The Best Outdoor Grills to Upgrade Your Backyard Barbecues

The Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill is the all-in-one answer to better ribs, burgers, and sides.

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best outdoor grills
Photo: Ace Hardware

When you think of outdoor barbecuing, balmy summer days and serious pit masters might immediately come to mind, but in reality, grilling is inclusive enough for everyone and every season. Whether you're a beginner looking to master the basics or a professional pining for the next best gadget, investing in the right grill is key to achieving the best char and flavor.

Outdoor grills come in a variety of different styles with a range of qualities and capabilities. When choosing between charcoal, gas, electric, and wood pellet grills, consider how often you plan on using your unit, how much TLC you'd like to devote to the cooking process, and the amount of space you have to spare for storage.

We examined some of the leading models and assessed the functionality, durability, and versatility of each. Overall, we found Big Green Egg's Large Kamado Grill to be the best of the bunch, thanks to the multiple functions it can master in one convenient machine. Read on for more of the best outdoor grills.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Big Green Egg Kamado Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Ace

Pros: Though this grill is fueled by charcoal, a strategic airflow system allows you to set and maintain an exact temperature.

Cons: Big Green Egg offers tons of accessories, but they're all sold separately—even the stand.

The Big Green Egg is one of the most versatile outdoor cookers you can buy. The heavy-duty device comes in a range of different sizes and is capable of acting as a grill, outdoor oven, and smoker. Fueled by charcoal, the oven is easy to light and heats up quickly, thanks to the patented design that allows airflow to circulate evenly. In order to set and maintain an exact temperature, just adjust the airflow system to allow for direct, high heat or indirect, low heat. The grill comes with a built-in temperature gauge that provides precise readings up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit so you can easily check on heating power.

An industry favorite, we chose the Big Green Egg as the best all-around grill because of its unmatched versatility and functionality. This quick-to-heat grill adds convenience to any grilling project by effortlessly grilling up burgers, baking pizzas, roasting a turkey, and smoking barbecue ribs over low, slow heat.

The stainless steel cooking grid is easy to clean, and the ceramic surface keeps the exterior cooler than a normal grill. Big Green Egg offers an array of accessories to elevate your cooking projects, but keep in mind that all of them are sold separately.

  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Cooking surface: 262 square inches

Best Gas Grill: Weber Genesis II 3-Burner Natural Gas Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Home Depot.

Pros: Three burners with quick ignition and two stainless steel side tables make this grill perfect for prepping and cooking outdoors.

Cons: Unlike propane, this grill is powered by natural gas. Before purchasing, make sure your home is equipped with a properly installed supply line.

A reliable option for both weeknight grilling and outdoor entertaining, this sleek gas grill is equipped with all you need to quickly sear up barbecued meats and sides. Gas power means that the three stainless steel burners instantly ignite for easy, consistent heating, so this is a great option for someone who wants to grill on demand and doesn't have time to heat up charcoal.

The porcelain-enameled, cast iron cooking grates trap and retain heat for a consistent surface that promotes a perfect sear and crispy grill marks. For added convenience, a warming rack keeps food at the right temperature until you're ready to eat and can be tucked away when not in use. Perfect for beginners looking for a safer option, the grill's removable catch pan collects drippings away from the burners to prevent dangerous flare-ups.

The complete cooking center has two stainless steel side tables that make prepping and assembling meals easy, while tool hooks keep cooking utensils within arm's reach. The ample enclosed storage underneath ensures that all grilling essentials stay organized in one convenient place. Keep in mind that this grill runs on natural gas rather than propane, so you'll need a supply line to hook it up.

  • Fuel type: Natural gas
  • Cooking surface: 513 square inches

Best Charcoal Grill: Weber Original Kettle Charcoal Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: This grill has all the benefits of a classic charcoal grill with a few upgrades, like a built-in thermometer.

Cons: Unlike gas grills, this manual grill doesn't have the option to set and maintain an exact temperature.

An enhanced version of Weber's iconic Original Kettle Charcoal Grill, this premium version features all of the same offerings as its classic counterpart—like excellent heat retention and precise temperature control—with the addition of a few upgrades. A refillable ash catcher underneath makes emptying ash easier, and a hinged grate makes it easy to add more charcoal while grilling.

The removable porcelain-enameled lid features a built-in thermometer that clearly displays the internal cooking temperature, and when you're ready to check up on the progress of your contents, an angled hook securely holds the lid on the side of the grill to keep it off the ground.

Keep in mind that this circular, 22-inch grill is on the smaller side, so prepping for large barbecues or backyard parties could be challenging.

  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Cooking surface: 22 square inches

Best Gas and Charcoal Grill: Char-Griller Double Play Gas and Charcoal Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Home Depot

Pros: Gas and charcoal cooking areas can operate independently or at the same time for a consistent, flavorful cooking experience.

Cons: This is one of the largest grills on our list, so make sure you have ample space before purchasing.

If you're looking to combine the quick convenience of gas with the familiar smoky flavor of charcoal, this dual-functioning outdoor grill is a winning combination of both. On one side, a gas grill features three main burners with heat tents, a side burner for stovetop cooking, and electronic ignition, while on the other, a charcoal grill offers an easy-dump ash pan and adjustable height grate for customizable temperature control. You can use both sides at the same time for an impressive 1,260 square inches of total cooking space and even add on a separately-sold firebox for savory slow-smoked meats.

  • Fuel type: Gas and electric
  • Cooking surface: 1,260 square inches

Related: The Best Grilling Equipment for Excellent Barbecues at Home

Best New Category: Spark Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Spark

Pros: Electricity makes this grill convenient and easy to use, while the charcoal Briq imparts a savory BBQ flavor.

Cons: Since this grill plugs into a three-pronged outlet, make sure you have a safe and reliable power source nearby.

An electric outdoor grill combines the convenience and dependability of electricity with the flavor of charcoal. This "charcoal-fueled grilling system," per the brand, plugs directly into a three-prong outlet and begins preheating in just a few minutes. Perhaps the brand's most unique feature is its proprietary charcoal Briq that quickly lights to infuse every hamburger and hot dog with the distinct, smoky flavor of charcoal. When ready to use, just plug in the grill and slide the Briq into a perforated cast iron drawer.

Because electricity offers more consistency than other types of power, this grill type makes it easy to set and maintain a precise temperature of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, this machine is the very first charcoal grill with that capability. When you're ready to power it down, the grill's no-mess ash disposal takes care of cleanup. Since this grill relies on an electric power source, it's only suitable for houses that are equipped with outdoor electricity.

  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Cooking surface: 368 square inches

Best Pellet Grill: Traeger Pro Series 780 Grill

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Home Depot.

Pros: Six different functions make for a versatile grill, and wood pellets impart a smokey flavor.

Cons: Wood pellets must be bought separately.

Traeger invented its original wood-powered grill over 30 years ago, and the company has been perfecting the gadget ever since. This version utilizes a smart digital controller that allows you to adjust and set temperatures straight from your smartphone. Setting the temperature on a Traeger grill is just like setting the temperature on your oven, which makes this machine a reliable option for cooking more precise recipes outside.

Pellet-powered grills offer the versatility to go between intense, direct heat and low, indirect heat in one machine, which is perfect for fish and more tender cuts of meat. This multifunctional option from Traeger comes with six functions for grilling, smoking, baking, roasting, braising, and barbecuing, all in one unit. Just ignite the pellets to create a vortex of heat and smoke inside the Traeger Pro's convection-based rectangular grilling chamber, which infuses your food with a robust natural wood-fired flavor.

  • Fuel type: Wood pellets
  • Cooking surface: 572 square inches

Related: The 7 Best Electric Smokers on Amazon for Delicious Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Best Griddle: Cuisinart 360 Degree Griddle Cooking Center

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: A flat cooking surface means nothing will fall through the cracks, so you can easily flip pancakes or sear shrimp.

Cons: Keep in mind that this type of cooking surface means you won't get those quintessential grill marks.

From traditional backyard barbecue fare to eggs and bacon for breakfast, this full-service Cuisinart cooking center has all the capabilities of a stovetop griddle and outdoor grill in one.

A circular 22-inch flat top offers a generous 360 degrees of cooking space, and two designated heat zones provide consistent, even distribution for maximum efficiency. Surrounding the griddle, an oversized grease pan catches drippings and fallen food fragments, funneling them to a hidden rear-facing cup for added safety and easy cleanup.

A folding prep table is great for seasoning food before it goes on the grill or resting it before serving, and a built-in paper towel holder is stashed underneath for inevitable messes. This solid, flat top grill is perfect for delicate foods like salmon or pizza that would normally fall through grill grates.

  • Fuel type: Propane gas
  • Cooking surface: 380 square inches

Best Grill-Smoker Combo: PK Grills Original Grill & Smoker

Grill and Smoker
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: Thanks to strategically placed air vents, this multifunctional grill also doubles as a compact, portable smoker.
Cons:
Since this grill is on the smaller side, it doesn't have much prep or storage space.

This charcoal-powered grill and smoker is a striking pick for the experimental pit master because of its portability and versatility. It features 300 square inches of cooking space and a rectangular capsule shape to accommodate everything from tender rib racks to a traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

The cast aluminum construction conducts heat far more efficiently than steel, creating a convective effect that cooks food from all sides. Four vents on the top and bottom of the grill give you the freedom to sear food hot and fast or keep the cooking temperature low and slow, and two-zone cooking capabilities offer direct heat for grilling or indirect heat for smoking.

Great for portability, the grill itself easily dismantles from its cart, not only making it a top option for grilling up masterfully cooked dishes, but also for taking along on tailgates and camping trips.

  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Cooking surface: 300 square inches

Related: 7 Excellent Grills and Smokers You Can Order on Amazon

Best Portable: Solo Stove Grill Ultimate Bundle

solo stove
Solo Stove

Pros: This compact grill heats up quickly and comes with a convenient carrying case and set of tools for on-the-go adventures.

Cons: This bundle comes with a short stand, which is perfect for casual cooking. However, if you're someone who likes to stand over a grill meticulously searing steaks, you might prefer a tall stand, which is sold separately.

This convenient grilling bundle from Solo stove comes with a stainless steel grill, portable grill stand, carrying case, grill cover, and stainless steel tools like a spatula, tongs, and meat fork. The easy-to-carry equipment makes it perfect for the beach or campsite. Unlike some other portable grills, this option does not sacrifice functionality—it's just as hot and powerful as any other grill—if not more. Thanks to a 360 degree airflow design, this grill heats up fast and stays that way. The short stand makes it the perfect height for a group grilling experience, so the chef can tend to it from a beach chair rather than off at a cooking station away from the crowd.

  • Fuel type: Charcoal
  • Cooking surface: 380 square inches

Conclusion

An outdoor grill should be functional and durable, and it should be able to cook up a variety of foods with ease. We love that the Large Kamado Grill from Big Green Egg can easily switch between grill, smoker, and outdoor oven. It heats up quickly and maintains a consistent temperature, all while imparting the deep charcoal flavor that barbecue fans know and love.

Types of Outdoor Grills

Charcoal grills

Favored by barbecue purists for infusing their food with a more intense, smoky flavor, charcoal grills require charcoal to ignite and take more time to heat up and clean than a gas grill.

Gas Grills

These offer a low-maintenance approach, making them the grill-of-choice for many frequent grillers. While you will need a propane tank or a natural gas line to get them going, a quick push of a button will ignite your grill, making it hot and ready to go in just a few minutes. Unlike charcoal, cleanup is minimal, and adjustable burner knobs give you total control over the cooking temperature.

Electric Grills

The electric variety reign number one in terms of convenience, simply requiring an electricity source to ignite and heat up. Preheating is typically a speedy process, and most offer precise temperature settings that take some of the guesswork out of grilling a perfect medium steak.

Wood Pellet Grills

Finally, wood pellet grills are another great option for those who are willing to go the extra mile for flavor. They're powered by hardwood scraps for a slow-smoked taste and a low-maintenance set-it-and-forget-it-type cooking process that doesn't require constant monitoring.

Pro Q+A

How do you clean an outdoor grill?

Grills may require slightly different cleaning methods depending on the fuel source — gas, electric, charcoal, pellets — so you'll want to check the manual or look online for cleaning recommendations specific to your unit. However, there are some basic cleaning techniques to know that can be useful regardless of your specific model. We turned to the Traeger Product Team for some advice. "Make sure your grill is completely cool. Spray the grill grate and the inside of the chimney (if one is present) with an all-natural cleaner. Then remove and clean both sides of the grill grates. We recommend NOT using wire brushes, but rather a cleaning cloth or heavy-duty paper towels. Next, dispose of old foil or drip tray liners if present and remove the drip tray and the heat baffle. If your grill has a hopper for pellets, charcoal, or wood, empty it completely. Vacuum the inside of the grill thoroughly, making sure you collect as much residual sawdust and ash as possible. Scrub the inside of the grill and chimney. Again, we recommend not using wire brushes. Instead, use a cleaning cloth or heavy-duty paper towels. Spray the inside and outside of the grill with the all-natural cleaner and allow it to soak for several minutes before wiping it clean with a paper towel or cleaning cloth. Last, reinsert all components and the grill grates, and you are set!"

How long should an outdoor grill last?

How long your outdoor grill will last depends on a number of factors, including its quality, the climate, and how often you use and clean it. Most have a warranty that covers the first few years of use, but properly maintained grills should last well beyond their warranty period. "Traeger grills have a limited seven-year warranty, but the grills are designed to last longer than that," says the Traeger Product Team. If you live in an environment with intense climate conditions, it's smart to store the grill during the worst seasons in an indoor or covered location. Keeping the grill covered with a waterproof cover when not in use will also help it last longer, as will regular cleaning and maintenance.

How do you keep an outdoor grill from rusting?

"Grills should not rust within their warranty period under normal use and conditions," says the Traeger Product Team. "High-temperature events and extreme environments may cause that to occur sooner. Keeping your grill clean and well-maintained with a cover is recommended to keep your grill in good, working condition." Basic cleaning is recommended between uses, and depending on the frequency of use, a deep cleaning either quarterly or every ten uses or so will help prevent damage and rusting.

Our Expertise

Zarah Kavarana is an Ecommerce Editor who specializes in writing thoroughly researched product recommendations for the kitchen and home. For this piece, she did a deep dive into the essential grills that every home cook—from the passionate pit masters to beginners—would love. She performed competitive research to determine the best type of grill in every category. In addition to Food & Wine, you can find Zarah's work in Real Simple, People, and more.

This piece was updated by Laura Denby, a food writer with years of experience writing about everything from the latest culinary gadgets to biodynamic winemaking. Laura has worked as a chef in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons and employs her professional culinary experience to guide her expert product reviews. You can read more of Laura's work in Food Network, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, and PureWow.

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