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Cheap Grills Buying Guide

Whether you're shopping for a cheap grill for the first time or looking to replace a well-used model, the first thing to consider is what kind you want: charcoal or gas. In general, charcoal is cheaper than gas up front but lacks the convenience, heat control, and cooking speed.

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On the other hand, fans of charcoal grilling report there is no comparing the taste; gas just can't match the authentic grilled flavor you get with charcoal.

Our picks include two cheap gas grills -- the Char-Griller Grillin' Pro 3001 (starting at $186) and the Brinkmann Grill King (starting at $199) -- and two cheap charcoal grills, the Char-Griller Wrangler 2123 (starting at $110) and the Weber One-Touch Gold 22.5 (starting at $149). One model that didn't make our cut is the Char-Broil Two-Burner Gas Grill (starting at $80). It draws consumer complaints about assembly and durability, and reviews also raise questions about safety.

Several other factors are worth keeping in mind when you're shopping for a budget grill. One is the size of the cooking surface. While both gas and charcoal models generally fall between 200 and 700 square inches, the higher end of that range is typically reserved for gas grills. It is important to note that any side burner or warming rack is often counted in the cooking surface area listed in the specs. Gas grills are best for heat control, as they let you adjust where and how high the flame is. It's harder to control the temperature with a charcoal grill, although some come with grates that can be lowered closer to the flame and vents that help with heat control. Finally, look at grate composition. Cast iron allows food to cook evenly, while porcelain prevents food from sticking.

High-end gas models can cost upward of $1,000, and high-end charcoal barbecues range beyond $700. On the low end, the price range for gas is anywhere from $80 to $250. Prices for cheap charcoal grills start at just under $50 and top out at $150. The main difference between cheap BBQ grills and their upmarket counterparts is durability. Pricier grills are typically made of durable stainless steel, while budget grills are often painted or plastic and not quite as sturdy. Higher-end grills also typically have more durable materials inside, whereas a cheap grill may be made from materials that tend to chip, peel, or rust. There are things you can do to make a budget grill last longer, such as storing it in a covered area, using a grill cover for protection, and making sure the grate is oiled and cleaned after each use.

One thing to note when looking for a grill is that vendors tend to favor a few particular brands or carry only exclusive models. So when you find a grill you like, chances are you'll have a limited choice of where to buy it.

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by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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