Top 10 Best Value Grills And Smokers
As the worldwide glorification of BBQ intensifies, people around the globe want more BBQ morning, noon and night, with the ability to enjoy any recipe cooked outdoors 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 considering replacement of a decrepit grill that didn't make it through the winter, or adding that coveted smoker you dreamed of for so long, 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 over 500 cookers from 185 manufacturers.
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 perceived high prices and unfamiliar designs. "I don't understand how it works or why it costs so much," was a common refrain. Today, the tide has begun to turn as pellet smoker manufacturers are finally gaining ground in their backyard battles 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 "grills" 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 BBQ that's 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 Heath Patio and Barbecue Association trade show called HPBExpo to meet up with BBQ 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 that are realistically within the budget of most AmazingRibs.com readers." A good deal of this low cost equipment is manufactured off shore and often in China. Despite grumbling from some, these products are very popular in the USA and well represented at the HPBExpo by Asian manufacturers seeking American logos to adorn their lids.
2016 was The Year of the Pellet Smoker and we hoped 2017 would 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 the exception. We note increased offerings of remote control and monitoring in those three categories, with sophisticated aps that work from smart phones. Much to our ongoing consternation, however, gas grill manufacturers still have not stepped up to the plate with effective, affordable, thermostatically controlled grills. We've had the "luxury" of thermostatic temperature control in our gas fired kitchen 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.
Industry giants, Char-Broil and Weber dominated the lists with seven picks apiece out of 57 selections total. 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, it's their first upgrade in decades. Another hot entry to our 2017 Top Ten 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.
Of the 57 selections, prices range from $30 to over $20,000, with 25 choices under $500. 29 were made primarily in the US, 17 come from China, 9 from Canada, one from Denmark, and one from Indonesia.
Max explains "We rate and review as objectively as possible, measuring temperatures, slamming lids, turning dials, studying warranties, and kicking casters, but inevitably intangibles such as look and feel have to be considered. One of my favorites since the inception of our Top Ten Lists is the Pit Barrel Cooker, on our list for the fourth year." The US made barrel shaped smoker is only $299 delivery included, and an enduring favorite among our readers.
By the way, Max is the only person in the world whose full time job is testing, researching, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. He laments that most manufacturers continue to include cheap bimetal dial thermometers mounted in the top of the lid. They are frequently off by more than 50°F! The new PK360 has a high quality Tel-Tru bi-metal thermometer mounted down by the cooking grate that is surprisingly accurate, but this is an exception. Most grills typically have an antiquated heat estimator placed far from where the cooking actually takes place. "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." warns Max. He recommends that you budget for a good digital oven thermometer and a separate digital food thermometer. We also have a database of reviews for more than 130 of them.
"I love the culture of grilling. It creates an atmosphere that is festive but casual."Bobby Flay
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