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You'll pay $300 to $500 for a grill that can handle most of your cooking needs. Spending more will get you stainless styling and additional convenience features, but not necessarily better performance. Several midsized models for less than $500 performed as well as others that cost much more.
Guide to the Ratings
Overall score is based on performance, features, and convenience. Evenness reflects the evenness of heating over the grill's surface at high and low settings. Grilling measures each model's ability to cook chicken and fish on the grill's low setting. Convenience evaluates construction and materials, useful accessory burners and shelves, rack space, and ease of use, as well as propensity for flare-ups. Stainless-steel grates are generally sturdier than those made of coated steel and resist rust even without a porcelain coating. Coated cast iron grates may be made of porcelain-coated cast iron, which generally sears meats better and keeps grilling temperatures more consistent than grates made of porcelain-coated steel. All or mostly stainless includes more than just a panel or other trim. Based on our limited tests, nonmagnetic stainless is less likely to corrode. Burners remain the grill's most-replaced part, but most are guaranteed for only 3 to 5 years. Long-warranty burners are covered for 10 years or more. Price is approximate retail.
Best for most; all are midsized:
3 Blue Ember by Fiesta FG50069-U401 (Home Depot), $450, CR Best Buy
6 Char-Broil Commercial Series 463268007 [Item #242266] (Lowe's), $300, CR Best Buy
11 Kenmore (Sears) 16233, $400
The high-performing Blue Ember's generous shelf space, side burner, built-in smoker box, and rotisserie burner are noteworthy features. Consider the Char-Broil for its abundant shelf space, side burner, and lifetime burner warranty. The Kenmore is a fine cooker and has a rotisserie burner. The Fiesta Optima Pro Series EZD555-B428 might be enticing, but the cart is flimsy and its handle became too hot during cooking. The Weber Genesis E-320 was recently recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission because of a fire hazard with a gas hose; Weber is replacing the hose for free.
If you often cook for a crowd:
24 Kenmore (Sears) 16237, $800
Very good performance and lots of cooking space make this large grill a solid choice. It has five main burners with a 10-year warranty, a rotisserie burner, a side burner, and plenty of shelf space.
If you like to tailgate:
34 LWeber Q 396001, $180 This portable model excels at grilling and cooks food evenly. You can buy a cart and adapter for a larger tank separately.
If you want to avoid flare-ups:
Most grills flare up when loaded with fatty foods, but some models flared up more than others: Frigidaire Gallery GL30LKEC, Char-Broil Designer Series 463420507 (Home Depot), Coleman 8100 Series 9992-643, Viking T Series VGBQ300-2RTL, Ducane Affinity 4200, and BBQ Grillware 720-0001 (Lowe's).
No frills but good performance
12 Char-Broil 463730807 (Wal-Mart), $120 This Char-Broil is the least expensive grill we tested in 2007. With only two burners, a push-button igniter, and an open cart with two wheels, it doesn't provide many bells and whistles, but it performed well in our tests.
1 WEBER Genesis E320 Overall, this is an excellent, three-burner, medium-size grill that provides excellent heating evenness in the main cooking area and low-temperature grilling. Note: The E-320 was recently recalled by the CPSC because of a fire hazard with a gas hose; Weber is replacing the hose for free.
2 VERMONT Castings Signature Series VCS3507P Overall, this is an excellent, three-burner, medium-size grill that provides excellent heating evenness in the main cooking area and low-temperature grilling.
3 BLUE EMBER by Fiesta FG50069-U401 (Home Depot) Overall, this is an excellent, three-burner, medium-size grill that provides …