FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – If you’re looking for a new gas grill for your cookout, you don’t have to buy the most expensive model to get good performance, according to the June issue of Consumer Reports.

“Most of the grills we tested did a nice job cooking steaks, chicken and fish,” Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Consumer Reports deputy home editor, said in a telephone interview.

“It’s nice that we are still finding inexpensive models that are doing a good job. The $200 Brinkmann has a side burner and lots of shelf space. What we are seeing is you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great grill.”

And you don’t have to go to a specialty store to buy a great grill. The magazine tested 37 grills and found these “Best Buys” available at Sears, The Home Depot and Lowe’s:

Midsized grills: Blue Ember (FG50069-U401) by Fiesta is $450 at The Home Depot, Brinkmann (810-8410S) is $200 at The Home Depot and Char-Broil Commercial Series (463268008) is $300 at Lowe’s.

Larger grills: Kenmore (16315) $570 at Sears and Char-Broil Quantum (463248208) $500 at Lowe’s.

So what makes a great grill?

“You want to have a grill that’s going to cook the food evenly,” Lehrman said. “You have to be able to control the flames and have more than one burner to turn on and off.”

Two of the options promoted in advertising – high BTUs (British Thermal Units) and infrared cooking – won’t give better performance, according to Lehrman.

“For years everyone was saying “I have more BTUs than you,”‘ she said. “More BTUs didn’t translate into better cooking or faster heating. The new buzz is infrared cooking, another way of saying indirect cooking with heat. We didn’t see one outperforming the other or outperforming conventional grilling. This is not something you have to spend extra for.”

Good performance is not just the amount of heat a grill can generate, she said, it’s how much heat the grill can keep in.

“Look at the grates,” she said. “Coated cast iron or stainless steel tend to sear better and maintain consistent grilling. They are better than porcelain-coated steel.”

And how about those side burners?

Although side burners are convenient because you can prepare side dishes at the same time or keep food warm outside, Lehrman said your stove will do a better job of keeping food at a low simmer. Side burners also take longer to boil water.

Lehrman also suggested looking for a grill with an electronic ignition.

Consumer Reports does not perform durability tests, but she said they do a salt spray test on different types of stainless.

“If you are looking at a 300 series vs. a 400 series, the lower number is better,” she said. “It is less likely to rust. But the most inexpensive way to make sure it stays in good condition is to cover it.”

For more information, see ConsumerReports.org.

41 percent

Cooks who grill year round

68 percent

Have grilled in the rain

26 percent

Have grilled while it was snowing, raining or sleeting

32 percent

Have grilled in temperatures below freezing

SOURCE: Consumer Reports National Research Center

What should you look for in buying the right grill for your family? Here are suggestions from the experts at Consumer Reports:

Size matters: How many people do you cook for? How much space do you have for the grill? The more you cook for and the more space you have, the bigger the grill.

What’s on the menu? What do you cook or want to cook that you can’t now? If you want to cook a whole chicken, you may want a rotisserie.

Bring a magnet: A magnet typically sticks to cheaper grade steel, which is more likely to rust.

Check for safety: Look for stability. Run your hand over the grill to test for sharp edges and see how close your knuckles come to the lid when you are gripping the handle.

Safety at home: Use a fireproof mat underneath and never use the grill in your garage or closed area.

Blue Ember by Fiesta

Mid-sized grill (Model: FG50069-U401)

Sold at: The Home Depot, $450

Rating: 84 out of 100

Review: Excels at even cooking. Features generous shelf space, a side burner, built-in smoker box and a rotisserie burner.

Brinkmann

Mid-sized grill (Model: 810-8410S)

Sold at: The Home Depot, $200

Rating: 76 out of 100

Review: Combines fine cooking, a side burner and generous shelf space at a lower price.

Char-Broil

Commercial Series

Mid-sized grill (Model: 463268008)

Sold at: Lowe’s, $300

Rating: 75 out of 100

Review: This stainless-steel grill does excellent grilling and has a side burner, shelf space and lifetime burner warranty.

Kenmore

Large grill (Model: 16315)

Sold at: Sears, $570

Rating: 76 out of 100

Review: This stainless-steel grill has slightly better cooking performance than other Kenmore grills tested. It has five main burners, a rotisserie, side burners and plenty of shelf space. Warranty is 10 years.

Char-Broil Quantum

Large grill (Model: 463248208)

Sold at: Lowe’s, $500

Rating: 72 out of 100

Review: This stainless-steel grill excels in cooking. It has a side burner, infrared heat and a lifetime warranty on the burners.

Safe grilling

Buying a safe grill is only the first step. Each year about 30 people are injured as a result of gas grill fires and explosions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here are some suggestions for using your grill safely:

Read all warning labels and cautions with your grill before you start to use it.

Never leave the grill unattended. Many of the fires and explosions occur when the grill has been left without supervision.

If a grease fire starts, turn off the propane immediately.

To reduce risk of fires or explosions:

Check tubes that lead into the burner for blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Clear blockage with a pipe cleaner or wire and push it through to the main part of the burner.

Monitor grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Check hose or tubing to insure there are no sharp bends

Move gas hoses as far as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. Or install a heat shield to protect them.

Scratched or nicked connectors can eventually leak gas. Check and replace them, if necessary.

Check the tank for leaks, following the manufacturer’s instructions. If you smell gas or find a leak, immediately turn off the gas. Don’t light the grill until the leak is fixed.

Don’t smoke while grilling. Keep matches, or open flames, away from a leaking grill.

Never use a grill indoors. The grill should be at least 10 feet from your house or any building. Do not use it under any surface that can catch fire, such as in a garage, breezeway, carport or porch.

Get professional help to repair the tank valve or the appliance. Take it to an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.

SOURCES: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Onward Manufacturing Co.


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