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BBQ Grills: The Basics of Getting a Great Deal
Simply put, a BBQ grill is an outdoor appliance used to cook food. A grill can handle virtually anything you’d make on your household stove — and then some. There are several benefits to outdoor cooking on a BBQ grill you seldom see indoors:
- A large cooking surface
- Different fuel types
- The ability to easily contain the mess of cooking fatty or oily foods
Better yet, grills are ideal for making your neighbors jealous. Here’s how you can get a deal on a BBQ grill.
Grill Types & Terminology
There are several terms you should know when buying a grill:
Gas Grill: A grill that uses gas (propane or household natural gas) as its fuel source is usually used for medium and high-heat cooking. This type of grill is easy to start, easy to shut off, and offers heat control. They are usually started with a built-in ignitor or external fire source (such as a lighter), and must be hooked up to a propane tank or household gas line.
Charcoal Grill: A charcoal grill uses charcoal briquettes as its primary fuel source. These types of grills can usually also use wood or a charcoal/wood combination for fuel. Charcoal grills are typically more complex to start and shut off, and they’re a bit dirtier to run. Maintaining a steady temperature requires a lot of practice.
That said, these grills lend a unique flavor to food, based on the charcoal or wood you use. You can also take them anywhere without a need for external fuel or connections. Many charcoal grills have specialized accessories that allow you to smoke your food at low temperatures.
Pellet Grill: Relatively new, the pellet grill uses little wood pellets as a fuel source. The design is unusual: the pellets are contained in an external box that uses a big corkscrew to move the pellets into the firebox. An electric fan blows air into the firebox to control the rate of burn and temperature output. The major downside to this type of grill is it must be plugged into an external power source.
However, these grills help you precisely control the temperature. Most pellet grills can also double as smokers when equipped with a specialized heat shield accessory.
Electric Grill: An electric grill uses electricity to heat the cooking surface. It is very easy to use, start, and shut off, but does require an electrical connection. The major downside of an electric grill is the inability to add any sort of flavor from the fuel source. They are also typically small, so you are limited in how much food you can make at once.
Smoker: Smokers use some form of offset heat to generate a low-heat, high-smoke cooking surface. There are many smoker types that create smoke in a variety of ways, and use every type of fuel: electric, charcoal, wood pellets, and gas.
Griddle: A griddle works in essentially the same way as a grill, except a griddle has a flat, non-porous surface that keeps oils and fats in place. Most griddles use gas or electricity as the fuel source, although you can add a griddle accessory to any type of grill. Griddles can also be added as side mounts on higher-end grills.
Sear Box: A sear box can also be added as a side mount on higher-end grills. Usually using gas as a fuel source, a sear box is a small grill with a large flame output, which allows it to reach temperatures a standard grill cannot. Sear boxes are ideal for cooking meat such as steak and pork chops — where a sear or char mark is desirable.
Popular Grill Brands
There are a variety of popular brands in the grill world. Here are some of the most common brands you will come across:
Recommended Accessories for Grills
Every backyard grill master needs certain accessories to cook the perfect meal. Here are some of the most common:
- Fuel: Charcoal briquettes, wood, wood pellets, or a propane tank. (Tip: Once your propane tank is empty, you can exchange it for a full one.)
- Fire starter: There are many tools for starting a fire, from simple matches and newspapers to blow torches and starter logs.
- Handling tools: Look for large tongs, a meat fork, and a spatula for moving food around.
- Cleaning tools: You’ll need grill cleaning spray, a scrub stone, and a wire brush.
- Thermometer: A meat thermometer that determines temperatures instantly is great, but you can also get a probe thermometer that plugs into your grill.
- Pans: Purchase drip pans for catching drippings or holding liquids to disperse humidity for smoking.
- Grill cover: It's important to protect your grill and keep it as clean as possible; a good quality cover will extend the life of your grill.
Where to Buy Discount BBQ Grills and Score a Deal
While most people automatically think of big-box hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot for deals on BBQ grills, you can also find grill deals at smaller hardware stores (such as Ace Hardware and Menards), sporting goods stores (such as Bass Pro Shops and Sportsmans Warehouse), and megaretailers like Walmart and Target.
Of course, the benefits of buying from a local store is the grill is typically pre-assembled and ready to be loaded up and brought home. Amazon, Wayfair, BBQguys, HSN, Rakuten and other online stores all offer grills shipped to your house, but sometimes they require assembly. Many stores even offer in-home assembly as an option.
How to Pick the Right Grill for You
With so many types of grills, applications, and price points, picking the right BBQ grill may seem daunting. It really all depends on what you plan to cook, where you want to cook it, and what types of features you may be interested in.
If you want simple startup, simple cleanup, and ease of use, a traditional gas grill is the way to go. While you won’t make amazing brisket or smoked spare ribs on a gas grill, it will function very similarly to your stove and is perfect for some burgers, hot dogs or veggies--even fish. Its also good for large groups because they often come in large sizes with tons of features available and are generally easy to use because temperature control is straightforward.
If you are always on the move and cooking wherever you might be such as when camping, RVing, or stopping by a friends home, an electric grill may be right for you. What is easier than simply plugging it in and throwing some food on? The only drawback is they are usually on the smaller side and are not suitable for large parties.
For a more traditional approach that allows you to instill a variety of flavors and unique char on certain meats, a charcoal or wood fire grill is great. You can easily find great deals on these types of grills as they come in all types of shapes, sizes, and build qualities from a variety of popular brands.
Keep in mind that with charcoal/wood grills, you get what you pay for: the higher end models will hold heat better and have great features that will allow for easier management and cleanup. Speaking of cleanup, that is one of the drawbacks of these grills, as you’ll want to empty out the ashtray or vacuum them out after every couple of uses.
For the ultimate in traditional BBQ-ing and ease of use, you will want a pellet grill/smoker combo. A pellet grill is very easy to startup and shut down and is generally cleaner to run than a comparable charcoal/fire grill. Additionally, pellet grills will often allow for a conversion between direct flame and offset heat to also allow for smoking.
It’s that low and slow smoking approach that helps render down fat and produces soft, juicy meats that retain flavor and create a nice bark. The main drawback of pellet grills is they are often more complex and therefore more expensive than their counterparts. Plus, you need to make sure you stock up on pellets and have a power source to run the unit.
BBQ Grill on the Blog
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Should I Pay for a BBQ Grill?
The amount you pay for your BBQ grill really depends on how often you plan to use it and the type of grill you want. Deals on portable charcoal grills can be had for as low as $25, and that’s fine if you plan to use it once or twice a year.
However, if you plan to grill often, it's worth investing in something more substantial. High-end, consumer-grade grills and smokers can run upwards of $1,200 for larger models. Not to mention, these models can call for another $400 in accessories. For most people, a good enough grill can be had for $300 to $400.
Should I Buy a Gas, Charcoal, or Pellet Grill?
Gas grills are easy to use and clean, but they require a supply of gas — either in the form of a plumbed household gas line or a propane tank.
A charcoal grill is typically less expensive than its counterparts, and imparts charcoal or wood fire flavor to your food. A charcoal grill can also provide smoking features.
A pellet grill is more expensive, but can manage heat better. Pellet grills also offer flavor and smoking features.
When do Grills Go on Sale?
Most grill deals and sales can be found between March and October. We generally recommend shopping for the best grill deals toward the end of the season in September or October.
Gennady loves writing about tools and home improvement on a regular basis. He's currently building his own workshop in his home, and loves wrenching on his car.