A woman asking if I had any suggestions for a first-time purchaser of a gas grill recently contacted me online.

Having been in the grill business for well over 10 years-and a long time grill aficionado before that-I can sometimes be guilty of forgetting not everyone standing over a grill experiences the same rush of euphoria I do. In fact, for anyone new to grilling, the sheer amount of options available can cause the uninformed to break out in a cold sweat.

In this article, I offer some thoughts any first-time purchaser of a gas grill should consider before diving in. Remember, a good grill represents a substantial investment-one you'll lose money on if you only use the grill once or twice before shoving it into the corner, never to be touched again.

1. Size. Do you cook for two or for 12? Don't allow yourself to be talked into purchasing the massive grill that can prepare a Thanksgiving feast for your entire extended family when, on a daily basis, your plans are to grill a meal for you with leftovers for the dog. On the flip side, if you know you love to entertain, pick a grill that can handle the load.

2. Space. How much of your porch/patio/deck/backyard space do you want to dedicate to a grill? This may not be an issue for some, but those of us with smaller spaces need to carefully consider where and how the grill will live that won't have us constantly cursing its intrusive presence.

3. Budget. Gas grills have a price range from $100 to $5,000+. If you're expecting your grill to last beyond five years, you'll need to start shopping in the $800 range, at a minimum. How pricey you choose to go depends on how many bells and whistles you want. For a first-time buyer, I would advise against going in gangbusters and paying for a top-of-the-line fully-decked-out grill. Why spend $8000 on something you haven't yet proved you'll use? Reputable grills with plenty of extras such as infrared technology, stainless steel construction and side burners can be found in the $1000 to $2000 range.

4. Features. In gas grills, the cooking system is KING. Don't get distracted by "cute" features like lighted knobs, talking electronics, etc. A simple rule of thumb is that if a feature doesn't improve the quality of the food, you don't need it.

5. Power. More BTUs does not equal more power. A BTU measures fuel consumption of the burners, not power, so more BTUs isn't necessarily better. If a salesperson insists on comparing grills by BTUs, walk away.

6. Where to buy. Here you have two options: self-service or seeking the help of an expert. If you like to do your own research, you may be comfortable buying from a big box store or home center. Just know that the people "helping" you there may have limited knowledge of the market. If you prefer personal attention and would like a trusted expert to help with your selection (as well as be there after the purchase for questions and support) go the dealer route.

For any first-time grill buyer-or really for anyone buying a grill-my best advice is to take the time to think about how a grill will fit into your life. Then do your research, talk to dealers and soon (I hope!) you will be the proud owner of a grill that will bring you years of grilling pleasure.

Keep Grilling,


Not many people know more about grilling than Rob Schwing. The GM at SABER Grills and the author of Casual Living's "Ask The Grill Guy" column, Rob possesses a lifelong passion for good food, good company and upscale outdoor living. Rob has led Char-Broil and SABER as a vice president in marketing, product development, consumer & warranty services, e-commerce and business development. Weekends find Rob doing what he loves most-- surprising people with all that can be accomplished when cooking outside.

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