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Best gas grills of 2021

Best gas grills of 2021

If you’re new to grilling or thinking about upgrading your grill, choosing the best one can feel overwhelming, especially with the abundance of options on the market. It’s hard to know whether to go for a gas grill (such as propane or natural gas grill models), charcoal grill, electric grill, kamado grillpellet grill or perhaps even a portable grill model

Gas grills are a great place to start for new grillers, and they make an excellent upgrade, too. Gas grills are simple to use, easy to control and roomy enough to feed the whole family. They can also come equipped with great features like a rotisserie burner, temperature gauge, stainless steel grill grate, sear burner and more.

We put six of the best-selling models you can buy right now through their paces to help you find the best gas grill. After cooking up burgers, ribs, whole chickens, here’s how it all shook out.

Chris Monroe/CNET

This liquid propane gas grill is pricey. We won’t skip over that. However, if you’re serious about grilling and ready to make an investment in your outdoor kitchen, this is absolutely a top choice.

This Weber model comes with plenty of high-performance specs. With 513 square inches of primary cooking space powered by 39,000 BTUs, plus a fold-down warming rack and a 12,000-BTU side burner, you’ll never want for cooking space. Two cabinet doors hide a two-shelf storage area below the grill for utensils and supplies. That does mean the propane tank is stored outside the grill, but the provided hanging fuel gauge and easy access felt like a bonus more than an eyesore.

The Genesis II E-335 is also one of Weber’s iGrill 3 compatible models, along with other Genesis II models and the Spirit II line. This $100 accessory plugs into the front of the grill and houses up to four Bluetooth temperature probes. You can monitor the temperature probes via a companion app for iOS and Android, so you keep an eye on what’s happening in your cooking area from a distance. 

In our testing, the Genesis II E-335 liquid propane grill turned out seared burgers with a slightly pink center, crispy chicken skin with juicy meat and fall off the bone ribs. Combine that great performance with Weber’s 10-year warranty on all grill parts, and this propane gas grill will have you set for years to come, even with heavy use. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Char-Broil’s three-burner model comes in at less than half the price of the Weber model above. At $450, you’ll get a liquid propane and natural gas grill that can handle most cooking challenges with ease. 

Char-Broil uses what it calls TRU-Infrared, a set of perforated emitter plates that separate food from flame to evenly distribute heat and reduce flare ups. There were definitely less flare-ups compared to other models in our testing, but you won’t be able to see the flame when you’re lighting the grill or adjusting the temperature, so keep that in mind.

You’ll get less power than the Weber at 25,500 BTUs over 420 square inches of primary cooking space, and there aren’t any smart grilling features for remote monitoring. This Char-Broil model does have a side burner as well as tank storage behind two cabinet doors. Like Weber, it comes with a 10-year warranty. 

Food cooked on our Char-Broil test unit was good, though slightly less crispy and seared as the Weber. If you’re looking to stay under $500, this outdoor grill offers the best balance of features and performance of the models we’ve tested.

Chris Monroe/CNET

No one ever said you have to spend hundreds to be happy with your BBQ grill. Char-Griller’s E3072 proves it. This budget model has a $180 MSRP and brings 40,800 BTU of power over a generous 438 square inches of cooking space, not counting a 12,000-BTU side burner. 

What we noticed most in testing this grill is how quickly it got up to temperature compared to other models. It held that heat well, too. Unfortunately, that became a hindrance in our testing. Burgers and chickens were too charred on the outside thanks to the hot cast iron cooking grate. If you do purchase this model, keep that in mind and start out with less heat. Ribs were better, perhaps thanks to the two smokestacks designed for even low and slow cooking.

There’s no storage cabinet on this model. The tank sits behind a decorative front panel. That’s an aesthetically pleasing compromise, but reaching through the side bars and around the panel to open and close the tank was frustratingly difficult. Despite those annoyances, this barbecue grill offers plenty of practicality and power for a very reasonable price.

Other grills we’ve tested

The CNET Smart Home editors have been cooking and serving up grill data for a few years now. In addition to the models above, here are the other gas grills we’ve tested. This list does not include the many models we’ve tested over the years that are no longer available for purchase.

  • Char-Broil Signature Series 4-burner: We tested this well-built and practical Char-Broil model in 2019. It was middle of the road in our testing and is priced high at $650. It comes with plenty of cooking space, a side burner and cabinet doors. If you’re a fan of Char-Broil’s grills, this model is a safe bet, but there are better grills from other brands for your money.
  • KitchenAid 720-0891C: KitchenAid’s style and color options are impressive, but the performance of this $300, two-burner gas grill was underwhelming in all three tests. If you’re looking for a two-burner grill, the Weber Spirit II E-210 is a better choice.
  • Napoleon Rogue 3-burner: Despite its cool looks and sturdy construction, this Napoleon model was underwhelming in our tests. At $575, it’s pricey and the Char-Broil 3-burner we tested delivered better results.
  • Dyna-glo 5-burner: This five-burner has plenty of power with 63,000 BTU and a turbo burner for searing. Still, we found cooking to be uneven and small quirks like side shelves that don’t fold down, a weird “condiment storage” hole and no dedicated tank space feel big even at a reasonable $250 MSRP. 

How we test

To determine the best gas grill and get a feel for how these grills perform in a variety of cooking scenarios, we perform three tests. Based on different meats, methods and heat settings, these tests show us how efficiently and evenly a grill does (or doesn’t) cook.

Ribs

Our first test is ribs. It’s an anecdotal round, so there isn’t a connected thermometer set or software capturing specific data. We preheat each grill on high for 10 minutes before turning it down to low, indirect heat. Depending on the grill size, that means turning one or two burners off completely.

We remove the outer membrane on a rack of St. Louis-style short ribs and season it with an all-purpose rub we use for ribs and chicken. Then, the ribs are placed on a piece of aluminum foil and grilled for three hours with the lid closed the entire time. 

grills-2019-16

Rib testing takes three hours on low, indirect heat.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Rib enthusiasts may not agree with this relatively short and smoke-free cooking method, but it allows us to see just how well a regular propane gas grill can cook low and slow. Even with the arguably slim 3-hour cook time, ribs at the end of this test can be tender and juicy.

Chicken

To test the grill with a midrange cook time and medium heat settings, we grill a whole chicken. We preheat the grill on high for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium and turn off burners to create an indirect heat environment.

Once we’ve trimmed and seasoned the bird, we place it in a roasting pan and insert one temperature probe into each chicken breast, for a total of two probes per chicken (this is an important step — even if the grill has a built-in thermometer — because undercooked chicken is no good for anyone). To keep our results as fair as possible, all the chickens are as close as possible to 5.5 pounds.

grills-2019-24

Whole chickens are cooked on indirect, medium heat until both breasts reach 165 degrees. 


Chris Monroe/CNET

Those temperature probes are connected to a data logger and laptop with software that records the internal temperature of each chicken breast every two seconds. Each chicken cooks until the temperature in both breasts reaches a food-safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grilled chicken should have a crispy skin and meat that is cooked through fully but not dry. We perform this test in three rounds, giving us a solid average cooking time for each grill.

Burgers

Burgers are our final test for our grill reviews. We measure out 5.3 ounces of 80/20 ground beef and press them into uniform patties. Those patties go into a grill basket and we insert a temperature probe into the center of each patty at a 45-degree angle.

With the grill preheated for 10 minutes on high, the basket goes onto the grill. After six minutes of cooking, we flip the basket and monitor internal temperature. Once the last burger in the basket reaches 145 degrees, the batch is finished. A good burger in this test is one that has both a nice outside char and a slightly pink center.

img-20190426-114623-1

Burgers go on the grill over direct, high heat. 


Brian Bennett/CNET

Burger testing points out any hot spots across the grill’s cooking surface if one burger consistently reaches 145 before the others in every round.

An average 15- or 20-degree difference across the quickest and slowest patties in a batch was the norm in our testing. Red flags are raised when we begin to see differences in the 30- to 40-degree range. 

A closer look at specs

Comparing these gas grills isn’t all apples to apples. With different grill sizes, cooking grates and BTU levels, a difference in performance is expected in each individual outdoor gas grill. Still, there are some observations to be made.

One thing our test data highlights is how quickly a grill can cook on its own medium or high setting. That doesn’t mean each grill is set to the same preheated temperature. It simply means we turned the knobs to what each grill indicated was medium heat.

The chart below compares each grill’s average cooking time for chicken and burgers over three identical tests. We run the clock until the last burger reaches 145˚F and the lowest chicken breast reaches 165˚F.

Average cooking times

Weber Char-Griller Char-Broil Napoleon Dyna-Glo
Chicken 78 min 81 min 59 min 95 min 46 min
Burgers 11 min 9 min 13 min 15 min 8 min

If speed isn’t your deciding factor, don’t fear. There are other characteristics you can compare to choose the grill that’s right for you.

Exactly which one is that? It depends on your cooking style. If you’re cooking for large groups frequently, you’ll need a grill with a large primary cooking surface, a warming rack and a side burner. Some of you might also have strong feelings about the cooking grates — you need stainless steel, or cast-iron grates, or porcelain coated grates, or even porcelain-coated cast iron.

Look carefully at each description to be sure you get what you’re looking for.  If you just plan to use your grill for flipping a few burgers occasionally, stick with a less expensive or smaller gas grill model. And of course, if you’re looking for a portable gas grill or an indoor grill, these won’t be right for you.

Once you’ve picked out the best grill for you, don’t forget accessories. You’ll want to look at grill covers and pick up grilling tools like a grill brush, a thermometer to check for food-safe temperatures and liners for the drip tray. Take a look at this chart to compare size, power, warranty and more.

Gas grills compared

Weber Char-Griller Char-Broil Napoleon Dyna-Glo
Price $949 $199 $449 $580 $249
Dimensions (HxWxD) inches 47x59x29 49x49x28 47×53 x23 48x51x25 47x55x24
Main burner BTUs 39,000 40,800 25,500 36,000 63,000
Side burner yes yes yes yes yes
Warranty 10 years 5 years 10 years 15 years 1 year
Primary cooking space (sq. in) 513 438 420 425 473


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