Sizzle & Sear To Perfection; The 5 Best Gas Grills Under $500

best gas grillThere’s no better way to kick off the summer than with an inaugural grill session. This doesn’t mean you need to break the bank though. You’re not the only one who wants to please the neighborhood with their signature smoky dish, and the grill market is as competitive as ever:

What does this mean for you?

Introducing the latest and greatest niche in outdoor grills: The best gas grills under $500 category.

  NameCooking Surface AreaGrate MaterialRating 
Best Overall
Weber Spirit II E-310529 sq. in.Porcelain enameled cast iron5.0/5Check Price
Best Under $200
Cuisinart CGG-7400 4-Burner443 sq. in.Cast Iron4.5/5Check Price
Best Budget
Charbroil Classic 360 3-Burner360 sq. in.Porcelain coated grates4.4/5Check Price
Best Tabletop Grill
Giantex Tabletopapprox. 300 sq. in.Stainless steel4.3/5Check Price
Best Full-Size
Monument Grills 17842 Stainless Steel 4 Burnerapprox. 513 sq. in.Cast iron (porcelain coated)4.0/5Check Price
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et’s be straight from the outset: If you plan on regular grill sessions, you probably can’t get away with anything under $100. It’s not just a matter of quality or style–it’s a matter of efficiency and safety. When you save dollars at checkout, you’re likely sacrificing something in safety, efficiency and practicality.

I preface with this little ramble to get you in the right mindset:

Grills are an investment.

Think 5 or 10 years ahead. Think of the grill you’d make the effort of moving to your new house. In the long-term, this kind of approach will save you more on maintenance, consumption, quality (and not to scare you, but potential health hazards) than finding the cheapest market price grill.

Enough of that. Let’s get straight into the reviews.

Side Note: If you’re new to grilling, or need some help identifying the major factors in your grill decision–take a look at my Buyer’s Guide where I give you the full breakdown. Also, if smoking meat is your thing check out my comparison post on electric smokers and pellet smokers .

Choose Your Budget:

My best overall, perhaps with no surprise, goes to a Weber. The Spirit Series is fantastic, and this 3-burner model is no exception. When we talk quality of grill, it’s as much about the main components as it is the small touches and details. These in-line burners are powerful, even and consistent, but it also comes with handy inclusions like grease management system, tong and tool hangers and flavorizer bars. My favorite grill on the list and highly recommended.

Best Overall!

Weber Spirit II E-310

weber

Recommendation

A massive cooking surface, high quality porcelain enameled cast iron grate and 3 powerful in-line burners; this is my favorite grill on the list.

Our Rating: 5.0/5

TECH SPECS

Cooking Surface Area
529 sq. in.
Grate Material
Porcelain enameled cast iron
BTU/Hour
30,000
Burners
3
Special Features
Grease management system

Who Should Buy

Anyone who is serious about grilling will love the Spirit II E-310 from Weber.Click here for the Weber Spirit II E-310

Review

Weber is the name you’ve probably been looking for in these reviews–and with good reason. It’s a giant of grilling, and when it comes down to it, they’re the best at what they do. The Spirit II series is no exception.

This E-310 model from Weber is a 3-burner system with serious cooking space, a great BTU ratio, and handy tools to make a grill master salivate. They’ve taken an extra moment to consider what every griller truly wants, and put it in there. For example, all those juicy drippings which run down the cooking grate and disappear forever? Weber’s flavorizer bars are angled to catch runoffs and turn them into a smoky sizzle that wafts back up to flavor your meal. The rest goes down into the grease management system–another useful inclusion which lets you remove grease without the hassle of scrubbing in awkward cracks and corners. All you need to do is remove the tray, where grease and excess run-off fluids are collected.

Weber’s Spirit series also come with a 10-year warranty, backing all parts and components for replacement if necessary. The only negative feedback I’ve found has been regarding the free assembly, and some user complaints about Quality Control through the shipping process. Weber, however, has come through unscathed and remains a hot favorite in grilling circles.

Here is a great grill buyers guide that explains what to look for when picking a grill. They tested the weber and also chose it as the winner for best grill.

Take a look at another review of this grill here. Weber won this one as well:

Pros
  • 10-Year Warranty
  • Perfect BTU ratio
  • Both natural gas and liquid propane versions available.
  • Huge cooking surface area
  • Powerful, fast-heating in-line burners
  • Useful add-ons like tool hangers and grease management system
Cons
  • Most expensive item on the list
  • Quality control through some shipping providers.
weber
weber 3
weber 4
weber 2

Best Under $200<br /> <menuorder>2</menuorder><br /> <intro><br /> This is a best gas grill under $500 post, right? Well, I’ve done some digging and found that we can do a few hundred better than that. This 4-burner grill from Cuisinart won’t give you the same perfect grill as a Weber, but it has more than enough cooking space and offers a great variety of cooking options at its price.<br /> </intro><br /> <product><br /> <asin>B074QQW4PC</asin><br /><title>Cuisinart CGG-7400 4-Burner

This is a best gas grill under $500 post, right? Well, I’ve done some digging and found that we can do a few hundred better than that. This 4-burner grill from Cuisinart won’t give you the same perfect grill as a Weber, but it has more than enough cooking space and offers a great variety of cooking options at its price.

Best Under $200!

Cuisinart CGG-7400 4-Burner

cuisinart

Recommendation

The CGG-7400 4-Burner comes with all the practical additions you could need for an easy cookout. Powerful enough to sear your steaks and large enough to serve up a few friends and family.

Our Rating: 4.5/5

TECH SPECS

Cooking Surface Area
443 sq. in.
Grate Material
Cast Iron
BTU/Hour
44,000
Burners
4
Special Features
Warming Rack & built-in bottle opener

Who Should Buy

This is a great grill for the average family cookout. With a decent cooking surface area and strong BTU ratio, you can host your fair share of backyard BBQs without worrying about leaving anyone out.Click here for the Cuisinart CGG-7400 4-Burner

Review

The CGG-7400 from Cuisinart is an ‘all-bases-covered’ gas grill.

It includes 4 burners with twist start ignition (no matches or manual lighting required), a decent sized warming rack (202 sq. in.) and two side shelves for preparing and storing food during the cookout.

It even has an in-built bottle opener, which is a nice touch–little things like this give me the feeling that the manufacturers have actually considered what their customers want and need. The grill master needs to stick by the grill, but this doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy a beer while doing so–I love that!

As an all-around product at a budget price, on some level you’ll always get what you pay for. The major downfall of this grill is the thin hood and slight gap between the hood and grill section. This allows for some heat to escape, and may mean it takes a little longer to smoke or roast your meats.

Then again, the CGG-7400 comes with thermometer display for keeping track of your temperature under the hood. So even with the escaping heat, you can always monitor and keep your grilling at a constant warmth.

Pros
  • 3-Year Warranty
  • Extra large cooking area
  • Cast iron grate for even and quality cook
  • Twist start ignition
  • Two side prep tables
  • Built-in bottle opener
  • Well-sized warming rack included
  • Versatile and portable
  • Good BTU to cooking surface ratio
  • Under $200 category!
Cons
  • Doesn’t trap heat as efficiently as other models
cuisinart
cuisinart 2
cuisinart 3
cuisinart in use

Best Budget<br /> <menuorder>3</menuorder><br /> <intro><br /> Budget options go beyond what you pay at the counter. This 3-burner model from Charbroil also offers a great BTU/hr, meaning that you’ll be getting your bang for your buck with each grill–along with spending less at purchase than other full-size models.<br /> </intro><br /> <product><br /> <asin>B01HITNEEE</asin><br /><title>Charbroil Classic 360 3-Burner

Budget options go beyond what you pay at the counter. This 3-burner model from Charbroil also offers a great BTU/hr, meaning that you’ll be getting your bang for your buck with each grill–along with spending less at purchase than other full-size models.

Best Budget!

Charbroil Classic 360 3-Burner

charbroil

Recommendation

The Charbroil Classic is a perfect budget option–a budget grill with 3 burners, plenty of space and a decent BTU ratio.

Our Rating: 4.4/5

TECH SPECS

Cooking Surface Area
360 sq. in.
Grate Material
Porcelain coated grates
BTU/Hour
30,000
Burners
3
Special Features
8,000 BTU side burner

Who Should Buy

Families with simple BBQ cooking options; those who don’t mind sticking to the basics and flame-grilling their meats.Click here for the Charbroil Classic 360 3-Burner

Review

My budget winner goes to Charbroil for their Classic 360 3-Burner model. As the name suggests, we’ve got 360 square inches of cooking surface operating on 3 stainless steel in-line burners. Add to that 170 square inches for the warming rack and an 8,000 BTU side burner, and you’ll be pretty comfortable cooking for a party of 8-10 on your Charbroil 360.

As opposed to my other grills on the list, the Charbroil uses a porcelain coated cooking grate. This isn’t such a bad thing if you just plan on flame-grilling burgers and sausages, but it will restrict your cooking options. Food will be directly exposed to the flames, and for smaller cuts, vegetables or anything bite-sized, you will learn to live with a few stragglers falling through the grate and landing in the flames. It’s a more old-school approach to grilling (which you may already be familiar with), but it doesn’t need to be a bad thing.

One thing you should be wary of is setup. Many reviewers have complained that the Charbroil comes with a somewhat complicated installation and setup process. Lots of components that need to be added manually, with setup taking a few hours. Again, if you’re aware of it this won’t be such a hassle and is a one-time cost. However, it’s good to know in advance so you don’t get a shock when opening the box!

Pros
  • Side burner for extra cooking space
  • Wheels for easy portability and storage
  • Piezo push-button ignition
  • Stainless steel in-line burners
  • Budget category winner
Cons
  • Difficult setup with many components
  • Side burner design is quite far away from the pan and some heat efficiency is lost in the cooking process.
charbroil
charbroil open
charibroil cooked

Best Tabletop<br /> <menuorder>4</menuorder><br /> <intro><br /> For grilling on your boat, while you’re out camping or on a picnic, you’ll benefit from a tabletop grill. Less powerful and efficient than full-size grills, tabletops have the advantage of full portability and storage. My number one choice takes into account quality of grilling, ease of portability and convenience.<br /> </intro><p><product><br /> <asin>B0754837SY</asin><br /><title>Giantex Stainless Steel Tabletop

For grilling on your boat, while you’re out camping or on a picnic, you’ll benefit from a tabletop grill. Less powerful and efficient than full-size grills, tabletops have the advantage of full portability and storage. My number one choice takes into account quality of grilling, ease of portability and convenience.

Best Tabletop Grill!

Giantex Tabletop Grill

giantex

Recommendation

Giantex’s stainless steel tabletop grill is the portable, lightweight option on my list. It packs plenty of power for its minimized design, and offers enough space to feed a family of four in one cooking.

Our Rating: 4.3/5

TECH SPECS

Cooking Surface Area
approx. 300 sq. in.
Grate Material
Stainless steel
BTU/Hour
20,000
Burners
2
Special Features
Foldable design for portability

Who Should Buy

Campers, traveling grillers and boat owners–this is a great grill to take with you wherever you go.Click here for the Best Tabletop Grill

Review

At roughly 300 square inches, you can see that this isn’t a party grill. Giantex’s tabletop grill is a ‘giant’ only within the tabletop niche–and for a fully portable grill, you’ll find that cooking 9 burgers at a time is more than enough. Think camping trips or Sunday road trips, cooking for the family out the back of your car.

The cooking grate is made of stainless steel, which is ideal for easy cleaning. This also makes the grill much lighter than cast iron design; lugging around a 50lb cast iron grill on your hike is not ideal. The two-burner design produces 20,000 BTUs, which is more than enough for its cooking surface (along with the fact that the stainless steel heats up relatively quickly).

Of course, this is a traveler’s grill and shouldn’t really be compared with the other products on this list. When it comes to heat control, grill quality and efficiency, full-size grills have the major advantage. However, for a portable, lightweight option, this stainless steel tabletop from Giantex will certainly get the job done.

Pros
  • Just 26lbs and fully foldable
  • Easy clean stainless steel surface
  • Safety lock for portability
Cons
  • Not as powerful as full-size grills
  • Heating controls can be somewhat coarse.
giantex
giantex side
giantex front
giantex in use

Best Full-Size Grill<br /> <menuorder>5</menuorder><br /> <intro><br /> Full-size grills may take up a little more space, but they’re usually a neighborhood favorite. Able to cook for larger audiences, they typically use 4 burners to produce a powerful even heat across the cooking surface. My top choice in the category goes to a sleek stainless steel design from Monument Grills.<br /> </intro><br /> <product><br /> <asin>B071W7HY4M</asin><br /><title>Monument Grills 17842 Stainless Steel 4 Burner

Full-size grills may take up a little more space, but they’re usually a neighborhood favorite. Able to cook for larger audiences, they typically use 4 burners to produce a powerful even heat across the cooking surface. My top choice in the category goes to a sleek stainless steel design from Monument Grills.

Best Full-Size!

Monument Grills 17842 Stainless Steel 4 Burner

monument side

Recommendation

The 17842 4-Burner from Monument Grills is a long-term choice for high-quality, high-capacity grill sessions.

Our Rating: 4.0/5

TECH SPECS

Cooking Surface Area
approx. 513 sq. in.
Grate Material
Cast iron (porcelain coated)
BTU/Hour
72000
Burners
4
Special Features
Included rotisserie

Who Should Buy

If you’re looking to cook for a larger party, and you don’t mind using up a little more energy in the process.Click here for the Monument Grills 17842 Stainless Steel 4 Burner

Review

Here we have our first full-size grill, and you’ll immediately notice a couple of things: 1) supercharged BTUs; and 2) a massive cooking surface area.

Before you get too excited about the BTUs, take a look at my section on this topic in the Buyer’s Guide. While it may have been a sign of quality and power in the good old days, now it’s likely a sign of energy inefficiency—compare this 72000 BTU/Hour with the 30000 of Weber’s Spirit series (also boasting 500+ square inches of cooking space).

The cooking space is a definite plus though. Don’t let me scare you with the BTU factor too much—this also includes a powerful side burner, and don’t forget this is a four-burner grill as opposed to Weber Spirit’s 3-burner model. And when it comes down to it, this model from Monument Grills gives you a high-quality even cook, with plenty of room for extras.

Pros
  • Large cast-iron cooking surface
  • Warming Rack included
  • Rotisserie included
  • Powerful side burner for cooking sauces
  • Attractive stainless steel design
Cons
  • Less energy efficient than other models
  • Requires some set-up and installation
monument side
monument grills
monument side cooker

How to choose a gas grill under $500

The Definitive Buyer’s Guide

gas grill buyers guide

How To Choose A Gas Grill Under $500

There are three main things you’ll want to consider:

Cooking surface area and even cooking;
Fuel consumption (and gas type); and
Special features.

I like to translate this list into practical questions that we can all understand. What does that look like? Respectively:

How much do you want to cook at a time?
How much gas do you want to burn through per grilling? (and what fumes do you want to be sending into the atmosphere?); and
How fancy do you want to get out there this summer?

Let’s start with the basics.

Cooking Surface Area

This will typically be served up to you in square inches. But I think it’s more fun (and useful) to think of it in burger patties. Here’s my quick calculation for grill enthusiasts who want to visualize what they’re getting themselves into before purchase:

You can fit 3 average sized burgers per 100 square inches.

For example, following our simple burger arithmetic, we can say that a 480 square inch grill will get 14.5 burgers sizzling at once.

This figure is a great starting point for beginners. Put it this way. When you read ‘cook 14.5 burgers at once’, what’s your immediate reaction? Are you thinking, ‘I can’t imagine ever needing to cook 15 burgers, let alone at the same time’; or something like, ‘just 15? What about the other 20 people at my cookout?’

I like to call this the party reflex. It’s a good way to find out what you really imagine yourself buying the grill for. If it’s personal use, then cooking surface area won’t be high on your priority list and you can probably save yourself a good deal of cash on purchase. Then again, if you’re looking to have the whole neighborhood over every other weekend, grill space is holy and you’ll chip in a few extra bucks to get the people their burgers on time.

One thing to note about grill space specifications: be wary of how the manufacturer quotes this figure. We’ll talk more about warming racks in my special features section, but it’s worth knowing that some brands will try sneaking this into their overall grill surface area. The marketing tactics and morals of grilling manufacturers is hardly my business–my business is making sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. If your grill of interest does include a warming rack, take a close look at the specifications to be sure that they haven’t added these square inches to your cooking space. If it isn’t strictly listed on the product description, a quick call to customer service will clear things up quickly enough (they might be a little embarrassed to admit it the trick, but you’ll save yourself an unwelcome surprise in the process).

Fuel Consumption, Btus And Gas Type

The first grill lingo you’ll want to add to your vocabulary is BTU, or British Thermal Unit. It’s the horsepower of gas grills, and it will tell you how much gas you’re likely to run through per hour. Just like a finely-tuned car, though, power isn’t everything. You don’t just want a gas-guzzling engine, you want efficiency.

An old grilling motto runs along the lines of: Look for a grill with 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space.

This is somewhat outdated. It may have been true of grilling days yonder, but we live in a vastly more energy-efficient era than our grilling ancestors. With this in mind, I would suggesting altering this calculation to ‘Anything less than 100BTUs per square inch of cooking space’. So long as you’re not looking at mini-camping grillers, this will at least tell you that the manufacturer has paid some attention to energy efficiency–it may actually be a sign of quality of components, as opposed to a lack of power as it once might have.

Since we’re talking strictly about gas grills, we may as well congratulate ourselves on coming this far.

The good news is: both propane and natural gas options have significantly lower CO2 emissions than gasoline, kerosene or charcoal options.

You’re probably not here for a lecture on climate change, and I’m not the person to give it you.

Still–it’s good to know that if you’re lighting up with a propane or natural gas tank, you’re not doing anything to contribute to the problem. At the very least, you be opening yourself up to any unwanted attention from environmentally-conscious neighbors.

Many of my Top Picks on the grill list above use Liquid Propane (LP). LP is generally sold in 20lb. tanks, which you can find outside of gas stations, hardware and grocery stores. These are typically your best bet financially, and will last you a few years (some, like Weber, offering up to 10 year warranties).

However, if you do branch out beyond my Top Picks (which I recommend if you don’t find anything that meets your specific needs), then you’ll want to be sure that your grill is compatible with both the gas type and size of tank. This should be listed clearly on your grill specifications, but if you find yourself with a grill that doesn’t match its tank, don’t stress: you can always buy an adapter.

Special Features

This is where things get interesting–or potentially distracting, depending on how you look at it. If you’ve come to the grill market with a simple agenda to cook some steaks and burgers for your friends, it’s easy to get side-tracked with special features. Warming racks, side-burners, side shelves, beer holders, stainless steel hoods–the list can go on and on. Don’t worry, I’m here to keep you on track.

There are some components that are essential, some that are useful, and some that are mostly superfluous. Let’s break it down simply, then:

The Essentials:
1) Burners
2) Cooking Grates
3) Gas Tanks

With these three components, you’ve got yourself a grill that can actually do what it’s supposed to: cook up some delicious food.

Burners

Burners will control not only how hot your grill gets, but how quickly it can heat up. Generally speaking, a 4 burner grill will heat up faster than a 3 burner grill. More burners, more immediate heating power; faster cooking and heating time. Simple right?

There’s a little more to it than that. Each burner is a focus point of heat. Therefore, the more burners you have, the more control you will have over the heating areas of your grill. Four burners with adjustable heat knobs will let you have your veggies slow-grilling on one side of your grill, while you’ve got your kebabs and patties cooking on high right beside them.

Cooking Grates

Next to burners, cooking grates are the most important thing about your grill. While there are a variety of grate materials out there, I’ll be upfront about this:
You want to stick with stainless steel or cast iron.
These materials are the easiest to clean, and they also resist corrosion more effectively than any other materials out there on offer.

Stainless Steel

These are your easy-clean, rust-free option for grilling. They’ll sparkle in the sun and attract a crowd, but for all the razzle dazzle, they just can’t produce the same consistent heat as cast iron cooking grates.

Cast Iron

This is your old school grilling material–it’s been used since medieval times. Even with all the advances in grilling technology, this stuff still comes out on top when it comes to retaining heat and producing a quality, consistent cook. That being said, it will cost you a little bit of time and effort to clean, and it can build up rust if you don’t maintain it regularly.

The Usefuls:

Side burners; and
Warming Racks

These will make your grilling experience a little more comfortable, while opening up a few nice cooking options for larger parties and servings.

Side burners: These are low-power burners that stick off the side of your grill like a pair of wings. They’re great for reducing sauces and heating up food on the side while you focus on cooking the main course in your central grill.

Warming racks: Warming racks allow to raise your food off the cooking grate. Direct contact with the grate is ideal for searing and high intensity grilling, but it’s nice to have some freedom away from this. By raising the food above your grill, you can keep a constant, gentle heat–while also opening up new cooking methods like smoking and slow-cooking your meats. It will also open up fresh grill space below, so that you can show-off as the ultimate multi-tasker at your next cookout.

The Superfluous (sometimes Useful)

Side shelves;
Electric ignition switch; and
Portable wheels.

These are what I would consider nice bonus features, but hardly the first thing you should be looking for.

Side shelves: These are a useful addition to your grill’s storage and give you a little more freedom during the cooking process. Most side shelves can be used as chopping boards, or used for marinating and preparing dishes on the side of your grill. The most handy models will have foldable designs for easy storage.

Electric ignition switch: This is pretty self-explanatory, but a nice added touch if you don’t want to fiddle with matches or lighting the grill manually.

Portable wheels: I keep this in the ‘superfluous’ category, though it depends on your backyard setup. If you need to bring your grill out into the open while grilling, then store it elsewhere, then portable wheels will be incredibly useful. That being said, if you can set it up in one spot for the entire summer without needing to move it, then portable wheels are hardly essential.

Premium Features

– Flavorizing bar
– Grease management system
– Pressure gauge and thermometer
– Rotisserie option
– Installed bottle opener

Summing Up

In summary, keep it simple. To find the best grill under $500, you may need to make a couple of sacrifices. Better to make these sacrifices in the ‘useful’ and ‘superfluous’ categories, rather than selling yourself short on the essentials like burners and cooking grates. Consider how much you want to cook, for how many people, and how often you plan on doing it. Then, find the grill that meets your needs and looks good in your yard to light up some winner BBQs this summer.

How To Start A Gas Grill

Starting a gas grill is simple. First off, you’ll want to open up the hood of your grill to let out any shut-in, unlit fumes. Next, you’re going to open up the valve on your gas line (from your natural or propane tank). Give it a minute to allow the gas to run up the gas line, then turn your burners to high. Depending on your model, you will then either press the electric ignition starter, or light the burners manually. When lighting the grill manually, be sure to use long-ended matchsticks.

How To Use A Gas Grill

Before throwing your meats on the grate, be sure to let your grill heat up for 10-15 minutes. This is particularly important for cast iron cooking grates, as it will give you the best quality product.

Once you’re up and running, how you use your gas grill is entirely up to you (and the design). Four-burner gas grills will offer you enough flexibility to cook your veggies and meats at the same time at different intensities. Once you’ve finished cooking up something good, be sure to turn off all of your burners and shut off your gas tank’s valve.

How To Smoke On A Gas Grill

Smoking meats on your gas grill can be incredibly easy with the right model. Some brands offer pre-installed smoker trays, where you can place your soaked woodchips for creating that perfect smoky finish. For these grills, all you need to do is load up the smoker tray, place your meats in aluminum foil (with a few holes cut in there) and close the hood to keep the smoke in.

For less sophisticated models, you can also get some decent smoked meats with a warming rack. Warming racks let you raise the food above direct contact with the grill, so that you can easily smoke your fish and other dishes while still grilling on the main grate.

How Long Do Gas Grills Last

The best gas grills can last a couple of decades with regular cleaning, maintenance and storage. This of course depends on the quality of the components to begin with, how often you are grilling, and what conditions the grill is exposed to. However, generally speaking, burners and cooking grates should be able to push on for 10-15 years without needing any replacements. Weber is a great example of quality components–they’re products are typically backed by a 10 year warranty.

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