8 Different Types of BBQ Grills – Everything You Need to Know!
Grilling is always in season, whether you’re smoking the Thanksgiving turkey or charring burgers for a summer barbecue. With the wide range of types and prices, you may be wondering what kind of grill best fits your cooking style. BBQ grills are categorized by their fuel method and size, and some categories overlap. For example, a portable grill can be electric or gas. Here’s a basic rundown of the different types of grills to make the process faster and easier so you can start cooking in no time.
The 8 Different Types of BBQ Grills
One of the most popular choices nowadays, gas grills ignite quickly and use cheaper fuel to run than charcoal or pellet grills. You can usually control the temperature much easier in a range of 400-600 ºF which allows you to grill a steak or cook a pizza. If you’re going for a smoky, charred taste, some gas grills even let you add charcoal or pellet chips to give your food extra flavor. However, not all of them have that option, and since there are no low temperature options, a gas grill isn’t a good option for smoking meat.
If you’re concerned about size, gas grills can be standalone or built in. Most are larger than other types however, which make them an ideal choice for bigger families. Some models have the option to pipe in natural gas instead of refilling the 20-gallon tank. Just be aware that depending on the model, a gas grill will probably cost you more upfront than some other types.
- Gas is cheap
- Temperature control ranges between 400-600 ºF
- Different types of gas grills, but most tend to be on the large side
- Not good for smoking
- The grill itself is typically more expensive than charcoal or electric
The classic choice with a covered top, charcoal grills are usually portable, standalone units that won’t cost you much money upfront. Unlike gas grills, you can use a charcoal grill to smoke food.
Charcoal grills are a bit of a rustic choice. They take a while to heat up, and there are no temperature control knobs. However, you also have a few more ways to customize how you cook by the type of charcoal you use and the higher temperature capability. Charcoal grills can reach up to 700 ºF, which means you can cook a variety of foods. You just might have to wait a little longer to eat than you would with gas since it takes a while to warm up. Also, over time, charcoal itself is a much more expensive fuel than the other types.
- Charcoal grills are less expensive than gas grills
- Temperature capacity reaches up to 700 ºF
- Able to smoke meats
- Charcoal is more expensive than propane or natural gas
- No temperature control knobs
3. Gas and Charcoal Combo
While you can add charcoal to some gas grills, combo grills are intentionally designed for both gas and charcoal. They tend to be big standalone or built-in units that are equipped for gas on one side and charcoal on the other. This type combines the convenience of gas with the taste of a charcoal smoker, allowing you to run gas for the days you need to cook quickly, or burn charcoal for a more intentional cookout. These grills usually aren’t portable. However, they’re a high-quality choice for an outdoor kitchen, or a smart investment for emergency preparations since they can function on gas or charcoal.
- Allows you to choose between gas and charcoal
- Not portable
If you love to roast meat over an open fire, a pellet grill is an easier choice that will still give your meal that smoky campfire flavor. A pellet grill uses electricity to run because it has an automatic auger that feeds the pellet chips into the fire. Because it requires power and usually has a heavy body, these grills aren’t the most portable choice. Some are designed to be portable, but still may require a couple of hands to lift them into a truck.
Pellet grills function similarly to ovens. They can usually be set to a temperature, and some models even let you adjust the settings from your smartphone. We think these grills mesh perfectly with your modern lifestyle and old-fashioned tastes. However, they’re quite an investment because both the pellets and the grill itself are more expensive than charcoal options.
- Similar to campfire cooking
- Easy to use
- Some models have temperature control
- Needs electricity
- Usually not portable
- Grill and pellets are both expensive
Smokers function like grills without a cooktop. The idea behind a smoker is to use it low and slow, often cooking meats for 12 hours at a time. Depending on the model, smokers can use charcoal, propane, natural gas, wood, wood pellets or electricity. Some may use a combination of fuels to efficiently achieve the smoky flavor, and some have time and temperature controls.
A smoker might be the ideal grill for you if meat is your main priority. It’s also typically a compact choice, which is good if you don’t have outdoor space for a hefty, dedicated grill station. However, as you might imagine, smokers produce a lot of smoke, so they might not be an option if you live in a dense area where others may be bothered by the billowing fumes. Additionally, smokers aren’t the best choice if you’re wanting to experiment with grilling kabobs or other foods with a short cook time at high temperatures.
- Available in different fuel types
- Some models have time and temperature controls
- Not good for apartments since they produce a lot of smoke
- Limited functions
Purely electric grills are almost always portable, but some may be installed as permanent cooktops. Portable electric grills tend to be one of the cheaper units and are the most low-cost option to run since they need nothing besides a power outlet. Since they don’t produce fumes, electric grills are the perfect choice for living in a dense area. They’re also easy to bring on a camping trip as long as your site has electricity.
Electric grills tend to heat up quickly, and most have temperature controls. Most models are smaller than traditional grills, which is great for portability and storage, but you might need to budget a little more time if you’re planning on being the grill master for the neighborhood cookout.
- The most affordable type of grill
- Powered by electricity
- Most have temperature controls
- Needs electricity
- Typically has a smaller cooktop than traditional grills
The kamado grill has a thick ceramic body that retains heat better than typical charcoal grills. It has precise temperature controls and can hold heat for up to 12 hours, which makes it an efficient choice for grilling or smoking. Shaped like an egg, this grill doesn’t take up much horizontal space. While you’ll probably spend a little more upfront on a Kamado grill than a standard charcoal grill, you’ll save money in the long run since it burns charcoal more efficiently.
- Features temperature controls
- Made for grilling and smoking
- Burns charcoal and retains heat more efficiently than standard charcoal grills
- Smaller than most gas grills
- Expensive type of grill
Nowadays, portable grills can use most any type of fuel. Some of the categories overlap here because technically most charcoal, electric, and kamado grills are already portable. However, most grills that are made specifically to be portable usually run off of electricity or gas. These include everything from small electric burners to premium portable pellet grills.
The advantage of buying a portable grill is that you can take it anywhere as long as you have the appropriate fuel. However, if you have a large family or are primarily using your grill for community gatherings, you should keep in mind that portable grills tend to have very small cooktops. Additionally, while you can set the temperature controls, portable grills that run on gas or electric usually don’t have the capability or capacity to smoke meat.
- Small, compact design
- Usually uses gas or electric
- Not able to smoke meat
- Limited cooking space
How to Choose the Best Grill for You
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the different types of grills. And once you decide on the category, then your search becomes more specific as you try to find the right model for you. Here are some factors to consider that should help you narrow down your options.
1. Consider the Food
When hunting for a new grill, the most important thing to consider is what’s on the menu. Are you primarily looking to smoke meat? Are you intrigued by the possibility of cooking pizza outdoors? Knowing what you’re mainly looking to cook can help you decide whether you’re wanting a grill that can do it all, or if you would rather buy one that masters a specific function, such as a smoker.
2. Type of Fuel Available
If you’re looking for a portable grill, you might want to consider what type of fuel will be readily available wherever you go. Expense is also a factor, as gas and electricity tend to be cheaper than charcoal and pellets. Fuel does influence flavor though, so you might prefer charcoal or pellets if you’re going for a smoky taste.
3. Family & Friends
While compact grills are convenient, they might not be the best choice if you’re wanting to feed a bunch of people at the same time. Conversely, you probably don’t need a massive grill station for two people.
Nowadays, you have more grilling options than ever. Some choices combine primitive methods with modern convenience, such as the pellet grill. Others, like the gas and electric models, are cheaper to use. Charcoal is a classic cookout choice, but the fuel is more expensive than gas and it’s the least reliable way to achieve the ideal temperature. Consider how you’re planning on using your grill, as well as what type of fuel and space you’ll need, to help you decide what type of grill you would use most.
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