Latest Grill Ratings Reveal Brand Name Deals and Duds

Last year’s unsold grills might mean better deals for this year’s shoppers. The latest grill test results from Consumer Reports can help shoppers find the best model for their dollar. In addition to finding five CR Best Buys for $380 or less, Consumer Reports has also expanded this year’s ratings to include indirect grilling, accounting for the growing trend of using grills to slow-cook roasts, ribs, whole fish and poultry.  The full report, which features 65 gas grill models and basic grilling tips, appears in the June issue of Consumer Reports and online at

“While leftover grills from last season may mean sales and specials, a grill that doesn’t cook well is no bargain,” said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports. “Our testers found brand name grills at attractive prices with useful features like side burners and electronic igniters, but some didn’t live up to our standards, so it’s important to check the Ratings first instead of shopping for brand name alone.”

After spending nearly 600 hours searing hundreds of steaks and cooking 89 pounds of chicken, Consumer Reports testers found that major grill brands showed mixed results. Some Weber models were strong performers, but some of the larger and even a few smaller ones were less than impressive.  Both Kenmore and Char-Broil grills have models on our Recommended list, including the Char-Broil Red Patio for under $300, in the small grill category. However other models from Char-Broil earned some of the lowest scores in the Ratings.  

Consumer Reports testers also noticed that grill accessories are becoming standard on some models. Griddles, pizza stones, vegetable trays and steamers are all some of the added bonus features that consumers can expect to see. For those looking to grill on-the-go at the big game, the Margaritaville G1000, $400, mounts on a swing arm that attaches to any vehicle with a 2-inch receiver hitch and was the only portable grill to ace low-temp performance and high-temp evenness. However, the Margaritaville grill only has one burner, making indirect grilling a non-option.

How to Choose

Check for summer holiday sales and specials. Many stores offer free assembly, but be sure that the assembled grill fits inside the car beforehand. Additional tips to keep in mind:

Check size carefully. Usually the larger the grill, the larger the cooking surface, but that’s not always the case. As a rule of thumb, the more people you regularly feed, the larger the cooking area you should get.

Don’t buy by Btu. According to Consumer Reports’ tests, more Btu/hr. doesn’t guarantee faster preheating or better searing and cooking.

Focus on features. An electronic igniter is usually easier and more reliable than a push-button or rotary starter. Stainless-steel or coated cast-iron grates tend to sear well and keep grilling temperatures more consistent. Infrared technology can radiate intense heat to food, not just the air, and is also good for searing, though designs vary. Consumer Reports tests haven’t found that one type is better than another or that infrared burners are better than regular ones.

Know the stainless. Higher grades, such as 304 and other 300-series stainless, were less prone to rust and better able to fight corrosion in past Consumer Reports tests than less expensive 400 series. Different grades of stainless are often used on different grill parts. Check the company’s website, or in-store display, for info on grades used.

Think safety. When shopping, test a grill’s sturdiness by gently nudging it at several points. Look for sharp corners and edges. Grip the handles; hands could get burned if they are too close to a hot lid. Flare-ups happen, but usually the greater the space between the grates and burners or flavorizer bars, the fewer the sustained flare-ups.

JUNE 2011

© Consumers Union 2011.  The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.  We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®,® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.