I was contacted by Ryan Abeling at www.cheapism.com regarding an article he wrote calling it the Cheap Grills Buying Guide. I have to say, I agree with the fact that where you shop is going to limit your selection, especially if your shopping at the big box stores. If you have a specialty grill store in your area, check them out, they may have a low cost option as well, and they will usually be more knowledgeable, and help make sure your getting what is right for you..
Now, lets get back to the article, and here are some of my opinions.
Gas Grills – Gas grills are the most popular grill owned, for various reasons, bottom line, they are easier to learn and to use. One other point I want to bring out is, if you were used to having a grill, that had ample space between the actual burners, and the grate, with a layer of lava rocks in between, this is not the typical design anymore. The newer designs, use a deflector plate, just above the burner, and that is it. Unfortunately this newer design is more prone to fires! It is real important to keep your grill clean.
We want the best of the cheapest, and Ryan’s pick here was pretty much value based on cooking area, BTU’s, and cost, and he picked the Char-Griller 3001. This is a pretty solid choice for this price range. However, CharBroil does have a couple in this price range that are pretty good performers as well, in case you do not see this in your Big Box Store. If you intend on using this grill often, I think you really need to reconsider your price range (if you can).
I live in Florida, and I cook on my grill all year long, so longevity is a real issue for me, and if it is for you, you need to attempt to get into the $400 range and above and consider a Weber. Weber’s entry level Spirit line, is solid and the Weber E-210 is a great little Grill starting right at $400.
Charcoal Grills - Charcoal grills are a different animal entirely, here is where many get their first taste of fire control, a real outdoor flavor, and real satisfaction if, you have the time to do it! If your willing to take the time to get your fire going (the best method is using a charcoal chimney, and not lighter fluid), use either a hardwood briquet or lump charcoal. There is no doubt THIS IS the better way to grill food.
Back to the article, and my opinion.. Ryan’s pick here was the Char-Griller 2123, now I am not real sure I agree with that particular model. I really don’t want to appear that I don’t like Char-Griller because I do, they are very popular on this site, but not necessarily as a grill. Their popularity here is mostly as a low cost offset firebox smoker (with optional side firebox, and with some mods given in a tutorial on this site). But I know Char-Griller does work as a real solid charcoal grill as well.
My personal choice here though, is the Original Weber Kettle, you can still buy an 18.5″ Kettle for around $69 and a 22″ kettle for around $88 (you may have to look harder for these, but they are available on Amazon). I have had my Weber Kettle for about 16 years, and it still works just as well, and almost looks as good today as it did the day I bought it, and I have never even considered replacing it. Now I believe Ryan did mention the One Touch Gold, which gives an easier way to handle ash, but it is more expensive.
Whatever grill you decide on, please make sure you keep it clean, and it will be much easier to stay safe!