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Different Types of Outdoor Grills

Updated on July 27, 2017

Outdoor cooking has been popular since prehistoric man discovered fire. Luckily for us, grilling food has evolved far beyond crouching over an open fire. In fact, there are so many styles of outdoor grills available, you might have trouble choosing the right one. However, breaking them down into the four main types, will make the selection process a much easier.

1. Charcoal Grill

Grilling purists will tell you this is the only way to go. This type of grill depends on charcoal to fuel the fire. If you choose a charcoal grill, you had better be ready to invest some time preparing the meal. But, for honest-to-goodness cooked outside flavor, nothing beats the low-tech simplicity of a charcoal grill.

When shopping for a charcoal grill look for hinged, plated steel or ceramic grates for easy charcoal access and quick clean up. You can choose from the popular kettle design, ceramic eggs and horizontal barrels, plus a variety of styles in between. Kettle grills are great for short grilling times. Egg-shape and barrel grills are often advertised as smokers designed for low heat, long cooking time.

Popular kettle-style charcoal grill.
Popular kettle-style charcoal grill. | Source

Pros: For those of us who love the ritual of cooking over briquettes, nothing beats a charcoal grill. Charcoal heats to a higher temperature than gas. Those skilled at the art of grilling know the quickly searing meat over hot coals allows for a perfectly caramelized crust, which results in flavorful, tender meat.

Cons: Using a charcoal grill requires some advance planning. First, you need to make sure you have charcoal and a starter on hand. Next, you need to set aside 45 minutes to get the coals glowing. When the grilling is done, you’ll need to spend time cleaning up and disposing of the ashes so you’re ready for the next cook out.

Price: Quality charcoal grills can be had for as little as $100. However, most are priced in the $150 to $300 range. If you are so inclined, you can also find top-of-the-line models that are upwards of $1,000. The most expensive one I spotted online costs a mere $2,500!

A Unique Grilling Experience

Don't feel like firing up the grill at home? These Chicagoland restaurants pin their success on a long history of backyard grilling innovation. In fact, these are the people that invented that ubiquitous charcoal kettle grill. Choose from a variety of steaks, burgers, chicken, seafood and barbeque prepared on actual Weber charcoal grills right in the restaurant! Definitely yummy!

In Chicago, let Weber Grill Restaurants do the grilling for you!

show route and directions
A markerWeber Grill Restaurant -
539 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654, USA
get directions

B markerWeber Grill Restaurant -
1010 North Meacham Road, Schaumburg, IL 60173, USA
get directions

C markerWeber Grill Restaurant -
2331 Fountain Square Drive, Lombard, IL 60148, USA
get directions

2. Gas Grill

Of the 15 million grills/smokers shipped in North America during 2010, 57% were of the gas variety. Gas grill are either fueled by bottled propane or a natural gas line. If your home has a exterior natural gas spigot, most bottle grills include instructions to easily connect them to your gas line. This will eliminate the need to run out to get a replacement propane tank at the last minute.

Less expensive gas grills typically have black aluminum cases and are equipped with single or dual burners. For most weekend chefs, these models are more than sufficient. If maintained properly, these basic grills will easily serve you for 5 to 7 years.

A gas grill will save you grilling time.
A gas grill will save you grilling time. | Source

Higher-end grills have gleaming stainless steel cases and feature 3 to 5 burners, plus exterior burners for heating side dishes. Grilling grates are made from easy-clean stainless steel or porcelain. You can also find models with warming shelves, rotisserie attachments, digital thermometers, heat zone separators and wood chip smoker drawers.

Pros: Gas grills can be fired up in minutes and are a great option for quick, delicious meals. No messy cleanup—all that’s involved is a scrub down of the cooking grates and emptying of the grease trap.

Cons: In lower-end models, smoke flavor is less intense when compared to charcoal grills. The price of propane and natural gas make gas grilling more expensive than charcoal grilling, so slow smoking isn’t really a viable option.

Price: You can find models that start at around $150 and go up to $10,000, maybe more.

Weigh In!

What Type of Grill Do You Own?

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Electric Grill

While electric grills may not be huge sellers, they do provide a grilling alternative for apartment and city dwellers who live in areas where gas and charcoal grills are prohibited.

Electric grills are compact and work with heating elements that produce heat rather than flame. Food rests on a flat surface or actual grates while cooking. Electric infared grills are gaining in popularity. Infared technology is used to heat food evenly and prevent flare ups.

Electric grills are great for apartment dwellers.
Electric grills are great for apartment dwellers. | Source

Pros: Ease of use. Don't take up as much room as conventional grills. Can be a space saver for apartment and condo dwellers. Safe operation with regard to electricity versus open flames.

Cons: Do not impart a smoky flavor to foods. May be costly to operate, depending on your local electricity rates.

Price: Electric grills range in price from $90 to $600. I also found a stainless built-in model for $6,000!

How to Clean Your Outdoor Grill

4. Portable Grills

Portable grills can create heat via propane, charcoal or electricity. The common factor is their small size, making them easily transportable. Look for grills that are sturdy and made from durable weather and heat resistant materials.

A portable grill is perfect for weekend tailgating or a dinner party on the patio.
A portable grill is perfect for weekend tailgating or a dinner party on the patio. | Source

Pros: Great for camping, picnics and tailgating. Portable grills are reasonably priced. Better models are miniature versions of the big guys and do a decent job.

Cons: The obvious con is the size. You can only cook so many dogs and burgers at one time.

Price: These little grills will set you back anywhere between $50 and $300.

© 2013 lindacee

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    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      WillStarr, my grandmother's house had a built-in brick barbeque grill. It was the reason for many family backyard get togethers. Ah, memories! :)

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Before portable steel charcoal grills became popular, many homes had a permanent backyard stone and firebrick grill that used woods like oak and hickory. We cooked a lot of hamburgers, corn, and hot dogs on just such a grill, and in Iowa, we called that a picnic.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Bedbugabscond, had friends that did the same thing and it worked just fine! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 years ago from United States

      A friend of mine had an old propane grill that was broken. He knew I had wanted a grill for a long time. He modified the grill in a number of ways and was able to convert it to charcoal. Then he gave it to me!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      I love grilling too, Vespawoolf. We had gas grills before moving to Uruguay, but I became hooked on wood fire cooking while down there. Nothing beats Sunday asado on the parrilla! Thanks for reading and comenting. :)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Growing up in the Midwest means we are really into outdoor grilling. We have used all of these types of grills and I have to admit that I prefer the smoky flavor imparted by all but the electric grill, although it is great to have in a pinch. Thank you--very useful information!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Jackie! In doing my research, I saw electric grills that look like larger versions of the George Foreman type, but they also have some with grates just like gas or charcoal grills. I am a big fan of grilled vegetables--I like them almost as much as grilled meat! :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I haven't tried the electric, I think I could go for that. Summers are so hot grilling is usually a misery for me but electric is how I know how to cook, lol, and it is better outside than in some days. Think I will try it. Thanks for the idea! Just adore that grilled corn.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      WillStarr, that sounds like an incredible grilling device! I should have included the category "homemade grills". Those are the best ones! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I built my own ranch type grill. It's 5 feet long and 30 inches wide. I use a wagon wheel as a crank to lift and lower the grate, and it uses lump mesquite charcoal and mesquite wood. I can cook a whole hog on it, and it's quite a conversation piece.

      Great Hub! I love to barbecue!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you Carol! There are too many choices out there today. I also prefer grilling over a gas flame for the convenience and health reasons. Looking forward to getting back into a house so we can have an outdoor grill again. Apartment living is not conducive to grilling! :)

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Like everything else in life we have so many choices. I like the gas bbq --even though real charcoal adds flavor it does not add health benefits...And it is convenient and easy. However, you certainly did a great job in explaining the different types. Voting up and sharing.