The Best Outdoor Grills for the Backyard, According to Our Test Kitchen

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Grill shopping? Our Test Kitchen knows the best outdoor grills—whether you prefer gas or charcoal.

A grill is a big investment that requires a lot of consideration—especially if you’re serious about outdoor cooking. During the warm months (or all year if you’re truly a passionate grillmaster), your grill can see as much action as your oven. But what grill is best for dinners on the patio and after-dinner s’mores? Our Test Kitchen pros know! Find out which gas and charcoal grills they recommend.

How to Choose a Grill

When it comes to selecting gas or charcoal, it’s all about personal preference. Charcoal grills are more affordable but take longer to reach the proper cooking temperature. Gas grills can be ready in a flash but they cost more.

Both, though, are great options for making satisfying grilled dinners (and even desserts). It all depends on your preferences for upkeep, time and flavor.

The Best Charcoal Grill

22 in. Original Kettle Charcoal Grill in Blackvia homedepot.com

When it comes to charcoal grills, our Test Kitchen recommends the classic: the Weber Kettle charcoal grill. This iconic grill is a must for folks that prefer the flavor that charcoal provides.

Catherine Ward, Prep Kitchen Manager and grill pro, owns four of these Weber grills and there’s a reason she keeps coming back to this classic: “I’ve tried other brands over the years and I’ve never had the same quality of heating, value or longevity that I get from a Weber.”

The classic Weber kettle is a great pick for beginner charcoal grillers and grill masters alike. The grill itself is a simple device, but intuitive to use. Catherine says that the vents in the grill’s undercarriage and on the lid are efficient for controlling the heat of the grill. Plus, the built-in lid thermometer helps you gauge when the grill is ready for you to start making dinner.

When dinner is done and the coals are cool, cleaning is a breeze. The large ash catcher contains all the dust and can be removed easily without a mess.

As for cleaning the grates, the stainless steel grates can be brushed clean or given a soak once cooled. If your grate is beyond cleaning (or goes missing on the way home from a tailgate), you can snag a replacement at the hardware store. Catherine says that she likes how readily available these replacements are. With new parts handy, you never have to take a day off from grilling.

Want more reasons to love our Test Kitchen’s preferred charcoal grill? Here are the specs:

  • Cooking space: 363 square inches (for the popular 22″ inch model Catherine recommends)
  • Warranty: 10-year warranty on the bowl and lid, five years on the one-touch cleaning system and plastic components, two years on everything else
  • Finishes: You can get the 22″ inch kettle grill in black, red, green or copper
  • Other features: Built-in lid thermometer, removable ash catcher, adjustable bottom and lid vents
  • Price: $109

The Best Gas Grill

Genesis II E-335 3-Burner Natural Gas Grill in Black with Built-In Thermometer and Side Burnervia homedepot.com

If you prefer the ease of gas grilling, we’ve got you covered there as well. Alicia Rooker, Recipe Editor and Tester, can’t speak highly enough of the Weber Genesis II E-335 gas grill. As far as gas grills go, this one has just the right amount of bells and whistles but no unnecessary extras.

One of our Test Kitchen’s favorite features is the simple ignition on this grill. Called Infinity Ignition, you can be sure your grill lights on the first try. No more wondering if the gas is on and if it’s ready to grill up some burgers.

The three burners on the Weber Genesis II are another great feature to have. The ability to have different temperatures on the same grill means you can sear off a steak on a higher temperature while cooking tender veggies with less intense heat. Alicia says that she enjoys this versatility because it lets her do all the cooking on the grill without having to heat up the oven inside (a big bonus on hot days). You can grill up your mains and heat up a small saucepan of baked beans on the side burner. Or do as Alicia does during the summer: “I boil corn and then put it straight on the grill. It’s nice to have extra burners so you don’t have to heat up the kitchen.”

As far as clean up after all the grilling is done, Alicia says you can’t beat this grill. “The grates and innards are all removable which makes deep-cleaning super easy,” she says.

Need more reasons to check out the Weber Genesis II? Here are the specs:

  • Cooking space: 669 square inches
  • Warranty: 10 years
  • Burners: Three
  • Fuel: Natural gas or propane
  • Other features: Infinity Ignition (your grill is guaranteed to light on the first try), tuck-away warming rack, searing burner, side burner
  • Price: $949

How to Keep Your Grill Going

What our Test Kitchen loves about both of these grill options is their durability. Both Catherine and Alicia have enjoyed their Weber grills for years. To keep your grill in good shape (no matter what model you have), be sure to give it a regular cleaning—and not just the grates. Here’s our complete guide for how to clean a grill—gas or charcoal.

And on the offseason, be sure you’re storing your grill the right way. Start by giving it a good clean, washing the grates and emptying out any ash. If you can move the grill to a garage or shed to keep it out of the elements, do it. And invest in a grill cover. It will keep your grill blazing for years to come.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.