Look alive, grill masters! It’s barbecue season, and if you’re looking to be the envy of the neighborhood potluck, it might be time to upgrade your grilling setup. There are tons of options to choose from, but a gas cooker remains the tried-and-true champion when it comes to backyard grilling.
Because gas grills ignite and heat up quickly, they’re ideal for newbies. Most have plenty of room to fix a family-sized feast, and newer models come jam-packed with nifty extras, from side burners to special sear stations to built-in lighting for evening cooking.
So if you’re on the hunt for a quality gas grill, you’re in luck. We put a bunch of the bestselling models through their paces by grilling burgers, whole chickens, ribs and more. These backyard models are three of CNET’s favorites.
BEST GRILL OVERALL
Weber Genesis II E-335, $1,049
This Weber liquid propane gas grill is pricey, but if you’re ready to make an investment in your outdoor kitchen, this model is a top choice, with ample grilling-area and cooking-grid dimensions.
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This model comes with plenty of high-performance specs. With 513 square inches of primary cooking space powered by 39,000 BTUs, plus a fold-down warming rack, a 12,000-BTU side burner and stainless steel rod cooking grates for heat retention, you’ll never want for cooking-area space. Two cabinet doors hide a two-shelf storage area below the grill for utensils and supplies. That does mean the propane tank is stored outside the grill, but the provided hanging fuel gauge and easy access felt like a bonus more than an eyesore.
The Genesis II E-335 is also compatible with Weber’s iGrill 3. This $121 accessory plugs into the front of the grill and houses up to four Bluetooth temperature probes. You can monitor the temperature probes via a companion app for iOS and Android, so you keep an eye on what’s happening in your cooking area from a distance.
BEST MIDRANGE MODEL
Char-Broil Commercial 3-burner, $529
Char-Broil’s three-burner model comes in at almost half the price of the Weber model. You’ll get a liquid propane and natural gas grill that can handle most cooking challenges with ease.
Char-Broil uses what it calls Tru-Infrared, a set of perforated emitter plates that separate food from flame to evenly distribute heat and reduce flare-ups. There were definitely fewer flare-ups compared with other models in our testing, but you won’t be able to see the flame when you’re lighting the grill or adjusting the temperature, so keep that in mind.
You’ll get 25,500 BTUs of grilling power over 420 square inches of primary cooking-area space, plus a side burner and tank storage. Like the Weber, it comes with a 10-year warranty.
BEST BUDGET MODEL
Char-Griller E3072 3-burner, $250
You don’t have to spend more than $500 for a great barbecue grill. Char-Griller’s E3072 proves it. This model brings 40,800 BTUs of power over a generous 438 square inches of cooking space, plus a 12,000-BTU side burner.
What we noticed most in testing this grill is how quickly it got up to temperature compared with other models. It held that heat well, too. Unfortunately, that became a hindrance in our testing. Burgers and chickens were too charred on the outside, thanks to the hot cast-iron cooking grate. If you do purchase this model, keep that in mind and start out with less heat. Ribs were better, perhaps owing to the two smokestacks designed for even low and slow cooking.
There’s no storage cabinet on this model. The propane tank sits behind a decorative front panel. That’s an aesthetically pleasing compromise, but reaching through the side bars and around the panel to open and close the tank was frustratingly difficult. Despite those annoyances, this barbecue grill offers plenty of practicality and power for a very reasonable price.
Get your grill ready for summer barbecues: A guide to cleaning it
For the grill of it
Nothing tastes quite as good as vegetables and meat cooked over an open-propane flame or the red-hot briquettes of a barbecue grill.
But achieving the perfect sear on your food requires more than just paying attention to the heat source and temperature. Having a clean grill reduces annoying flare-ups, allowing you to have more success when grilling.
Grills with bits of leftover food stuck to the grates or with grease and food bits in the lower section of the grill can reduce the longevity of the grill and can affect the taste of the food you are grilling. Here’s a guide to cleaning your grill to get it ready for summer:
Cleaning your grill’s grates
Any cleaning process with a barbecue grill should start by cleaning the grates (the surface where the food sits while cooking).
Just be sure to allow the grill and grates to cool down for an hour or more before starting the cleaning process, because you may need to touch the parts of the grill.
Grates collect food particles and grease over time. As you cook, leaving the particles in place, they will burn to a black residue, some of which will remain stuck to the grates and some of which will stick to the food that you cook in the future.
Fortunately, cleaning the grates is not as difficult as it sounds.
Scraping and brushing the grates
Use a tool to scrape food particles off the grates on the grill to start the cleaning process.
If you haven’t cleaned the grates for a while, a scraper tool is the best option. The scraper should have notches in it to match the size and shape of your grates. Metal scraper tools usually work best, although some people prefer wood scraper tools.
After scraping the majority of the grime off the grates, then use a brush for a finer cleaning process. There are three primary designs in grill-cleaning brushes:
- Metal bristles: A metal bristle grill brush will give you the most thorough cleaning, as the metal bristles are stiff and durable. However, metal bristles may pop loose from the brush and stick to the grates, meaning they could end up on food, creating a serious health hazard if someone ingests a bristle.
- Nylon bristles: A nylon bristle grill brush will be safer to use on the grill, especially one with light-colored bristles that are easy to see if they stick to the grates. However, nylon bristles don’t quite remove food as effectively as metal bristles.
- Bristle-free: Some people prefer a bristle-free grill brush to eliminate the possibility of loose bristles ending up in food. These work more like scraper tools, but they are a little easier to use for general cleaning over a larger space than the scraper covers.
Add gentle dish soap and warm water to the grates before using the brushes. After removing the particles of food with the brushes, you may want to use a paper towel soaked in warm water and dish soap to finish wiping down the grates.
Cleaning grill’s grates after each use
To simplify the process of thoroughly cleaning the grates a few times per year, you will want to quickly clean the grates after each use. You can perform this cleaning step while the grates on the grill are still warm.
Apply a degreaser spray to the grates first. Then use a grill-cleaning brick, scrubbing back and forth across the grates to remove the loose food particles stuck to the grates.
After cleaning, apply warm water to the grates, and scrub again with the clean side of the brick.
Cleaning the interior
You’ll want to clean out the interior section of the grill, as well, removing bits of food and grease that fall into the bowl of the grill to prevent flare-ups.
Cleaning a gas-grill interior
The burners inside the gas grill eventually may become covered in grime, so you should run a brush over them to pop grime out of the holes where the flame appears.
If the burners have a flame shield over them to distribute heat, you should be able to pull the shields out and wash them separately with dish soap.
Scrape the interior of the grill to loosen and remove any buildup of grime and food particles.
Cleaning a charcoal-grill interior
Clean the ash and remaining briquettes out of the bowl of the charcoal grill after every one to three uses. If you can tip the grill to pour out the ash, this is the best method.
Scrape the interior of the grill bowl to loosen and clean out any remaining residue. You can use mild dish soap with warm water or a degreasing spray to finish cleaning the interior of the grill.
Cleaning the exterior
The exterior of the grill will not become as grimy and soiled as the interior of the grill, but you will want to give it a quick cleaning a few times a year. Just use a bit of degreaser spray or dish soap and a sponge to wipe down the exterior of the grill.
Heat up the grill after cleaning
After giving the grill a thorough cleaning, you will want to run the heat on a gas grill for at least 10 minutes to burn off any residue that remains from the cleaning process.
For a charcoal grill, you will want to allow the lit briquettes to thoroughly heat the interior of the grill before adding the food the next time you use it. In other words, wait a few minutes longer than normal after the briquettes heat up before placing food on the grates.
Preventive cleaning tips
To keep your grill clean year-round, which will lengthen its lifespan, try these suggestions:
- Store the grill inside a garage or shed to keep it out of the elements, especially in the winter.
- Use a water-resistant grill cover that protects the entire unit, draping nearly all the way to the ground.
- Use a grill mat over the top of the grates on the grill, especially when cooking messy food, which keeps the grates from accumulating grease and bits of food.