Testing Gas Grills Under $500

Testing Gas Grills Under $500
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Testing and reviewing top selling gas grills for 2019, all under $500.

These are the 6 best selling, affordable gas grills under $500 for 2019. Here's everything you need to know about buying a gas grill including our reviews and feedback of these 6 grills. See the winner below.
Updated: 3/22/19

best gas grill under $500

Grills Selected for Review

  • Weber Spirit II
  • BroilKing Signet 320
  • Char-Broil 450
  • DynaGlo DGE
  • NextGrill
  • KitchenAid

On the Quest for the Best Gas Grill Under $500

The Starting Lineup
From searing to smoking, we were looking for the grill that had it all.

Weber Spirit II 3 Burner
Char-Broil Infrared 3 Burner
Dyna-Glo DGE 4-Burner
NEXTGRILL 4-Burner
Broil King Signet 3 Burner
KitchenAid 3-Burner

What We Were looking for

Our goal was to find an affordable gas grill that could rival more expensive gas grills in the $2,000 range. With such a vast selection of grills on the market, being a consumer can prove overwhelming. Even more, spending more money doesn't always protect you from ending up with a sub-par gas grill: some don't have enough room to cook more than few burgers, can't keep a constant temperature, and are constructed poorly and from cheap materails.

And since MeatGeeks are such big fans of smoking meats, our winning gas grill had to be able to not only sear steak, but also be capable of a first-rate slow cook using the 2-zone method.

If there’s one reason to get a gas grill, it’s ease of use. Gas grills are all about simplicity, and that’s one thing we prioritized while testing out these models; being able to fire up the grill and dial it to the exact temperature we’re looking for – without messing charcoal and lighter fluid – eliminates half the work and makes your day so much easier.

The Selection Process

For this roundup we selected the five best-selling gas grills from the five most popular brands, all available for under $500.

This gave us a diverse set of grills with anywhere from three to five burners. All but one with a side burner, and each had standard features like warming racks, hanging shelves and temperature gauges.

What's the Deal with BTUs?

When you’re in the market for a gas grill market, you’ll see the term BTU (British Thermal Units) thrown around a lot. BTUs are the measurement of how much heat is put out in an hour.

Try not to get too excited by large BTU numbers.Manufacturers are always trying to wow you with their hefty BTU outputs, but they really shouldn’t be the first thing you look at.

Today, it’s all about effective design, and quality materials – not BTUs.

Design Over BTUs

Good design and quality build and materials are more important than how many BTUs a grill puts out.

A poorly-manufactured, badly-designed grill won’t hold its heat very well - even if it does put out plenty of BTUs. A less-powerful-but-better-built grill would still handily outperform it.

BTUs were perhaps more relevant in the past, when poor engineering and design on gas grills meant heat output had to be so higher. But today, finding a good grill is all about effective design and quality materials – which will help hold the heat and radiate it more efficiently, reducing the need for tons of power.

Testing the Grills

In our quest to find the best grill under $500, we tested how each model performed at both grilling and slow-cooking (smoking). testing the weber spirit

We’re looking for not only how easy these grills are to use and how well they can sear a steak, but also how well they can imitate a charcoal smoker or grill and make a great, smoky rack of ribs.

We tested everything from hotdogs, brats, and burgers to steaks and ribs. We also found that each of the grills had enough space to hold a 13lb turkey, with enough room left over to let heat circulate.

Even Heat

A good gas grill also excels at distributing heat evenly across the entire cooking surface. To test this across our grill selection, we laid slices of white evenly across the grates. The more evenly the heat was distributed, the more evenly the bread toasted.

testing charboril heat

Some of the grills did really well. Others didn’t. Even heat distribution isn’t a big deal if you're making a piece of toast, but it can make or break a pricey ribeye or brisket.

Just remember - BTUs aren’t the deciding factor in achieving even heat distribution. Design is.

gas grill flavorizer bars
Vertical burners are covered with flavorizer bars to evenly distribute heat and add smoke flavors.
Most gas grills put out and distribute heat using burners and diffusers.
Burners

Located at the bottom of the grill are flat metal tubes that run vertically and create flames when lit - just like the gas burner on your stove.

Diffusers

Located above the burners, metal heat diffusers encase the burner with their v-like shape. These diffusers are the imperative factor to even heat distribution.  They also keep the burners from becoming clogged with grease. The single most important factor to imitating a charcoal grill is in the act of how the drippings from the meat hit these bars and turn in to luscious smoke (flavor). That’s why they’re often called flavorizers.

Our winning grill had five diffusers - resulting in both the best performance and the best flavor.

Maintaining Heat (smoking)

When you’re smoking meat, retaining heat is crucial to holding a steady, even temperature. Some grills were better at this than others. Those that failed to hold a steady internal temperature had similar traits: puny lids with poor seals, badly-designed vents and vertically-oriented burners.

Indirect grilling tends to be the first place gas grills go wrong. For starters, the burners run vertical instead of horizontal. Why?

Smart, well thought-out design is important to us, as we love using our grills to smoke meats via indirect heat – the only way to smoke a good rack of ribs, a pulled pork or brisket, or any meat, for that matter. Gas grills aren’t ideal for indirect cooking, but if used properly, they can still rival a charcoal grill at creating tender, smoky meat.

indrect cooking on gas grill

When using heat from both ends of the grill (or even from just one side), the meat will rest over the burner which remains off. The indirect heat method is great for any large or tough cut of meat. It’s also fantastic for delicate meats like fish, chickens, turkeys, ribs, etc.

When using a charcoal grill, the indirect grilling method is performed by stacking the charcoal on the opposite side from the vent, then placing the meat on the opposite side. Indirect cooking then allows the heat generated from the coals to cook the meat slowly and evenly without burning it or drying it out.

The Gas Grill Heat Problem: Large Vents and Vertical Positioned Burners

The main problem with smoking on a gas grill is the large vent usually found on the back of the lid. This vent allows heat to escape, making it harder to hold an even temperature inside, and leaving you with an unevenly cooked chunk of meat – and less smoke flavor than it could otherwise have.

Compounding this problem is the how the gas burners are oriented on most gas grills - vertically as opposed to horizontally. This means all the heat is created at one end of the grill, but it escapes out the back before it can cook the meat at the other end. Offset smokers usually have the same problem.

Compare how heat is held in charcoal kettle grill with the lid on incorrectly with the poor vent design often found on many gas grills.

heat bypassing meat gas
Heat bypasses meat as it escapes the vent.

With a charcoal grill, the vent is located on the lid. In the illustration above, the figure on the left shows the coals stacked on the same side as the vent with the meat on the opposite side. This allows heat to escape without passing over the meat, leaving you with an unevenly cooked chunk of meat. This is exactly what happens with most gas grills:

gas grill downfall smoking
Heat from the burners escapes through the back of the grill without evenly cycling around the meat.

Compounding this problem is the how the gas burners are oriented on most gas grills - vertically as opposed to horizontally. This means all the heat is created at one end of the grill, where it escapes out the back before it can cook the meat at the other end. Offset smokers usually have the same problem. If the burners were positioned horizontally, the meat could be placed at the back of the grill, where heat would hit it as it makes its way out the back vent.

While none of the gas grills we tested feature burners that run horizontally, our winner has a well designed vent to hold heat in more efficiently.

back vent on weber spirit II

The Weber Spirit II features a modest vent on the back of the cookbox, positioned at the top of the grill. Its placement at the top of the grill allows it to hold heat more efficiently. This makes it more ideal for a slow cook because heat and smoke get more evenly distributed, all while using less gas.

This poses a problem when trying to select a gas grill that is competent enough to complete a quality slow cook. Some of the grills we inspected took twice as long to get our rack of ribs to reach temperature; and when they did finally reach temperature – they were rubbery and lacked smoke flavor – boo.

Still, with the right technique, good smoking can be achieved on a gas grill. Choose a quality grill with the right cookbox – usually made of aluminum or stainless, which hold and radiate heat well – as well as a tight-fitted lid with a good seal. This will help it hold and radiate heat evenly for a high-quality cook. If you really want a grill without vents in the back, you can find one - but it will likely run you more than $500.

Best Gas Grills Under $500

Winner: Weber Spirit II E-310

Model Number: 44030001
Price: Check Price
Burners: 3
Grates: Cast Iron
Main Cooking Area: 408 Square Inches
BTUs: 32,000
Max Grilling Load: 19 burgers
Assembly Time: 1.5 Hours

This is our favorite gas grill under $500. We had no problem getting a nice sear on steaks and burgers. Almost all the grills we reviewed were able to do this, some more evenly than others. Where the Weber Spirit II really excelled was in its ability to slow cook. Our racks of ribs came out tender and smoky, thanks to the even-heating, consistent aluminum design. It's sturdy, made from quality materials, and a grill that will get the job done and stand the test of time.

Weber Spirit II E-310

The Weber Spirit II is a heavy-duty grill for the price. It’s built from durable, solid cast-aluminum, and the lid itself is built of heavy-duty steel. When it comes to gas grills, there is no substitute for design and metal construction, and Weber seems to have taken that to heart with this model.

It’s nothing fancy, to be honest - just a solid, well-built and reliable grill. In fact, the Spirit II has less BTU output than several other grills in our roundup. But it still beats them all out simply in terms of build and performance.

Underneath the grate and above the burners, there are five stainless steel heat reflectors (flavorizers). These were key to the Weber’s performance at distributing heat evenly across the cooking. They also allowed for fat drippings to turn into luscious, greasy, flavorful smoke as they hit off them and vaporized.  The grates are porcelain-enameled, which means they’re super-easy to clean and result in great browning and searing. They’re also reversible – with a thin side that is good for fish and shrimp and a wide “flat side” that makes larger, deeper sear marks.

The new model of the Spirit II makes use of the new GS4 Grilling System, which boasts a cast aluminum build and a slide-out grease tray. It holds its heat well and radiates it evenly – with the help of the Flavorizer bars – and helps sear and grill both burgers and juicy steaks well. It also holds heat well for smoking and slow-cooking – even with the large slit in the back where the lid folds up and down.

Another cool feature about the latest model of the Spirit II is that it comes with a spot to stick an IGrill3 digital thermometer. This is a much better option than using the cheap, unreliable bi-metal thermometers that come on most grills.

All in all, a reliable performer that does it all, with a solid and durable build that should stand the test of time. Easily our top Gas Grill under $500.

Good Deal: Broil King Signet 320

rating the broil king signet

BroilKing Signet 320 Gas Grill

Model: 986854
Price: Check Current Price
Burners: 3
Grates: Cast Iron, Reversable
Size of Main Cooking Area: 400 squre inces (630 in total)
BTUs: 40,000
Max Cooking Load: 20 - 25 burgers
Features: Drop down side shelves
Assembly Time: 1.5 Hours

This is another well-performing, affordable grill. It’s hot, putting out 40,000 BTUs from its 3 burners, and can sear steaks and burgers rapidly – reaching 800°F when cranked all the way up. But more importantly, it’s excellent at even heating and distributing heat - thanks to Broil King’s Therma-Cast Aluminum cookbox, which has a stainless-steel insert. This results in a very even-heating cooking environment that’s great for slow-cooking in addition to high-heat searing.

Broil King’s Dual Tube Burners help; they’re large stainless-steel tubes with gas feed tubes running through them, creating a larger, more-distributed flame. Above them are the Flav-R-Wave heat tents, which help distribute that heat and let drippings turn into juicy vapors (like Weber’s Flavorizers).  The grates are heavy-duty cast iron for deep searing. We also really like the stainless side shelves, which give plenty of extra cooking room.

Build quality on some of the parts isn’t all that great, and some things – like the side shelf – bend or dent easily. Otherwise, this is another well-designed, durable, even-heating gas grill that gets real hot and can smoke up a good rack of ribs.

It’s also worth noting that BroilKing offers great warranties; the Signet is no exception, with a 10-year warranty on the burner, 2-year warranty on the parts, and lifetime warranty on the cookbox.

Good Deal: Char-Broil Performance TRU-Infrared 450

CHAr-broil 435 with infrared

Char-Broil Performance Seires Tru-Infrared 450

Model: 463371316
Price: Check Current Price
Burners: 3
Grates: 443 Cast Iron
Size of Main Cooking Area: 450 square inces
BTUs: 25,500
Max Grilling Load: 20-25 burgers
Features: Infrared Grilling, Side burner
Assembly Time: 2 Hours

Another solid gas grill that can sear, smoke and slow-cook with ease, the Char-Broil Performance Tru is the only grill on our list that boasts infrared grates. Essentially, the grate is a solid barrier between the food and the burner; when heated, it radiates “infrared” heat towards the food for cooking. This creates more even, consistent heat than direct high-heat grilling.

The burners and IR grates get really hot - enough for deep searing and browning. And it does a good job of slow-cooking and smoking, trapping heat in well with the stainless-steel lid and firebox. You can also toss wood chips or pellets in under the grates to create smoke for better flavor.

Other things we like are; the generous grilling area -450 square inches on the main area - and that the grill grates are also porcelain-coated for easy cleanup and non-stick cooking. The updated gas gauge comes with settings for reading at 50°F, 70°F, and 100°F.

For all-around grilling and pretty good smoking too, the Char-Broil is a solid choice for the price.

Okay Deal: Dyna-Glo DGE Series

dyna glo gas grill reviewed under 500

DynaGlo DGE Series 4 Burner

Model: DGA550SSN-D
Price: Check Current Price
Burners: 4
Grates: Stainless Steel
Size of Main Cooking Area: 530 square inches
BTUs: 40,000 + 12,000 for side burner
Max Grilling Load: 26
Features: Side burner
Assembly Time: 2.5 Hours

A great looking grill when we saw it from afar, this grill was the "fan favorite" that we hoped would be our runner up. Once we popped the lid, it was evident there were some issues. The large cooking area was overshadowed by its inability to evenly cook a good burger. Though, when it came to slow-cooking, it didn’t perform as poorly as we thought it would with the all those openings; it yielded a tender rack of ribs.

Constructed from stainless steel and comes in 96 pounds. There’s a grand total of 646 square inches of cooking area, with a stainless-steel side burner on one side, and the grates are smooth stainless steel.

Each burner puts out 10,000 BTUs for a grand total of 40,000. They have it listed as 52,000 BTUs as they include the 12,000 BTUs put out by the side burner. The firebox is enameled steel, which radiates heat well, is easy to clean and means it will last essentially forever.

Things we didn’t like include the less than straightforward assembly and large opening on the back – even when the lid is closed. Design quality could be better and more durable.

Poor Deal: NexGrill 4 Burner

NextGrill reviewed

NextGrill 4 Burner Propane Gas Grill

Model: 720-0830H
Price: See Current Price
Burners: 4
Grates: Stainless Steel
Size Of Main Cooking Space: 26" X 17"
BTUs: 48,000
Max Cooking Load: 15 (4") burgers
Features: The basics

We didn't want to be too hard on this grill, expecting it to come up a bit short just due to the price tag and reviews. But it really wasn’t a great performer, either at smoking or grilling. Steaks seared and cooked unevenly, and when we tried to smoke ribs, they came out a bit too dry and rubbery; it wasn't until the next go-around - this time placing the ribs a few inches from the lit burner, that they came out okay. Nexgrill manufactures out of China and is also responsible for the KitchenAid grill we tested.

Design is poor, lid is cookie-cutter, quality could be better and heating more even – just a “meh” grill.

Bad Deal: Kitchenaid 3 burner

Kitchenaid gas grill 3 burner

Kitchenaid 3 Burner Gas Grill

Model: 720-0953
Price: $499 (Home Depot, Amazon was priced far higher)
Burners: 3
Grates: Stainless Steel
Size of Main Cooking Area: 24" x 19"
BTUs: 36,000
Max Cooking Load: 20 (4") burgers
Features: Side burner

Also manufactured by NexGrill, this grill boasts the popular KitchenAid name – but can’t really compete with nicer models. Heat and grilling were as uneven as the other NexGrill, and it just wasn’t very hot except at the back, where food tended to quickly burn. So, it wasn’t good for steaks, though it worked okay for smoking the rack of ribs, if you can overlook the lack of smoke. At least it looks good.

One Response

  1. Tim April 8, 2019 Reply

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