What are the most important features when buying a grill?

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Whether you’re a seasonal grill master or your family's chief cook and bottle washer, purchasing a grill is an important part of the summer cooking experience. But where to begin?

Here are the key questions to help you narrow your choice:

1) Gas, Electric or Charcoal? The answer depends on what you want from your grilling experience. Gas grills are the most popular, considering that they're time-saving and more efficient because they use propane tanks. Gas grills have a BTU rating, which gives you an idea of how much fuel you would need to cook something. For instance, a 35,000 BTU grill will use about 2 pounds of propane per hour of grilling. So, if you have a 10-pound tank you’ll need to refill after 5 cookouts or so. Charcoal grills are known to be the most flavorful because of the smoky taste the coals give off. Electric grills are a popular option in apartment buildings or whenever local codes won’t allow you to have a gas or charcoal grill. Electric grills are also known to be more convenient because they can be taken out and plugged in whenever or wherever needed. Some brands such as Blaze try to incorporate both gas and charcoal grilling into one unit.

Nick Aucoin, General Manager of Blaze Grills, named the Best New Brand in 2013 by BBQGuys.com, explains, “Our cooking system consists of cast stainless steel burners that providing steak, for instance, with searing temperatures on high and smoking temperatures on low.” Blaze has incorporated a stainless steel flavor grid system between the burners and the cooking surface, referred to as a flame tamer, plus stainless steel dividers between the burners to isolate sections of the cooking surface into different temperature zones. This allows multiple foods to be cooked at different temperatures, great for entertaining large groups.

2) How big a cooking surface do you want? Consider whether you’re usually just cooking for your small family or if you're always feeding what seems like the entire neighborhood. Cramming too much food on a small grill doesn't make any more sense than buying an oversized unit when you only need a fraction of the cooking surface.

3) Where will the grill go? Most grills are located on outdoor patio or decks, but can be placed anywhere that it won’t create a fire hazard. Grills should last you a long time so pick a spot that you really like and that's convenient to your kitchen and to any outdoor dining space. Note that you can add many years to your grill's life by cleaning and protecting it from outside elements with a cover. If you live in an area where it snows and rains often, find a grill that has wheels or that can be easily moved and stored someplace sheltered.

4) What's your budget? Is name brand important or is your main concern a decent grill with a solid performance? There are many upcoming brands that are inexpensive and work just as well as popular, pricier grills. Make sure when purchasing a grill that it comes with a lengthy warranty of 10 years.

5) Are extra options and bonus features important? There are many great basic grills, like those from Blaze, that offer great cooking performance and are reasonably priced. Most of the top-line grills come with extra heating features such as side burners—nice, but not a must for grilling breast chickens or shrimp.

“Our affordable price comes with the absence of a lot of the bells and whistles of more expensive grills," says Nick. "If you want lights inside your grill hood or on your control panel, we don't have them. Our strategy was to eliminate un-necessary features and try not to get too cute for an outdoor BBQ grill. We've found the financial savings are becoming a bigger and bigger thing for the consumer."