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 setup 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 13 unique backyard setups to guarantee it.
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The only problem with investing in a sophisticated outdoor grill setup is that you can’t take it with you when you leave the house. That is, unless you have one of TEC’s portable grills. TEC, the company that invented the infrared grill 40 years ago, now has its groundbreaking tech in a compact, mobile package. Their G-Sport FR has a full-size cooking surface (309 square inches) that can handle 18 hamburgers at once, can heat up to a scorching 850 degrees in only 10 minutes, and can be carried like a 72-pound suitcase to vacations or events. You can perch the stainless-steel build on a freestanding pedestal or set it on a countertop, table, or tailgate—it’s even certified for use on combustible surfaces like wood.
Kamado-style grills are the dome-shaped cookers perfected in Japan and then made famous domestically, much more recently, by Big Green Egg. The vessels are tightly enclosed, making them ideal for precisely controlling airflow and temperature. Blaze’s Kamado brings the ancient concept even more up to date by replacing the model’s traditional ceramic body with a 1¼-inch-thick cast aluminum one, which blends right in with the rest of your sleek, stainless steel outdoor kitchen. Aluminum means it’s lighter, sturdier and more mobile than the original; Blaze’s 20-inch-wide Kamado is only 161 pounds while ceramic Kamados can reach weights of 1,000-plus pounds. The best part? It’s guaranteed to never rust or go on the fritz, and it’s backed by a lifetime warranty to prove it.
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 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.
The cooking appliances once reserved for commercial kitchens are now available for your patio. Viking—the brand that’s been designing pro ranges for 40 years—has an Outdoor line of heavy-duty gas grills that will make you feel like you’ve taken the best aspects of a restaurant line al fresco. The massive freestanding or built-in grills have up to 1,555 square inches of cooking surface, which are outfitted with multiple cast brass burners (rated at 25,000 BTUs each and guaranteed for a lifetime), searing burners, rear infrared burners, and dual-position rotisseries with three-speed motors. You can even top your grill off with an outdoor vent hood to really hammer home the celebrity-chef-on-his-day-off vibe.
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 Timberline 1300 pellet grill, which has enough grill space to hold 12 chickens, 15 rib racks or 12 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.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Camp Chef’s Woodwind WiFi 36 the Swiss Army Knife of pellet grills. Like others on this list, the 36-inch barbecue is fully WiFi-enabled, with an app that allows you to control everything from smoke level (from 1 to 10) to cooking temps (160º F to 500º F). A PID-controlled system ensures that the brand’s wood pellets—which come in flavors ranging from Cherry Charwood to Mesquite—distribute evenly so your temps stay within five degrees of your target, while four meat probes help you keep tabs on your cook from your phone. But what really makes the Woodwind stand out is its versatility. The smoker is designed to host a slew of ingenious attachments, from side grills to mini ovens, that open up your cooking options. The Sidekick, a 28,000 BTU cast-aluminum propane burner, works in tandem with a Sidekick Sear box (pictured above) to help you execute the perfect finish on that tomahawk ribeye. Meanwhile, the Artisan Outdoor Oven—which comes complete with pizza stone—will have you making homemade pies from your backyard. The result is portable grill that may well offer adventurous pit masters the most fun this side of an outdoor kitchen.
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.
Texas barbecue royalty 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.
Cooking with fire is more art than science. It isn’t just for utility; it’s for fun. And Arteflame’s line of stylish outdoor grills sure are fun. The flat-top, Mongolian-style grill is cut in a circle, with a hole in the middle for a live fire, fueled by wood or charcoal that smoke and flavor your food at once. The tall carbon-steel base moderates airflow, allowing the cooktop to reach temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. The grill heats from the center, out, so you can create multiple cooking areas with different heat patterns as you go. Plus, the cooktop lifts off, so the grill doubles as a polished, yard-centerpiece fire pit.
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.
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