Ultimate Buying Guide: Grills

A classic focal point of any backyard set up: the grill. If you are looking at buying a grill, use this guide to help you understand the different types and features of grills that you will see as you shop!

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The cornerstone of most backyards is the grill. Your grill can be simply more than just the place where you cook food – this can be a place to socialize, the focal point of your backyard, or the main reason you use your backyard. For many, grilling can be a lifestyle or key hobby. So, getting the right grill for your backyard is an important decision. But, there are several different types of grills and various features to evaluate. What is right for your backyard?

This guide details the different key features of a grill and some of the most common grill types. This information will be invaluable as you shop around for the right grill.

So, let’s get started and learn more about the perfect grill for you!

Outdoor Grills Buying Guide
Table of Contents

Location: Where can I put my grill in my backyard?

Knowing what grill is best for you starts with understanding where you want to store and use your grill. These can be two separate areas for some grills (e.g., freestanding grills), or it will be the same location for others (e.g., built-in grills).

You can store your grill in many locations. Ideally, you should try to store your grill in a weather-safe location and/or with weatherproof materials. Weatherproofing your grill will help you extend the useful life you get out of your grill. You can buy weatherproof covers or a storage area for your grill.

Where you use your grill must be in a safe place. The general recommendation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is that any grill should be used 10 feet from any structure and flammable material. At the same time, most manufacturers will recommend a 3-foot distance from walls.

Grills placed to close to homes with exterior walls made of wood or vinyl are more likely will cause damage to the home – the heat from the grill will melt vinyl siding. Additionally, if you are cooking under a covered area, the smoke from the grill may stain the ceiling. Also, local building codes and HOAs may place additional constraints on where you can operate your grill. Ensure that you choose a location that enables you to safely use your grill and does not pose a hazard to you, others, or any nearby structures.

Types: What are the different types of grills?

There are many popular types of grills that you can use in your backyard that we list below:

  • Built-In: These grills are built into a dedicated structure to hold a grill, usually as part of a larger outdoor kitchen with a dedicated counter cutout to place the grill.
  • Freestanding: These are grills that can be moved around your backyard, even though they might not always have wheels. The grill head is affixed atop a cart or supported by legs.
  • Post-Mount: These grills are built on top of a singular post and will be installed in a permanent location in your backyard. 
  • Portable: As the name suggests, these are grills that you quickly move from one location to another and travel with you due to their smaller size. Even if you have another, larger grill type in your backyard, you may still find a need for having a portable grill.
  • Kamado: These grills you may recognize from their unique egg or oval shape. These are usually made from ceramic material, but you can find many made from steel. Kamado grills are known for creating a very even and steady cooking temperature. You can find these grills in a ‘freestanding’ and a ‘built-in’ form.

Fuel Types: What are the different fuel types for grills?

There are several types of fuel for your grill: charcoal, gas, wood, or electric. This is a critical choice as each fuel type has different ease-of-use, maintenance, and food flavor impact characteristics.

  • Charcoal: The classic option for your backyard grill. You will find many different grill types with charcoal as the means to heat your grill. Charcoal is a preferred option for many due to the smoky barbecue flavor created by cooking with charcoal and the ability to cook at very high heat. Charcoal grills will take longer than other options to heat to a cooking temperature and will require more attention to keep the charcoal at the right heat while using the grill.
  • Gas (Natural Gas and Propane): Gas grills are a common option found in many backyards. Propane grills are portable options, whereas natural gas is usually used for built-in grills in a fixed location. These grills are quick to start up and heat, and they are relatively simple to maintain. One downside of these grills is that you will not get the smoky flavor that you get from a charcoal grill.
  • Wood (Pellet): Wood pellet grills are becoming a popular option. These grills can be simple to operate as the grill will maintain an even temperature by distributing the right amount of wood pellets to heat the grill – all you need to do is set the temperature, and the grill will do the rest. Additionally, the burning wood pellets will provide a smoky flavor to the food. You will need an electrical connection to power this grill type.
  • Electric: Electric grills are popular options if you need a portable and compact grilling option or are restricted in using charcoal or gas grills in some areas (e.g., apartment buildings). These grills can take some time to heat up, but they can reach high heat depending on the grill’s design.

Size: How many square inches should my grill be?

One of the most important dimensions of a grill is the cooking surface. A general rule is that you will need about 70-100 square inches of cooking surface per person you plan to feed. For example, if you want to cook for four people (at one time), you will need a 280-400 square inches grill. An average, mid-priced grill will usually have about 400-500 square inches of cooking surface, and this is generally sufficient for most backyard uses.

Heat Amount: How much heat should a grill create?

A key feature about a grill is how much heat it can create. You will likely find grills measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), a quantifiable measure of heat produced by the grill. Ideally, your grill should produce about 100 BTUs for every square inch of cooking surface for the grill.

Materials: What materials are used to make a grill?

Most grills will be made out of stainless steel, cast aluminum, cast iron, or ceramic materials. These options are designed to endure outdoor elements and provide an excellent cooking environment, with stainless steel being a prevalent option due to its corrosion-resistance characteristics and high durability. Choosing what material is right for you will likely include your preference for the design and ‘look’ of your grill options.

Key Features: What are key features of a grill?

  • Cooking grids (or grates): Cooking grates are the pieces of metal that you place your food on in the grill. These will be made out of various materials: stainless steel, porcelain-coated steel, cast iron, or porcelain-coated cast iron. 
  • Burners: A key feature for gas grills is the number of burners that the grill has. More burners on a grill will allow you to cook at different temperatures throughout the grill. A 2-burner grill should allow you to cook for about 4 people at one time; whereas a 3 or 4 burner grill should have enough room to cook for about 8-10 people.
  • Side Burner: A side burner is a common feature that is separate a cooking area from the primary cooking area of the grill. This feature can allow you to cook vegetables or other items at a separate temperature. You can find some charcoal grills that may also have a gas-fueled side burner. 
  • Infrared Burner: An infrared burner is a special burner that delivers a high amount of heat quickly. This is typically used to sear meats.
  • Warming Racks: Warming racks are a secondary surface within your grill that is usually above your main cooking surface. As the name suggests, this is an area that you can warm and cook food at lower temperatures.
Hi, I'm Ashley!

Hi, I'm Ashley!

I started Live Your Best Backyard to share my (and my family's) hands-on experience and countless hours of research on all things backyard to help you find the best products, ideas, tips, and information for your backyard!

Read More About Me
Hi, I'm Ashley!

Hi, I'm Ashley!

I started Live Your Best Backyard to share my (and my family's) hands-on experience and countless hours of research on all things backyard to help you find the best products, ideas, tips, and information for your backyard!

Read More About Me
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