Best Value Grills And Smokers of 2017
As the worldwide glorification of barbecue intensifies, people around the globe want more barbecue morning, noon and night anywhere. Supply rises to meet demand with an overwhelming variety of grills and smokers offered at prices ranging from economical to extravagant.
If spring finds you dreaming of replacing a decrepit grill that didn't make it through the winter, or coveting a smoker, the selection process can be daunting. To get you started on the right foot, we have selected the Best Value Grills & Smokers of 2017 from our searchable database of ratings and reviews of more than 500 cookers from 185 manufacturers.
- 2017 Top 10 Best Value Charcoal Grills
- 2017 Top 10 Best Value Gas Grills
- 2017 Top 10 Best Value Backyard Smokers
- 2017 Top 10 Best Value Tailgate And Portable Grills
- 2017 Top 8 Best Value Multifunction Grills And Smokers
- 2017 Top 10 Luxury Grills And Smokers
Interest in smoking continues to grow each year. We correctly predicted 2016 would be the year of the pellet smoker and were delighted to see showroom floors clearing more space for these convenient and effective devices. Not long ago, on the rare occasions average shoppers bumped into a pellet smoker, they were mystified by the high prices and unusual designs. Today, the tide has begun to turn as pellet smoker manufacturers are finally gaining ground in their battle for market share. Now more brands and more models, with more features and lower prices are becoming readily available as word of mouth spreads that these once mysterious devices can be turned on and set to temp just like your indoor oven with one big difference: they burn wood (in the form of pellets) and produce delicious smoky food better than most restaurants. You'll find several good options on our lists.
Price is a big part of the decision making process for most buyers. Our Director of Equipment Reviews, Max Good, always attends the annual Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) trade show, HPBExpo, to meet up with manufacturers and see what's new. "The high priced, luxury lines are generally impressive as they should be for the money," he states, "but I'm often more excited by decent low to mid cost products." A good deal of this low cost equipment is manufactured in China. Despite grumbling from some consumers, these products are very popular in the USA and well represented at the HPBExpo by Asian manufacturers seeking American logos to adorn their lids.
If 2016 was The Year of the Pellet Smoker then we think 2017 will be The Year of BBQ Technology. For some time many manufacturers have been wary of adding too much technology because electronic components are susceptible to failure under the harsh conditions imposed by outdoor cooking, and failure means customer complaints and tarnished reputations. Pellet smokers, digital thermometers, and some electric smokers are leading the way with sophisticated apps that work from smart phones.
Much to our consternation, however, gas grill manufacturers still have not stepped up to the plate with effective, affordable, thermostat controlled grills. We've had of thermostat control in our indoor ovens for decades. In our view it is way past time to bring it outside. As the performance, durability, and affordability of electronic components continues to improve, we hold out hope. Maybe next year.
Another category that we see growing is the "Multi-function" category, devices that do both grilling and low and slow smoking equally well. This year we were only able to name seven winners, up from five last year.
It is a disappointment that most manufacturers continue to include cheap bimetal dial heat indicators (we can't bring ourselves to call them thermometers) mounted in the top of the lid. They are frequently off by more than 50°F! They are usually in the lid, far from where the cooking actually takes place. Cooking is all about temperature control of the cooker and the food. Without accurate digital thermometers you're guessing what the cooking temp is, guessing when the food is done and asking for over or underdone embarrassment and possible food borne illness. We recommend you budget for a good digital oven thermometer and a separate digital food thermometer. For more info, we also have a database of reviews for more than 130 thermometers.
This year's selections
Each year we name our faves in six categories. Industry giants, Char-Broil and Weber dominated the lists with seven picks apiece out of 57 total selections. Cast aluminum classics like Portable Kitchen and Modern Home Products (the original gas grill), remain on our lists from previous years. Charcoal devotees take note, there's a new Portable Kitchen Grill in town and its name is PK360. Big and beautiful and cleverly designed, it's their first upgrade in decades. Another hot entry to our Top 10 Luxury list is Kalamazoo's Charcoal Cabinet Smoker, the only sleek stainless steel, live fire smoker we know of that fits under the counter of a shiny outdoor kitchen ensemble and blends in seamlessly. On the list for the fourth year is the Pit Barrel Cooker. The US made barrel shaped smoker is only $299 delivery included, and an enduring favorite among our readers.
Of the 58 selections, prices range from $30 to over $20,000, with 25 choices under $500. 30 were made primarily in the US, 17 come from China, 9 from Canada, one from Denmark, and one from Indonesia.
How we review and rate grills and smokers
I am the only person in the world whose full time job is testing, researching, reviewing, and rating grills and smokers. Not a bad gig! I measure temperatures, slam lids, turn dials, study warranties, kick casters, and cook a lot of food, and consider look, feel, and price. I try to select devices that cover a range of prices, endeavoring to offer you a winner at whatever you can afford. We think these selections are Best Values in their price category. The thumbnail reviews in our Top 10 Lists are in order of manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), but actual prices can differ significantly, especially since many of these items can be highly customized. Please click the red links to read our complete detailed reviews and find links to suppliers, many of whom sell well below MSRP. In addition to our Top 10 Lists, we have a huge searchable Ratings & Reviews database with hundreds of smokers and grills.
It is a disappointment that so many manufacturers continue to include cheap bimetal dial heat indicators (we can't bring ourselves to call them thermometers). They are usually in the lid, far from where the cooking actually takes place and are frequently off by more than 50°F! Good cooking is all about temperature control. Without accurate thermometers you're asking for wasted money, overdone embarrassment, and food borne illness from underdone food. Please budget for a good digital oven thermometer and a separate rapid read digital food thermometer. For more info, we also have a database of reviews for more than 100 thermometers.