Given all the new gas grill styles and features available, it might be time for you to ditch your old flame.
“Construction quality varies widely among the models we tested,” says Cindy Fisher, Consumer Reports’ test engineer for grills. “Some are wobbly and made of lower-quality parts, while others feel solid from the lid down.” Her advice? Be sure to look at a grill’s construction before you buy.
Here’s an overview of what to consider in various price ranges.
$400 or less
In this popular price range you’ll find grills in every size, from portable to large. But don’t expect extra features. And though Consumer Reports’ testing shows that price isn’t a predictor of performance, it often is tied to quality of construction. So think twice about a large grill that costs just a few hundred bucks.
Not all stainless steel is created equal. To keep prices down, manufacturers tend to use thin-gauge stainless, which can make for a flimsy grill. Trading stainless for a well-made model that’s painted or porcelain-coated enameled steel might get you a longer-lasting grill.
Make sure you inspect the grill. Parts will usually be bolted together, not welded, so check to determine whether the connections are snug. The fewer the bolts the better, because they can rust. Pick up the grates and check what they’re made of. Porcelain-coated cast iron can chip and rust.
$400 to $700
You’ll find all the sizes except portables in this price range, including a much wider selection of large grills. Be aware that a big and bulky grill doesn’t necessarily have a large cooking surface.
Expect a sturdier grill, however, perhaps one with welded joints. A quick look will tell you if they’re welded or bolted together. Typically, the more stainless steel a grill has, the more it costs. Heavy stainless or cast-iron grates should be the norm, so pick them up and make sure they have a nice heft.
Check the burners with the same thing in mind: They should be heavier than the ones on cheaper grills. And keep an eye out for a grill with a 10-year warranty — you’ll start to see them at this range.
$700 to $1,000
Expect the small to large grills in this price range to be well-built. Here is where you start to find features touted as making grilling easier.
Go with a stainless-steel cart that has an enclosed cabinet and, if possible, drawers. All the visible seams should be welded to provide a clean look, and the cart should be sturdier than thin-gauge painted-steel carts assembled with nuts and bolts. Grill carts should have metal casters rather than plastic ones.
$1,000 and up
You’ll find more large grills to choose from and a wider selection of features. As for quality, Consumer Reports notes that you can expect grills in this range to last for many summers to come. Also expect heavier-gauge stainless steel, and more of it. Insist on top-notch fabrication with seamless welds — nothing should be shoddy. Heavy-duty grates are the norm. And a must.To learn more, visit www.ConsumerReports.org.