6 Types of Grills to Consider for Your Next Barbecue

We break down all there is to know about outdoor grills so you can choose the best option for your party.

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While there are many types of grills to consider, you may wonder which one is best for your next barbecue party—whether you're new to grilling or fancy yourself a seasoned pitmaster. Perhaps you swear by your easy-to-operate gas grill but want to try charcoal or pellet grilling this year, or you love camping and are looking into portable grills. Before you buy a new outdoor grill, let's run through your options.

Considerations Before Purchasing a Grill

Choosing an outdoor grill depends on several factors, including (but not limited to) the amount of space you have to store it, the flavors you want to impart on the foods you're cooking, the ideal amount of time and attention you'd like to spend cooking, and the amount of grilling experience you have.

While gas and charcoal grills tend to be the most famous, electric and wood pellet grills are increasingly popular. Plus, smokers and portable grills offer their own advantages. When purchasing a grill, it's best to consider your specific needs and the pros and cons of each grill type.

Gas Grills

Gas grills are the most popular outdoor barbecue grill and are loved for the convenience they offer. They are a smart option for those who want to grill frequently and without fuss. Gas grills are also one of the easier grills to clean.

Benefits of Gas Grills

  • Ignite with the push of a button. You don't have to worry about forgetting matches; simply push a button to turn a gas grill on.
  • Heat up and cook quickly. Unlike charcoal grills, you won't have to wait long for gas grills to get hot, which means faster cooking.
  • Provide heat control. Thanks to temperature control knobs, gas grills give the cook a lot of control over the heat setting.
  • Create cooking zones. Since most gas grills offer multiple burners, you can create various cooking zones—for example, one for searing steaks and another for gently warming up your sauce.

Cons of Gas Grills

Some things to consider about gas grills that may be seen as downsides, depending on your preferences:

  • Heat is maximized. Gas grills don't get as hot as charcoal grills, typically peaking in the 400-600 °F range.
  • Cumbersome fuel. Propane grills require a 20-pound propane tank that can be used for about 25 hours of grilling time before having to be replaced.
  • Limited portability. Natural gas grills have an unlimited fuel supply but require you to install a natural gas line from the grill to your home (which limits their mobility).

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills are typically the least expensive grill option and can be used in a variety of ways when cooking. Plus, nothing can replace the delicious barbecue flavor of charcoal briquettes, so grill purists willing to work for it are best suited for this style of grill.

Kamado grills, like the Big Green Egg, are a type of charcoal grill made from ceramic that use consistent convection heat.

Benefits of Charcoal Grills

  • Customize your cooking. Charcoal grills can be used to grill directly over the heat (sear right over the coals) or indirectly (push the charcoals to one side to cook foods slower). They can also be used to smoke foods by closing the lid.
  • Deliver high heat. With the heat reaching about 700 °F, you can impart mouthwatering chargrilled flavor into burgers, chicken wings, ribs, and more.
  • Retain moisture. The infrared heat of charcoal grilling helps avoid losing moisture resulting in juicier meats than gas grilling.

Cons of Charcoal Grills

  • Not as easy to ignite. Charcoal grills require briquettes or lump charcoal for fuel, which can be tricky to ignite, especially if you're new to grilling.
  • Little temperature control. Without temperature knobs, temperature regulation takes more technique than with gas grills.
  • Longer heating and cooling time. The heat-up and cool-down process takes longer due to the high heat retention.
  • Harder to clean. Charcoal grills require more cleanup time due to the charcoal ash, which should be cleaned after each use.

Pellet Grills

Wood pellet grills are an increasingly popular style on the market. They use hardwood pellets as their heat source and offer a combination of desirable features from both gas and charcoal grills.

Benefits of Pellet Grills

  • User friendly. Pellet grills are electronically powered, can be ignited by a power switch, and have variable temperature settings. There's also no need for natural gas or propane as they plug into a standard electrical outlet.
  • Provide lots of flavor. These grills give food an irreplaceable hardwood smoked flavor (think hickory, mesquite, or maple).
  • Maintain temperature. A hopper beside the grill fills it with pellets to maintain your set temperature.

Cons of Pellet Grills

  • Harder to find. Pellet grills are less available than other (more common) grills.
  • More costly. Because of all their features, pellet grills can be pricey—especially when compared to charcoal grills.

Electric Grills

Electric grills can't be beaten for convenience or user-friendly features. Thanks to their smaller size and lack of charcoal or gas, electric grills are an excellent option for those living in condos or apartments with small outdoor spaces—and grill safety restrictions.

Benefits of Electric Grills

  • Easy to ignite. They plug in—what could be easier than that to ignite?
  • Heat up quickly. There's no need to wait for the charcoal to heat up or the gas to warm up the grill.
  • No fuel is required. Since electric grills run on electricity, you won't have to purchase coal or propane.
  • Easy to clean. They're small and have no charcoal ash, making cleanup easier and faster.

Cons of Electric Grills

  • Limited heat. Electric grills don't get nearly as hot as other options.
  • No chargrill flavor. Due to the limited heat and lack of charcoal, you'll forgo much of the delicious flavor other grills provide.


Smokers are ideal for anyone who enjoys a deep, smoky flavor. Though you can use charcoal and pellet grills for smoking your food, a standalone smoker can cook food low and slow (lower temperatures for an extended time).

Benefits of Smokers

  • Versatile fuel options. Smokers come in either charcoal, electric, or propane versions, allowing you to choose your preference.
  • Custom flavor. Wood pellets or chunks in various aromas can be added for that lovely wood-smoked flavor.
  • Convenient cooking. Though charcoal smokers are the more traditional option, propane and electric smokers are convenient, requiring less monitoring.

Cons of Smokers

  • Long cooking time. Consider how much time you have for grilling since smokers inherently cook food for longer lengths of time than other grill types.
  • Low heat. Unlike a charcoal grill that gets very hot, smokers use low heat—typically no more than 300 °F.

Portable Grills

Portable grills are tiny versions of their grown-up cousins. You can find portable grills with different fuel types: charcoal, gas, and wood pellets.

Never use a portable grill indoors. Despite their size, they're meant for outdoor use.

Benefits of Portable Grills

  • Convenient and portable. As their name suggests, portable grills are meant to be moved and taken with you for camping, tailgating, or a beach day.
  • Easy to clean. Due to their size, these grills can be cleaned quickly.

Cons of Portable Grills

  • Smaller cooking surface. Because they're smaller, these grills won't allow you to cook a ton of food at once. For larger groups or get-togethers, you'll have to cook in batches.
  • Limited heat. Though convenient, portable grills won't give you that high-heat cooking like other grills.
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