With the summer grilling season upon us, you may be looking for the perfect backyard cooking surface for your next cookout, or you may just have strong opinions on which grills do the best job at helping a skilled cook turn out the best dishes. Whichever it is, we asked you for your picks for the best grills on the market, and you responded. Here are five of the best, based on your nominations.
This post was originally published in June, 2013, and has been updated.
Earlier this week, we asked you which grills you thought were the best—not just the fanciest or that had the most burners, cooking surfaces, or options, but the ones that were all around the best bang for the buck, the best at what they did, offered great build quality and speedy heating, and were overall easy to use and easy to clean up.
Of course, we know there’s a difference between grilling, barbecuing, and smoking, but we’re using “grill” as the catch-all for backyard cooking appliances. Most of you picked up on that, and here’s what you said:
To see which of these five great grills you voted as the Lifehacker favorite, head over to our hive five followup post to see and discuss the winner!
The Weber One Touch series is one of the most popular, tried and true backyard grills on the market. The One Touch is a perhaps Weber’s most iconic grill. Its kettle style is almost synonymous with charcoal grilling, and the One Touch is available in a number of sizes and corresponding price points, from the 18.5″ ($79 at Amazon) to the 26.75″ One Touch Gold ($299 at Amazon).
All of the One Touch models offer steel plated cooking grills, ash catchers for easy cleanup, wheels for portability, and a self-cleaning system. The higher end One Touch Gold models also feature charcoal reservoirs in case you need more fuel, a removable aluminum ash catcher for even easier cleanup, a reinforced handle, tool hooks, a built-in thermometer, and a stainless steel cooking grate.
Those of you who nominated the One Touch line noted there’s a model for every price point or preferred size, and they’re exceptional at both direct and indirect heating based on where you put your coals. Easy cleanup and solid build quality is extremely important too—so much so that our friends at The Sweethome (an offshoot of The Wirecutter) think the 22.5″ One Touch Gold is the best chargoal grill you can buy.
The Big Green Egg is, as the name implies, a big green egg-shaped cooker that can serve as a grill, a smoker, and an oven. It’s available in five different sizes, from the free-standing 24″ “XLarge” that sports shelves on the sides and plenty of room to cook enough food to feed a crowd to the 10″ “Mini” egg that’s perfect for picnics, camping trips, or grilling on an apartment patio, with three more sizes in between.
The Egg is a Kamado-style barbecue, namely it’s made of an earthen material (ceramic, in this case) and is a charcoal cooker with a design meant to contain the heat and only vent it through a small vent at the top (somewhat similar to the Kettle design). In fact, there’s a whole page dedicated to how the egg works, if you want to read it. With the right accessories, the Egg is perfect for indirect cooking, grilling pizza, grilling the perfect steak, even roasting chickens and turkeys.
They’re well-loved and have developed a bit of a cult following, but they’re not cheap—the Large and XL will set you back around to $1000 (possibly more, especially if you spring for accessories at the same time), and the Mini is closer to $400. Those of you who praised the Egg pointed out that while they may be expensive, they’ll likely be the last grill you ever buy, not just because they cook so well and offer incredible temperature control, but because they’re incredibly versatile and built incredibly well. If you want one, you’ll have to find a dealer near you that sells them, or a barbecue retailer that ships to your location.
The Weber Genesis line of premium gas grills designed to offer solid build quality, great design, and it heats up extremely fast and stays hot for the long haul. The Genesis models can cook with liquid propane gas or natural gas, depending on the model you purchase, and depending on your choice come with (S Series) stainless steel or (E Series) cast iron cooking rods, shroud, and trim.
All models sport built-in thermometers, three massive burners, and plenty of cooking space. The S-330/E-330 offers a center “sear station” that cranks up the heat to give you the delicious browning you want on grilled meats, and a side-burner that can keep a pot or side-dish bubbling while you work on the grill.
All models offer two stainless steel work stations on either side of the cooking surface, tool hooks, a fuel gauge (for propane models), and a massive 637 sq. in. cooking surface. You’ll pay for that cooking surface and the convenience of gas though—the E-310 will set you back $699 at Amazon while the S-310 . The E-330 is closer to $800, and the S-330 is close to $1000. Still, they’re huge, high-end, and solidly built—again, likely the last grill you ever buy.
We should note that our friends at The Sweethome point out that if you’re looking for a bang for your buck gas model, you might want to step down from the Genesis to the Spirit line, specifically the Weber Spirit E-310, which we’ve highlighted before.
The Char-Griller Akorn Kooker is Char-Griller’s only Kamado-style grill. It’s not even listed on their website anymore, and it’s technically discontinued (as of 2015,) so availability may be scarce at this point. Because it’s a Kamado cooker, it features a single vent at the top and an insulated, all-ceramic body that’s meant to keep the food inside hot for the long haul, even if you don’t use a lot of charcoal.
The Akorn Kooker is most often compared to the Big Green Egg, since it’s a Kamado grill and available at a fraction of the price compared to the size, but even the reviewers at Amazon will openly note that it’s not as good and not quite built as well, but there’s no way you can look at it that the Akorn Kooker isn’t significantly cheaper for a similar style cooker.
Regardless of your take on the competition, the Akorn Kooker features a cast iron cooking surface, two work surfaces on the sides, and durable wheels to help you move the thing around. Those of you who praised the Akorn highlighted its price, it’s bang for the buck, and its portability as highlights—especially if you must have a Kamado-style grill but you don’t want to spend a ton of money to get one.
The Weber Q Series is a line of compact, durable gas grills that are designed for portability, ease of use, and quick grilling. They don’t have the most powerful burners around, and depending on the model you get, they need to rest on top of a sturdy surface (since they may not have legs or wheels of their own), but they’re affordable (the Weber Q 100 is $149 at Amazon, while the high-end, free-standing Weber Q 320 is $379 at Amazon) by comparison to some of Weber’s other models and offer many features that apartment dwellers or people who don’t cook outside that frequently will love and appreciate.
All of the Weber Q models feature one-touch electric ignition switches, porcelain enameled cooking hoods and cast-iron cooking grates, and feature one or two burners (two on the higher-end models), and the higher-end models feature built-in thermometers and side-mounted work surfaces for platters or storage while you work.
Those of you who praised the Q series noted its portability, ease of setup, and its ability to cook for four or five people at once without a problem, no matter where you set it up. If you’re looking for a grill you can toss in the back of the car with you when you go camping or head out on vacation, the Q may be the one for you.
The honorable mention this week goes out to Traeger’s Wood Pellet Grills and Smokers, which earned several nominations but not enough to get into the top five. You praised the Traeger models for using a different type of fuel, eliminating the need for charcoal briquettes or propane refills and hoses, and for their design and build quality. If you’re looking at charcoal versus gas and wishing you had an alternative, here you go.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it’s not because we hate it—it’s because it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest, but if you have a favorite, we want to hear about it.