Knowing the different types of grills available is critical to finding the right grill for you. We’ll cover the 7 different grill types in detail with pros and cons of each.
While the basics of grilling have been around for a while now, some brands have continued to innovate for a better grilling experience for their customers. For this article, we combined our knowledge from using the different types of grills over the years with research of new trends from grill manufacturers so as to provide an up-to-date overview of the pros and cons of each grill type.
Table of Contents
Check out the 7 types of outdoor grills below:
A staple that is time tested by backyard grillers. Charcoal grills use briquettes consisting of heated wood with some additives that burn hot and for long periods to evenly cook food.
Charcoal grills have remained a favorite of grillers looking for that “char-broiled” flavor. Unlike other grills listed below, it’s much easier to introduce wood and other flavors to your food using charcoal grilling. Also, if prepared properly, charcoal can apply a hotter, more even heat than a gas grill including many different charcoal arrangements to achieve different cooking styles. All that, plus charcoal grills are very budget friendly!
While charcoal for grilling isn’t going away anytime soon, its cons typically lead buyers looking for a laid back grilling experience to gas grills due to a few drawbacks. Charcoal can be difficult to light and requires a bit more attention than gas or electric. Also, cleaning up (and set up) can be a messy affair as charcoal leaves black dust on anything it touches. However, many manufacturers have added countless accessories to minimize these cons. If you want that char-broiled flavor with minimal effort, check out our article on charcoal accessories.
As the name implies, gas grills use a flammable gas, typically propane or natural gas, as the fuel source. Gas grills have become the most popular grill out there by far. Their popularity is well justified as they have many great qualities. Gas grills are reliable, cheap, gas is inexpensive, and they are very easy to use. Great for a quick cookout with very little prep work to set up.
Gas grills do have some cons such as it is difficult to introduce wood flavors to the food, most propane tanks don’t have gauges to show fuel level, and igniters often need replacement. These are all minor items and the benefits of a gas grill far outweigh any downside.
That said, not all gas grills are made equal. Due to their popularity, they are mass produced with some having serious quality issues. If you’re looking to buy a gas grill, take a look at our article comparing the best gas grills to buy.
Electrical grills use electrical currents which are cycled through a cooking element to heat the food above. Electric grills tend to either have a solid cook surface like a griddle or George Foreman style cooking surface or have a heating element just below the grill grates like in an oven.
This type of grill is the newest, relatively speaking, compared to the other type of grills. Electric grills are gaining in popularity due to their similar benefits to the gas grill such as the ease to operate, very cheap fuel source (electricity), and clean up is fairly simple. Also, electric grills typically have the best temperature control when compared to other grills.
However, that is where the similarities stop when comparing gas vs electric. While becoming popular electric grills have a few cons not found with gas or charcoal: they require an outlet to operate, there is no open flame for searing, can have trouble keeping temperature in cold weather, and lack any added grilling flavor to proteins (smoke, wood flavors, etc.).
Wood Fired Grill
The oldest form of grilling is using good old fashioned wood to cook your food. You can probably think of a time while camping you cooked hot dogs on sticks or someone had a grill grate stand to put over the campfire. For camping it’s by far the cheapest and efficient way to cook without having to lug a bunch of cooking gear into the woods. For bare-bones grilling, wood grills typically are the cheapest grilling method because all you need is a campfire and a grill grate stand to get started. There are also grills made to run on wood fire and take many shapes and sizes. These grills can be a metal firepit with swinging grill grates or grill bases that look and function just like a charcoal grill.
Not to ruin anyone’s nostalgia about cooking over a campfire or manufactured wood grill does come with some drawbacks. Grilling over wood takes time and effort to get going. You need to get logs, split those logs into usable pieces, then start the fire and get a nice bed of coals going. The startup process is by far the largest of any method on this list. Another con is that it can feel impossible to maintain a consistent temperature. Not stoking the fire enough and the coals could slowly cool down. On the other hand, if you get too heavy with the firewood, you could end up with nothing but burnt burgers for dinner. While this can be easily managed through trial and error, the weather is another factor heavily impacting this grilling method.
All cons aside, grilling over wood is timeless and will (hopefully) remain as a backyard and camping favorite. If you’re looking for a type of wood fired grill without log splitting, check out the next type of grill on this list.
Pellet grills are relatively newer products or at least they have been modernized significantly in the last few years. Pellet grills use small wood pellets which are shuttled by an anger into a fire box that ignites the pellets using an electric heating element. These are a crossover between a smoker and a grill. When first introduced to the market, they were used mostly as “outdoor ovens” and smokers with grilling being a secondary function. Since then most brands have added a plate (sear plate) that can slide aside allowing the open flame to contact the food (sear area). The pellet grill is now a versatile grill that can be used for both grilling and smoking.
As you might have guessed by now, pellet grills give that wood smell and flavor like the old fashioned firewood campfire grilling but uses a more compact and modern way to deliver that wood fired taste. Pellet grills are easy to use as most now come with electronic display and temperature controls. By turning a knob you can increase or decrease the temperature of the grill without having to go back to the log pile. Wood pellets are also fairly inexpensive and come in a wide variety of wood types. Another great advantage to pellet grills are countless add-ons and technologies are being added to pellet grills every year. The manufacturers of these grills are consistently exploring cool new ways to get the most from your grill.
Portable grills or camping grills are sized for travel for a camping trip, day at the beach, or tailgating before the game. They function the same as their larger siblings on this list but are more compact. Fuel types for portable grills can vary but the most popular and readily available fuel options are gas, electric, and charcoal.
The obvious advantage of a portable grill is its size. If you camp, hike, or tailgate often then a portable or camp grill could be a great choice as they don’t take much room in the car. For those that live in an urban area with limited outdoor space, portable grills can allow you to grill without taking up valuable patio space. In addition to their space saving benefits, portable grills are easy to use, store, and clean. Not to mention they are very affordable!
The portable grills greatest advantage is also its greatest disadvantage. Its smaller size decreases its usable cooking area. If you are thinking about choosing a portable grill as your everyday grill at home, you might want to consider the cooking area you require. For camping and other outdoor activities the smaller cooking surface is typically not impactful.
Can’t decide between just one grill type? Don’t worry grill manufacturers have thought of that situation as well! There are multiple options out there that combine two grill types into one. Choose between gas/charcoal, pellet/gas, gas/griddle, and many more options. Sorting out the pros and cons are the same as listed for each type above – if a few exceptions.
The obvious pro with a combo grill is that you get two grills in one! The least apparent downside is that you pay a little more than one grill since you get the benefit of two grills. Combo grills are going to hit the wallet more than buying a single grill. If you can get everything you want in a combo grill, it might be well worth the extra cash.
One other note to consider is that combo grills are larger than their single counterparts. Be sure to measure the space you plan to put the grill before buying.
Looking for all the steps to cook a restaurant quality steak? Check out our complete guide on how to cook the perfect steak.