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The best and worst grills for your backyard barbecue

The best and worst grills for your backyard barbecue

What’s the difference between Consumer Reports’ best and worst gas grills? For starters, the best preheat quickly and evenly, and when it comes to evenly cooking food on high- and low-temperatures, they’re superb. But the worst didn’t deliver even heat, making grilling a challenge. Here’s how to find a grill that’ll get you through a summer of entertaining.

First up, figure out how much cooking surface you need. It should be large enough to fit enough food to feed the regular crowd. Larger grills usually have bigger cooking areas, but not always. Manufacturers might count warming racks and searing burners in their measurements, but we don’t. To help you choose we categorize grills by their cooking areas.

Medium-sized grills
The most popular size grill, these can fit 16 to 30 burgers and the Weber Spirit SP-320 46700401, $600, tops the category. It has three main burners and preheated quickly and evenly in our gas grill tests. It excelled at high- and low-heat grilling and indirect cooking, which is ideal for slow cooking cheaper cuts of meat or whole fish and poultry by placing them next to the heat, not over it. An electronic igniter starts the grill and a side burner keeps the baked beans warm.

The bottom-rated Char-Broil 463440109 is only $200 but preheating takes longer than most medium-sized grills and wasn’t so even, and high- and low-heat evenness was poor. A better bet, consider one of the CR Best Buys in the ratings, which range in price from $260 to $400.

Large grills
These hold 30 or more burgers. The highest scoring is the Jenn-Air 720-0709. It’s $950 at Sam’s Club. Quick and even preheating, superb high-heat grilling, and very good low-heat and indirect grilling help make it a recommended model. It has lots of stainless steel, an electronic igniter, five main burners, infrared searing and rotisserie burners, stainless steel grates, lighted cooking area, and a warming drawer. But it lacks a long burner warranty—a shame since burners are the most frequently replaced part.

The Grand Hall Odeon 32-inch Crossray Stainless Steel grill costs $1,600 and was the worst of the large grills. Preheating was slow and uneven, low-temp evenness was poor, and high temp was only fair, giving this grill an overall score of 35 out of 100. There’s more. We bought it online and during testing the front right burner shut off repeatedly. The retailer told us to call the manufacturer. We did, and a month later the part finally arrived, without instructions.

Small and portable grills
With space for 10 to 15 burgers the Weber Spirit E-220 46310001, $450, is tops and the four casters make it easy to move. In our tests, preheating was fast and even, and high- and low-heat cooking were excellent. Indirect cooking was very good. An electronic igniter fires it up and the grill has coated cast-iron grates, which tend to be better for searing and maintaining even grill temps. But the coating can crack, chip, or scratch, exposing the cast iron to corrosion. Fortunately, the burners come with a long warranty.

The bottom-rated Cuisinart CGG-200 is a portable grill and costs $190. Preheating was fast and even but as this one-burner grill heats up it becomes less even on high heat, and with only one burner indirect cooking is not an option.

See all the grills that made our list of top gas grill picks.

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