S  

o, you’re looking for a grill. You’ve got a little scratch, but you’re not going overboard. You want convenience, but you want an actual fire for cooking your food. You want some options. And of course, you want the thing to be dependable and fun to use. Is that too much to ask?

We say absolutely not! A gas grill combines the high heat and delicious flavor of real combustion cooking with switch-on convenience and temperature you can rely on. There are hundreds of models on the market, giving you your choice of plenty of affordable options.

Here, we’ve rounded up five picks for the best gas grill under $500. We’ll compare the Weber Spirit II E-210 Gas Grill, the Char-Broil Performance Stainless Steel 4-Burner Cart Style Gas Grill, the Char-Broil Performance 300 2-Burner Cabinet Gas Grill, the Blackstone 36-inch Outdoor Flat Top Griddle Station, and the Weber Q3200 Gas Grill. We’ll also cover some tips for understanding, selecting, and using your gas grill. 

Gas, Electric, and Charcoal - Friends or Rivals?

There are a lot of grills in the world. Each one has their strengths their devotees as well as their downsides and detractors. There’s no universal right choice. Which variety works for you comes down to a mixture of your preferences and the conditions where you’ll be grilling. Some people even have more than one type!

Charcoal grills provide the most “classic” barbecue flavors, giving food a smoky sear. However, lighting charcoal and managing its heat can take some practice. They cannot be used indoors or in an enclosed space due to the risk of carbon monoxide buildup.

Gas grills are easy to light and keep burning at high heat. They use easy stove-like controls for the flame. Most are powered by portable propane tanks, and you need to make sure you have enough to get through all your cooking. 

Electric grills don’t provide the punch of smoke and char that sets barbecue apart from other food groups and don’t get as hot as their combustion counterparts. On the plus side, they can be used anywhere you can plug them into a socket, including indoors, and in spaces where an open flame is prohibited. 

Natural Gas vs Propane

There are two breeds of gas grills, divided by power source. Most are configured to attach to a propane tank. You’ll see these referred to as propane, propane gas, liquid propane, LP, or LPG. They’re all referring to the same thing in the grilling world. Propane burns hotter and makes your grilling setup more portable. 

When using a propane tank, you need to be careful of leaks and make sure you have a secure connection. Check out some safety tips here from the National Fire Protection Association about looking over your grill and propane connection to keep your grilling safe and happy.

The other option is natural gas. Instead of being in a separate container, natural gas gets piped to your home in an installed line. The grill gets connected directly to that. Fuel costs are lower in the long term than propane, and you don’t have to worry about running out mid-grill out. If you don’t have a natural gas line already, you will have to have one installed, which can be costly. Also, a natural gas grill is a fixed appliance that cannot be moved around.

What to Look for in a Gas Grill

Now that we’ve covered the two fuel types, there are some other features to consider when picking out your grill.

Size

How many people are you usually cooking for? Family dinners or gatherings with a few friends won’t need a huge cooktop to get everybody’s food out. On the other hand, if you’re the grill master for the company picnic or a large tailgate party, you’ll want enough space to have a dozen or more hamburgers on at the same time. Cooking in batches is fine, but you want time to enjoy your own party!

Number of Burners

The number of burners under your cooking surface allows you to control heat zones inside your grill. More burners mean finer control over exactly how hot different areas of your cooking space get. In most cases, you’ll be cooking with direct heat in one spot and indirect heat in another so you can sear but also let foods cook through without burning them to a crisp. Having more burners allows you to take on more cooking tasks at once that require different temperatures, like having meats and veggies on at the same time. 

BTUs

BTU stands for ‘British Thermal Unit’ and refers to how much energy a grill puts out per hour of use. Because grills are different sizes and have different numbers of burners, higher BTUs do not always mean a hotter grill. It is generally recommended to look for a BTU count of between 80 and 100 per square inch.

Weight and Durability

The weight of materials used and the seal on the lid are important for keeping a grill at the temperature that you want. If it feels thin or flimsy, it’s probably not going to retain heat as well as a grill with a more sturdy build. A heavier grilling grate will also retain heat more for searing foods and getting those delicious grill marks. 

Grilling Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve picked out the perfect grill, be set up for success with a few best practices. 
Keep your grill clean! This will make cooking easier and safer, avoid getting unpleasant residue on your food and avoid a big job of overdue scouring.

Keep a lid on it! Avoid opening the lid of your grill when you don’t absolutely need to. Trapping heat and moisture is essential for having correctly cooked food and maintaining the flavors. It’s also faster because we know you’re getting hungry.

Keep it separated! Have part of your grill set to a lower temperature to allow heat to penetrate all the way to the center of hearty steaks and plump burgers. Sear on your high-heat area, then move foods to a lower heat for slower, more even cooking to finish.

If you’d like to dive deep into grilling technique and get recipe inspiration, check out one of these excellent grilling cookbooks.

The Best Gas Grill Under 500

At a glance:

  • 2 burners
  • 360 square inches of cooking space
  • 26,500 BTUs
  • Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grate
  • 2-wheeled cart design with open storage
  • Specialized Infinity Ignition System

Weber is a household name in grilling, and the Spirit II E-210 is a two-burner grill that lives up to their reputation. It is a two-burner model with a moderate amount of cooking surface. The compact cart and folding side-table mean the unit won’t overwhelm a small patio, but you’ll still have a place to set your tools while you’re cooking.

The Infinity Ignition System is guaranteed to light every time and packs a ten-year warranty, as does the rest of the grill. You can rest assured that the company is willing to stand behind this product and intends for you to enjoy it for a long time.

This grill is available in propane and natural gas varieties.

At a glance:

  • 4 main burners 
  • 36,000 BTUs across the primary cooking area
  • 425 inches of cooking space
  • 10,000 BTU side burner
  • Porcelain-coated cast-iron grates
  • Electronic ignition

The Performance Stainless Steel 4-Burner grill from Char Broil is handsome, sturdy, and spacious. Four burners give you excellent heat control across the generous 425 inches of primary cooking space. The entire thing is stainless steel, so it looks great and cleans up easily. 

In addition to the big main area, you also have a separate side burner on the left side of the unit. With its own control, this burner is great for whipping upsides or sauces. When not in use, the lid folds over to turn it into a workspace. 

This grill runs on propane.

At a glance: 

  • 2 burners
  • 300 square inches of cooking space
  • 24,000 BTUs
  • Porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates
  • Electronic ignition
  • Storage cabinet with door

At just over two feet wide with the side tables folded down, this grill from Char Broil will stay out of your way when you don’t need it and be ready to spring into action when you do. The electric ignition is reliable and the cabinet at the bottom stores your propane tank out of tripping range. 

The grill’s stainless steel exterior is easy to clean and sturdy. Four wheels on the bottom of the cart make for easy relocation. The two side shelves offer plenty of space for tools, condiments, and a drink to keep you cool. 

This grill runs on propane.

At a glance:

  • 4 burners under steel cooking surface
  • 60,000 BTUs
  • 720 square inches of cooking space
  • Removable cutting board, paper towel holder, trash bag hooks

Turn your backyard into a restaurant-style kitchen! Devotees of the smash burger, this is the grill for you. Instead of resting food on grates over the flame, the Flat Top Griddle Station has a solid cooking surface. Burners underneath heat fast and are all controlled independently so you can still set up multiple cooking zones. 

This backyard griddle is really built to be cooked at. The enormous cooking area means you’re set up to feed a crowd. With a flat top, you can go beyond steaks and burgers. Throw on eggs, pancakes, or anything else you can dream up but wouldn’t dare throw on a grill grate. The side shelves offer convenient prep space with no juggling tools and ingredients.

This grill runs on propane.

At a glance:

  • 2 burners
  • 21,700 BTUs
  • 393 square inches of cooking area
  • Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates
  • Fold-away side shelves and handle light

This compact two-burner grill from Weber delivers big heat in an attractive package. The unit features Weber’s Infinity Ignition System like the Spirit II above. The body is made of glass-reinforced nylon for unparalleled corrosion resistance. 

Fold-down shelves on both sides of the grill give plenty of space to keep things close at hand while you’re cooking. A built-in, battery-operated LED light in the handle means you can keep the party going long after the sun goes down and not lose sight of your food. 

This grill is available in propane and natural gas varieties.

Now you’re Cooking With Gas!

Gas grills are a practical, sensible way to bring a summer barbecue to your patio or backyard. They’re a wonderful marriage of function and convenience.  Weber puts their best foot forward with the Spirit II. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more grilling for your dollar than this unit. It’s got great features, a durable build, and a full decade of warranty time. Whichever you choose, a gas grill is a sure way to make summer memories with friends, family, and neighbors. 

Previous Post
Next Post