The Best Grills, According to Pros & Pitmasters

The Best Grills, According to Pros & Pitmasters

Whether you live somewhere warm and sunny year-round or are looking to make the most of your summer, I think we can all agree that a grill is one of the most (if not the most) prized outdoor essentials. Sure, you can try to re-create the deliciousness inside with a grill pan, but your veggies, chicken, and hot dogs just won’t have that same char factor. (Unless you want to trigger your smoke detector—trust me, I’ve been there.) While a grill is an undeniable must-have, finding the best one for your space, budget, and arsenal of recipes can be overwhelming.

That’s why we tapped six grilling experts to share their favorites. As chefs, authors, pitmasters, and bloggers, these pros don’t look at grilling as just a fun pastime; it’s an art. Not only do they use their grills for just about everything (pizzas, steaks, veggies—you name it, they grill it), but they also know that the smallest features can set a grill apart from the rest. Go ahead, take a look at their go-to options. And once you’ve found the model that matches your needs, don’t forget to pick up some smokin’ grill accessories.

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Photo by Wayfair

1. Weber 22 in. Original Kettle Charcoal Grill, $149 $139

When Andrea Chesman wrote The Vegetarian Grill in 1998, she made it a point to test her recipes on both gas and charcoal grills. And while gas models are known for their convenience and ease, her Weber Kettle Grill is the one model she continues to use decades later. “The grill is now more than 20 years old and still looks new on the outside; I have had to replace the grill grate once,” she shares. “The Weber Kettle Grill has a large enough cooking surface to meet all my needs, and charcoal burns hot enough to give foods a good sear.”

Photo by PK Grills

2. PK Grills PK300AF Grill & Smoker, 799.99 $749.99

Grilling isn’t a one-setting-suits-all situation. While some recipes will taste delicious with a quick, piping-hot char, other dishes will do best when exposed to low, slow heat. That’s exactly why Blood Bros. BBQ’s Quy Hoang is such a fan of PK Grills’ PK300AF Grill & Smoker. “I love this grill because of its versatility,” the eatery’s pitmaster and partner explains. “It can be used to cook low and slow or hot and fast. The vents allow for precise temperature control.” In addition to its upper and lower vents, this pick is decked out with a cast aluminum construction. That way, you’ll get a thorough, even heat distribution no matter how you choose to cook your supper.

Photo by Traeger

3. Traeger Pro 575 Pellet Grill, $899.99

Rebecca King might be known for the pork deli sandwiches she whips up at Bad Jew, her Los Angeles–based eatery that’s lovingly known as a “very unkosher deli.” But when she steps out of the kitchen and into her backyard, she favors Traeger’s wood pellet grills. “I use Traeger grills for all of my personal grilling needs,” she shares. “The Traeger uses wood pellets and provides an incredible smoke flavor. There’s many settings and unique add-ins, so you can pretty much make anything from steaks to pizza.”

Photo by Weber

4. Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill 22″, $549

If you’re torn between gas and charcoal grills, Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill offers the best of both worlds. “The propane-assisted auto start makes preheating a breeze for any skill level,” says Susie Bulloch of Hey Grill, Hey. “Having a stable work surface next to the grill gives you loads of flexibility while you’re grilling, and putting the whole thing on wheels means you can maneuver around the patio easily.” Another thing to love about this grill? The charcoal storage bin keeps “coals out of the elements and everything well contained,” Bulloch says. It’s no wonder why she uses this grill three to four times a week.

Photo by Kamado Joe

5. Kamado Joe 46″ Kamado Charcoal Grill, $1,899

On the hunt for a grill that can do it all? Jimmy Ho swears by Kamado’s Classic Joe III Grill. “It’s so flexible: You can smoke, grill, and cook pizza, depending on your mood,” the Smoking Ho founder explains. “The fire management and heat retention makes it easy breezy for any skill level.” Touted as the brand’s most innovative ceramic grill, this pick has a three-tiered cooking system, so you can cook various dishes at their respective ideal temperatures.

Photo by Big Green Egg

6. Big Green Egg 24 in. XLarge Charcoal Kamado Grill and Smoker, $1,399

For Rodney Scott—the founder and pitmaster behind Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ—the XL Big Green Egg is well worth the investment. “This is definitely a splurge item, but for serious home grillers or barbecue enthusiasts, you can’t beat the quality, size, or versatility of Big Green Egg,” he shares. “The XL version is my favorite for cookouts or when I’m grilling for a crowd. It has enough space to cook several meats all at once, so if you’re cooking for a larger family or entertaining, this grill makes it a breeze.”

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What’s the difference between a gas and charcoal grill?

If you’re just starting your grill shopping journey, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want gas or charcoal. While a gas grill is powered by propane, charcoal is ignited with coal and lighter fluid. But which one is better? Well, it’s not that easy.

“Gas grills and charcoal grills both provide outstanding results,” says Christie Vanover, pitmaster and owner of Girls Can Grill. Barbecue beginners might love a gas grill because it’s easy to use and clean, but you might have to pay a premium. Charcoal grills are often available for less; however, they can add some extra minutes to your cook time and create a major mess. “​​You also have to dispose of the ash afterwards,” Vanover shares. “But all that effort results in that classic barbecue flavor that you can’t get out of a gas grill.” As for wood pellet grills? They typically use an electric ignition and wood pellets.

“The best part about a wood pellet grill is that you can cook low and slow. It’s harder to do that with a gas or charcoal grill,” King shares.

When making this sizzling decision, think about how you’ll use your grill. If you envision yourself grilling for big holidays or quick dinners, gas might be the way to go. Or if you really want to flex your grilling muscle, you might want to challenge yourself to charcoal. But when it comes to having a great dish, these experts prove that you really can’t go wrong either way.

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