Once you've decided which type of grill (charcoal or gas) you want, consider the following:
• How much will you use the grill? Are you a weekly, monthly, or occasional griller? For more frequent use, look for grills with heavy-duty enameled, stainless steel, or cast-iron cooking grates and a large cooking surface.
• How many burners? If you plan to cook with indirect heat, make sure your grill can accommodate it. With gas, you'll need at least two burners; three or more are even better.
• How safe is the grill? Will it roll or topple over in a strong wind? What if the neighbor's dog comes sniffing? With gas grills, make sure the propane tank is a safe distance from the igniter and burners.
• What is the warranty? How long is the warranty? What is covered? When does the manufacturer recommend replacing the grill? What parts are covered? You should expect any parts not warranted by the manufacturer to have to be replaced. A well-made grill should last years, decades even, before it needs to be replaced.
• Does the grill come with accessories that you will use? If the accessory looks nifty, ask yourself: Will I use it? Is it necessary for the way I will cook? A side burner looks great on the showroom floor, but if you don't already have a need for it, chances are you'll end up wishing you had an extra work surface instead. Also, if your potential grill has several cooking shelves, make sure they can be removed if necessary; if not, space will be limited, meaning no grilled turkey, whole chicken, squash, roasts, and other large foods. A glass window blackens quickly with use.
• How large a grill do you need? For almost everyone, a standard-size gas grill (three burners) will suffice. A standard kettle grill is a good option for those choosing a charcoal grill. But don't use this as a reason to buy a grill that won't go the distance. And remember, the grill always looks bigger in the store before you fill it with food to cook.