Nothing says summer like grilling up easy summer recipes with a perfect char. Of course, you’ll need the right grill to make the job quick, easy and low-mess. In the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances Lab, we’ve tested more than 50 grills over the years to determine which are the best you can buy, including gas, charcoal, kamado, pellet and portable options.
We’ve cooked 56 steaks and 220 pieces of chicken to determine how well each grill sears, while keeping an eye on smoking and flare-ups. We’ve also toasted almost 1,000 pieces of bread on the gas grills to see how evenly they heat. In addition to performance, we assessed helpful extras like side tables, tool storage, concealed gas tanks and wheels for portability.
These are the best grills you can buy in 2021:
- Best Overall Grill: Weber Genesis II EX-335
- Best Value Grill: NexGrill 4-Burner Gas Grill
- Best Gas Grill: Weber Spirit II E-310 Propane Grill
- Best Grill for Beginners: Char-Broil Infrared Gas Grill
- Best Charcoal Grill: Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill
- Best Pellet Grill: Traeger Pro Series 575
- Best Portable Grill: Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill
- Best Tabletop Grill: Oklahoma Joe's Rambler Portable Charcoal Grill
What type of grills is best?
When buying a new outdoor grill, the two biggest players are gas and charcoal — but electric, kamado and pellet grills are also fair game. When selecting what type of grill to buy, consider how often you’ll be grilling, the amount of space you have for storage, what flavor you prefer and the amount of time and attention you’ll want to spend cooking. Here are the basics on each:
- Gas grills are the most common type. They’re great because they offer excellent control over cooking temperature (the ability to adjust the burner knobs makes it less likely that you’ll end up with burnt brisket!), plus they ignite with the push of a button, heat up quickly and are easy to clean. It’s the go-to option for no-fuss grillers who plan to barbecue frequently. Just keep in mind that you’ll need fuel from a propane tank or natural gas line on your property.
- Charcoal grills style require briquettes or lump charcoal to ignite. Charcoal is more hands-on and takes time to heat up and cool down, but it imparts a better, more barbecue flavor than gas because it often gets hotter. It’s really for grilling purists willing to work for it.
- Kamado grills use charcoal to heat but have thicker walls than charcoal grills that are often made of ceramic. They can reach very hot temperatures, like a pizza oven and they retain heat well for low and slow smokes.
- Electric grills plug in and can’t be beat for ease-of-use or convenience — especially the grills that can be used indoors or at apartment complexes that don’t allow grills —just don’t expect steaks or burgers “browned” on an electric grill to taste like the ones from a real BBQ.
- Pellet grills are a growing category that use electricity and hardwood pellets made out of wood scraps to heat. Pellets provide a delicious, authentic hardwood flavor to food but are costly.
BEST OVERALL GRILL
Weber grills consistently rise to the top in our grill tests. This Genesis II EX-335 Smart Grill is amongst their newest for this year. It toasted bread the most evenly in our heat distribution test and made a delicious steak with beautiful grill marks and a juicy, pink center when we tested for searing and flare-ups. It comes with two temperature probes that allow you to monitor the internal temperature of food directly on the control panel or via the Weber Connect app.
In addition to the smart features, its loaded with other features that make it stand out like a flashlight that attaches to the lid handle, knobs that illuminate, side shelves and plenty of storage space. It has three burners, a searing section and a side burner.
- Heats evenly
- Includes many features like built-in temperature probes, various lights for grilling in the dark and plenty of storage room
- Though chicken was still tender and juicy, fatty thighs caused small flare-ups
BEST VALUE GRILL
It can be tough to find a great quality grill for under $500, but with its gleaming stainless steel, the NexGrill 4-Burner Propane Gas Grill is an A+ choice for the price tag. It delivers perfect grill marks, a side burner and space for 28 burgers. On the side, there’s a burner for heating beans or sauce. And best of all: We saw no smoking or flareups when cooking.
- Minimal flare-ups
- Gets hot quickly; monitor food during cooking
BEST GAS GRILL
When it comes to cooking, three-burner stainless steel grill is just about perfect. When we tested a previous model in this Spirit line, it heated evenly and turned out steaks with gorgeous grill marks that were beautifully rare and juicy in our testing. Chicken came off the grates golden brown, moist and tender — and all this with very few flare-ups. The grill comes with porcelain enameled cast-iron grates that cook up to 25 four-inch burgers at once, a stainless side table and a gauge to give you an idea how much gas is in the tank.
- Produces great results
- Minimal flare-ups
- Took a long time to assemble
BEST GRILL FOR BEGINNERS
This Char-Broil grill heated quickly and evenly in our tests and didn’t flare up once. It turned on with no effort at all, and got hot enough to sear steak and chicken without burning it. This model features Char-Broil’s Tru-Infrared technology, which is basically a large metal plate that sits below the cooking grates and traps the foods’ juices as it cooks. Once the juices hit the plate, they steam and infuse the food with more flavor. Results were juicy and not dry.
In addition to the Char-Broil’s cooking performance, we liked the simple, two-knob design that quickly responded to adjustments. When done cooking, the entire grill was easy to move and store away.
- Easy to start
- Created no flare ups
- Tru-Infrared technology doesn’t allow flames to touch food; some users may miss the charred taste
BEST CHARCOAL GRILL
This Weber kettle is iconic in the industry and well-loved by consumers, so it’s not surprisingly a best-seller (and its slightly less expensive version has over 1,000 positive reviews on Amazon). At under $200, it’s powered by charcoal and features an ash tray below the grill that’s easy to fill for continuous cooking. The structure is sturdy with solid accessories and a removable lid that can be rested on the side of the grill, and it can be rolled around easily for storage in the off-season.
- Large, comfortable stay cool handle
- Minimal under-grill storage
BEST PELLET GRILL
Traeger is known for its wide assortment of large pellet grills designed to grill or smoke a lot of meat at once at a precise temperature. They heat up more quickly than charcoal grills and require less prep work (no fussing around with coals that won’t light or are hard to spread out).
Simply plug them in, and the inner mechanics move pellets from the hopper into the “fire pot” where they’re heated. From there, a fan moves the heat and smoke into the grill to cook food. This Traeger pellet grill has a temperature range of 165ºF to 500ºF, which means you can use it for everything from smoking and braising to searing and grilling. It also connects to a recipe app that allows you to program and monitor the cooking process, a useful tool because foods could take hours to cook. It offers 600 square inches of cooking space and has an 18-pound hopper.
- Large temperature range (can smoke and sear)
- Sensors monitor cooking process and temperature every 30 seconds
- Solid build
- Pricey compared to most gas and charcoal grills
BEST PORTABLE GRILL
This grill is great for taking on the go. In our tests, it created nice grills marks on burgers, hot dogs and buns. The grill is powered by 1-pound tanks of propane and turns on with the push of a button. It has a large, cast iron cooking surface with areas that allow food to be cooked over either a direct or indirect flame.
It also has a removable drip tray that can be cleaned after done cooking and cooled. The side shelves tuck away for storage, and the grill folds down for easy portability. It even fits nicely into most car trunks. A tabletop version is also available for an even more compact option.
- Powerful burners that turn on easily
- Folds down for taking on the go as well as storage
- Propane tank sometimes takes a few tries to attach just right
BEST TABLETOP GRILL
Oklahoma Joe’s Rambler is a great option if you’re short on space but still crave a smoky, charcoal flavor. It’s small, but sturdy and durable enough to be used at high temps or as a slow-cooking smoker, too. Large handles deck either side so you can move it around easily, plus one on the front for smooth operating. The included grate is made of cast iron and is divided in two, which allows coals to effortlessly be added to the tray mid-cook as well as create different cooking areas (very hot with more coals, or not as hot with less coals or none at all).
The coal tray is adjustable to three different heights, which we found easy to use to adjust the cooking temperature, and the ash pan spans across the entire length of the grill for simple cleanup. In our tests, the grill proved easy to use while set up in our yards or taken to the park.
- Small yet sturdy
- Doubles as a smoker