Almost any food tastes better when it’s grilled. Whether you prefer the smoky flavours of a perfectly seared steak that can only come from a charcoal barbecue or love the convenience of grilling chicken, veggies, or salmon with an easy-to-use gas version—like our favourite the Weber Spirit II E-310(available at Amazon)—our experts have been grilling up everything from slow-cooked pork to juicy hamburgers to find which are best for your backyard.
If you're more serious about your outdoor grilling, we have recommendations and reviews of smokers and kamados, too.
And if you're apartment-bound and longing to grill outside, but can't, we've even found the best indoor grills.
These are the best grills we've tested:
Best Gas BBQ: Weber Spirit II E-310
Best Charcoal BBQ: Napoleon NK22K-LEG-2
Best Kamado BBQ: Big Green Egg Large
Best Smoker: Masterbuilt MB20051316 Thermotemp XL
Best Portable Gas BBQ: Weber Q 1200
Best Portable Charcoal BBQ: Weber Jumbo Joe
Best Indoor BBQ: Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe.
Best Gas BBQ
Weber Spirit II E-310
The Weber Spirit II E-310 may be the brand’s entry-level barbecue, but it didn’t act like a lesser product when it came to performance. It was our favourite barbecue to use on every test, producing perfect sear marks on burgers, evenly cooked chicken, and picture-perfect asparagus. It can’t hold quite as many burgers as our upgrade pick, the Weber Genesis II E-310, but the 18 or so burgers that do fit will be cooked evenly to perfection.
This product is proof that BTUs are not the end-all-be-all in barbecue choice. Its 30,000 BTUs (or, 71 per square foot) cranks out an impressive amount of heat—we created indirect heat by turning a single burner on high heat, then heating to 300°F; and when we turned all the burners on low, it hit an impressive 400°F (which was 25 to 50 degrees hotter than some of the higher BTU barbecue we tested).
We also loved some of the aesthetic features, and the barbecue itself felt well put together and built to last. They really thought of everything with this barbecue: a side-mounted propane tank with a gas meter, sturdy side tables, and grill grates that fit together perfectly. It was also one of the few barbecues that had hooks on the side for hanging your tools, and the Weber lids were the only ones designed to vent smoke away from tunneling into your face. As a bonus, this barbecue is also iGrill3 (a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer that mounts permanently to the table and can send alerts and data right to your smartphone) compatible. As compared to some of the other products, the Weber was significantly easier to build, too. Although there were a lot of little parts to put together, the instruction manual was clear-cut and easy to understand.
The Weber Spirit II E-310 isn’t the cheapest option on the market, but it’s absolutely worth the price. When you take all the factors into account—performance, ease of use, and aesthetic appearance—this barbecue was a no-brainer for our choice as Best Gas BBQ.
The Napoleon Charcoal Kettle Grill was our favourite charcoal option in our test group. It aced our cooking tests and its design features set it apart from the competition. For starters, it sits on four legs instead of the standard three that most kettle barbecues come with; making it both sturdy and stable. Its ash bucket is larger than most and has a wide-grip handle that keeps your hands nice and clean as you remove the ashes. Clipping the ash bucket into place was a bit tricky at first, but once we figured it out it stayed put without problem. Finally, there’s the wide, round rim that rests in the middle of the coal bed while you’re cooking. Initially, we thought this rim was designed to keep the briquettes out of the center of the barbecue. However, we quickly realized that the rim’s metal heated up along with the coals, distributing the heat evenly throughout the grill.
When it came to cooking on the Napoleon, we had no complaints. It proved capable of holding 12 to 13 burgers at a time and created a gorgeous overall char when we cooked over direct heat. Raking the coals for indirect heat was nearly effortless; its wire cooking grate had hinges on each side that allowed us access to the briquettes underneath. Additionally, the vents on the top and bottom of the grill were easy to open and close. All of this worked together to create an ideal heat distribution for indirect heat cooking. Being able to control the airflow is important when cooking over charcoal; the bottom vents control the heat of the fire, while the top exhausts hot air and smoke out of the barbecue.
If you’re looking for a charcoal barbecue that can do it all—grill burgers and steaks, smoke ribs and pork shoulders, or bake bread and pizza—and budget isn’t a concern, you might want to consider the Big Green Egg. Kamado-style options like the Egg use charcoal as their fuel, but they have thick, ceramic sides which store a ton of heat. Since most charcoal barbecues aren’t made from ceramic, this feature makes kamados stand out because they can radiate heat around the food as you cook. The ceramic sides also create an added efficiency with the coals themselves; after we finished our tests, the Egg had more charcoal left than any of the other options, ready to relight the next time we wanted to use it.
The Large Egg we tested had an 18-inch grill space that could fit about a dozen burgers. It excelled at both high- and low-temperature tests, cooking up burgers with perfect grill marks and golden brown, crispy-skinned chicken drumsticks. The bonus with the Egg is you can also use it as an induction oven to cook bread or turned into a smoker with the purchase of the ConvEGGtor, a ceramic plate that facilitates indirect heat cooking.
Overall, we loved cooking on the Egg, and its vent system had the best temperature control of any charcoal barbecue we tested. It is large and heavy, but the wheels make it easy to move around and it locks firmly in place. Unfortunately, we weren’t stoked about the lack of an ash bucket. Cleaning out the spent ashes from the bottom of the barbecue was a bit of a chore and required a proprietary tool. It also took significantly longer to cool down than the rest of the barbecues we tested and the body of the barbecue stayed super hot to the touch, something you’d want to keep in mind as you’re planning your grilling sessions.
Unlike the other options on this list, the Big Green Egg isn’t available at national chain stores. It’s usually sold through individual dealers or on the Big Green Egg website. The prices tend to vary by dealer as the Egg is often sold as part of a package deal or a special.
The Masterbuilt Thermotemp XL Propane Smoker was—by far—our favourite smoker to use during the tests. It was the very definition of set-it-and-forget-it: Hook up the propane, turn the dial to the proposed temperature, hit the ignition switch, and away you go. An internal sensor adjusts the flame to maintain the target temp, all without any fiddling around to keep it there. Not only that, but the wood chip bin that infuses the smoke into your food was large enough to hold two hours of chips at a time. That means you don’t have to run outside to keep feeding the smoker every hour, freeing you up to hang with your guests at the party, stay inside and watch football, or do anything else your heart desires while your food cooks.
When it came to overall construction and design, we were pretty impressed. The smoker has four removable racks, which can hold six turkeys, eight racks of ribs, or eight pork butts. It also looks gorgeous with a large viewing window, but not at the expense of functionality. The two doors latch firmly into place, and we loved how the handles didn’t get hot to the touch as we used the unit. The top door gives you access to the food, and the bottom door opens to the water pan and wood chip bin, allowing you to refill the chips without releasing the heat in the smoking chamber. They really thought through the process while designing this smoker—the propane hookup even includes a tank fuel level gauge so you know how much propane is in the tank. Overall, this thing was solid and sturdy, and we have no reason to believe this smoker wouldn’t last five years or longer with proper care.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few hiccups along the way. This smoker took over an hour to build with a lot of frustrating, unclear steps. It was so complicated, we accidentally omitted an essential part of the ignition hookup. When we got ready to season the smoker (turning it to high heat for an hour to remove any odours and coatings from the production process), the smoker wouldn’t stay lit. Luckily, that provided the opportunity to test Masterbuilt’s customer service, which turned out to be top-notch. They walked us through the troubleshooting steps, and the smoker was up and running in no time at all.
In the end, the Masterbuilt created a smoke-flavoured, super tender brisket that tasted better than the competition. Easy to use and it created a delicious product? Yup, that’s why the Masterbuilt Thermotemp XL Propane Smoker was an easy choice for our pick for Best Overall.
During testing, the Weber Q 1200 immediately pulled away from rest of the portable barbecues we cooked with. It has cast-iron grilling grates, giving us beautiful, well-defined grill marks on the burgers we cooked on it. Although it only has one burner, it was able to deliver a surprising amount of heat and consistently at that: heat distribution across the Q 1200’s 189-square-inch cooking cast iron grilling grates proved even enough to allow for great grilling, cooking food evenly over its entire grilling surface. This is a barbecue that offers enough space to cook for a small crowd (we easily fit six burgers on its surface,) and packs up compact enough to disappear once your meal is done.
When it comes to features, the Q 1200 was one of the few portable barbecues we tested that had side tables that were sturdy enough to hold a plate full of food. The plastic side tables fold in to keep the grill compact for portability, although you will want to let the Q cool down before stowing them away to keep them from melting. It’s a good idea to stow the tables when the Q isn’t in use; as it's light enough that the wind can catch the tables and blow the whole thing over! That lightweight came in handy when it came to carrying the barbecue, and its handles were cool enough to hold even after cooking over high heat.
Consistent heat distribution for even cooking
Side tables are sturdy enough to hold a full plate
It was the small features that made the Weber Jumbo Joe stand out from the competition. Most of the charcoal barbecues we tested had no problem cooking delicious, smoke-infused burgers and chicken drumsticks, but the quantity of food they could handle was minimal. The Jumbo Joe, with its 240-square-inch cooking surface, allowed us to cook in quantities that rival a full-sized product. It could easily fit ten burgers, a few racks of ribs, or a whole chicken, and it offered enough room to arrange the coals into an indirect heat pattern. This allows for heat control which, as every great outdoor cook knows, makes for fabulous outdoor cooking. The locking lid really put it over the top, giving us an easy handle to transport the Jumbo Joe. We felt safe enough moving the barbecue while it was still hot, but you’ll want to close down the bottom vents to prevent coals from spilling out, just in case.
As with its larger Weber kettle siblings, the Jumbo Joe’s stainless steel grates were easy to clean, as was the large ash catcher bucket clipped in underneath the barbecue. The vents were well located and easy to open and close. Being able to control the airflow is important when cooking over charcoal; the bottom vents control the heat of the fire, while the top exhausts hot air and smoke out of the barbecue. And while its size may have made it bulky and hard to transport, Weber’s round, kettle design kept it from being intimidating.
For the price, you really can’t go wrong with this portable option. It’s large enough to use as your primary barbecue if you have a small outdoor space and portable enough to bring with you to tailgating events or camping. Because of that, we have no hesitation in naming it our Best Portable Charcoal BBQ.
Although large and pricey, the Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe offers a lot of cooking options for your money. In addition to being used as a closed BBQ, the two sides open up to form two separate surfaces for those times when you want to increase the number of burgers you can grill at once from six to 12. The plates are reversible with a grill pattern on one side and a flat surface on the other. With both sides open and the flat surface in place, the Griddler Deluxe turns into a griddle, although there is a gap between the two halves that limits the number of pancakes you can cook at once. But, all in all, this is a very versatile product.
The Griddler browns quickly and evenly. Longer cooking items like paninis and chicken breasts came out crispy with beautiful grill marks. Using the high heat sear function, burgers were grilled perfectly.
In addition, this Cuisinart has lots of special features. You can select different temperatures for each plate, which is particularly helpful when it’s in the open position. You can cook the bacon on medium on one side and scramble the eggs on low on the other. During preheating, the knobs glow red, then change to green when the selected temperature is reached. An innovative lever on the side of the machine allows you to adjust the distance between the two plates so that you can avoid crushing your burgers as well as press down on a grilled cheese sandwich, but not so hard that all the cheese oozes out. The plates are particularly easy to snap in and out and they can be washed in the dishwasher. In the back of the grill, a drip tray slides into place. Not only is the manual thorough, it contains recipes that you actually want to prepare.
In the eternal debate over whether a gas grill or a charcoal barbecue is better for outdoor cooking, there is no wrong answer. If you’re cooking your food on the grill instead of inside the house, it will capture that beautiful charred essence and smoky flavour from cooking over open flames. You likely already have strong opinions on the topic of gas versus charcoal and we’re not here to change your mind. If you’re still on the fence on the subject, however, here are the pros and cons of using each type of barbecue to help you choose the right one for you. Let’s talk gas grills, first.
Gas barbecues are more convenient than charcoal barbecues. Some even include a side burner to let you cook a sauce or something separate from the direct grilling surface. That they don’t use charcoal as fuel not only makes a gas barbecue easier to clean (no ash!), but it also cuts down its initial heating time. That gas barbecue come equipped with electric starters or a spark wheel to ignite its gas burner helps to get you cooking faster than charcoal users can manage, as well. It’s easy to easier to control the heat while you’re grilling with gas than it is when using charcoal; to adjust the heat up and down, simply twist a knob instead of fiddling around with hot coals. It is a bummer when you run out of propane, though, so we love these newer barbecues that have a handy meter right on the side of the product.
Charcoal barbecues, on the other hand, are significantly less expensive than their gas counterparts. Many people prefer the flavour of cooking over a charcoal grill, as the briquettes they use for fuel infuse smokey elements into the food. The coals created by burning those briquettes can burn hotter than propane or natural gas, which can be a pro or a con: you’ll get a serious sear on your food if that’s what you’re going for, but it’s also easy to burn your food over 700° F temperatures.
What About Electric Barbecues?
While these appliances are called “barbecues,” they heat your food using a coil instead of flames. That makes them closer to an electric griddle than a grill. However, if you want to barbecue indoors or live somewhere where cooking over an open flame is frowned upon, an indoor barbecue will do the trick. Pro tip: in order to use an electric grill, you need an accessible power outlet (a feature that not all decks or patios have), or a high-powered extension cord.
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