charcoal grills, be sure there’s a vent for increasing and decreasing the heat and a way to easily add more briquets. When it comes to gas grills, check how easy it is to hook up the tank. Decide whether you need a side burner to heat up side dishes.

On either type of grill, tool hooks give you a place to hang your tongs and spatula when you’re not using them. Thermometers in the lid and fuel gauges on gas models are helpful but not precise.