Pick the perfect grill for summer cookouts

Before you buy a grill, make sure you have all your bases covered.

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Summer is on the way, and the grill buying season is approaching. Whether you’re a seasoned grill-master or only an occasional burger flipper, here are five questions that you need to ask to get the right grill for you:

1 - Charcoal or Gas?

Just like electric vs. gas stoves in the kitchen, deciding between the two types depends on what you want out of your grilling experience.

Most fans of charcoal maintain that their grills cook more flavorful food because of the smoky taste from the coals. Gas grill advocates point to the time savings of gas, and the efficiency of buying a propane tank every few weeks instead of a bag of coals more regularly. The choice isn’t always that clear: some gas grills include options such as “flavorizer” bars that sit over the gas burners and supposedly emulate the smoky taste. And while preparing and cleaning up charcoal may take longer, a quality charcoal grill tends to heat up more quickly.

If you’re just looking to go with the crowd, gas grills seem to be winning the popularity contest at the moment. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association, there were about 2.4 million more gas grills than charcoal shipped in the U.S. in 2011.

2 - How often am I going to use it?

Decide how often you are going to use the grill and what you plan to grill before figuring out how much cash to dole out. If you’re only going to grill hamburgers and hot dogs a few times during the summer, there are plenty of options in the $75-$200 range that offer good performance. For example, the Coleman Road Trip LX doesn’t have great controls, but its performance was right up there with high-priced grills and it costs just over $200. Plus it folds up to fit into your car for camping trips and tailgating. Those who grill year-round and need special controls and top performance will be willing to pay $500—or more—for a grill such as the Char-Broil 463271310.

3 – How much cooking surface do I need?

There is no point in having a big grill if you just do a couple of burgers at a time. The RoadTrip LX only has a cooking area that’s 285 square inches but it cooks just as well as other grills with larger cooking areas. The problem is that you can’t cook large quantities of food at once: we were only able to cook three burgers at a time on the LX, but we could do nine at a time on the Vermont Castings VS401SSP. If you plan to do a lot of large cookouts, consider the extra time and fuel that will be required if you can’t fit more than a few burgers on the grill at a time. If you’re usually only cooking for a small family, the extra grill space might not be worth the price.

4 – How can I store it year-round?

A big consideration for grill owners should be what you do with it when you’re not using it. You can add a few years to the life of your grill by covering and storing it properly during rainstorms. Most gas grills will come with a slip-on cover or you can purchase covers separately online. Charcoal grills such as the Weber One-Touch Silver don’t come with a cover, so you’ll need to plan on picking one up from Amazon.com or grill retailer.

If you live in a climate that gets a lot of unpredictable rain and snow, look for a grill with good sturdy wheel and handles for easy transport. Even after you’ve covered it, it’s probably not the best idea to leave it in the rain or snow during the winter. Portable grills (like the Coleman RoadTrip) can fold right up and get transported indoor for easier storage.

5 - Should I pay more for extra options?

Many top-of-the-line grills—the Weber Summit E-420, for instance—come with side burners, extra heating elements, or large warming racks. These are certainly good purchases for experienced grillers who want as much flexibility as possible and the latest and greatest grill technology. But don’t be swayed by these add-ons if all you’re looking for is a respectable grill that offers solid performance. Inexperienced grillers may even find that some of these extra features are hard to use. There are plenty of grills out there that don’t include these extras, but cook your food very well at a much more reasonable cost.

Find out more info and read Reviewed.com’s in-depth reviews of the charcoal and gas grills mentioned at GrillsInfo.com. Reviewed.com is a division of USA TODAY.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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