The 2013 AmazingRibs.com Top 10 Gas Grills Under $2,000
By Max Good
Although gas grills tend to cost more than charcoal grills, gas outsells charcoal, with 8.2 million to 5.9 million units shipped in 2012 according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. It's easy to understand why. Gas grills are easy to use, easy to clean, have easy temperature control, and they're versatile.
A dizzying array of gassers is available with prices from under $200 to over $20,000. Many low and moderate cost models don't get hot enough to do a good job searing steaks, but those with special sear burners can. Of all the accessories, the one we think is most important is sear burners, special burners that get hot enough to brown a steak thoroughly, somethin most gas grills cannot do.
Many feature smoke boxes, and gas grills, with a little practice, can produce lovely smoked meals, but they require extensive ventillation so smoking is not their strength.
Watch out though because cheap manufacturers often include bells and whistles like sear burners, side burners, and rotisseries to entice you to buy their flimsy, low quality junkers built with low grade stainless steel held together with crumby fasteners that will rust and break apart after a couple seasons.
In the case of grills, bigger is better. We recommend you go for at least three burners so you can cook with a hot zone and a not so hot zone. This 2-zone system is a necessity if you hope to do more than burn hot dogs and burgers.
And regardless of the price you pay, the dial thermometers attached to the hoods are poor quality and barely qualify to be called temperature indicators. It is not unusual for them to be off by 50 to 100°F, and they are located in the dome, not at the cooking level, not very useful unless you plan to eat the lid. We strongly recommend that your budget include a good digital thermometer with a probe that can be placed on the cooking grate.
For other things to look for when you are shopping, read our article on understanding gas grills, with an explanation of how infrared burners work, ignition systems, and how different types of gas grills cook. It also explains that you should not pay attention to BTU ratings on the specs because they can be very misleading, and how you can calculate "flux" a much more useful number. Click here for tips on setting up and using gas grills.
At AmazingRibs.com we have created a huge Equipment Reviews section with a searchable database of hundreds of reviews and ratings of smokers and grills. From it we have drawn our list of Top 10 Gas Grills Under $2,000. To say whittling this list down to ten models was tough is an understatement. Go to any big box store and you'll trip over all the different gassers being displayed, and that's just in the parking lot. In making our selections we tried to cover a wide range of designs and prices and pick the best of breed. Globalization had a significant impact on gas grill manufacturing. Many are now made in China and even All-American companies like Weber do some manufacturing and sourcing of components outside the USA. Canadian companies are also coming on strong with great cookers that deserve consideration.
How we select our Top 10 Lists
We rate and review as objectively as possible, measuring temperatures, slamming lids, turning dials, studying warranties, and kicking casters, but inevitably intangibles such as look and feel have to be considered. We also try to cover a wide range of design concepts and price ranges. Our searchable database has devices selling for more than $10,000, but we have decided to limit this list to "affordable", which we have arbitrarily set at less than $2,000. If we were looking for the 10 best, they might all be expensive, but we are looking for tools that will make buyers happy in a range of price categories. All the selections have won an AmazingRibs.com Best Buy Award, and we consider them the best of breed in their price category. They are listed by price. Prices listed are manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), and actual prices are often lower depending on the supplier and time of year. Please click the red links on the names of the grills to read our complete review and find links to suppliers, many of whom sell well below MSRP.
A basic low priced gas cooker with a design that was typical of the first gas grills made in the early 1960s: Cast aluminum body and an H-shaped burner. Cast aluminum holds heat well and the H-burner is actually two U-shaped burners fused together with a separate control knob for each side. Thankfully Broil-Mate didn't waste their money or yours on a useless heat indicator. A good digital thermometer is required to achieve your goal of BBQ domination. You could easily walk past this plain little grill in favor of a big shiny model that was made cheap to sell cheap and carries a one year warranty, but if you're shopping in this price range you would do well to stop and take a look. Broil-Mate's aluminum housing will not rust and comes with a limited lifetime warranty on the cook box, 5 years on burners and stainless steel components, and 2 years on everything else. Broil-Mate is one of five grill brands owned by Canadian BBQ manufacturer and distributer, Onward Manufacturing.
Huntington is named after the company's home town, Huntington, IN, where they have been manufactured since the 1980s. A few years ago Huntington was bought by Canada's Onward Manufacturing. Now some parts are made in Canada and others are globally sourced. Features from Onward's beautiful, premium priced Broil King models have been exported to Huntington, making them an exceptional value. Additionally, this model is almost identical to a higher priced Huntington with a stainless steel hood and doors, sold exclusively by Lowe's. Don't expect searing temps from this entry level machine, but do expect good performance, particularly for 2-zone cooking, an essential technique for the backyard chef. This unit also has a cast aluminum housing and carries the same good warranty as Broil-Mate, above.
Infrared heat is intense, high temperature radiant heat, but Char-Broil's Commercial grills allow you to dial it back for low and slow roasting as well. The stainless steel cooking grates on Char-Broil's Commercial line rest directly on top of stainless steel radiant plates that cover the entire grill area. There is almost no exposure to direct flame from the gas burners below and, consequently, very little exposure to hot air convection heat that dries up moisture in foods. The result is no flare-ups and juicy meats. Click here to learn more about infrared, convection heat, and the thermodynamics of grilling. Since the radiant plates are less than an inch from the cooking surface, you can do some serious searing, although we prefer open flame architecture to get an even brown crust, rather than branding meats with sear marks from the grates. Cleaning the cook surface is a little different because juices and marinades don't drip down and burn up; they collect on the radiant plates in the channels between the grates. Char-Broil includes a fork like scraper to address this. An added benefit to this design is low fuel consumption. The radiant plates get mighty hot with relatively low BTU output burners. 500 square inches of primary cooking surface make this is a good-size grill with a wide temperature range.
So why does this smaller Weber Spirit, (424 square inches) cost so much more than Char-Broil above (500 square inches)? Because Weber is the Gold standard for backyard grills. It's hard to beat their design, construction, warranty, and customer support. For most Weber owners, we're preaching to the choir. People are willing to spend more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. Made in China, Spirit is Weber's entry level gas grill. For 2013 it was redesigned with significant upgrades that bring it closer in features and performance to their more sophisticated Genesis line. A big change is reconfiguration of the old fashioned burner layout. Burners used to line up front to back with control knobs on the right side shelf. The 2013 models are brought up to date with burners that line up from left to right and control knobs on the front panel. This setup is not only better for 2-zone cooking, but frees the right side shelf for beverages, bowls and cutting boards. The SP-310 has 7 mm stainless steel rod grates, a design we love, and porcelain enameled flavorizer bars, a design that we do not love since they don't last as long as the stainless steel flavorizer bars on Weber's more expensive grills. Also included is Weber's in cart LP tank fuel gauge that gives an approximate indication of fuel level by weight.
Saber is a newcomer debuting in 2011. They employ similar infrared designs developed by their parent company, Char-Broil, but Saber Grills are much better than anything bearing the Char-Broil name. This model is an entry level Saber that competes well against Weber Genesis. If you like the ease of use provided by Char-Broil's TRU-Infrared, but want a better grill with a warranty to back it up, Saber is for you. They get real hot real fast, but are easy to dial back for 2-zone cooking. They also make some beautiful premium models that go head to head with Weber's top of the line Summit series. Saber is living proof that everything made in China is not inferior. Construction and fit and finish are comparable with many higher priced grills.
Genesis is one of the most popular gas grills in America. Known for solid construction, performance and attractive appearance, it's the grill many buy when they grow up. EP models are only sold by independent hearth and patio dealers so you cannot pick one up at your local hardware store. They are worth seeking out though because, unlike other Genesis grills, EPs come with long lasting stainless steel rod grates and flavorizer bars: a significant upgrade. The 330 also features a sear burner and side burner. While side burners are nothing to get excited about, when it comes to searing steaks you can never have too much sizzle. The sear burner really bumps up the versatility and appeal of this cooker. Put it all together and you have the premier model of Weber's Genesis line. Made in the USA.
Napoleon is another Canadian company that offers a great selection of beautiful gas and charcoal grills that are well made with useful features. The Mirage line fits right in the middle of their extensive catalog. Stainless steel construction all around, including Napoleon's characteristic WAVE cooking grids with wavy steel rods instead of the typical straight variety. A rear infrared ceramic backburner for rotisserie comes standard, although the rotisserie kit (rod, holders, motor) is extra. A very unique option we've only seen on a few luxury grills is a charcoal tray that rests over the heat tents on one side, providing the best of both worlds by giving you the ability to cook with charcoal and gas simultaneously. Many Napoleon cookers, particularly their black charcoal kettle models, look to be Weber knockoffs. In fact it's hard not to draw comparisons between Napoleon and Weber. Even their logos look similar. But Napoleon has a knack for adding just enough new ideas and clever features to be distinctive.
Modern Home Products pioneered the first gas grills in the early 1960s. This model harkens back to those days with a classic, super thick cast aluminum cookbox that is virtually indestructible and carries a limited lifetime warranty on just about everything. Instead of flavorizer bars over the burners to protect them and incinerate drips, it uses rust proof, kiln fired, porcelain coated ceramic briquettes. Although the standard dual control H-shape burner has decent output, we recommend you upgrade to a hybrid model which replaces the H-burner with two cast stainless steel burners and one infrared burner for searing. The appearance may lack sizzle, but people who own these heavy aluminum grills often get hooked on the way they cook. If you could see it through their eyes, it wouldn't look like a big black box at all. Still made in the USA in Antioch, IL.
Another Canadian brand from the Onward Manufacturing collection. Among all the quality brands owned by Onward, Broil King is the top and Imperial is Broil King's premium line. A signature feature of Imperial is the deep firebox and high hood that places the cooking grate roughly in the middle. Some believe this large, symmetric cookbox enhances roasting performance. All Broil Kings offer high quality design and construction with a few bells and whistles thrown in to boot. The Imperial 490 includes a rear gas backburner with rotisserie kit, large side shelves with cast aluminum condiment trays and two pull-out drawers in the cart. Like many of the higher priced grills on this list, Broil King is not available in big box stores. Independent dealers often suggest Broil King to customers looking to get a lot of bang for their buck.
We told you we like Weber, and Summits are the best gas grills they make. The 470 is a good size grill that's got it all. Heavy stainless steel cooking grates, powerful burners that reach searing temps of 750°F then blast up to 900°F degrees when you crank the sear burner, a fun and functional rotisserie motor that pops up from the left side shelf then snaps back out of the way when not in use. They even have an LED fuel level indicator on the control panel that shows approximately how much propane is left in your tank. Summits are packaged almost fully assembled and you can get them anywhere from Amazon to Home Depot to fancy hearth and patio stores. Made in the USA.
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