Best barbecue grills that don’t use gas

Now that gas prices are reaching record levels, there’s never been a better time to invest in a non-gas grill. A large majority of options use charcoal as a heating source, which results in better flavor than gas, especially if you’re cooking meat. You’re not limited to charcoal, though. If you’re willing to spend a little longer cooking, pellet grills are also a viable option, although they work differently than charcoal grills.

Why is charcoal good for grilling?

All grills use both radiant heat and convection for cooking food, but charcoal grills rely on radiant heat more than gas grills do. When you’re grilling meat, the juices absorb the flavor of the meat itself as well as any seasonings on it. As those juices escape the steak, chicken or burger, they drip down onto the layer of red-hot charcoal. Those coals are considerably hotter than the burners and deflectors in gas grills, leading to instant vaporization of the flavorful and aromatic compounds in the juices. Those aromatic vapors then circulate around the meat, imparting their complex flavors.

How to make sure you get the most flavor possible

First, use self-lighting coals or lighter fluid and make sure every coal is fully lit and the flames are completely out.

For best results, give the flavorful vapors plenty of time to get to know the food on the grill. To do this, place the meat on the grill, let it sear lightly and keep the lid closed for a decent amount of the cooking time. The exception to this rule is if you’re cooking for a large group and plan to pack the entire grill with meat. In that case, the full spread of meat helps to trap the smoke all on its own.

Are non-gas grills good for smoking meat?

Smoker box

Charcoal grills and pellet grills are perfect for smoking meat, fish and other foods. To impart wonderfully smoky flavors using a standard charcoal grill, all you need is a smoker box and some wood chips. Just put some high-quality wood in the smoker box, and place it on top of the coals.

 

Because wood burns so quickly, it’s better to put the smoker box on a slightly cooler section of coals. Don’t put it directly on the bottom of the grill, or it won’t smoke. Contrary to one popular belief, soaking wood chips in water does nothing whatsoever to increase smoke volume or flavor. All the water does is slow down the wood’s combustion. Since the combustion is where the flavor comes from, all soaking wood chips does is slow down the process.

Wood chips

If you’re new to smoking and not familiar with specific wood flavors, consider a variety pack of wood chips to get used to the different flavor profiles.

How do pellet grills work?

A pellet grill consists of a cooking space complete with one or two grilles and a separate smoker box that uses an electric heating element to burn compacted wood pellets. Unlike charcoal grills, pellet grills work almost exclusively with convection instead of radiant heat.

Pellet grills take much of the guesswork out of smoking because their temperature is easy to regulate. However, they don’t get nearly as hot as charcoal grills, so you’ll likely need to sear your meats before or after smoking. Pellet grills also take considerably longer. However, that added time means the end result is usually far more flavorful and tender.

Best non-gas grills

Weber Kettle Original

Weber Kettle Original

It’s one of the most recognizable, straightforward and affordable options. With proper care, it should last for years. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Weber Kettle Premium

Weber Kettle Premium

This is the premium version of the Weber classic. It has a slightly sturdier build plus better ash management and significantly improved ventilation. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Char-Griller E1416 King-Griller

Char-Griller E1416 King-Griller

If you don’t need a ton of volume, this compact model lets you make the most out of your coals and wood chips by concentrating the aromatic smoke in a small barrel. 

Sold by Amazon

Kamado Joe 22-Inch

Kamado Joe 22-Inch

Kamado grills like this one sport thick walls that retain a significant amount of heat and a tightly sealing lid that ensures you don’t lose any valuable flavor. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Char-Griller E6520 Akorn

Char-Griller E6520 Akorn

This kamado grill offers great performance at a reasonable price. It also has a decent amount of workspace for prepping and plating meats. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Z Grills ZPG-A450

Z Grills ZPG-450A

With 450 square inches of cooking space and surprisingly good build quality, this pellet grill is as good as the ones from more well-known brand names but doesn’t cost as much. 

Sold by Amazon

Traeger Grills Pro Series 34

Traeger Grills Pro Series 34

From the original pellet grill manufacturer, this massive smoker is perfect for big parties and boasts the most advanced features available. 

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 
 

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