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What Are the Different Types of Grills? A Complete Breakdown

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In my opinion, choosing the right grill is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.  It’s right up there with buying a house, buying a car, and choosing a significant other.

Alright, I’m kidding about that last sentence!  But in all seriousness, it’s super important to put some thought into which types of grills are the best for you.  After all, there are almost countless options out there – so one of them will is bound to suit your needs.

There are lots of factors to consider when it comes to the different types of grills.  Surface area, which types of cooking they can do, temperature control, and many other things come into play.  Remember, at the end of the day it all comes down to your personal preference.  But in the rest of this post, we’ll get into the different types of grills and highlight the pros, cons, and distinctions of each.

Types of Grills

Gas Grills

Gas grills are the most widely used type of grill across the United States today.  It’s not hard to see why; they’re convenient, efficient, and versatile.  They’re the perfect type of grill for the casual griller or beginner due to how easy they are to use.  With minimal effort, a gas grill can reach high temperatures quickly, and can make some gourmet quality food for your family and friends.

Gas grills are also very straightforward and easy to clean.  For me personally, this is a huge turn on because the last thing I want to do after enjoying a delicious meal is to have to clean a bunch.  Within the gas grill genre there are a few different variations:

Propane Gas Grills

Gas grills are fueled by either propane or natural gas.  Propane grills are in nature the more portable of the two, because propane is stored in portable tanks that can typically be bought at your local supermarket. Propane grills are super easy to use, but you’ll need to refill your propane tank from time to time.

Natural Gas Grills

Natural gas grills connect to your home’s built in natural gas line, and are often used for built in grills.  However, some freestanding grills (including one of my grills!) can be fueled via a natural gas connection.  Natural gas grills eliminate the need to ever need to go to the store to buy fuel.  You just pull it out of the preexisting gas lines in your house.

Infrared Gas Grills

Infrared grills are powered via either propane or natural gas, and rely on infrared technology which spreads heat evenly across the entire grilling surface.  This happens extremely fast, and the infrared technology also prevents the flames from reaching the grates.  Infrared grills are known for zero flare ups, super even temperatures, and are great for searing in addition to “normal” grilling needs.

Flat Top Gas Grills

Flat top grills are typically fueled by a propane connection, and distinguish themselves with a flat, griddle surface.  As far as food results go, flat top grills tend to make juicier food because none of the drippings fall below grates and vaporize.

The tradeoff is that flat top grills will typically make slightly less flavor rich results compared to a grill with grates for the exact same reason that the drippings don’t vaporize and smoke back up into your food.

Flat top grills are a fantastic way to make breakfast, burgers, sauté veggies, and many other practical uses.

Freestanding Gas Grills

A freestanding gas grill comes with the added benefit of mobility.  They are not attached to anything our built in to a cabinet, so you can move them around freely and as needed.  Freestanding gas grills can be powered by either propane or natural gas.

Built-In Gas Grills

As you’d expect from the name, built-in gas grills are built in to a permanent structure like a cabinet or island cooking base.  Built ins are perfect for those looking to take their outdoor cooking space to the next level – and they’re typically high end grills or BBQ Islands.

With proper design, you can maximize space efficiency and have a powerful grill fit into a convenient section of your outdoor kitchen.  Built-in gas grills are typically fueled by natural gas connections.

Gas Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Gas grills can consistently grill delicious food – anything from beef, fish, poultry, veggies, and much more.
  • Super convenient.  Gas grills heat up and cool down quickly and require minimum prep time or clean up time.  If you envision yourself throwing food on the grill after work, a gas grill is perfect because you don’t have to deal with building and cleaning up a fire.
  • Generally “good” prices.  You can obviously spend quite a bit on a gas grill – some larger grills with lots of custom features get up into the $2,000+ range.  But, you can also get an incredible gas grill for under $200 too.
  • Fuel costs are less expensive compared to charcoal or pellet grills.

Cons:

  • Foods cooked on gas grills lack that extra smoky flavor that many of us love about BBQ.  That being said, gas grills will still make delicious foods.
  • Poorly made units have a tendency to distribute unevenly and inconsistently.  Be sure to look for units that are built from sturdy materials like stainless steel.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills are also one of the most widely used types of grills in the USA today.  They differ from gas grills in how the heat is fueled.  With a charcoal grill, you use charcoals bought from a store as the fuel source for your fire.  You light the coals, and create a bed of heated coals which cook your food.

The process of lighting coals and managing the fire to a proper temperature is typically pretty time consuming.  For pit masters who like to show a little tender love and care, this is a perfect way to spend a Saturday.  The best part is, the results of a properly meal cooked on a charcoal grill are fantastic.  You can expect the classic smoky BBQ flavor many of us love from foods cooked on a charcoal grill.

Traditional Charcoal Grills

A traditional charcoal grill has the traditional barrel style design that is common amongst all types of grills.  These grills are typically made from thick cast iron and have adjustable charcoal pans so that you can easily manage your fire.  Food made in a well designed traditional charcoal grill is hard to beat!

Kettle Charcoal Grills

Kettle charcoal grills are typically much smaller in size and grilling surface area than a traditional charcoal grill.  They get their name from their distinctive kettle shaped build.  They’re usually lightweight enough to take on the go for camping trips or tailgating, and are a great option if you’re looking for that traditional smoky BBQ flavor.

Charcoal Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • The go to option if you want extra flavor for your food.  Charcoal grills are a great option for experienced grillers or those who don’t mind investing time into managing your fire.
  • Some models, kettle grills in particular, are extremely lightweight and perfect to take tailgating or camping.
  • Generally speaking, charcoal grills are cheaper compared to other types of grills.  That being said, it’s important to buy a charcoal grill that’s well made, even if it’s a few extra bucks.  The last thing you want is a poorly made grill that isn’t sealed properly and doesn’t retain heat.
  • You can experiment with different types of wood chips for different flavor profiles on your grilled food.

Cons:

  • Fire management takes some time investment.  Heating charcoals to the proper temperature can take about 30 minutes.  You also have to spend time cleaning ashes and putting out your fire after you’re done cooking.
  • It’s especially hard to maintain consistent temperatures in cold or windy weather.
  • Fuel (i.e. charcoal) to cook costs more than natural gas or propane.

Pellet Grills

Pellet grills are a class of grill that are fueled by little flavored wood pellets.  So, pellet grills are technically wood fire grills – and the results of your grilled food will show it with delicious flavor.  Wood pellets come in a bunch of different flavors; Hickory, Maple, Cherry, Apple, Mesquite, and Pecan are all popular wood pellet flavors used for pellet grills.

From my observation, pellet grills are also one of the most technologically advanced types of grills.  Many of the top brands of pellet grills (like Rec Tec, Traeger, or Camp Chef) are loaded with features that make grilling delicious food incredibly easy.  You can manage every aspect of your grill from a phone application – which comes in super handy for long low and slow cooking BBQ.

Pellet Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Many pellet grills are loaded with technological features that allow you to highly customize and control the way you grill.
  • Your food will have delicious smoky flavor from grilling with wood pellets.  There are also many different flavors of pellets so you can experiment with different blends and combinations.
  • Pellet grills are incredibly versatile, and bona fide smoker grill combos.  Most have temperature ranges from 200-500 degrees so you can smoke, grill, bake, or sear steaks on your pellet grill.
  • Clean up is made easy by built in ash trays and management systems.

Cons:

  • Ongoing costs can be expensive due to the need to replenish your supply of wood pellets.
  • If your pellet grill doesn’t have a big hopper, you may need to refill it during a long smoking session.
  • Prices tend to be on the medium to high end for a quality pellet grill, but it’s well worth the investment.

Pellet Grills – Additional Reads:

Kamado Grills

Kamado Grills are technically charcoal grills, but we feel like they’re deserving of their own class when it comes to types of grills.  The Kamado grill has exploded in popularity in recent years in the United States.

It’s a ceramic grill which conceptually originated in China over 3000 years ago in the form of clay pots.  Technology improvements have taken us from there to the modern day Kamado grill, which is a personal favorite and is capable of making incredible food.  Lump wood charcoal is the fuel of choice for Kamado grills, and they deliver a truly delicious, smoky flavor to your food.

Ceramic Kamado Grills

The most common material used in construction of Kamado grills is ceramics.  A high fire ceramic grill will almost never crack or fault.  The ceramic material is also spectacular for heat retention, so ceramic grills are perfect for cooking pizza as it’s common for temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit to be achieved.  Due to built in airflow systems, airflow can be controlled to bake or roast foods as well.

Stainless Steel Kamado Grills

Some Kamado grills feature a stainless steel bowl inside of the unit to hold the charcoal.  There’s also some kamado grills that have a stainless steel exterior shell.  The main difference in stainless steel vs ceramic comes in heat retention and weight.

Stainless steel kamado grills will be less heavy, and also won’t retain as much heat as a ceramic grill.  That’s not to say you can’t turn the heat up on a stainless steel, you just probably won’t achieve 750 degree Fahrenheit temperatures like a ceramic grill would.

Kamado Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • You can cook and BBQ food for long periods of time without having to constantly manage the fire.
  • Construction materials and design lean on 3000 years worth of technology for optimal grilling capabilities.
  • Ceramic Kamado grills can reach temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Multi-functional – probably the best grill for making pizzas.  Also perfect for smoking, roasting, baking, searing, or grilling.

Cons:

  • Kamado grills – especially ceramic ones – are pretty expensive.  View these grills as a long term investment.
  • They weigh quite a bit so they aren’t easy to move around.  Plan on hunkering a Kamado grill down in one spot.

Kamado Grills – Additional Reads:

Electric Grills

As you’d expect by the name, electric grills are powered by traditional power outlets and are designed for use indoors.  It’s possible to use an electric grill indoors due to the absence of smoke.

*Important note* DO NOT use a grill, electric or otherwise, indoors if the grill emits any kind of smoke.  Smoke/open fires indoors are dangerous and at a minimum could cause smoke damage to your walls.  There are units designed that are smokeless grills specifically made for indoor use.

Electric grills are typically small in size and are designed for countertop use.  If you’re looking for a simple way to grill some food quickly, an electric grill is a great option.

Electric Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Plug and play – simply find a power outlet, plug the grill in, and get cooking!
  • Designed for use indoors, which is super convenient.  Great for apartment use.
  • Clean up and maintenance is extremely easy.
  • Ongoing fuel costs are almost nil.
  • Prices for electric grills are generally pretty cheap.

Cons:

  • Electric grills often don’t have a ton of cooking space – you won’t be able to grill for a large gathering or family reunion.
  • You must have a traditional electric outlet nearby – so it’s hard to take an electric grill on the go.
  • You don’t get the traditional smoky BBQ flavor from an electric grill.

Portable Grills

Portable grills are a sub class of grill that could technically also fall into some of the other categories on this list.  So whether it’s powered by propane or charcoal, a portable grill is one that you can take with you on the go.  It’s the perfect way to grill delicious food camping, tailgating, or wherever else your travels might take you.

Portable Grills Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Great for tailgating or camping, you can have delicious grilled food on the go.
  • Can be used at home too.  They’re typically small in size so they won’t take up a ton of space on your patio or deck.
  • Since portable grills are typically smaller, they run on the lower end of the price spectrum.  You can find a very cost efficient portable grill.

Cons:

  • What you gain in portability you sacrifice in cooking area.  Portable grills typically aren’t the best option for large cookouts or gatherings.
  • Be careful to purchase a grill that’s well made from a reputable brand.  Some bad manufacturers cut corners, especially on the cheaper portable grills.

Portable Grills – Additional Reads:

Types of Grills – Wrap Up

Be sure to think about all of the things that you want out of your grill.  Looking for that traditional smoky BBQ flavor?  A charcoal, Kamado, or pellet grill is probably the way to go.  Convenience more important to you?  A gas, electric, or portable grill may be a better fit.

In any case, I hope this rundown of the types of grills out there has been helpful to you!  Did you end up purchasing one?  Which one did you get?  Let us know in the comments section below.