Best Gas Grills Under $500 – Tested & Reviewed

by Top Geek  

These are the 6 best affordable gas grills under $500 for 2023. Here's everything you need to know about buying a gas grill including our reviews and feedback on our top picks. See the winner below.

Updated: 3/06/23

THE PLAN...

Our goal was to find an reasonably priced 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 materials.

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 Starting Lineup

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

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 propane 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.

grilling bread on grill

Some of the propane 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 propane 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.

weber spirit grill features

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 with good heat retention, 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


1

Winner:
Weber Spirt II

Weber Spirit E-210 Gas Grill | Liquid Propane, 2-Burner | Black

Model: 46110001
Price: Around $500
Burners:2
Grates: Porcelain-enameled, cast-iron
Size of Main Cooking Area: 360 square inches
BTUs: 26,500
Max Cooking Load: 15 burgers
Assembly Time: 2 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★★
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★★
Design: ★★★★☆
Durability: ★★★★★
Cleanup: ★★★★☆

The Weber brand is well-known in the BBQ industry and for good reason. 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.

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, performance, and heat retention.

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. 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.

If you have a few more bucks to spend, check out the Spirit II E 310. This newer 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. Keep in mind, if you need additional grilling space but still want to go with the Weber Spirit II you can pick up the Weber Spirit II-310 for about an extra $100 giving you about an additional 80 sq. in. of cooking space an additional burner with similar features and performance. 

Another cool feature about the latest model of the Spirit II E 310 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.

Either way you go, the Spirt II E 210 or Spirt II E 310 you won't be disappointed. There isn't a better grill gas grill we've used for the $500 - $600 price range. These models are a reliable performer that does it all, with a solid and durable build that should stand the test of time. Easily the best gas grill under $500 and our top pick in our BBQ gift lineup. 

2

Char-Griller E3001

Char-Griller E3001 Grillin' Pro 40,800-BTU Gas Grill, Black

Model: ‎E3001
Price: $400
Burners: 3
Grates: Coated, cast iron grates
Size of Main Cooking Area: 390 square inches
BTUs: 40,800 + 12,000 Side
Max Cooking Load: 18 burgers
Assembly Time: 2.5 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★★
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★☆
Design: ★★★☆☆
Durability: ★★★☆☆
Cleanup: ★★★★☆

I'll open up by saying, 13,000 BTUs per burner - across three burners for a total of 40,000 BTUs. Sounds impressive, but does it deliver? Yes it does. One of the main things we're looking for here is how well does a gas grill sear. In our testing we found that this grill reaches temps of 600°F+. 600°F+ when all three burners are set to low. When it came to searing a steak, we found this grill preformed as good as our top searing grill for less than $400 reaching temperatures upwards of 800°F.

Additionally, you don't have the problem with heat escaping out of the back of the grill before it has a chance to pass over the meat as it's designed with two top vents for more even heat distribution.  However, as expected with most grills in this price range, direct heat is not evenly distributed and concentrated directly in the center - even with the decent heat diffuser bars.

Getting this grill to preform “low-and-slow” is a little problematic as it runs so hot even on its lowest setting. As a result, you’ll need to turn your left or right burner to low and turn the other two off to preform an indirect cook at around 250°F – or just use your smoker if you have one and reserve the E3001 for grilling and searing.

The direct cooking surface is 390 sq. in. with an additional 180 sq. in. of space on the warming rack. The grill also features a 12,000 BTU side burner. Assembly of the grill was more or less straight forward. Design quality is reasonable for the price and you’ll want to pick up the grill cover as rusting will be an issue.   

In the end, this is where price meets performance to yield a grill that gets the job done at a price ideal for anyone in the market for a gas grill.

3

Broil King Signet 320

BroilKing Signet 320 Gas Grill

Model: ‎946854
Price: -----
Burners: 3
Grates: Cast Iron, Reversable
Size of Main Cooking Area: 400 square inches (630 in total)
BTUs: 40,000
Max Cooking Load: 20 - 25 burgers
Assembly Time: 1.5 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★★
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★☆
Design: ★★★☆☆
Durability: ★★★☆☆
Cleanup: ★★★★☆

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.

4

Weber Traveler

Weber Traveler

Model: ‎9010001
Price: $400
Burners: 1
Grates: Porcelain-enameled cast iron grates
Size of Main Cooking Area: 320 square inches
BTUs: 13,000
Max Cooking Load: 12 burgers
Assembly Time: 0.5 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★☆
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★☆
Design: ★★★★☆
Durability: ★★★★☆
Cleanup: ★★★★☆

Let's talk for a second about the value of a grill that can move when you do? What's it worth to you at a monetary level and what are you willing to give up in the name of portability? As we found with Weber's new Traveler Portable Gas Grill, you may not have to sacrifice much in the way of performance for a practical and effective grill solution on the go - if you don't mind spending around $400 on 300 sq. in. of limited cooking space.

The Weber Traveler is impressive; a portable gas grill that features a little over 300 sq. in. of cooking surface (enough for about 12 regular size burgers). The design is much like their portable electric Q grill we reviewed here.

It has a 13,000 BTUs burner. During testing, this grill impressed us for something that can run off a small (1 lbs.) disposable propane tank (like the one you'd use for a lantern). The temperature range was 400°F on low ranging to 650°F on high. The last portable grill I owned that was designed to run on a portable propane tank had trouble reaching 500°F. Naturally, our initial concern with 13,000 BTUs with a 1 lbs. propane cylinder what how long we could expect a small tank to last - the answer? About 2.5 hours on low, 2 on medium, and 1 on high - not bad. If you want to run off a full-size propane tank, you'll need to buy an extension hose.

The other impressive aspect is how evenly heat was distributed directly from the surface; the burner runs evenly throughout the entire grilling surface. Steak seared beautifully when cranked up to high. Chicken cooked well on a low setting then set to medium for the last leg of the cook - heat remained trapped inside the grill for an efficient and even cook. One thing though, there isn't a whole lot of room for anything too tall like a turkey; even spatchcocked, you'd be hard pressed (literally) to close the lid.

This grills design for portability is outstanding. The compact design is second to none. Simply fold and unfold by placing your foot at the base and grabbing the handle - it couldn't be simpler. As far as quality goes, I have questions about durability over time if you're constantly toting it around but that's to be expected when it comes to something fairly lightweight that you can load and unload. First thing I'm going to do is swap out the plastic wheels for rubber ones.

Overall, the Weber Traveler Portable Gas Grill is an impressive and convenient solution for grilling on the go, outperforming any "portable" gas grill we've ever tested. You've heard it here first; this is the best portable gas grill on the market.

5

The Char-Griller E5030

Char-Griller E5030 Dual Function 2-Burner Gas & Charcoal Grill,

Model: ‎E5030
Price: ----
Burners: 2
Grates: Porcelain coated cast iron grates
Size of Main Cooking Area: 575 square inches
BTUs: 24,000
Max Cooking Load: 24 burgers
Assembly Time: 1.5 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★★
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★☆
Design: ★★★★☆
Durability: ★★★★☆
Cleanup: ★★★★☆

The Char-Griller E5030 is a hybrid gas and charcoal grill that offers the best of both worlds. With two fairly high-powered gas burners coming in at 12,000 BTUs each, this grill reached an average temperature of 505°F across the two burners. The grill includes charcoal grates also give you the option to cook using traditional methods. However, the offset grill design lacks a bit when trying to get even heat to disperse over meat evenly when cooking on the charcoal side. As for the gas side, the small cooking space and the dual controlled heat vents allow for heat to disperse evenly around the meat. The airflow design here is more ideal than the gas grills that contain a large gap running horizontally across the back (for the reasons stated above).

Both the cooking surfaces of the gas and charcoal compartments measure at about 18" x 15" (870 sq. in. cooking space in total including the warming rack) - enough to fit around 8 burgers on each side, or even a turkey on each side (if you remove the warming rack).

The Char-Griller E5030 has a few design design flaws, but we've seen worst for even at the $500+ mark. This grill will will rust quickly so you’ll need to pick up the grill cover. There's a lot to be said for an entry level priced grill that it gets hot enough for a true sear, and hey, if you want, you can toss in some charcoal if your in the mood for some good BBQ. Slow cooked pulled pork, while burgers and veggies are searing; all this for under $300 — that’s a win in our book.

6

Kenmore 3 Burner Pedestal Grill

Kenmore 3-Burner Outdoor BBQ Grill

Model: ‎PG-A4030400LD
Price: ----
Burners: 3
Grates: Cast iron
Size of Main Cooking Area: 380 square inches
BTUs: 30,000
Max Cooking Load: 18 burgers
Assembly Time: 1.5 Hours

Grilling: ★★★★☆
Indirect Cooking: ★★★★☆
Design: ★★★★☆
Durability: ★★★★☆
Cleanup: ★★★☆☆

The grill, has the typical uneven direct surface heating pattern with the back and center heating up about 35% more than the outside and front areas. However, when it comes to the searing we couldn’t deny its performance. Each burner runs at 10,000 BTUs for a total of 30,000 BTUs and it reached top performance at 675 °F giving us a great sear on the steak when placed directly in the center of the cooking surface. The other thing we liked is the dials for regulating the heat were more responsive then all the units we tried other than the Weber Spirt II.

Good assembly instructions, the best aside from Weber’s – actually written by someone who understands and speaks English (same can’t be said for all the grills we assembled). However, it still took about an hour and a half to assemble. The shelves are great, love that they fold away making the grill only 32” wide for storage.

The quality is fair, but lightweight.

There are some design flaws however; cleaning can be difficult due to the lack of a removable tray underneath, but with some patience it's doable. The oil drip collection tray is a small cup that fills up after a few sessions; it’s somewhat awkward to access and the bummer, is when it overflows it drips right onto the propane tank. Also, worth noting, the propane tank always isn’t super easy to remove as you’ll need to dig it out from the back of the grill.  The wheels are small, but it does roll around nicely with the wheels inset just enough to ensure decent balance when moving.

In the end the Kenmore 3-Burner grill offers value that can’t be denied with its high BTUs that seem to deliver no the 10,000 rating per burner, but the design flaws held us back from rating this one higher – however, if you can find it on sale for around $300 you’d be getting a steal.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PURCHASING A GAS GRILL


Should I purchase a propane or natural gas grill?

When selecting between a propane or natural gas grill, it comes down to functionality. Propane grills are more portable and require no additional parts for setup, while natural gas grills are a great if  you already have an outdoor gas line for your firepit or outdoor kitchen. It's nice not to have to worry about refilling  propane tanks as they always seem to run out of fuel at the wrong time. 

What type of fuel source is most efficient for gas grills?

Natural gas. It provides an unlimited supply of fuel, so you don't need to worry about running out while cooking. It is also cleaner burning than propane; meaning you produce less pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions. You'll find gas grills burn more consistently when running from natural gas as they don't have the same type of regulator propane does that can cause uneven heat levels. Best of all, natural gas is cheaper than buying propane.

Are there any additional accessories I can purchase with my gas grill?

Of course.  The first thing, is temperature gauges on all gas grills suck, so buy probe thermometer, read more on all the various types of thermometers here.  Grill covers are key for many of the grills in our roundup.  Grilling baskets are ideal for veggies and cast iron griddles can transform the type of cooking you can do on your gas grill. Pizza stones are also great for making pizza and fresh grilled bread. Smoke boxes bring the flavor of real BBQ to your gas grill. See here for more ideas.

What are the pros and cons of a gas grill?

Obvious benefit of a gas grill is on-demand set-it-and-forget it cooking just like your stove - no need to mess with charcoal to dial-in temperature.  Gas grills also produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions than charcoal grills and cleanup with gas grills is super simple.

On the downside, gas grills on average  more expensive than charcoal grills. And you don't get the same BBQ or grilled flavor you do with charcoal or wood.

How do i make great tasting BBQ with a gas grill?

Making tasty BBQ with a gas grill comes down to two things;  temperature control and smoke. See here for a quick overview of how to get great tasting BBQ with your gas grill.

For smoked food, using wood chips or chunks will infuse the smoky flavor into your food; using a smoke tube is the best way to produce smoke with your gas grill. Utilize indirect heat whenever possible by keeping one side of the grill cooler than the other so you can move food from hot to cool if it starts to burn too quickly. BBQ is all about low-and-slow cooking.

 

How often should I clean my gas grill and how long does it take?

You should clean your gas grill after every session, those food bits stuck on your grill grate don't add flavor - despite what your grandfather said. Expect cleaning to take about 5 - 10 minutes. 

Start by turning off the gas supply and letting the grill cool down. During this time, remove ash or other debris from the burner using a grill brush and then wipe down any excess grease or oil with a damp cloth. Then turn the burners back on for about 10 minutes before wiping again with a damp cloth to remove any remaining dirt or residue. Empty the grease trap. And be sure to check there are no blockages in the gas bar vents.

how long does a standard propane tank last for a gas grill?

It depends how much fuel you use but ballpark; a standard 20lbs propane tank will very last around 14 hours (math is based on 30,000 BTUs on medium heat).

How do I know how much gas is left in my propane tank?

To find out how much gas is left in your propane tank weigh it with your bathroom scale; each pound of weight is around 2 - 3 hours of cook time. You can also buy a gauge regulator for an easier real-time reading.

About the author Top Geek

I have always been a believer: “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve been lucky enough to use my professional experience in the meat industry over the past 20 years to create a business where I love to go to work.

Smoking Meat Geeks is all about bringing people together that enjoy food as much as I do. We provide a place for everyone to share thoughts, ideas, and recipes; to be a go-to spot for cooking inspiration. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello, or provide any tips. There is no right or wrong input, as long as you’re engaging, you’re a Meat Geek!

  • This was a review of the best grills under $500. After reading the article, then going to current price…. $639. Really!! I want that time back that I spent reading.

    • We’ve updated the link for the BROIL KING SIGNET 320 so you can order it for $449. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. When we initially conducted our review it was listed at $499 at most retailers.

  • For your top selection you have the model number of Spirit II E-210, the Picture of the Spirit E310, and the description of the Spirit II E310.

  • OMG. We have the Char-Broil Performance. THE WORST! Can’t get a sear on a steak and it takes forever to heat up to 300. And we live in a warm climate! Called Char Broil, they replaced burners but no difference. That’s why we’re shopping…… but worried about the advice here.

  • Neither of the top 2 grills are under $500. The Weber is about $700 and the cheapest I was able to find the Broil King was $599 at Rona.

    I love the research it seems you put into this but the costs are not accurate any more.

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