Okay. You’ve decided whether you want to cook on gas or charcoal. You know how to keep a grill clean, and you’ve got all the accessories you need for an epic barbecue. Still, there’s a good chance your new grill might let you down.
How do I know? Well, in addition to my experience owning and cooking with both gas and charcoal grills, I had a great summer job when I was in college: I sold grills during peak grilling season, and I saw what happened when a customer had a problem.
I’m sharing my experience to ensure you spend more of grilling season, you know... cooking, instead of searching for a rusted-over model number, waiting for replacement parts to arrive, or berating a teenage salesman for not having the right grate in stock.
No grill is perfect. But if you buy one our top-rated grills and keep our advice in mind, only a summer thunderstorm will keep you from enjoying your grill.
1. You get what you pay for
Cheap grills are usually sold in bulk at major retailers. They may wear a famous name, and they could cost as much as $400, but manufacturing is often contracted out to another company. New models debut in the winter, are shipped to retailers for the summer, and are never spoken of again once inventory runs out.
If you just want to get two or three summers out of it, a cheap grill is fine—just don’t spend more than $250, and don’t expect parts to be available when it breaks.
2. Some grills last longer
Better grills typically come from manufacturers that specialize in grills, like Weber and Napoleon. They're usually available year-round, year after year, and are available at more than one store. Replacement parts will be readily available at the same place you bought the grill.
The cheapest of these grills will likely cost around $400—and prices go up rapidly from there. But with proper care, a good grill can last a decade or more.
3. You're going to have to buy parts
There’s a reason we recommended so many Weber grills. Weber has a relatively simple lineup and keeps models around for a while, which means replacement parts are readily available. The same is true for other manufacturers who sell at independent retailers, such as Napoleon.
4. "Stainless" can stain
The kind of stainless steel that's used on a grill can become discolored after exposure to heat, rain, and certain chemicals. Even the stainless steel cleaner you use to keep your refrigerator shiny may end up oxidizing your grill’s lid.
Many of our recommended grills use porcelain-enamel coatings instead of stainless. But if you do buy stainless, don’t obsess over it. Once you fire it up, it'll never look as good as it did when you saw it on the showroom floor.
5. Rust is still a problem, even with stainless
Stainless steel shines under a store’s bright lights, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the grill won't rust.
There are different grades of stainless steel. For instance, 304 is generally recommended over 430 because it's less likely to rust. The gauge of stainless matters, too—a thin layer of stainless is less durable than a thick, porcelain-enamel coating.
Even top-tier grills aren’t made entirely of thick 304-grade stainless, leaving legs, supports, and other interior parts vulnerable to rust.
6. You'll probably have to put your grill together
Nearly all grills are shipped from manufacturers unassembled, in boxes. That's a nightmare for consumers and retailers alike.
Offers of “free assembly” from big box stores usually come with the unspoken caveat that you’ll have to get the grill home yourself. Unless you own or rent a pickup, all those pre-assembled grills chained up in the parking lot are staying right where they are.
7. Don't expect free delivery
Assembled grills are fragile, and major retailers don’t want to take the risk of dropping off a damaged product. Proper packing and shipping for an assembled grill can cost as much as the grill itself.
Some smaller retailers offer at-home assembly or local delivery, but there are usually additional charges involved—sometimes doubling or tripling the price of a grill. If you're able—or have friends and family that can help—it’s always better to do it yourself. After all, grills are designed to be assembled by the user.
8. Spend extra on a grill cover
Whether you’re spending hundreds or thousands on a grill, you owe it to yourself to spend another $20 on a cover.
If you want to keep your grill outdoors, a cover will keep rain from rusting it out. But covers aren’t just about keeping out water; they're useful even if you plan to keep your grill indoors. For instance, spiders frequently build webs inside gas burners, rendering them useless.
9. But don't tie that cover too tight
Covering a grill doesn’t mean hermetically sealing it. If you tie a cover around its legs and block all airflow, even the smallest amount of remaining water will be trapped and cause rust.
10. Know your grates
Everyone knows you clean a grill with a wire brush, right? Wrong! Some grills have porcelain enamel grates, which are coated in a protective covering that can be scratched by wire or steel wool. Scrubbing those grates will make them harder to clean in the long run.
Before you clean, read the owner's manual that came with your grill. It will tell you whether you have cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain enamel grates. It will also tell you how to keep them clean.