- Grillworks 26 grill, $3,975
Building and adjusting a wood fire, searing steaks as the flames dance beneath the grates, slow-roasting vegetables in the coals. If you’re a hands-on kind of cook who loves live-fire action, the Grillworks 26 is worth the investment. Modern stainless steel meets Argentine-inspired styling, with features that include a crank for raising and lowering the cooking surface, and V-channels for capturing the cooking juices for basting. Though Grillworks is best known in the restaurant world, the company offers backyard-size models too. Grills are made to order and take 8 to 10 weeks.
Weber’s Genesis II line improves upon what was already a pretty great gas grill, with turn-and-click ignition, better heat distribution, and easier grease management. And you can boost the grill’s IQ by adding a compatible iGrill 3 thermometer—a Bluetooth-enabled device that tracks cooking times and temperatures, sends alerts to your phone within a 150-foot range, and lets you know when the tank is getting low. Shown here: Genesis II LX S-340.
Traeger Timberline 850, $1,700
Instead of wringing your hands over getting the grill’s temperature just right, you can grab a beer and let the Traeger Timberline 850 do the work for you. Once you set the temperature (as low as 165° or as high as 500°), the Traeger automatically feeds hardwood pellets into the burn chamber to smoke, bake, grill, or braise your food on three tiers of grates. You can also connect to the grill via an app on your phone, letting you remotely monitor time, change grill temperature, and get recipes.
Weber Summit Charcoal Grill, $1,699
We love our Kettle. But after trying Weber’s Summit Charcoal Grill, the company’s first major upgrade to the iconic model in decades, we just may trade it in. Built like a tank, the Summit’s thick walls help insulate it for consistent low-and-slow smoking (without the need for a messy water pan) or high-temp grilling, with minimal use of fuel. The snap-jet gas ignition lights the coals in a flash.
Remember the hibachi? The Japanese-style grill (which first appeared in Sunset in 1956) is still just the thing for small cookouts on a patio or at the park. You’ll pay a tad more for the Marsh Allen 30052 Cast-Iron Hibachi than for other models, but the sturdy construction, curved grates (for keeping food in place), adjustable grate height, and air vents for controlling heat are worth it.
What looks like R2-D2 and lets you make pizza, grill burgers, and charge your devices anywhere a wood fire is allowed? The BioLite BaseCamp PizzaDome Bundle. At just over a foot wide and about 30 inches tall, the unit includes a gooseneck light as well as a grill, pizza stone, and dome lid. As small pieces of firewood burn, using a fan for efficiency and minimum smoke, the BioLite creates and stores electricity, which you can harness via a USB port and cable.
- Pit Barrel Cooker, $299
Only 25 inches wide, the Pit Barrel Cooker can nonetheless accommodate multiple chickens or racks of ribs, thanks to a space-saving design. Inside the drum, you simply hang food on hooks from rods. (The PBC also comes with a grill grate, should you want to set out fish, burgers, or other foods flat.) The meat cooks right over the coals without the need for a water pan, and the drippings produce smoke to flavor the food. Maintaining a steady low temperature takes almost zero effort, but you can also take the lid off to increase the heat for grilling.
Outdoor cooks swear by Weber’s Smokey Mountain, for good reasons. Thanks to the elongated shape and careful venting, the cooker holds the steady low temperature you need for smoking with almost zero effort. Slow-cooked brisket, ribs, and other foods come out super-tender. A water pan over the charcoal keeps food moist.