posted July 18, 2019
Backyard BBQ Grill Guide
Whether you’re planning on buying your very first BBQ grill, or you’re looking to expand your collection of grills on your patio, this backyard BBQ grill guide will help you decide which grill is best for you. With details on all the grills and Susie’s favorite brands, consider this the ultimate low-down on backyard grills.
Here at Hey Grill Hey, we like making BBQ. Lots and lots of BBQ. We like to smoke, char, grill, and cook anything and everything. I often get asked, “Susie, what grill do you use?” And unfortunately, that’s not a question I can always answer in one quick sentence.
You see, I don’t just have one BBQ grill on my patio. I’ve slowly but surely amassed a collection of grills that work for my needs and have all the bells and whistles I love.
So here is the rundown on all the different types of grills available to you to make your own delicious BBQ and become a backyard BBQ hero. I’ve included my favorite of each type, their strengths and weaknesses, and a good option for those of you looking for some budget-friendly options (perfect if you’d like to branch out and try something new!).
1. Pellet Grill
First up on our patio grill tour are pellet grills. They’re easily one of my favorite types of grills on my patio, and they aren’t very hard to use once you get the hang of them.
What is a Pellet Grill?
Pellet grills (AKA pellet smokers) function like a beautiful combination of a gas grill, charcoal smoker, oven, and a good ol’ fire pit. They work by feeding wood pellets through an auger into a fire pot where the pellets are ignited. The pellets burn creating smoke and heat inside the cooking chamber. A digital control on the grill allows you to set a precise level of heat for your grill, and the auger adds more pellets to the fire pot as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.
These grills are occasionally called “cheaters” on the BBQ grill competition circuits because they are so simple to use, and they produce such consistent results. I’ll be honest, my pellet grill is my absolute favorite grill to cook on. I get all of the added flavor of cooking with real wood smoke without having to consistently tend a fire and maintain my temperature. I can smoke, grill, and even bake on my smoker. It’s user-friendly and extremely versatile.
Susie’s Favorite Pellet Grill
When it comes to pellet grills, my go-to is my Camp Chef SmokePro 36 SGX.
This grill has 2 meat probes, a warming rack, and a 20-pound capacity pellet hopper. It also comes complete with slide and grill technology, ash cleanout system, and a grease management system. I love the electronic auto-start ignition, dual LED temperature readout (internal cooking temps and food temps), and a simple temperature selection system. Temperature control allows for 160 degrees F up to 500 degrees F with an automatic auger that dispenses pellets as needed. Trust me when I say this is the workhorse of smokers.
- Price: $999.99
- Strengths: This grill has a large fuel storage capacity. It’s extremely versatile, and my SmokePro is our go-to when deciding which BBQ grill to use. Pellet grills have great temperature control. You can smoke low and slow and you can also grill hot and fast. It’s durable, convenient, and it holds temperature well.
- Weaknesses: There is a learning curve with pellet grills. Sometimes people can get over confident and forget that it is a live fire that needs to be cleaned and maintained. You do need to learn how to properly use and maintain it. Luckily, Camp Chef has great customer service, so you can have successful cooks on a pellet grill. You have to plug this in to electricity, so it does not travel well.
Budget-Friendly Pellet Grill: Need something smaller and cheaper? The Camp Chef’s SmokePro XT 24 is a cool $574.99.
2. Gas Grill
Ah, the gas grill. These grills are the most common type you’ll find on your patio. In fact, 80% of Americans own a gas (propane) grill. It convenient and accessible for those who just want to go outside and get grilling.
What is a Gas Grill?
A gas grill uses direct heat from the combustible propane gas to grill food hot and fast. Even though these can be adapted for use with indirect heat by only using one of the burners and allowing heat to circulate around your food, I personally stick with this grill for quick cooks using the high heat and searing ability.
Propane grills cook fast, but they don’t add anything to your food in terms of flavor. Fuel is readily available for gas grills, and they’re extremely easy to use.
Susie’s Favorite Gas Grill
When using a gas grill, I can’t talk highly enough about my Weber Genesis II S-335 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill.
This guy is the ultimate grilling machine. It has a 3 stainless steel main burners, 513 sq. in. of grilling space, and solid 7 mm stainless steel rod cooking grates for even heat distribution. This grill is perfect for those weekends when we’re grilling up burgers, brats, vegetables and more all on one grill. It also comes with a handy side burner, center mounted thermometer, and the Infinity ignition that is guaranteed to ignite every time.
- Price: $1,049.00
- Strengths: Not only does this grill have super fast startup and preheat, but it is one of the more sturdy gas grills on the market. It’s built well, and it will last a long time. Accessories are readily available, and you can buy the entire grill at Home Depot. These grills also go on sale often, so keep your eye out, and you can get a good deal on them.
- Weaknesses: Gas grills are often prone to flare ups, and they don’t add a lot of flavor during the cooking process. If you’re wanting to add extra flavor to your food, you’ll be better off cooking with charcoal or over hard wood. Also, this particular grill takes up quite a bit of real estate. If you need less square footage occupied by a grill on your deck, aim for something smaller.
Budget-Friendly Gas Grill: I highly recommend a Nexgrill 5-Burner Propane Gas Grill. At only $199.00 anyone can grill up delicious food, no matter their budget.
3. Charcoal Grill
I’ve cooked with charcoal quite a bit over the years, and I’m always pleasantly surprised how delicious my food comes out when I cook with charcoal. You just can’t go wrong with the true blue BBQ flavor you get when you cook meat over charcoal.
What is a Charcoal Grill?
Charcoal grills are grills that use heated charcoal briquettes as their heat source and are capable of cooking hot and fast or low and slow depending on the amount of briquettes you place inside. They’re super adaptable but a little more work to operate than a propane grill where you essentially turn on the gas and press an ignition switch.
Most charcoal grills require you to fire up the briquettes and get the heat going before you can cook. This process takes about a half an hour for the briquettes to burn enough for the heat to stabilize so there aren’t large swings in temperature. In a grill similar to this, a batch of briquettes can heat the grill for about 4 hours, so it can be good for meat that requires a longer cook time.
Susie’s Preferred Charcoal Grill
So what’s on my porch right now? The Weber 22″ Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill.
This grill has 363 sq. in. cooking space; it can cook a dozen burger patties at one time. It includes a 2-touch cleaning system, large-capacity removable ash catcher, and the lid has a built-in thermometer and adjustable damper with 4 air vents.
- Price: $439.00
- Strengths: Weber takes durability very seriously, and this Performer Deluxe is built to last. I’ve used this grill covered and uncovered for almost 5 years now, and it works as well as it did the very first day we got it. I love having the table on the side where I can prep food, and the charcoal storage area keeps my charcoal nice and dry. I also store my chimney and gloves in the shelf underneath, making this an awesome all-in-one unit.
- Weaknesses: Charcoal cooking in general requires planning ahead. You need to make sure you have enough fuel and you have time to get it ready. It’s not a flick a button and go apparatus, and preheating takes more time to get this grill up and running. Also, if you are going to be smoking things, this grill is not the best choice. It requires A LOT of attention, and it’s not designated to be a smoker. Look elsewhere if you are going to be doing a lot of smoking.
Budget-Friendly Charcoal Grill: Not ready to spend over $400 on a charcoal grill? Look no further than the classic Weber 22″ Original Kettle Charcoal Grill. At $109.00, you’ll be ready to grill delicious food and have some extra cash on hand to splurge on good meat.
4. Barrel Smoker
Barrel smokers are an awesome BBQ grill that are a combination of a grill and a smoker. You can grill food on traditional grates, or you can hang your food while it cooks.
What is a Barrel Smoker?
Barrel smokers are a cylindrical shape cooker that are very easy to use. They contain a charcoal basket, meat hooks, and cooking racks for a variety of cooking meat. They hold a nice, steady temperature, and they have a reputation for holding heat longer and they cook food more evenly. By hanging your food inside the barrel using the “Hook-and-Hang” method, it places the food in the perfect location, allowing the meat to heat from all sides at the same time. This produces delicious and evenly cooked meat.
Susie’s Preferred Barrel Smoker
I personally can’t talk enough praise about my 18.5″ Classic Pit Barrel Cooker.
The Pit Barrel Cooker is the #1 selling pit smoker on the market, and for good reason. The starter package comes with a 30 gallon steel drum, 8 stainless steel hooks for hanging meat, charcoal basket, grill grate, and barrel stand. It’s extremely simplistic, and that’s one of the reasons I love cooking with this.
- Price: $299.00
- Strengths: This cooker is super affordable with their startup kit costing under $300. Pit barrels also cook at a higher temperature and they cook your food very quickly. No electricity is needed for a pit barrel cooker, and they’re super light, making them a great option when you are camping or traveling. As an added bonus, the owners of Pit Barrel Cooker are completely amazing.
- Weaknesses: Cooking with a pit barrel cooker will require you to learn a new technique. You also don’t have a very high capacity with barrel cookers. While you can easily cook ribs or a whole brisket in them, you’re limited if you want to cook ribs AND a brisket. Some people will buy 2 barrel cookers so they can cook multiple things at once.
Budget-Friendly Barrel Smoker: The Pit Barrel Cooker is already amazingly affordable, but if you are really looking to cut down on the expense of owning your own barrel smoker, you can DIY your own.
5. Offset Smokers
The offset smoker is the classic old-school cooker you’ll likely think of when you hear the word “smoker.” I love my offset smoker, and I love the traditional experience I get when I use an offset smoker.
What is an Offset Smoker?
An offset smoker is a food cooker that has a fire box on one side with the chimney on the opposite side. The smoke pulls through the fire box, across the meat through the cooking chamber, and out the chimney vent. You get a beautiful, dark bark and rich flavor with the offset smoker.
Susie’s Favorite Offset Smoker
My BBQ grill collection would not be complete without my Oklahoma Joe Highland Offset Smoker.
The Highland Offset Smoker is made with heavy-gauge steel for durability and high temperatures. It comes complete with a convenient fire access door, multiple adjustable dampers, and a large front shelf for easy access to all your grilling tools while you’re smoking up a delicious hunk of meat.
- Price: $299.00
- Strengths: Flavor, flavor, flavor. Cooking with an offset smoker will get you insane flavor on your meat. You’ll also get a gorgeous dark bark and a nice cook ring when you smoke with the Oklahoma Joe. In many ways, it’s best to go old-school with the offset smoker for those Texas-style smokes.
- Weaknesses: Temperature control is difficult when cooking with an offset smoker. Smoke and heat often escapes through the door, and managing the temperature can be difficult.
Budget-Friendly Offset Smoker: The Oklahoma Joe is already a wonderful option when watching your pocketbook. For a splurge, you should check out Yoder Offset Smokers. These smokers range in price from $899.00 up to $3,199.00.
6. Other Outdoor Grills
Now that you know about my favorite and most-used types of grills, let’s branch out into a few different styles. I don’t personally own all of the grills and smokers listed below. However, these grills may be worth looking into when you are newer on your smoking or grilling journey or wanting to expand your grilling and smoking arsenal.
Ceramic Kamado Grill
The ceramic style Kamado grills are charcoal-fueled cookers that can be used for smoking or grilling. Named from the Japanese word for “stove,” these cookers are growing in popularity and use basic cooking technology that has been around for over 3,000 years.
Kamado-style ceramic grills are extremely versatile; you can cook almost anything in them! Whether you’re looking to smoke some beef, whip up some baked goods (think bread or pizza), or roast some chicken, the Kamado grill will get you there.
Vault smokers are an extremely versatile smoker. They come in many different sizes and capacities, and are great for backyard BBQ as well as competition grilling. Vault smokers look like a vault or safe, with adjustable racks to allow you to cook many different foods at the same time.
These smokers are usually electric, and are perfect for someone new to smoking who doesn’t want to mess with the hassle of charcoal or propane.
Masterbuilt is a great place to look if you’re interested in purchasing a vault smoker. They come in many different sizes and capacities with the price range from $250.00 – $600.00.
Water smokers (AKA bullet smokers) are a great option if you are new to the world of smoking. They’re compact and easy to use and are awesome for newbies all the way up to competition smokers. Water smokers are bullet-shaped with three sections. Charcoal burns in the bottom, a pan of water sits in the middle to keep the temperature nice and low, and the meat sits on a rack at the top.
These guys are small and relatively simple to operate. They’re great if you have limited deck real estate, and the water pan helps keep meat moist even after long smokes.
Try out the Weber Smokey Mountain if you’re looking to invest in a water smoker. They range in price, but you can grab one for around $350.00 – $450.00.
Flat Top Grill
The flat top grill is a grill that looks like a griddle and produces an even cooking surface. It is personally one BBQ grill I can’t live without. It’s primary job is to feed a lot of people. Fast. With a large flat top grill, you can cook pancakes, eggs, steaks, burgers, sides, and so much more in crazy quick time.
I own the Camp Chef Flat Top Grill and it gets used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner multiple times per week. It maintains an extremely hot surface, and we cook 2-3 different foods on it all at the same time.
Electric grills are grills you plug in to an outlet, and they are ready to go. These are most usable if you are living in an apartment where you don’t have access to (or aren’t allowed to have) a gas or pellet grill. These range from small indoor grills to full-sized patio grills.
Because electric grills simply heat your food with the use of electricity, they do not add that amazing flavor you get from smoking with a variety of wood pellets or over charcoal briquettes. They do the job, but they don’t add that extra BBQ’d flavor you get from the other types of grills we’ve covered on this post.
This BBQ grill tour was created for you, backyard griller! Here at Hey Grill Hey, we’re in the business of helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. You can find more of my smoking and grilling recipes here on my website (browse the Homepage for inspiration) on Instagram, YouTube or our Facebook Page.
Making dinner for your family should be a delicious experience, and Hey Grill Hey is here to help! Over at Patio Provisions, we have sauces, rubs, and more to save you time and energy when making something for an upcoming get together. Check it out today!
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