"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."Henry Ford
If you are thinking of replacing that old rustbucket, take the links on this page with you when you go shopping. Bookmark this page on your smartphone.
In case you don't know me, I am the only person in the world whose full time job is testing, researching, reviewing, and rating grills and smokers. Let's take a look at my top picks for this year.
I considered almost 600 cookers from 194 manufacturers in the world’s largest database of outdoor cooker ratings and reviews that I maintain. Of the 55 Platinum Medals, our highest award, 43 are priced from $35 to $1,824, with 21 choices under $500. The 12 items in our Luxury Category start at $2,000 and top out at $23,995 (you read that right folks). 27 of these grills and smokers were made primarily in the US, 19 come from China, seven from Canada, one from Denmark. and one from Indonesia. Industry giants, Weber and Napoleon, dominated the lists with eight and four picks respectively. Cast aluminum classics like Portable Kitchen and Modern Home Products (the original gas grill), remain among the elite choices, and The Pit Barrel Cooker continues to be a great choice for an economically priced smoker.
For some time now, many manufacturers have been wary of adding too much technology to grills and smokers because electronic components are susceptible to failure under the harsh conditions imposed by outdoor cooking, and failure means customer complaints and tarnished reputations. Digital thermometers, pellet smokers with digital controllers, and some electric smokers are the exception. In all three of these categories, we have witnessed increased offerings of remote control and monitoring with sophisticated apps that work from smart phones. However, much to our ongoing consternation, gas grill manufacturers still have not stepped up to the plate with effective, affordable, thermostatically controlled grills. For decades, we have enjoyed the "luxury" of thermostatic temperature control in the gas ovens of our indoor kitchens. Why can't that technology be adapted for outdoor grills? We're waiting...In the meantime, there are plenty of great options among gas grills, charcoal grills, smokers, combo cookers, portable grills, luxury grills and smokers, griddle grills, pizza ovens, and other outdoor cookers. Read on to find the best of the best.
Gas Grills are the first choice for most Americans and have been for many years. A recent survey by The Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) reveals that of the 70% of adults in the US who own a grill or smoker, 64% own gas grills.
A dizzying array of gassers is available with prices from under $100 to over $20,000. To grab your attention, manufacturers of cheap grills often include bells and whistles like cut-rate sear burners, side burners, rotisseries and lights to entice you to buy their flimsy, low quality junkers built with low grade stainless steel held together with crumby fasteners that will rust and break apart after a couple seasons. So watch out! What are the most important features to look for when shopping? Find out here in our article on understanding gas grills.
Most people balk when prices rise above $500. But we have found four models under $500 that perform remarkably well, and a 5th model with a list price of $538 is typically sold for $449.
One such grill is Char-Griller's Grillin' Pro, a recipient of our highest Platinum Medal award and winner of one of our 2019 Best New Products Awards. Grillin' Pro provides high power searing at a low cost of $199. Another Best New Product Award went to the new Weber Genesis II E335. In 2017, Weber rolled out a revised version of their popular Genesis Grills. We were disappointed and said so. But Weber told us they heard our complaints and they are back in fine form with an all new Genesis II line that performs like a champ. To find out more about these grills and find the best medal-winning gas grills from our database, follow the link below.
Most charcoal grills are relatively inexpensive and have very few moving parts to break. The best are also versatile: they can sear steaks, roast turkeys, and smoke ribs. Charcoal grills just require a little more skill than gas because you have to control the temperature with airflow instead of a dial or touchpad. Click here to read more about the pros and cons of charcoal vs. gas. Click here to read a checklist of things to look for when shopping for a charcoal grill.
For searing with charcoal, all you really need is a charcoal tray with a cooking grate as in a typical hibachi style grill. But for roasting and smoking, you need a solid firebox, dampers for air control, a snug lid, and tight construction to prevent oxygen from leaking in and overriding the dampers. The most important feature for heat control is the ability to create a 2-zone setup consisting of a hot direct heat side and a not-so-hot convection heat side. Other key features include easy access to the charcoal and easy ash removal. We know a lot of readers are passionate about their charcoal kamados. We love kamados too but think they are better at roasting and smoking than grilling and searing because most kamados cannot be set up easily for two heat zones. For that reason, we review them in our Best Value Backyard Smokers category rather than in the grill category.
This year, we saw little in the way of improvements or advances in charcoal grills with the notable exception of the new Slow 'N Sear Deluxe Kamado. But we still have a bevy of Platinum medal winning charcoal grills released in recent years and you can find them by following the link below.
Tailgating, picnics, and BBQ fit together hand in glove. The open air camaraderie of friends and strangers gathered together to enjoy food and drink is a joy anywhere, any season. Tailgating is no longer confined to a parking lot or just football or NASCAR competitions. Outdoor celebrations have expanded to apartment complexes and condos, beaches, parks, and even dog shows. Sports enthusiasts who don't have tickets to the big game are homegating and cheering their teams on from the backyard with TVs and loudspeakers out on their decks.
To choose the best from our list of over 60 portable grills reviewed and rated, we looked for high marks in quality, performance, and mobility. Many models feature fold up stands, snap down lids, and trailer hitches. Knowing most of our readers would consider portable units to be a second grill, price also becomes a big factor. The majority of our selections cost less than $500 with some under $100. Grills like the $30 Smokey Joe perform well but limit the cook to small, simple fare such as burgers and dogs, while the Broil King Keg, on the other hand, is an excellent, full-size kamado cooker that goes on the road or on your deck.
New to our list is Blackstone's 17" Tabletop Griddle, which joins its big brother, The Platinum Medal winning Blackstone 36" Cooking System. Griddle grills are gaining popularity and Blackstone has been at the forefront of this trend. Griddles can do bacon and eggs for breakfast, hot dogs with grilled onions for lunch, and steak fajitas for dinner.
And if you are planning a tailgate, check out our checklist of things you need to bring.
Everyone loves smoky food. The smell of smoke roasted meats and the spirit of kinship that pervades BBQ gatherings harkens back to our ancestors. You just don't get that with boiled ribs or pork "BBQ" from a crockpot. For years, smoking was a mystery to many home cooks. Today, it's commonplace to find backyard smokers in all corners of the world filling neighborhoods with the irresistible fragrance of wood smoke.
Some cheap smokers can cause disappointment and even outright exasperation. Beware especially aware of cheap offset smokers. Yes, you can get a decent quality smoker that is easy to use and produces excellent results for a reasonable price. Let us help.
Interest in kamados and pellet smokers, continues to trend upward. While many cooks swear by their kamados, others don't want to fuss with lighting the charcoal or wood and cleaning out the ash. The Platinum Medal winning Vision Professional S-Series kamado attempts to resolve these common complaints with their patented ProZone System, consisting of a slide out ash removal tray with a slot for an optional electric fire starter. Vision recently expanded on this unique design with an optional Quickchange Gas Insert that can be swapped out with ProZone to turn their charcoal kamados into gas grills for fast, simple weeknight meals.
If ProZone and Quickchange are still too much work for you, I have two words: pellet smoker. They can be turned on with a button and set to a desired cooking temperature just like your indoor oven. The one big difference? They burn wood in the form of small pellets, which allows them to produce delicious smoky BBQ that can be even better tasting than what you get at restaurants. Although typically referred to as grills, they work best for smoking, roasting and baking because almost all cook with indirect heat, and although they get hot, they do not produce sufficient infrared radiant energy to sear properly.
We're excited to welcome the new and groundbreaking Masterbuilt Thermotemp gas smoker to our Platinum Medal winners' lists. Thermotemp is the first thermostatically controlled, residential gas smoker we've seen. Will Masterbuilt open the floodgates and begin a revolution of thermostatic control not only for gas smokers but for gas grills as well? We hope so, and we'll be watching, fingers crossed.
Sharp-eyed readers may note that there are no electric smokers on the list. We know owners of electrics are rabid in their devotion, but we find the flavor to be less exciting than what you get from devices that combust charcoal, wood, or gas. Click here to read more about how to buy a smoker.
Combo Grills & Smokers
A new category of Combo Cookers is emerging: A cooker that works as both a smoker and a grill. Many of these combo cookers essentially consist of a cheap smoker bolted to a cheap gas grill. However, a couple of high quality side by side models managed to rise above the rabble and win our AmazingRibs.com Platinum Medals. They are Camp Chef's Woodwind Pellet Smoker with a super hot, LP Gas Sear Box attached to the side, and Lang's 36" Reverse Flow Hybrid Patio Grill and Smoker.
Luxury Grills & Smokers
We understand these picks are not for everyone. Once grill and smoker prices go past a certain level, the market shrinks dramatically and continues to drop off as price tags rise. We start pricing on our list of luxury grills at around $2,000 with Weber's Summit 470 Gas Grill, and from there, it goes up, up, up. Pop some champagne and read on!
The list includes a mix of cookers that run on a variety of fuels from gas to charcoal to wood pellets and logs. Styles range from Fire Magic's stunning stainless steel Echelon E1060 to Jambo's heavy metal traditional Texas J-3 offset smoker. Another is the impressive Hestan GMBR36 which boasts unique features and superb craftsmanship.
Luxe cookers tend to be extremely well built, loaded with options, and stunning in appearance. That said, we remain baffled by how many still use cheap temperature indicators rather than high quality thermometers. Forgive us if we once again wonder out loud: Why can't an outdoor oven be as easy to operate as an indoor oven? Where are the thermostatic controls?
Regardless of the price you pay, the dial thermometers attached to the hoods of most cookers are of poor quality. It is not unusual for them to be off by 50°F. Even in this price category we strongly recommend using a good digital thermometer with a probe that can be placed on the cooking surface. Add that item to your shopping list, then follow the link below to find the best of the best among luxury grills and smokers.
All Our Medal Winning Cookers
And there's more where that came from. The wide world of outdoor cooking and barbecue equipment is vast, including griddle grills, pizza ovens and hog roasters. Not everything can win our AmazingRibs.com Platinum Medal, but check out our entire collection of high quality Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal winning cookers by clicking the link below.