You care about how you grill. Selecting and preparing your food is only half the battle of cooking perfectly-grilled food. Many beginner grillers don’t yet realize the importance of quality grills and grilling tools. We’re here to make it easier to find the right grill for your needs so you can get the most delicious-tasting meals without all the hassle.
This guide, written by your friends at Kick Ash Basket, will help beginner and intermediate grillers learn how to select the right grill and grill size for achieving the perfect meal each and every time.
Types of Grills
There are three main types of grills: charcoal, gas, and pellet. We prefer charcoal grills, and we’ll tell you why below.
1. Charcoal Grills
Charcoal is the outstanding favorite for outdoor grilling, according to most pros. The taste associated with charcoal grilling is rich, savory, and smoky, and it’s what gives that flavor we think of when we daydream about a fun and delicious summertime BBQ.
Here’s how a charcoal grill works: air comes into the bottom of the grill after a manual adjustment. It passes over lit charcoal, leaving through a vent at the top of the grill. The more air that passes through the grill, the hotter it gets. This means you have strong control over your temperature zone, and you can keep it consistent throughout the cooking process. This makes charcoal grills especially good for tougher cuts of meat that will grow more tender if they’re smoked long and slow.
The two greatest benefits to charcoal are the unique flavor and the enhanced ability to control the temperature. The drawbacks to charcoal are that it requires a little more skill (though it’s easy to learn), takes longer to heat up, and you have to be aware of ash discharge.
Kick Ash Basket was designed to hold the charcoal and simply shake out the ash, so that charcoal burns more evenly, no ash gets in the food, and cleanup is easier. With one of these, even total beginners can find success with a charcoal grill!
Popular charcoal grill choices include The GoodOne Smoker/Grill The Big Green Egg (BGE), Akorn Grill, Weber Kettle Grill, Vision Grills, and Kamado Joe Grill (Check out our comparisons of the Vision with BGE and Kamado Joe with BGE).
There are three primary types of charcoal grills: kettle, kamado, and barrel.
Kettle Charcoal Grills
Kettle grills are, of course, in the shape of a kettle, usually with a diameter of 20-30 inches. The charcoal sits at the bottom, and an elevated grate allows for smooth airflow. The sphere of the grill keeps air flow consistent, so food heats quickly and consistently.
Kettle grills are metal and relatively lightweight, so they’re portable. Plus, they typically require less charcoal and are less expensive than other types of charcoal grills.
Check out this Masterclass article about cooking with a kettle grill!
Kamado Charcoal Grills
Kamado grills, also called “egg grills” or ceramic smokers, are a little more sophisticated, but they are still doable for the novice griller. A kamado is like a kettle, but it has an egg shape and is made of a thick ceramic material (making it much heavier than the metal kettle).
This grill uses all-natural lump charcoal with a controlled heating process, so it produces less ash and cooks with the greatest versatility and control. Ceramic grills are well-insulated with a strong seal, so the air flow maintains heat well. This reduced air flow means the meat is less likely to dry out than on gas or kettle.
Fun fact: This name for ceramic grills originates from Japan. Kamado is the Japanese word for stove or cooking range on a grill!
Barrel grills are longer– unsurprisingly, shaped like a barrel. Their lengthwise lid allows for more cooking space. They work similarly to a kettle grill, but they may heat up slower due to the elongated shape. We like these if you tend to grill a lot of food at one time.
2. Gas Grills
Charcoal grills are most frequently compared to gas grills. Gas grills are easier to start and learn to use than other types of grills. With the turn of a knob, your burners are on and you’re heating up in no time. You also don’t have to worry about a grill chimney or creating temperature zones, like you do with charcoal.
Some benefits to gas grills:
- Gas is cheaper than coal (and you can even hook it up to your home’s gas).
- Gas grills are easier to clean up than charcoal grills (if you don’t have the Kick Ash Basket, that is).
- Gas gives off steam, which in some cases may add moisture to food.
- Gas grills have a lot of optional accessories, including charcoal-like side burners.
On the other hand, gas is less controllable and doesn’t burn as hot as charcoal. Although gas grills are convenient, the gas is too “clean” to add any of that delicious charcoal or wood-y flavor you’d get with charcoal or pellet grills. Gas grills are great for novice grillers but might not be ideal for those looking for that real, homestyle BBQ.
3. Pellet Grills
Pellet grills are new to the scene, but they’ve quickly become quite popular. They’re very easy to use, and they’re similar to an outdoor oven. A pellet grill has a container of wood pellets on the side, and a push of a button moves those pellets into a flame to ignite with a hot rod. Fans and air vents move the wood fire around for an even cook, and there is usually a digital thermostat for precise cooking temperatures. Overall, this creates more of a wood-cook flavor, as opposed to a smoky flavor. Learn more about how a pellet grill works here.
Pellet grills are easy to use. They’re consistent and efficient, which makes them a good choice for beginners. If you prefer a wood-cooked flavor to a smoky one, you may want to consider a pellet grill. Traeger grills,Green Mountain grills are the most commonly known pellet grills.
To close this gap, we need to help consumers understand what a pellet grill is, how it works, and the problems that might arise. Here is a blog from Derrick Riches that helps set expectations on Pellet grills. What to expect from your pellet grills blog.
Which Grill is Right for You?
Some things to consider when choosing the right grill to purchase for your needs include:
- Type of grill
- Grill size
- Weather, and
1. Type of Grill
Of the three types of grills listed above, most people looking to become grill masters opt for charcoal. This is because charcoal grills give food a smoky, authentic flavor while allowing greater cooking control for the griller. However, if you’re looking for an easier and faster grill, a pellet or gas grill might be the right decision for you.
2. Grill Size
If you have made the choice to go for a charcoal grill, you’ll want to decide between the kettle, kamado (ceramic), or barrel size. To make this decision, you’ll want to consider the kind of grilling you’ll be doing. Will you do it every day for your family of four, or are you more likely to be grilling at weekly Saturday BBQs for all your friends? If you tend to grill in smaller batches, the kettle or kamado are both good choices. If you want to grill more food at once, you’ll want to look into purchasing a barrel grill.
A grill that is too small could mean you end up glued to your grill throughout your entire backyard bash. A grill that’s too large for your typical grilling needs will increase the time it takes to cook and will be harder to clean. Choose the grill size you’d use most frequently.
It’s hard to beat the savory, smoky flavor that comes from using a charcoal grill. Charcoal grills just produce a better flavor than gas— it’s science. Ceramic charcoal grills create an especially strong flavor, since they can heat up to 600+ degrees. They are great for creating a fire-grilled taste (even for pizza!).
Smoking is the slowest form of cooking. You grill meat low and slow to get a tender and delicious flavor (You can only smoke meat, as it will destroy most plant-based foods). If you want to smoke your meats, you’ll need something that can retain heat and smoke—like a lid-on charcoal grill. We love that Three Little Pigs offers smoking classes to learn about this delicious and masterful form of grilling from the best of the best!
Food prepared on a charcoal grill tastes smokier, on a pellet grill tastes woodier, and on a gas grill tastes cleaner. Supplement these tastes with award-winning Three Little Pigs rubs and sauces to create the perfect flavor for your meals!
If you’re grilling in the summer only, you don’t really need to worry about which grill you pick—they’ll all work well! If you plan on grilling in the winter, you’ll want to decide if you’ll BBQ with the top on or prefer to grill with top down. Barbequing can help you maintain heat and cook evenly, even on cooler winter days, while grilling with the top off lets you crank the heat and cook faster. Charcoal grills retain the most heat when grilling in the winter.
Do you plan on bringing your grill to a neighbor’s yard to cook food together? Are you going to a tailgate with your BBQ buddy? If you need portability in your grill, you’ll probably want a kettle grill (which is made of lightweight metal). Ceramic and barrel grills are just too heavy to move around. If you’re going to keep your grill in your backyard, though, ceramic and barrel grills are a great choice. They’re high quality and add a cool aesthetic to your backyard.
What Grill Size Do I Need?
When it comes to deciding the ideal grill size or type, it all comes down to preference. If you’re looking to adopt grilling as a hobby for fun outdoor feasts and irresistible meals, you’ll want to look into charcoal grills. From there, you’ll want to consider portability, aesthetic, and price point based on your needs.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to grills. Think about what you want out of your grill, and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who can help! Your friends at Three Little Pigs would be glad to steer you in the right direction, and so would your neighborhood grillers at Kick Ash Basket! Chatting with some pros is a great way to get started on your road to unbelievably-delicious flavor!