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The best grills for summer, according to BBQ champions and grillmasters

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Updated ·10 min read
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grill in backyard
Time to upgrade: Everything tastes better on a great grill. (Photo: Getty Images)

With warm weather officially in effect, our thoughts turn to easy outdoor meals with friends and family. There's nothing as relaxing as time in the yard casually tending burgers and veggies while loved ones talk, laugh and hang.

What makes things even easier, and more enjoyable? The right grill. If your grill has seen better days but you're not sure where to begin choosing a new one, we're here for you, with great advice and smart selects from industry pros.

Before you get lost in the imagined sizzle and aroma of a steak, take a minute to assess your needs: “Think about how you’ll use a grill — are you cooking mainly burgers, steaks and hot dogs, or do you want more versatility?" says world BBQ champion Melissa Cookston, owner of Memphis BBQ Company. "Would you prefer gas or charcoal? Are you cooking just for the immediate family? There are so many choices in grills today, it's easy to get drawn in by some fancy feature that you'll never need.”

It's important to be realistic. Says Jonathan Fox of Atlanta’s Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q: “What is your skillset on a grill: novice, hold-your-own or the next great meat influencer? These are some great questions to ask.”

If you're planning to use your grill for regular, weeknight cooking, go for a gas grill that can fire up and be ready to go in five to 10 minutes, says Fox. If a grill that doubles as a smoker is a dream, a ceramic grill is a great option—but know that it’ll take 45 minutes to an hour to heat up (not great on a weeknight). Charcoal grills fall somewhere in the middle, for heat-up time, and can add a nice smoky flavor, says Fox.

You don’t need to buy the priciest grill out there, says Fox, but more expensive grills do tend to last longer. Here are seven smart picks to choose from. Find your favorite, and spring into this beautiful weather with easy, breezy meals — and no mess in the kitchen.

Best Propane Grills

Spirit II E-210 2-Burner Liquid Propane Grill

$399 $551 at Amazon

Weber’s Spirit II is a no-frills gas grill that gets the job done. With two stainless steel burners, it can carve out hot and cold zones and cook up a delicious meal in a jiffy. We like the easy-to-read gauge next to the gas tank that tells him how much fuel is left. This grill comes with a 10-year warranty on all parts.

The two side tables offer enough room to prep, plus the grill works with a 20 lb. propane tank. It's the perfect grill for small spaces.

"Weber has always been my favorite grill maker but this is the best Weber grill I have ever purchased," raved one buyer. "I am very impressed with the quality and performance of this grill. I live alone and grill a lot, I will seldom use both burners, but I believe this grill would easily suffice for a family of 5 or 6. Offset oven cooking or smoking is a breeze. The grill holds temperature extremely well. I love the quality, simplicity, and efficiency of design... I am 74 years old and have owned many a grill but finally found a grill that I love."

Genesis E-335 Liquid Propane Gas Grill

$1,319 at Amazon

The three-burner Weber Genesis II is big enough for a crowd, and it has all kinds of cool features, including an extra burner to simmer sauce, a sear station and an app-connected thermometer that monitors food from beginning to end and sends readings to your phone. Plus, a 10-year warranty on all parts.

The extra-large grill has enough cooking surface space for a party — there's even a second layer for roasts and more, as well as side burners for sauces and sides. The sear zone is perfect for getting those mouth-watering sear marks on steaks and burgers, too.

"Seriously, so many upgrades in this grill, it's entire kitchen outside; from the side burner for boiling or sauces, the sear burner for added heat, the grill modular configuration— to allow for wok stir fry pan to the extended work surface—I can cook an entire meal on this grill," shared a Weber reviewer. "The side storage cabinet, for extra grates and other cooking accessories, is sleek and ample. What can be better?"

Best Pellet Grill

Pro Series 34 Electric Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker, Bronze

$600 $700 at Amazon

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding Traeger grills, and for good reason—these dynamos aren’t messing around. Plus, the machine is surprisingly versatile: It can grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise and BBQ.

The Traeger Pro Series 34 infuses food with wood-fired flavor. The best part, of course, is the ultra-precise temperature control. The controller allows for 15 degrees Fahrenheit adjustments, so your meats come out exactly how you like them.

"We’ve had the grill only a few weeks, but we’ve cooked delicious ribs, brisket, pork shoulder and a whole chicken," reports one fan. "We love this grill, and all the meals have been delicious. We love experimenting with different rubs. We bought this one instead of the next-generation model that was several hundred dollars more. ... Very happy with the whole experience so far. Thank you, Traeger."

Best Electric Grill

TRU-Infrared Patio Bistro Electric Grill

$278 $316 at Amazon

If you have minimal outdoor space, this electric cutie is just right. Just plug it in, and it's good to go. The porcelain-coated cooking grates are rust-resistant and easy to clean. Perfect for a small patio.

This small-but-mighty grill has enough cooking surface space for up to 12 burgers, plus the electric TRU-infrared system offers even heat distribution (read: fewer flare-ups).

"I love this electric grill," said one Amazon shopper. "Great for cooking on a deck. Soak some smoked wood chips and you'll never think about a charcoal grill again. So easy to clean and maintain."

Best Charcoal Grill

Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

$139 $155 at Amazon

The porcelain-enameled lid and bowl help retain heat and the dampers easily adjust to your preferred temperature. There's also a lid hook so you don't have to place the lid on the ground while cooking. With nearly 7,000 five-star ratings, you know this Weber is a winner.

Reports one avid griller: "Weber Kettle Grill is easy to assemble, easy to use, and easy to clean. Lightweight and portable. Great way to grill either directly or indirectly. I use indirect heat to smoke chicken and direct heat to grill burgers. When I’m in a hurry and do not want to wait for the coals to burn down, I use another grate and elevate it with a couple of bricks so that the meat doesn’t burn. Been a great purchase so far!"

Best Pizza Oven

BakerStone Portable Gas Pizza Oven

$286 at Amazon

The Baker Stone pizza oven reaches a sizzling 800 degrees and can bake pizzas in less than 2 minutes! Cleaning is easy with the removable firebox. Comes with for cleaning, compatible with separate attachments.

Wrote a fan: "By far the best bang for the buck. Consistently reaches 850 degrees on all sides. Cook any pizza in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Friends of mine have considerably more expensive pizza ovens and this one cooks as well as any of them. The single greatest purchase we have ever made!!!"

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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Originally published