Few things warrant as much pride as grilling a steak perfectly yourself. But getting that expertly seared-on-the-outside, pink-on-the-inside cook is often a frustrating gamble. Backyard grills’ heat sources and cooking surfaces are uneven, unreliable and inefficient. It’s time to upgrade your Weber.
Now you can get barbecues with high-tech equipment like infrared burners and salamanders found in professional kitchens. And fun accessories like rotisseries, which were once relegated to “set it and forget it” late-night infomercials.
The technology has improved so much on your backyard set-up that now you can start getting professional-level results to impress your friends. You may not become Aaron Franklin (though, you’ll see you can have a pit he’s created), but you’ll sure be the best on the block. Here are seven unique backyard setups to guarantee.
Hestan has flipped the traditional grill on its head: Its Outdoor grills have a ceramic, infrared top burner under the hood. With heat sources below and above, you can sear, broil and finish your meats like a professional kitchen does under a salamander. The hood has spring-assisted hinges that keep it in place, whatever angle you open it at, and motion-activated “stadium lights” illuminate the cooking area for late-night or early-morning grilling sessions. And all of the grills—built in, freestanding or carts—are available in 12 colors, bringing a splash of brightness to the typical stainless-steel finish.
Kamado-style grills are the ceramic, dome-shaped cookers made famous in Japan and then domestically by Big Green Egg. The vessels are tightly enclosed, making them ideal for precisely controlling airflow and temperature. The Komodo’s Serious Big Bad is similar to a classic Big Green—if that egg had been laid by Godzilla. This cooker is 42 inches wide and 22 inches deep; you can fit an entire hog in there. Weighing in at a whopping 1,688 pounds, the Serious Big Bad contains three levels of grates and a charcoal basket splitter, so you can cook at different temperatures in multiple zones. Order it embellished with high-gloss ceramic pebbles or tiles to complete its scale-y, kaiju look.
Traeger Ironwood 885
Many people are drawn to grilling for the primitive nature of the act. They tune out the world and tune into the fire, the meat and the char. Some people, though, would rather not stand over it the whole time, breathing in all that smoke. That’s where Traeger comes in. Its Ironwood 885 pellet grill, which has enough grill space to hold 10 chickens, seven rib racks and nine pork butts at once, is Wi-Fi enabled. Designed to look like an Indian Motorcycle sidecar, the grill connects to an app in your phone to keep you updated on the grill’s temperature, monitor your foods’ cooking progress and alert you when you’re low on fuel—from wherever you choose to stand.
Bring the theatrics of an Argentine asado home with Kalamazoo’s Gaucho. This wood-fired grill has an attached 30-inch spoked wheel, which you spin to raise and lower the cooking rack to the flame. The grates have a vertical range of 28 inches, guaranteeing a precise cook. Gas burners get your fire roaring in less than five minutes. And the Gaucho includes a motorized, built-in rotisserie spit that’s hefty enough to hold an entire animal for roasting. It can be used simultaneously as you grill. Add a couple of bottles of Malbec to the dinner table and you’ve delivered dinner, drinks and a show.
Twin Eagles 36-Inch Pellet Grill
Twin Eagles’ 36-inch Pellet Grill is designed for the pit master who wants ultimate, quantitative control. The Wi-Fi-enabled grill contains three built-in temperature probes, which can be used to monitor various meats’ internal warmth via a phone app. It also has an integrated, weatherproof touch screen for setting cooking temps, either at a pre-programmed level or manually from 140 to 725 degrees. The only thing this Twin Eagles doesn’t do is input the data on everything you grill, bake, sear, smoke and rotisserie in a spreadsheet for you.
Napoleon Prestige Pro 825
Sure, your grill can cook. But can it put on a light show? While not the most impressive feature of Napoleon’s Prestige Pro 825, its light-up control knobs are certainly the most fun: Outfitted with LED Spectrum lights, they can glow in practically any color and cycle through the rainbow on their own. As a bonus safety feature, they will switch to red if you accidentally leave the gas on. The Prestige Pro 825 can run on propane or natural gas, includes scorching-hot infrared burners on the bottom and rear, and a side burner, totaling 1,430 square inches of cooking space. That’s enough space to cook 51 burgers at the same time. An integrated wood chips smoker tray is camouflaged as a control knob, and slides out so you can fill it with chips and add just a hint of smoky flavor to your meal, without having to fill your yard with smog.
A watched pot never boils, and a grill hood that keeps getting opened never cooks. Fire Magic has solved the problem of the impatient grill master with its Magic View Window, a heat-resistant pane of ceramic glass built right into the hood. The transparent opening gives you an inside look at everything going on in there, so you don’t have to lose valuable heat opening and closing the lid. The window is even designed to allow natural air flow to pass under it, pushing smoke, grease and vision-blocking build-up away from your peephole. The only drawback? You have nothing to blame for under- or over-cooked meats again.
Gas, wood and charcoal fuels can be unpredictable. Hot and cold spots can build up around the grilling surface, creating uneven cooking times and finishes. Lynx’s Sedona grills remove the guesswork. One-third of its grates sit over a powerful infrared burner, while the rest hoover over rows of ceramic, radiant briquettes, a dupe for real charcoal. These white blocks retain heat and repel grease, so when they’re dripped on during cooking, they return the aroma and flavor to the meat above. Both the briquettes and the infrared artificial heat sources are designed to be consistent, easy to monitor and to last a lifetime. You can’t say that about a bag of Kingsford.
Everdure Hub II
Cooking with charcoal isn’t just for utility; it’s for fun. Heston Blumenthal, designer of the Everdure Hub II, has made a freestanding grill to match the playful mood. This charcoal grill has a push-button ignition—gas-grill style—so you don’t have to fool with harsh igniting chemicals. It’s ready to cook in 10 minutes, and its chrome grates have long handles that stay cool to the touch, so you can flip them up, push the coals to the side and create multiple cooking areas as you go. An integrated, retractable rotisserie spit that can hold full-sized animals, adds a touch of medieval flair to the contemporary, yard-centerpiece design.
Franklin Barbecue Pit by Aaron Franklin
The king of Texas barbecue, Aaron Franklin, is now gunning to be the king of backyard smokers. The man behind Franklin Barbecue has been tinkering with this home-friendly design for years, engineering it for maximum airflow and convection, and he’s finally ready to release it to the public. Each 600-pound steel pit includes a double-walled firebox, 42-inch cook chamber with a water pan shelf and cooking grate, and a removable smokestack that reaches more than six feet high. Each pit is made by hand in Austin and can be delivered in its natural steel patina or a colorful powder coat. While you won’t reach Franklin’s output anytime soon—he cooks more than 100 briskets every day—you will be able to smoke three briskets at once, which will hopefully satisfy your household for a day.