BBQ recommendations
April 16, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose a new BBQ.

Our last BBQ was a generic-made-in-china-brand from Lowes with a 4 burner grill and a side burner. We always had a difficult relationship: it provided uneven heat (instant carbonization at the back, salmonella-friendly tepid at the front). Occasionally it would fake an empty propane tank, only to resume service the next day despite no change of tank. It's last act of vengeance before being condemned was to spit flames out of the front where the gas regulators are positioned.

I want a clean break. Will spend up to $500 ($600 at a push) for a new reliable grilling buddy. What brands should I be looking at? What features are the most important for satisfactory performance?

Ideally would like a propane tank BBQ with:
Side burner for occasional shallow pan frying.
Even heat.
3-4 (preferably 4) burners.
As decent quality build as the available money can buy.

ancillary information:
We are in Ontario.
Will be grilling meat, fish and veggies.
posted by SueDenim to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We've had 2 fancy grills that cost thousands of dollars and disappointed. The one we keep coming back to that never has let us down is Weber. Even heat, always lights the first try, 3 burners, around $400 when we bought a few years ago.
posted by cecic at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2011

If you're in Ontario look for a Fiesta. (Yes I realize how bad the website looks right now -- it has been much better in the past -- but it does have the 1-800 number listed.)

I love mine. And more than loving the barbeque, I love the customer service. When I originally bought mine, it was a discounted end-of-year, floor model. It was missing a small, unnecessary part. When I got it home, I phoned up the company, told them I bought a barbeque with a missing part, and much to my surprise, one was shipped out free of charge.

After a number of years, it was time to replace my burner. It was outside of the warranty period, but that didn't matter to the company. One was shipped to me completely free of charge.

The customer service reps have always been friendly and helpful. It really is a nice company to deal with, and there aren't a lot of places I say that about.

Now mine wasn't an expensive, high-end model, but it's still a really good unit: one main grilling area with three racks -- one full size and two half-size ones -- with one side burner. I don't remember the BTUs but they're sufficient.
posted by sardonyx at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2011

I forgot to add that it also has a removable upper rack.

I know everybody, including cecic, loves Weber. Personally I'd never buy a Weber, but that's only because I know somebody who used to work for the company, and after hearing the inside story about how the products were designed and put-together, I decided I wasn't interest in the brand.
posted by sardonyx at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2011

Unless you really really want to take the propane approach, I highly recommend the Big Green Egg. These have a cult following, and for a very good reason. I've had mine for a year now, and I absolutely love it.

It's more than just a BBQ grill. It can also be used as a smoker, or function as a small brick oven.

As a grill, you can get it up to 900-1000 to sear steaks. Or make brick-oven style pizza.

Or, you can do low-and-slow cooks, like pork shoulder at 200 degrees for 24 hours. Ever had really, really good pulled pork? You can make it at home. Or truly awesome baby back ribs in 5 hours.

Take a serious look at it. I wish I'd gotten one years ago, and I'll never look back.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:06 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just mentioning this as an alternative... I've gotten years of use out of a propane grill that someone was throwing away because the electric ignition quit working. So I use a grill lighter. I've replaced the burner twice and the hoses once. I use it a lot, sometimes as much a 4 nights a week. If you're willing to mess with them they're not too hard to service for the cost of parts.
posted by BeerFilter at 3:04 PM on April 16, 2011

My family loves their Webers - Mom 'n Dad actually have 2 (the little tabletop Q and some big thing I don't know what.)
sardonyx, now I want to know what's wrong with Weber.

wait, maybe I don't. I do tend to hate myself every time I use something I like from a bad company (i.e. constantly).

dang it, I do want to know! Do they grill fetuses on them to test for even heating or something?
posted by dust.wind.dude at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2011

I know you said you'd prefer gas to charcoal, but we really like the Weber Perfomer. It's a charcoal grill, but with gas ignition, so it's basically a one-touch grill. Other excellent features are a charcoal bin, a work surface on the side, places to hang brushes and utensils, and a nicely though out solution for holding on to the lid while you're getting in there. It's also got a really nice sized surface. I've cooked dinner for ten on the thing.
posted by Gilbert at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2011

dust.wind.dude, it's nothing as nefarious as that.

Let's just say that if I'm buying a product -- especially one that uses propane or natural gas -- I would hope that the company that makes the product uses best practices in the design and testing of the product, is careful about the way the product is manufactured, takes quality control very, very seriously, and ideally, treats its employees well and with respect.

I have no faith that those conditions apply to the company I mentioned earlier.

Of course, as consumers we rarely get an inside glimpse into any business, and it could be that other manufacturers employ similar (or worse) business models, and that I just haven't heard the inside stories about them. All I can do is take whatever information I have available and use it to when making a purchasing decision.
posted by sardonyx at 10:52 AM on April 17, 2011

ah I see. Thanks, sardonyx!
posted by dust.wind.dude at 6:56 PM on April 17, 2011

If you don't want to shell out the big bucks for the Big Green Egg you could build the Alton Brown version.
posted by no bueno at 9:54 PM on April 22, 2011

Some great suggestions here, thank you to all who answered.
posted by SueDenim at 6:01 PM on April 26, 2011

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