When it’s time to buy a new gas grill for the backyard, you might get a case of sticker shock: High-end models that have all the latest technologies can run thousands of dollars, but don’t get discouraged.
The price range for gas grills is very wide and there are plenty of great options for some of the best grills under $500 that will provide years of grilling pleasure. Before you start shopping, it’s important to take into consideration what you really need in a grill and not be swayed by the lure of the latest and greatest features that might not be important to you and the way you cook.
Freestanding, Built-in or Portable?
This is the first basic decision that you need to make and it will depend on how you use the grill as well as your specific outdoor space.
A freestanding grill is a full-size grill that gives you the flexibility of moving it around the patio, deck or backyard. This is important if you need to move it for entertaining or for end-of-season storage. A freestanding grill has advantages over a built-in style for a small outdoor space, where you may not want the grill set up as a permanent fixture. These grills come in a range of sizes to accommodate the number of people that you typically cook for. Most models also offer up a side shelf or two for handy prep space, and some may even have a side burner for preparing other dishes or warming up sauces.
Built-in grills are just that: installed in a permanent fixture, like an outdoor counter or full kitchen layout. The advantages of a built-in model include having more counter space around the grill and having the feeling of a real outdoor kitchen. These can be more durable because they stay in one spot. While they are a good outdoor home improvement, the choice of adding one should be about your enjoyment, not to increase home value, because not all buyers will appreciate it as much as you do.
Portable grills are usually smaller, tabletop models that you can literally take anywhere. They typically run off of small propane canisters and are used for day trips, camping, tailgating or beachside barbeques. That said, these are ideal for small outdoor spaces and those who regularly grill for one or two people. A portable grill can fit on a small patio that doesn’t have room for a large grill, and is good for a location that has a short grilling season because not everyone enjoys grilling outdoors in snowy or cold weather! These typically cost the least as well.
Natural Gas or Propane?
Portable grills will definitely use propane, but with built-in or freestanding grills, you may have the option of having them hooked up to your home’s natural gas supply. Propane is certainly very convenient, especially for those who don’t grill all the time. It just means keeping your eye on the propane level in your tank so you don’t run out. Built-in grills typically run on natural gas, although propane models are available for areas that do not have a gas supply. Many freestanding grills can be converted to use natural gas, but that’s not the case for all of them. If you think you may want to convert it, make sure that the specific grill you are considering can be converted.
Those who grill very frequently may find that the amount of propane used becomes more of an expense and getting refills an inconvenience. For these consumers, natural gas is probably a better choice. Converting a grill requires hiring a licensed professional, which is an added expense. That said, it is worthwhile for many grilling enthusiasts who prefer gas grills.
What Size Do You Need?
The size of grill that you should buy hinges on how much food you want to be able to cook at one time. If you have a small family but like to entertain a lot, you may want to consider a larger size than what you might need for just your immediate family.
Generally, a small grill has anywhere from one to three burners and has a grilling area no wider than 26 inches. These small sizes with fewer burners will likely be more basic than the larger sizes, but you can certainly grill up about a dozen burgers at one time. A medium-size model will have two to four burners and be up to 33 inches wide. This is where you will see more features added, including things like a rotisserie and maybe a side burner. Large grills typically have three to six burners and at up to 43 inches wide, let you crank out food for a crowd with ease. The larger models may also have different cooking zones and added features such as a searing station.
What Will You Be Cooking?
Another aspect to consider when shopping for a grill is what types of food you cook the most. For instance, if you’re a meat lover and regularly grill steaks, it’s important to find a grill that achieves a heat high enough to sear the steak for the best results. By contrast, if vegetables and more delicate items like fish are your grilling go-to items, then you want a model with good heat control and not necessarily the highest temperature range. Also, think about whether you’ll be using the grill for smoking or slow roasting.
Even after you’ve narrowed down the type and size of grill you need, you may be faced with a boatload of extra features that may or may not be available. It’s a good idea to explore the different options and see which ones are important to you so that you’re happy with your purchase.
- Push-button ignition — Most gas grills now have a push-button ignition, but some models are still lit with a match. A push-button starter, or an electronic ignition that uses batteries, creates a spark that in turn lights the gas coming from the burners. Firing up the grill is quick easy and safe using an ignition system.
- Flame tamers — These are porcelain or steel elements that sit over the burners and help cut down on flare-ups that can char your food. They’re a physical barrier between the flame and the cooking grate.
- Side burner — These can be found on medium- and large-size grills and are very handy if you like to do lots of cooking outside. It’s like having a stovetop next to the grill. You can keep a sauce warm on the burner or use it to cook a side dish or secondary entree like boiled shrimp or lobster. Basically, anything you do on a burner in your kitchen you can do on the side burner of a grill.
- Rotisserie — Cooking a slow-roasted chicken is easy if the grill has a rotisserie. These are sometimes accompanied by a dedicated burner. You can also slow-roast meats and other poultry on the rotisserie attachment.
- A Warming Rack — This is like a small partial shelf at the back of the grill that lets you move food off of the cooking surface but still keep it warm. It is also handy for warming food items like buns and bread.
- Fuel Gauge — These are handy if not completely accurate. They will indicate the amount of propane left in the tank so that you can refill it or get a second tank.
- Cabinet — Most all freestanding gas grills come on a cart with a cabinet of some type. The most basic is a shelf that holds the propane tank while others have doors, drawers and other storage utilities.
Now that you know what you need, here are some of the best grills under $500 that will make your outdoor cooking or fun and efficient.
The Weber Q 2000 portable gas BBQ grill offers up a good amount of cooking space along with the portability many consumers are looking for. Whether camping at the lakeside or relaxing on your small patio, this Weber grill’s 280 square inches of cooking surface can handle just about any dinner and fires up with the touch of a button. Its 12,000-BTU stainless steel burner is controlled with a knob that adjusts the infinite control burner valve to fine-tune your cooking.
With a cast aluminum lid and body with drip ducts, the Weber Q 2000 has a sturdy glass-reinforced nylon frame and handles, making it easy to carry. Inside, it features a porcelain-enameled cast iron grate for even cooking. There’s also a grease catch pan for easy clean-up. On both sides of the grilling surface are folding work tables that provide plenty of room for plates and include tool hooks that are super convenient. This grill runs on a 14.1- or 16.4-ounce propane cylinder, but there’s also an adaptor hose sold separately if you want to connect it to a larger 20-lb. propane tank. Weber covers the mains parts of the grill with a five-year warranty, and the paint and other parts ith a two-year warranty.
- Very portable and easy to use.
- Buyers love how well it cooks for its size, feeding a family of four easily.
- Users report very few flare-ups
- Some reviewers say the side tables could be sturdier.
- A few have noted problems with getting the full burner to light.
The MASTER COOK 3 Burner BBQ Propane Gas Grill is a very affordable full-size gas grill that features three stainless steel burners that give you BTUs of cooking power. This versatile model will have you cooking in no time with its integrated piezoelectric ignition system that fires up with the touch of a knob. Inside, the porcelain-enamel wire cooking grates provide a cooking area of 339 square inches and another 132.8 square inches of warming space for a generous total of 471.8.
The cover of the grill is made from porcelain-coated stainless steel and has a built-in stainless steel thermometer that will let you properly roast your favorite veggies, burgers or chicken with ease. In the front, the control panel is sleek stainless steel with chromium-plated control knobs for adjusting the three burners. Underneath, the cabinet features a front panel that can help camouflage the propane tank. The cabinet also has two side tables for plenty of prep space when you need it — plus you can fold them down when you don’t. The entire grill can be moved thanks to two heavy-duty wheels.
- Assembly is not difficult.
- Reviewers report successfully cooking a variety of foods with no flare-ups.
- Buyers praise the versatile if basic function for a very affordable price.
- Some buyers reported that the grill is not as sturdy as they expected.
- The cabinet does not include any storage space.
- Customer service was reported to be challenging by some reviewers.
Plenty of cooking area and a sleek design mean that you can entertain a crowd with style when you put the Char-Broil Classic 4-Burner Propane Gas Grill with Side Shelves in your backyard. Cook up to 17 burgers at a time with this four-burner model that puts out 32,000 BTUs of power. It features 405 square inches of main cooking space, along with 190 square inches of secondary cooking space on the warming rack that can be swung out of the way when not needed. Fire it up quickly and easily with the Piezo ignition system that sparks with the touch of a button. Cooking — as well as clean up — is easy with the porcelain-coated cooking grates.
Durable and sturdy, this Char-Broil grill is made of cast iron and steel and has a porcelain-coated steel lid and firebox that will stand up to the elements and give you years of grilling pleasure. In addition to the actual grill, this model has two sturdy side shelves that provide lots of space for prep or just a place to put your platters. Two sturdy wheels are attached to the bottom of the grill on one side so that you can move it anywhere on your patio or deck. This model is designed to use a 20-lb. propane tank and cannot be converted to natural gas. Char-Broil covers this grill with a five-year warranty on the burners, two-year on the firebox and lid, and a one-year warranty on all other parts.
- Assembly is not difficult.
- This Char-Broil model is both highly rated and affordable.
- Generous cooking space and cooking versatility.
- Grill shelves do not fold down.
- No shelf underneath to hold the propane tank.
With a totally different profile, the Fuego Element 21-Inch 2-Burner Propane Gas Grill brings great grilling to small spaces. With a footprint that’s a mere 21 square inches, it amazingly still offers up enough cooking space to do up to 14 burgers at one time,.The slim design boasts two burners that put out 22,000 BTUs of power to heat the 346 square inches of cooking space. The heavy-duty cast-iron cooking grates heat evenly and lets you cook at low or high temperatures. The burner configuration in the Fuego Element is unique, offering three ways to cook: With the independent 15,500-BTU outer burner ring you can barbecue. Using the heat reflection shields in the lid and residue tray, the. cooking is much like a convection oven allowing you to roast foods. With both burners on at the same time, it’s hot enough to sear steaks and seafood. In fact, the temperature range on the grill is 250-650 degrees, which you can monitor with the built-in thermometer.
This slim profile brings with it some special features. First, the lid hinges at a 45-degree angle, meaning that you don’t have to reach across the hot grill surface. Clean-up is easier too because the fire bowl has an open design so that grease and debris all fall into the removable tray. The tall, slim grill is easy to move thanks to handles and locking casters. At the bottom, the propane tank is accessible through a hinged door as is the drip tray. The Fuego Element is a versatile and fun way to grill at home, no matter how small your outdoor space.
- Gets hot enough to sear meat.
- Reviewers love the ability to shut off one burner and cook on slow heat.
- Accessories like a pizza stone kit are available.
- Some buyers said it was not powerful enough.
- A few issues were noted with paint flaking off the dome.
With two separate lids, the Royal Gourmet Corp Performance 3-Burner Propane Gas and Charcoal Grill is like having two grills in one. Get slow-roasted charcoal flavor on one side and quick-cooking convenience on the other. The entire grill is made of heavy-duty double-layer stainless steel and features a heat-resistant firebox. Both sides of the grill have porcelain cast iron grates and a stainless steel warming rack, giving you plenty of cooking space.
On the gas side, three stainless steel burners create 25,500 BTUs of heat and an automatic ignition system makes it quick to start up. The charcoal side has a charcoal pan that adjusts in height letting you easily control the temperature. Both have a built-in thermometer that makes monitoring your cooking temperature a breeze. The grills sit atop a cabinet that has two handy side tables for ease of use. A shelf to hold the propane tank is built in underneath and there’s also a built-in bottle opener so popping a cold one is easy any time. Two casters and two wheels make it easy to move this grill.
- The convenience of gas and authenticity of charcoal all in one unit.
- Great for entertaining because of all the cooking space
- Ability to cook different types of things at the same time.
- Assembly can be challenging.
- The grill only has a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- It’s large, so it ay bot work in smaller spaces.
This Dyna-Glo Premier 5-Burner Convertible Gas Grill with Side Burner squeaks in just under the price limit but it has a lot of features found in grills that cost far more. Its massive 769 square inches of total cooking space– 552 inches of primary cooking space — can handle up to 23 large burgers at once. This model has the EquiHeat® technology that evenly distributes the heat from the five stainless steel tube burners that put out 60,000 BTUs. Fueled by propane or natural gas, the stainless steel Dyna-Glo has cast iron cooking grates to make steakhouse-style sear marks. Firing up the grill is easy with the integrated ignition system.
On one side, the grill has a handly shelf for prep or to hold dishes, but on the other, there’s a side burner. Putting out another 12,000 BTUs, this side burner makes it easy to prepare side dishes or sauces for the items on your grill. When you’re not using, it, the cover sits flush so you have even more shelf space. Underneath, the cabinet has two doors so that you can stash away the propane tank and any necessities that you need to keep handy. It also features wheels that let you easily move it around the patio or into storage.
- Huge cooking area and side burner.
- Buyers say it is a very attractive grill.
- Heavy-duty and durable.
- Some reviewers noted trouble with rust.
- Warranty is only one year.
- Buyers recommend two people for assembly.
Another fabulous option for smaller spaces or larger tailgating parties is the Weber Q 3200 Propane Gas Grill. It has a small profile but is a larger version, with 462 square inches of total cooking space, including a warming rack with 69 square inches. The grill fires its two stainless steel burners and 21,700 BTUs with the push of the ignition button. The Weber Q 3200 has two porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates, a cast aluminum body with drip ducts and a sturdy glass-reinforced nylon frame and handle. It also features infinite control burner valves so that you can easily set specific temperatures for the grill. The taller cast aluminum lid on this grill lets you roast larger items and has a built-in thermometer on the front.
Flanking the Weber grill, two side work tables with tool hooks can be folded down for storage or easy moving. The bottom of the cart is fronted by a screen that hides the propane tank. There’s also a grill out handle light that lets you grill at night without a problem. There’s also a removable grease catch pan for easy clean-out and a hose and regulator that attaches to your refillable 20 lb propane. Weber covers its grill with a five-year limited warranty on the aluminum castings, lid assembly and stainless steel burners, as well as the plastic components and porcelain-enamel cast iron cooking grates. The paint, excluding fading or discoloration, is covered for two years, as are all the other parts.
- Reviewers love the way the grill cooks and that it doesn’t have hot spots.
- The light for the grill is fantastic.
- Assembly is simple.
- Some buyers don’t like the slanted grilling surface.
- Access to the propane tank is from the read-only.