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How To Select a Built-to-Last BBQ Grill

Beyond selecting a barbecue grill, beyond features, beyond gas versus charcoal, is quality. Not all BBQ grills are created equal, we'll tell you what to look for in a built-to-last BBQ grill.

Stainless Steel

Not all stainless steel is the same, in fact it comes in different grades. Did you know some stainless steel can actually rust? That certainly can't be good for a barbecue grill. Three hundred series stainless steel is the stuff you want your BBQ built from. Typically, grade 304 is used for a quality grill. A higher grade, 316, is usually found in equipment made for extreme environments and laboratories, so if any part of a grill uses 316 stainless steel, it is super built-to-last. Grade 304 stainless steel is non-magnetic, a magnetic will not stick to it. Also, while it will resist common rust, it can tarnish, so discoloration is always a possibility, that is why a grill cover is always a good idea.

Grilling Chicken

The lower grade of stainless steel that shows up in lower cost grills is grade 430. It is still stainless steel, but over time it can rust and it can react to the environment, meat juices and marinades spilled on it. Just looking at grade 430, you wouldn't easily be able to see a difference, that is why you should bring a strong magnet with you; because lower grade stainless steel is at least slightly magnetic. If your magnet shows any interest in the metal of outer housing of the grill, it was built with lower grade stuff.

Note that some manufacturers claim their grill uses 304 stainless, but what they don't say is that only some of the BBQ uses the high grade stuff while the rest uses a lower grade of stainless steel. So when you do your magnet test, test in several places. Typically the hood will use the best material, but the lower cabinet or the inner components may use ferretic stainless steel.

Cooking Grates

The cooking grates make a difference in cooking performance and durability. Heavy-duty stainless steel grates are easy to keep clean, are durable, will not rust and best of all they retain heat well, making them excellent for searing. Cast iron grates are also great for searing, but they are less durable. Porcelain coated cast iron is good, but it can chip. Uncoated cast iron has to be oiled or it will rust and corrode. Lower grade steel, coated or not, does not retain heat as well and so won't do as well at searing foods, plus it is less durable.

Heat Distribution

If you build one big fire in a grill, it will be hot at the center and the temperature tapers off at the edges. In order to get good results from a grill, you want even heat distribution under the entire cooking area. While heat distribution doesn't make a grill better built, a manufacturer who focuses on even heating will have to spend more on materials by adding more burners. So look for a gas grill that uses more burners to get more even heat distribution.

Another feature that aids in heat distribution is the use of ceramic briquets. Some manufacturers try to distinguish themselves by playing up the benefits of various shapes and style of their briquets. While the jury is out on whether one shape is better than another, the briquets themselves can be delicate. Some models rest loose briquets in a tray making them prone to damage when moved. Look for models that secure the briquets in place.

Burner Quality

The burners are the most commonly replaced part on a gas grill. Quality burners are typically made from high quality stainless steel, cast brass or cast iron. Look for a manufacturer that offers a long warranty on their burners as a sign of their quality and reliability.

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