Top Tips for Buying a Barbecue
Looking to upgrade your grill? Don’t let your budget go up in smoke.
Barbecuing: It’s more than just a cooking technique — it’s an art form. Whether you’re a backyard chef or a true aficionado, every artist needs the right tools. With all the options out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices — and end up buying more than you really need.
Need a new grill but don’t want to get burned? Try these tips.
Before you hit the store
A bottomless budget isn’t required to find the best grill to suit your needs. While you can expect to pay far more for models with all the bells and whistles, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a reasonably sized, good quality grill.
Other than price, a few other basic considerations to keep in mind:
– Where do you plan to use it? Some grills are better for backyards, while others are more suited for condos, campsites and cottages.
– How many people do you usually cook for? The answer can tell you how much cooking space you’ll need.
– What foods do you cook, and how? You don’t need a fancy grill to handle hamburgers or steaks, but you may need some additional space and accessories if you plan to roast a turkey, smoke meat and prepare side dishes.
– What fuel do you want to use — charcoal, propane or electricity?
You’ve found the perfect grill — but can you keep it that way for years to come? Experts warn to pay careful attention to the durability of your next grill, both for longevity and safety reasons. Consider:
– Materials: The type and weight are important. Some sources recommend stainless steel — the priciest option — while some experts feel that cast aluminum is the way to go.
– Ergonomics: Ease of use is important. Is the handle comfortable, and can you lift the lid easily? Are the controls and starter easy to use?
There’s always the potential for problems, not to mention some TLC down the road. Other things you should know about your grill include:
– Care: Even the best grills will degrade if they don’t get the attention they deserve. Find out how to clean, store and maintain your grill for maximum longevity.
– Repair costs: Is it easy to obtain replacement parts and find a place for repairs? Ask about burners specifically — according to Consumer Reports , they’re the most commonly replaced part.
Do you want fries — oops, a rotisserie — with that? More features equals more money, so be wary of up-sells.
What features are worth the cash? According to a Consumer Reports survey, some of the most widely-used features include a gas gauge, side burners and a natural-gas hook-up. Electronic igniters won out over rotary or push-button starters, and stainless-steel or coated cast iron grates were reported to be better for searing and maintaining consistent temperatures. Storage was another important feature people considered.
Buy now or buy later? It can be a balancing act. Prices usually drop as the season wears on, and consumer calendars warn the best discounts can be found into the fall and winter when retailers are anxious to clear out stock.
However, waiting has it’s drawbacks: Selection won’t be as plentiful, and you won’t get to enjoy your new grill during the best part of the season.
If you’re searching for the middle ground, keep an eye on sales throughout the summer — there always seems to be a model or two on special. If you pay full price, ask about the store’s price guarantee: If it goes on sale in the next two weeks, will they reimburse you the difference?
Ultimately, the maxim that “you get what you pay for” applies to barbecues. Carefully consider your budget and your needs, and hit the stores armed with the information you need.