Indoor vs. Outdoor Grill: Which Is Better?
It’s a tough choice, but a clear winner will definitely emerge for you in this grilling showdown.
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If you can’t stop daydreaming about grilled steaks, it’s high time to invest in a grill of your own. But before you buy, you have to answer one big question: Should you get an indoor grill or an outdoor grill? Both have benefits and drawbacks, of course, and you’ll have to consider your individual needs and home setup to figure out which is right for you. Hey, if you have the space and the budget, you may even decide to get one of each! First, though, here’s what you need to know about indoor vs. outdoor grills.
The pros and cons of indoor grills
via amazon.comIndoor grills, like this popular model from Hamilton Beach, allow you to whip up burgers, steaks, and grilled vegetables without leaving your kitchen. We recommend indoor grills for anyone who doesn’t have enough space for an outdoor grill. They may leave something to be desired in terms of smoky flavor, if that’s what you’re looking for, but they make up for it with a variety of other benefits.
- Compact and portable
- Better heat distribution
- Easy to clean and maintain
- More versatile
- Year-round use, even in inclement weather
- More affordable
- Less “grill” flavor
- Smaller cooking surface
- Unable to reach high temperatures
Because they’re more compact, indoor grills are typically best for cooking for just a few people at a time, and many can also be used as a griddle or panini press. For example, the De’Longhi Livenza All-Day Grill will make you seriously reconsider your need for any other cooking appliance, since you can use it to make waffles, grilled sandwiches, and assorted BBQ items whenever you like, then tuck it away in a cabinet to free up your countertop space. Here are some surprising things you wouldn’t think to grill—but should.
The pros and cons of outdoor grills
via homedepot.comAnd now for a closer look at outdoor grills. They typically use charcoal or propane as a heating source and allow you to cook for many people at once. The KitchenAid Cart-Style Charcoal Grill, for instance, offers a whopping 851.1 square inches of cooking space, which includes a main grilling area and an upper-level warming rack. If you want that classic barbecue flavor, you’re going to need an outdoor grill to achieve it—and a charcoal one, at that. Of course, depending on where you live, you might not use it for a good portion of the year (unless you don’t mind cooking in the snow), so that may also factor into your indoor vs. outdoor grill decision.
- Smoky flavor
- Larger cooking area
- Powered by charcoal or gas
- Ideal for hosting more people
- Reliant on good weather
- Charcoal delivers less consistent heat
- More work to maintain
- More expensive
As you can see, outdoor grills require a larger investment—both in terms of money, space, and time—but many people think they’re worth it thanks to the smoky flavor they provide. Plus, fans would say that nothing beats hosting a barbecue on a gorgeous summer night. Don’t miss these 25 surprising grilling facts you haven’t heard 10 times before.
Indoor vs. outdoor grills: What else to consider
Got a favorite yet? You might be leaning toward one over the other right now, but you’ll need to delve into the differences a little more before you buy. Learning the answers to your 11 biggest questions about grilling will also help.
The flavor factor
via amazon.comOne of the major differences in the battle of indoor vs. outdoor grills is flavor. When you’re cooking on a charcoal grill—like this iconic Weber Kettle model or the more tricked-out Smokin’ Champ Charcoal Grill Horizontal Smoker (which has an attached fire box for indirect heating and smoking)—your food is infused with the delicious smoky flavor that characterizes “true” barbecue. Unfortunately, even the most advanced indoor grills can’t deliver this same depth of flavor. (Neither can outdoor gas grills, but we’ll get to those in a moment.)
While we’re on the topic, you can even take this taste to go: If you’re really tight on space or you’re heading out on a camping trip, you’ve got options. Check out the lightweight and compact Weber 12102L0 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill, which fits about six burgers at a time, and the 14-inch Cuisinart CCG190RB Portable Charcoal Grill, which weighs in at just 2 pounds and costs less than $30!
Regardless of whether you go charcoal, gas, or electric, here’s how to grill (almost) everything.
Ease of use
Outdoor charcoal grills tend to burn hotter, and it can be tricky to keep the heat consistent across your grilling surface. Fortunately, gas-powered outdoor grills—like the Weber Spirit 2 E-210 Burner Propane Gas Grill, which has racked up more than 7,000 glowing reviews on Home Depot’s website—make this easier. Still, with most outdoor grills, you will have to purchase charcoal or propane, clean out the drip pans or ash catcher, and scrub down the grates to keep your grill in top shape. When you buy a set of grill tools, make sure it comes with a good wire cleaning brush.
Indoor grills, on the other hand, are a bit quicker and easier to use. First, they heat up quickly. Second, because they use electricity, they provide a more evenly heated cooking surface. Most are also quite easy to clean—a lot of indoor grills even have removable grates that can be put right in the dishwasher. That’s true of the brand-new George Foreman Contact Smokeless Grill; both the grill plate and the drip tray are dishwasher safe. Also, did you catch the part about it being smokeless? You won’t have to worry about setting off the smoke alarms in your kitchen because the grill’s open-plate design lets grease drip into the tray before it can burn.
Whether you’re grilling indoors or outdoors, it’s important to follow grill safety best practices to keep your summer barbecue from turning into a disaster. Never leave the grill unattended, and make sure it’s been properly cleaned and maintained before use. Choose a safe grilling location away from decorations and flammable materials, and keep children away from the hot surface. You’ll also want to have a fire extinguisher close by, just in case. While we’re talking about safety, make sure to avoid this surprising grilling mistake that can send you to the hospital.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, both indoor and outdoor grills will help you whip up delicious meals. If you’re strapped for space, an indoor grill is likely a more affordable and versatile option. It will also work well if you’re cooking for a small family—or just yourself—and, of course, you can use it whenever you like. Those who regularly host barbecues, however, may like the ample grilling space that an outdoor grill provides. And if you’re a flavor fanatic, keep in mind that outdoor charcoal grills are the undisputed champs when it comes to smoky profiles. Once you’ve made up your mind between indoor vs. outdoor grills, it’s time to figure out what to cook. Try these 31 delicious grill ideas for the best summer BBQ.