Gas Grills

Published July 1, 2003. From Cook's Illustrated.

Extra money may get you extra space and burners, but mid-priced grills perform just fine.

Overview:

Update: April 2010

Since our 2003 testing, Weber relaunched Genesis as a high-end line and updated its mid-priced line with the Spirit E-210 and E-310 models. We tested the Spirit grills and have updated our results accordingly.

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Gas grills deliver what 21st—century Americans prize most: ease. Turn on the gas, hit the ignition switch, and voilà—an instant fire of whatever intensity you need for tonight's recipe. It really is, or at least it really should be, a no-brainer.

Figuring out which gas grill to purchase, on the other hand, is a brain-bender. Discount and home improvement stores stock models as far as the eye can see, with burners of various number and type, overall sizes and cooking spaces from mini to maxi, and features ranging from automatic ignition to cup holders. And while no gas grill is cheap—prices start around $150—many constitute a substantial investment of several hundred, even several thousand, dollars. By grilling our way through almost $1,000 worth… read more

Update: April 2010

Since our 2003 testing, Weber relaunched Genesis as a high-end line and updated its mid-priced line with the Spirit E-210 and E-310 models. We tested the Spirit grills and have updated our results accordingly.

___________________________________________________________

Gas grills deliver what 21st—century Americans prize most: ease. Turn on the gas, hit the ignition switch, and voilà—an instant fire of whatever intensity you need for tonight's recipe. It really is, or at least it really should be, a no-brainer.

Figuring out which gas grill to purchase, on the other hand, is a brain-bender. Discount and home improvement stores stock models as far as the eye can see, with burners of various number and type, overall sizes and cooking spaces from mini to maxi, and features ranging from automatic ignition to cup holders. And while no gas grill is cheap—prices start around $150—many constitute a substantial investment of several hundred, even several thousand, dollars. By grilling our way through almost $1,000 worth of groceries over high, medium, and low heat, we learned which designs and features affect performance the most.

All of the grills in our group delivered average high temperature readings were consistently in the range of roughly 600 to 800 degrees. Our high-heat cooking tests, searing both steaks and chicken thighs, put these numbers in perspective. What did we find? That you don't need enough heat to launch a rocket to give steak or chicken a good sear. We noted, in fact, that heat output was not necessarily related to price.

Covering the entire grilling surface with 1-inch-thick planks of eggplant and cooking them over medium-high heat helped us to assess how the grills performed in the moderate heat range, as well as how evenly that heat was distributed. As with heat output, we found that evenness of heating was not necessarily related to price.

Because gas grills allow precise heat control, they are especially well suited to barbecuing and grill-roasting. These techniques require low, indirect heat (in the range of 250 degrees to 350 degrees) for a long time to cook through large cuts of meat, fish, or whole fowl. All but one of the grills performed acceptably, maintaining the temperature at or near the target, with minimal adjustment, for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Melted fat that drips from hot food down onto the burners causes both excessive smoke and flare-ups that can give food an unwelcome, slightly burnt, "off" flavor. The fatty chicken thighs and steaks that we cooked were reliable indicators of which grills tended to flare. We found that effective design for fat drainage limits this problem.

Methodology:

HIGH TEMPERATURE

Average high temperature (rounded up to the nearest 5), measured on the cooking grate with all burners set to high.

LOW TEMPERATURE

Average low temperature (rounded up to the nearest 5), measured on the cooking grate with all burners set to low. Note that lower temperatures can be achieved by using fewer burners (see the salmon tests).

STEAKS

Cooked to assess the grills' searing performance over medium-high heat. Grills that produced a deep, even, caramelized crust and/or grill marks were rated good. Grills that produced an uneven, overly dark or light crust and/or grill marks were rated fair. Grills that produced a very uneven or dramatically dark or light or charred crust and/or grill marks were rated poor.

CHICKEN THIGHS

Cooked to assess the grills- searing performance over high heat (with burners turned to medium-low to finish cooking), tendency toward flare-ups, and ability to drain fat effectively. Grills that produced even, reddish brown, caramelized grill marks without significant flare-ups were rated good. Grills that produced uneven, overly dark or light grill marks and that allowed moderate flare-ups were rated fair. Grills that produced very uneven or dramatically dark, light, or charred grill marks and that allowed significant flare-ups were rated poor.

EGGPLANT

Cooked to assess the grills' heating evenness across the whole cooking surface. Grills that produced even, reddish brown, caramelized grill marks uniformly on all of the eggplant planks were rated good. Grills that produced uneven, overly dark or light grill marks on some of the eggplant planks were rated fair. Grills that produced very uneven or dramatically dark, light, or charred grill marks on some of the eggplant planks were rated poor.

SALMON

Slow-roasted to assess the grills- ability to maintain a low, even temperature (275 degrees) over an extended time. Grills that required no or little adjustment of the burners to maintain the target temperature and that cooked the fish slowly and evenly were rated good. Grills that required moderate attention and burner adjustments to maintain the temperature or that cooked the fish slightly hotter and faster than ideal were rated fair. Grills that required frequent burner adjustments to maintain the temperature, that were unable to maintain a temperature within 25 degrees of the target temperature, or that cooked the fish much hotter and faster than ideal were rated poor.

Turkey Fit

Grills should accommodate a small turkey or other large cuts of meat with the lid shut tightly for grill-roasting. Grills whose lids could be shut completely over a 12-pound turkey placed on an adjustable V-rack set to its widest position, with clearance around the turkey for air circulation, were rated good. Grills whose lids could be shut over the turkey but grazed it were rated fair. Grills whose lids could not be shut over the turkey were rated poor.

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