Our Top Pick for 2017: Weber Spirit E330 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
Read our full review.
Nothing really beats that fresh charbroiled taste of meat or vegetables coming straight off of the grill. Maybe it is something deep within our subconscious that speaks to the instincts of humanity that makes food cooked on a grill taste that much better. Regardless, of what it is exactly that drives so many people out of the kitchen and onto the patio, porch, or simply just their yard, one sure thing is that grilling is a common, if not preferred, way to prepare your food. This is backed up by the numbers which shows that between 60 to 80 percent of Americans own a grill. Of those people who own a grill, 97 percent of them used their grill in the last year alone. With so many people cooking their food outdoors, the grill market has inevitably become saturated with options. That is why we assembled a list of the three best propane grills and added a cheaper option for those grillers on a budget.
#1. Weber Spirit E330 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
View it on Amazon: $549.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Every person will have his or her own opinion about what makes a product the best in its category. However, for a product to be listed as the “Gold Pick” and be declared a winner, there generally needs to be a high degree of consensus between both consumers and critics that the product in question is roundly beloved. In regards to propane gas grills, the Weber Spirit E330 is the entry that stands head and shoulders above the rest and claims its place as the best.
Though, it should be noted that Weber considers this more a mid-level grill and offers more substantial and capable grills than the E330. However, at the price point, the E330 will definitely blow away the rest of the mid-level competition. That being said, the first experience of the E330 comes with assembly. One customer even noted how impressed he was with both the ease with which he could put the grill together and the clarity with which the instructions were written—even going so far to admit that he generally ends up taking other purchases apart at some point in time, a task he did not have to do with the E330.
Part of this convenience in assembly stems from the generally solid materials Weber uses with this grill. Most of the grill is made from either stainless steel, painted steel, or plastic. However, the latter two are not actually found anywhere near the cooking area, and instead are relegated to the doors and rear portion of the stand for the painted steel and the handle for plastic. Of course, this last design may be part of the features since the plastic handle help prevent it from getting too hot and makes opening the lid easier. The lid itself is actually a porcelain-enameled steel much like most of the components of the cooking area.
This brings us to the meat of the grill, so to speak. The E330 is by no means gigantic, but it does provide a decent amount of surface area on which to cook. While this grill boasts a total of 529 sq. in., however, this is not an altogether honest representation of its total cooking area. The primary cooking area itself is only 424 sq. in. total along with a warming rack of 105 sq. in. Still, this is by no means indicates that the area is small. The primary cooking area is still large enough to accommodate up to 20 burgers. Of course, this means that if cooking burgers, you will have to time your bun warming appropriately.
This should not be too difficult though, because the E330 can get fairly hot. Temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit have been reported, though other have noted that 400 degrees was a struggle to reach. Another factor to keep in mind with this grill and its heat is the total amount of time it takes the grill to reach whatever temperature is desired. Again, this element of the E330 has also received some inconsistent responses. There have been reports of this grill requiring over 20 minutes to reach an adequate, but by no means impressive, 400 degrees, while other references have noted 500 degrees being reached in about half that time. There does seem to be a general sense that as the grill is used more, it quickly adapts and becomes more consistent and responsive.
Regardless, the E330 produces a solid amount of heat with 3 stainless steel burners that put out 32,000 BTUs per hour. On top of this already decent showing the side burner for the warming station puts out 10,000 BTUs per hour on its own. That is not included in the 32,000—an issue some of the other entries on this list use in an almost deceptive marketing scheme. And to add a cherry on top, the E330 also comes with its own searing station that puts out 7,500 BTUs per hour. Altogether, the E330 is capable of putting out almost 50,000 BTUs per hour, which is often more than enough for most cooking needs.
Of course, the maximum temperatures and BTUs per hour do not really mean much if the grill is not constructed to effectively make use of all that heat. However, the Weber shines here as well. The actual grates of the E330 are porcelain-enameled cast-iron. Here is where determining what the best grates are can get a little tricky. Some people prefer their grates to be stainless steel, because they have a tendency to hold up better after years of use.
One of the complaints of porcelain-enameled grates, whether stainless steel or cast-iron, is that the porcelain enamel will chip over time and this will cause the grate to cook unevenly with notable hot spots. However, the porcelain enamel has also been prized for its ability to distribute the heat more evenly through the food’s surface area. In this regard it is more a matter of what aspect of grill’s use of its heat matters more to you. This is where the Weber shines. With the porcelain enamel being overlain cast-iron, it is not so much glazed on top of the metal, as it would be for stainless steel, but into the pores of the iron. This provides the best of both worlds because the fused nature of the porcelain enamel makes it more resistant to chipping while still distributing the heat more evenly.
With one of the better cooking mechanisms, Weber is not yet finished as their grills use a patented Flavorizer Bar above the burners which directs grease and prevents flare ups while also providing more of that “grill” flavor as the grease and juices are burned off and literally smoked back onto the food above. As an added convenience, the E330 utilizes an Electronic Crossover system to ignite the grill with the touch of a button and comes with an analog thermometer mounted to the center of the lid. The controls are mounted on the front panel, but are not as intuitive as perhaps the company had hoped, with some customers not immediately knowing how they work just by looking—of course, that is what instructions are for. The Weber is rounded out with a stainless steel cooking station, a cookbook, and 3 hooks to hold your tools. Moreover, with a 10-year warranty for the burners, a 5-year warranty for the grates, and a 2-year warranty for the other parts, the E330 is an excellent value at its price point.
#2. Dyna-Glo DGE Series Propane Grill
View it on Amazon: $293.96*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The Dyna-Glo DGE Series has a lot to love in a grill. In fact, the specs between this one and the eventual winner are pretty close in many categories and even better in a few. However, when it comes right down to it, there are a handful of design features that make this a slightly less attractive purchase and not quite as much value per dollar when compared to the Weber. Still, at nearly half the cost as E330, the Dyna-Glo is no slouch and comfortably earns the second place “Silver Pick” in our list of the best propane grills.
First we will start with good that makes this grill not only a solid second place pick, but potentially a better choice depending on your needs. The grates for this grill are stainless steel. This, as mentioned above, can be a benefit or a hindrance depending on how you prefer your heat distribution. However, one of the definite advantages that straight up stainless steel has over porcelain-enameled stainless steel or porcelain enameled cast-iron is durability. Whereas the porcelain enamel generally makes cleaning the grates easier and allows the heat to disperse more evenly, it will also eventually chip which will create hot spots on your grate. With stainless steel, as long as you keep the grates clean and protected so that they do not rust, you do not have to worry about one section of the grate getting hotter than the other due to chipped enamel.
Be forewarned though, porcelain does not rust, so if you are less fastidious with cleaning those grates, you have less to worry about them corroding. With stainless steel however, you will definitely want to make sure you clean them every time shortly thereafter, as some consumers have noted rust and corrosion after use of over a year. This problem has also been noted with the grease pan as well, which is also stainless steel. Long story short, the Dyna-Glo is durable but only if you take care of it, which means more cleaning than with the Weber E330.
One area where Dyna-Glo definitely excels over the Weber is in total surface area. With an impressive 646 sq. in. of total surface cooking space, this grill beats the E330 by more than 100 sq. in. Translated to actual food cooking on the grates, the Dyna-Glo accommodated a whopping 24 burgers at the same time—4 more than the E330. As if that was not already impressive enough, this grill also produces more heat than the first place pick, over 2000 BTUs per hour. With 4 main burners each producing 10,000 BTUs per hour and a side burner putting out 12,000 BTUs per hour, you might wonder why this is not the top dog of mid-level propane grills. Well, that has to do with one of those design flaws mentioned earlier.
It seems that people can sometimes have a notoriously difficult time getting this grill up to the best and hottest temperatures—despite the advantage in total BTUs per hour. Part of this can be explained with the use of stainless steel as the primary material used inside the cooking area, both with the grates and the burners. However, that is simply an insufficient explanation to account for the temperature issues reported. For instance, one customer noted that it took an exceedingly long time for the grill to get up to 450 degrees and would not budge afterwards. Moreover, simply opening the lid to turn the meat caused the temperature to drop to 300 degrees with a similarly extended period of time to get back up to 400 degrees.
This is simply an unacceptable flaw when cooking the best meat requires high temperatures for shorter periods of time to seal the flavor into the meat and prevent it from drying out. The problem seems to arise from the design of the grill’s back which includes a small gap between the louvers and the lid where the heat escapes out whether the lid is open or closed. There have been suggestions that this issue can be rectified by adding a piece of sheet metal to the back to cover the gap, but this is also an unacceptable circumstance when purchasing a complete product. Moreover, not everyone is as handy or will not feel comfortable modifying the grill on their own.
These issues aside, the Dyna-Glo also use two rather large wings which do not fold down, so you better make sure you can accommodate its almost 4 feet of width without issue ahead of time. Still, the grill does offer some conveniences. The propane tank is set on a tray that slides out for easy installation or removal. Like the Weber, an analog thermometer is embedded into the lid to assist with temperature management. Moreover, the grill starts up with an electric ignition system and the whole thing is set on four wheels in casters that also lock and unlock with electronically for easy positioning. Bottom line: if you do not mind modification and dutiful maintenance, this is still a solid grill.
#3. Coleman Road Trip Propane Portable Grill LXE
View it on Amazon: $119.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The third place bronze pick is definitely the odd-man out of the group and will not be the best option for all people. This grill is marketed as a travel grill and that is a factor should be primary in your mind when deciding to purchase it or not. Moreover, this is definitely not the grill if you need a larger cooking surface for larger gatherings of people. However, if you do plan of traveling and would like to take a complete grill with you, this is certainly an excellent grill for that purpose. Moreover, this grill provides a versatility that is not often matched, and almost certainly not included, with its competitors.
By that, we mean this grill was designed to use modular grates or cooking surfaces that can be quickly and easily switched out to accommodate different cooking needs. For instance, you can purchase a griddle, full size griddle, or stove grate separately. So if you want to cook flapjacks in the morning, the griddle or full size griddle has you covered—the selection of which will be determined by how many pancakes you want to cook. Similarly, if you want to cook a soup or sauce in a large pot, the stovetop grate is designed to allow you to do so. This versatility should not be trivialized as many other grills—including the other entries in this list—will require you to fashion a rig together on your own to provide the same kind of cooking experience.
Another area where the Road Trip excels is with its maneuverability. Its frame has two large wheels and an extended handle for when it is in its collapsible transport mode. That should be a given considering it is marketed as a travel grill, but Coleman went a step further in ensuring that the grill not only transports easily but can used in different arrangements as well. By this, we mean that the grill does not have to be standing to be in use and can serve as a ground-level stove of sorts. The potential problem with this is that the heat has a tendency to build up.
This is not necessarily just a problem when the grill is collapsed into a ground stove either. For such a small grill, it puts out an impressive 20,000 total BTUs per hour from 2 burners. However, the potential issue with this heat arises from the space between the burner and the grates which is not adjustable. This means that on high heat your food has a good chance of getting burnt, especially you are not diligently paying attention to it. Another issue that this high heat and close grate-to-burner distance creates deals with marinated or caramelized food sticking to the grates. Unfortunately, this can occur even if the heat is not set up too high simply because of how close the actual flame is to the food.
To further complicate matters in regards to the heat and the distance between the grate and the burner, clean up can be a mixed bag. The Road Trip does come with a grease trap that angles away from the burners so that is not an issue, but the grease that is burned onto the grates themselves can be furiously difficult to remove altogether. Customers have reported issues with this even if the grates are soaked or sprayed with a high temperature cleaner. Still, beyond the grates themselves, the cleanup with the burners and the interior of the grill’s cooking area in general does not seem to be a problem.
And cleaning after every use is a necessity since the Coleman’s cooking area is mostly made out of porcelain-coated steel which will rust if not properly cared for. Ironically, the only part of the cooking area that is not steel, and thus less risk for rusting, are the grates which are made out of porcelain-enameled cast-iron—which, as we mentioned earlier, is a good balance between durability and cooking ease. Of course, the benefit of the cooking ease is somewhat nullified by the issues with the high heat and short distance between the grates and burners.
To round things out, the grill comes with two side trays that are able to be positioned under the grill if desired. Moreover, it seems as though Coleman heard what some of its customers were saying and now uses a higher grade plastic that for the side tables and the handle that will not melt, like was reported in its early stages of release. Regardless, a 3-year manufacturer’s limited warrantee should set your mind at ease either way. This grill comes with some tools, though you may want to purchase or use better quality ones if available. It requires very little setup, and uses a matchless Instastart push-button ignition. Essentially, if you need an easily transportable grill and can careful watch the heat—which is made more difficult without an included or embedded thermometer—this can be an amazing grill.
#4. Char-Broil Classic 280 2-Burner LP Gas Grill
View it on Amazon: $187.46*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
To be frank, not everyone has the need to drop over $100 on a grill. Perhaps you do not grill that often and would just like to use it a few times a year. If that sounds like you, then the budget grill entry is right up your alley. While this grill may not wow you in too many respects, the price is on point and the value is still considerable.
To start with, this grill is actually the burner-for-burner most powerful in terms of heat production. It puts out a whopping 26,500 BTUs per hour. This is an incredible 13,250 per burner which is at least 3,250 BTUs more per hour than all of the other entries on this list. However, that is the only crown this grill wears.
It’s cooking surface is 280 sq. in. which is actually the smallest in the bunch which definitely positions the Char-Broil as a family grill at best. Moreover, this grill does not have the side burner or the rear searing station of some of the others. To top it off, the next comparably sized cooking station is the Road Trip which makes up for its small area with versatility and portability. Still, the Char-Broil does sit atop a frame with two large wheels which does make moving it easier. However, this should not be mistaken for the same maneuverability as the Road Trip.
The entire cooking area is made of porcelain-coated steel which will provide a decent oven to keep the heat in as well but will require consistent cleaning to prevent rusting. However, the porcelain coating will provide additional protection against the rust for as long as it lasts—which will only be temporary as it will eventually chip away.
Aside from a porcelain coated lid, the grates themselves are also coated in porcelain. Unfortunately, they are made of steel in the form of a wire. This can be beneficial as it allows the heat from the burners to reach the food easier, but it also makes cooking a bit more complicated. The food is exposed to more direct heat which can lead to burning or drying out. This problem is further compounded by the absence of an integrated thermometer which means you will need to keep a close eye on your food as it cooks.
Still, the cleanup is easy due the porcelain coating. As additional draws, the grill is started with a Piezo electrical ignition system. The size is small enough to find a tight space for it to fit in. There are two plastic shelves on which to prepare the food and a wealth of hooks to hold your tools. The burners function individually, so you can cook two different types of food simultaneously. With all of the benefits at such a low price, it is hard to argue with the Char-Broil if you are on a budget or do not have a need for a larger or more impressive grill. Just make sure to keep a close eye on the food and clean up after every use and this grill should last you for a number of years. With a 5-year warranty on the burner, 2 years of the lid and firebox, and 1 year for all other parts, you can feel comfortable your purchase will yield suitable value.
This is the primary concern for a grill. Does it heat up to the necessary temperature? How long do you need to preheat the grill for before you can effectively start cooking? Does the grill lose heat quickly or have difficulty maintaining a consistent temperature? All of the questions must be considered carefully before purchase. Gas grills are noted for not getting quite as hot nor as quickly nor maintain its heat as well as other fuel sources. However, the heat of a gas grill is more diffuse providing a more even cooking and causing less flare ups. Still, gas grills have come a long way and some of the best models are able to effectively compete with charcoal or other open fire grills.
This will fall influence the first consideration, but will have other implications as well. The materials of the cooking area will affect how the grill handles heat, how easy it is to clean up afterwards, and how durable it is. Stainless steel will require more care that cast-iron for instance. Porcelain-enameled materials are more resistant to rusting, but will chip over time—and if the chipping occurs on the cooking grates, this will affect the evenness of contact temperature. Other material considerations involve the frame of the grill which may require it to be covered, cleaned regularly, or stored when not in use.
As mentioned previously, this consideration will be somewhat affected by the materials, but other factors will come into play here as well. For instance, the design of the grease trap, if there is one, will determine how easy cleaning the base of the cooking area with the burners. Still, the materials will play a heavy factor in ease or regularity of cleaning. Porcelain-enameled materials are generally easier to clean and do not require cleaning as often—though it is always in your best interest to clean the grill after every use just in case. But even within porcelain-enameled surface, the difference whether it is layered over top stainless steel or cast iron is also something to consider as cast-iron is less prone to rust.
This is likely the most obvious consideration that you can make somewhat easily without too much research. Still, it is important to keep in mind how often you plan on using your grill and for what purposes. If you generally only intend to use your grill to cook dinner for your family or, at most, a few guests, then chances are, you do not need a massive cooking area. Conversely, if you regularly hold large backyard gatherings, you likely already know you need a bigger cooking area. But even if you only hold large gatherings occasionally, it is probably a good idea to get a grill with a larger cooking area. You can help make this determination by bringing burger-sized paper cut-outs to see how many burgers a grill can hold to get a good idea.
This feature can be a great benefit to grillers that use their grill regularly, for a wide variety of foods, or to prepare an entire meal at once. If you are preparing for a large party, you may not have room on the primary cooking surfaces to also grill asparagus. This is where the side-burner can come in handy. This feature can also be sued to sauté vegetables, meats, or even a brushed on sauce if necessary. Moreover, if you have different thickness cuts of meat or different people prefer varying wellnesses to their cooked meats, the side-burner can be used as a searing station with a grate that is usually close to the burner with a non-adjustable distance between the two.
This may be an overlooked feature, but it can actually be incredibly useful. An embedded thermometer can put your mind at ease when the lid is closed and allow you time to socialize with your family or guests while cooking, rather than having to check the grill as often or simply hope it is cooking at the right temperature. Furthermore, this will help ensure that the temperature stays more even throughout the cooking process since it will require you to open the lid less often. You can always purchase a thermometer is one is not included, but keeping it in position and trusting it readings will still be a concern.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Grilling is an incredibly popular pastime that millions of Americans engage in every year—often year-round. However, not every person grills for the same scenarios, nor do they all need the same grill.
Depending on the number of people you plan to grill for on a regular basis and how experienced you are with grilling in general, you will likely want to weigh your options carefully to ensure that you do not overspend on a product that either does not satisfy your grilling needs or requires more advanced knowledge than you possess. Regardless, with the information provided in this guide, you not only have a good breakdown of different options at your disposal, you should also know what factors to keep in mind if you choose to go with a product not listed so that you too can enjoy the flavorful taste of food cooked on the grill.