It's official: It's grilling season, and Independence Day is coming up fast. Now is the time to plan a big, patriotic, outdoor feast, using the irreplaceable flavor of charcoal, smoke and good old-fashioned fire. Whether it's a smoky sausage smorgasbord or a healthy, weeknight breast of chicken for one, there's a grill or smoker for any kind of household or budget. And if an open flame intimidates you, know this: You have alternatives. Nowadays, traditional charcoal cookers compete with electric grills that can fit on a countertop.
Smoker for small spaces: Smokey Mountain 14-inch cooker and smoker
Need big flavor for small groups? Consider this smoker, barely longer than a large hero sandwich. The Smokey Mountain 14-inch smoker fetches reviewer praise for ease of use, simple cleanup and effective smoking action. Like any good smoker, it can maintain a temperature for as many hours as it takes to get the flavor barbecue lovers crave. Perhaps best of all: It's American-made.
Smoker for beginners: Masterbuilt MES 130B digital electric smoker
No charcoal, no propane, no experience, no problem. Meet the Masterbuilt MES 130B digital electric smoker, which promises competition-ready results, even for barbecue greenhorns. A side-loading door allows for easy addition of wood chips. And a roomy interior with four racks allows for six (!!!) chickens, two turkeys, four racks of ribs, or four pork butts.
Reliable and versatile grill: Spirit E-210 gas grill
You've likely seen this grill at a dozen backyard functions. Designed to fit on a small patio or balcony, the popular Weber Spirit E-210 gas grill nonetheless has two roomy burners that can easily handle a half-dozen burgers at a time. Two sturdy side tables hold fixings or seasonings close at hand, and six hooks on the ends can store all the grilling instruments you need. Propane refills are a snap, and a gas-powered side burner even lets you cook up a barbecue sauce while you grill.
Gas grilling made easy: Weber Genesis TT SX-335 smart grill
Imagine a gas grill that lets you roam. This Weber Genesis TT SX-335 smart grill includes smart wifi tech that notifies you when a grill reaches a certain temperature, and even when the meat inside does the same. A companion app offers a countdown function, letting you know exactly how much time you have left to enjoy that cocktail on the other side of the house. The grill even lets you know when a burger is ready to flip.
Kamado cooker cult fave: Large Big Green Egg
If you're curious about kamado-style cookers, aficionados say that the Big Green Egg is one to buy. Reviewers praise this wood-fired model for its steady temperatures, heat retention and stability, as well as its versatility: Try some slow and low cooking, or fire it all the way up to make a pizza worthy of a Neapolitan. You may have to order it online for pickup, but fans say it's worth it.
Smart outdoor cooker: Ironwood 885 wood pellet grill
If you're tired of charcoal and gas, but still want to graduate to chef-level grilling, consider this as an investment for your taste buds. This top-rated wood pellet grill combines all the tech of a smart outdoor cooker with the old-school taste of wood-pellet chips. You can also smoke, bake, roast and braise. A sensor monitors the machine's pellet level, and Wi-Fi tech lets you control the grill from anywhere.
Old-school, budget-friendly grill: Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-inch charcoal grill
Maybe you just want to do this the old-fashioned way, and for a price that fits almost any budget. For those simple souls among us, reviewers prefer the sturdy Weber Original Kettle Premium 22-inch charcoal grill. If you want to update the look a bit and set yourself apart from daddy's backyard, the model is also available in green and copper.
Small indoor grill: George Foreman Contact Smokeless grill
Reviewers like the space-friendly George Foreman Contact smokeless grill indoor grill, and not only because it takes outdoor flavor indoors by eliminating smoke by up to 80%. A nonstick coating on the rack makes for easy cleanup, and the George Foreman label means that fat can be reduced to a minimum. Even better: The drip tray is dishwasher-safe.
Indoor grill splurge: Cuisinart electric Griddler
Take the convenience of an indoor grill, dial the functions all the way up to 11, and you get this countertop-friendly high-tech wonder. We're talking five cooking options -- including panini pressing and full-on grilling -- plus an LCD display, digital controls, a sear function and more. And this gadget still acts as a griddle, too; that means one machine can take you from breakfast to dinner.
Just so extra: Traeger Lil Pig wood pellet grill
Tired of boring black? Like a little form with your function? Your bubblegum-pink sausage savior is here. Traeger's Lil Pig may have a big price tag, but then again, it has big style to go with it. It also has a brain in there, with a digital thermostat control that allows you to set the grill and walk away. Plus, a dual probe meat thermometer allows for grilling different cuts of meat to different temperatures.
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