2019 Overview Of The Grill And Smoker Market And Trends

If you are thinking of replacing that old rustbucket, take the links on this page with you when you go shopping. Bookmark it on your smartphone.

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 selections. 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 56 Platinum Medals, prices range from $35 to $1,824, with 21 choices under $500. 22 were made primarily in the US, 20 come from China, 8 from Canada, one from Denmark. and one from Indonesia. Industry giants, Weber and Napoleon, dominated the lists with 8 and 5 picks respectively. Cast aluminum classics like Portable Kitchen and Modern Home Products (the original gas grill), remain onamng the elite, and The Pit Barrel Cooker, continues to be a great choice for economically priced smokers.

For some time now, 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. 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....

Gas Grills

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 75% of adults in the US who own a grill or smoker, 62% 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! To find important features to look for when shopping, read our article on understanding gas grills.

Most people balk when prices rise above $500. But we have found four models under $500 and number five is typically sold for $449.

Char-Griller's Grillin' Pro is a new recipient of our Platinum Medal. Grillin' Pro provides high power searing at a low cost of $199. We welcome back our old friend, Weber Genesis to the Platinum Circle after a year away. In 2017 Weber rolled out a revised version of their popular Genesis Grills named Genesis II. 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. 

Click here to see all our gas grill reviews sorted by medal

Charcoal Grills

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 need is a charcoal tray with a cooking grate as in a typical hibachi style grill. For roasting and smoking, you need a solid firebox, dampers for air control, a snug lid, and tight construction to prevent unwanted 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 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, not in the grill category.

This year we saw little in the way of improvements or advances in charcoal grills and we are sorry to say that we had no best new charcoal grill award.

Click here to see all our charcoal grill reviews sorted by medal

Portable Grills

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. 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.

In making selections from our list of over 60 portable grills reviewed and rated, we looked for top 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 became a big factor. The majority of our selections are under $500 with some less than $100. Grills like the $30 Smokey Joe limit the cook to small, simple fare such as burgers and dogs, but 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, Blackstone's Platinum Medal winning 36 incher. 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.

Click here to see all our portable grill reviews sorted by medal

Backyard Smokers

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 of these cookers, but don't be deterred! 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 they lack 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.

Click here to see all our backyard smoker reviews sorted by medal

Combo Grills & Smokers

A new category of Combo Cookers is emerging: A cooker that works as a smoker and a grill. We have seen a number that are essentially a cheap smoker bolted to a cheap gas grill. 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.

Click here to see all our combo grill and smoker reviews sorted by medal

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 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's 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

Click here to see all our luxury grill reviews sorted by medal

Griddle Grills, Pizza Ovens, And Other Cookers

And there's more where that came from. The wide world of barbecue equipment is vast. Our entire collection of almost 600 grill, smoker, griddle and pizza oven reviews that didn't receive Platinum Medals starts with our Gold Medals, then Silver and Bronze all the way down to Not Recommended.

Click here to see all our other grill, griddle, pizza oven, and smoker reviews sorted by medal

"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."

Henry Ford

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*Based on 4" raw burger with 1/2" space on all sides


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