The two most popular types of outdoor grills are kettle-shaped charcoal grills and propane- or natural gas-fueled grills. Both styles allow direct-heat grilling, indirect-heat grilling and smoking.
These versatile grills—from small, portable, Japanese-style hibachis to large, kettle-shaped models—use hardwood and charcoal to impart a wonderful smokiness to your food. Kettle-shaped grills can also double as smokers because the deep, rounded base and domed cover make them fuel-efficient and let you grill with direct or indirect heat. These covered grills also allow you to continue cooking when the weather turns windy or rainy. Vents on the base and cover help you control the temperature inside the grill. Some models feature gas ignition systems that make lighting the charcoal as easy as pushing a button.
Easy cleanup and convenience are the hallmarks of a gas grill. However, the trade-off is much less flavor from smoke—though most gas models are built to vaporize smoke, which does make its way to the grilled items. Flames heat a bed of ceramic briquettes, heat-absorbent crushed lava rock, or stainless-steel or enameled metal baffles, which in turn cook food placed on a rack above them. The grill’s hood allows for indirect-heat grilling and smoking. When selecting a gas grill, choose one with more than one heat element so the grill can be used for cooking with indirect heat.
Kamado-style ceramic charcoal cookers are extremely versatile because of their ability to grill, smoke, or bake. The grill's ceramic interior allows it to efficiently maintain heat (even at low temperatures) as well as achieve very high temperatures above 500˚.
Indoor electric grills and grill pans are handy, but both lack a cover, so their use is limited to cooking over direct heat. Most recipes for direct-heat grilling can be done successfully on indoor equipment, though it may take longer because these grills generally do not get as hot as outdoor gas or charcoal grills.