Sizzling burgers on the grill can bring back great memories and set the mood for happy get-togethers with friends.
But for manufacturers, these have not been the happiest of times. Sales are down in recent years, and prices have mostly stalled. That’s good news if you need a new gas grill.
Manufacturers have added premium features to midpriced models with only modest price increases. Grills such as the Broil-Mate 165154, $200, have electronic igniters, an often easier and more reliable way to fire up, and stainless-steel or coated cast-iron grates, which are usually better for searing and maintaining even grilling temperatures.
Some grates are reversible, with one side designed for enhanced searing, the other for cooking fatty foods with the promise of fewer flare-ups.
Infrared burners, such as the ones on the Kenmore 16136, $700, have been added for better searing and high-temperature cooking. Grills with more storage and prep space also mean less running back and forth to your kitchen to get supplies.
If you usually cook for a crowd, you may want a larger grill. To help you choose the one that meets your needs, keep in mind that manufacturers often count warming racks and searing burners in their measurements. And keep in mind that Consumer Reports shops where you shop, so you’ll find impressive and recommended grills whether you prefer home centers, Sears, Walmart or online retailers.
Looking to up your outdoor cooking menu beyond burgers and steak? Consumer Reports offers these three simple and inexpensive ways to add versatility to a basic grill:
• Smoky flavor without a smoker. Soak wood chips in water for an hour, drain and wrap in heavy-duty foil (1 cup per pouch). Hickory, oak, mesquite and pecan are some of the flavors available. Poke holes in the top of the pouches and put them under the grates above a burner. Use two for a midsized grill, four for a large. Turn the heat on high until the pouches smoke, then lower the heat to about 350 degrees. Check with a temperature gauge.
• Low and slow. Cook briskets, pork shoulders, other tough cuts of meat and whole fish or poultry on your grill. Start by preheating the grill. Once it’s warm, set one burner to high and turn off the other. Place the food over the burner that’s off. If you have a three- or four-burner grill, keep only the front and back or outside burners on; put the food over the burners that are off. Keep the lid closed to keep in the heat.
• Accessorize. The grill aisles at home centers and hardware stores are filled with pizza stones, baskets and rib racks. White pizza stones are harder to keep clean than darker ones, but all get blazing hot and require watching so that the pizza doesn’t burn.
Look for grill baskets with small holes to let juices drain and high sides so that shrimp, scallops and cut-up veggies, chicken and meat don’t fall out when you’re flipping them.
Before you head to the checkout with a rib rack, take it over to the grill display to make sure you can close the grill lid with the rack inside.
Consumer Reports’ tests have found that stainless-steel gadgets can be cleaned with steel wool or stainless cleaner. Porcelain-coated tools are more fragile, so use a plastic scrubber.