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Smart Buying

5 Things to Ask About Gas Grills

You don't need a charcoal grill to get a wood-fired flavor. We show you what to look for when shopping for these fast-cooking and easy-cleaning grills. Plus: Check out three top models that will add plenty of sizzle to your backyard barbecue.

1. How does gas compare with charcoal for cooking?
True, charcoal adds a wood-fired flavor. But a smoker tray in a gas grill is the great equalizer. Just load the tray with your favorite wood chips. Of course, gas is faster and cleaner than charcoal. Tony Stone, president of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, puts it this way: "With charcoal, I'm two drinks in before the grill is ready to cook."

2. Which is better, natural gas or propane?
They are equally good for cooking. If you have an outdoor natural-gas line near where you'll grill, go with gas. You'll never have to lug propane tanks, and gas is cheaper. But don't expect those savings to cover the cost of extending a gas line outdoors.


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3. What's the deal with Btu's?
British thermal units tell how much heat a grill generates. More are always better, says Stone. For simple grilling, about 40,000 Btu's will suffice. Btu's aren't the bottom line when it comes to heat, though. Cooking a Ruth's Chris-quality steak requires the extreme heat of infrared burners, which are available only on high-end gas grills.

4. Stainless steel may look great, but do I need it?
Not necessarily. Stainless is better than cast iron for burners and grates because it's easier to clean and won't rust the way cast iron does. But porcelain-coated grates are just as rustproof and as easy to clean as stainless. Generally, the more stainless components, the longer your grill will last.


5. What extras are worth paying for?
Number one: a grill cover. It adds years to your grill's life. Two: special burners for heating sauces and side dishes. And a rotisserie (look for one with a separate burner) allows you to roast, say, a whole bird.

Three Sizzling Choices

Best Value:
Char-Broil Performance Model 463453206
Price: $260

This grill features a 13,000-Btu side burner in addition to the main four-burner cooking surface.

Napoleon Prestige II PT450RB
Price: $1,710 (with side burner)

With stainless steel throughout, a rotisserie that has its own infrared burner and a wide range of heat on the main burners, the Prestige is a grill worshipper's high altar.

Stainless Bargain:
Weber Genesis Gold C
Price: $650

Weber offers a stainless-steel hood, burners, grates and doors on the Gold series, making it as long-lasting as it is good-looking.