Even though Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson both signed the Declaration of Independence, the historical figure that more Americans would invite to their Fourth of July cookout is Abraham Lincoln. That's one of the results of the Sizzle Study recently conducted by grillmaker Char-Broil. And what would Abe be served? Humble hot dogs and hamburgers. Those you can cook on almost any reliable grill but if you prefer fancier fare for your favorite guests, check for gas grills that excelled in all three of Consumer Reports' cooking tasks.
When Consumer Reports tests gas grills it measures high-temperature evenness over the grill's surface and then we sear some steaks. We also test the unit's low temperature performance by both checking the temperature and cooking chicken and fish over a low flame. Finally, we check indirect cooking in which the food isn't placed directly over the flame. This is a useful feature if you like to slow cook roasts, ribs, or whole fish and poultry.
Of the medium-sized grills in our tests, the most popular size, the Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared 463250512 aced our trio of tests and costs hundreds less than other top-rated models. A CR Best Buy, it's sold at Home Depot and has an electronic igniter, side burner, infrared main burner, and coated cast-iron grates, which tend to be better for searing and maintaining even grilling temperatures. There's a lifetime warranty on the burners, the most frequently replaced grill part.
The American-made Huntington Patriot 658184 was the only large grill to earn a top score on all three cooking tasks. At $700 it's another CR Best Buy and is loaded with premium features. It produced nicely seared steaks, moist chicken and salmon and excelled at indirect cooking. The Huntington has an electronic igniter, side burner, and coated cast-iron grates. There's also an infrared rotisserie burner and a light in the cooking area. The pullout tray for the propane tank makes turning the tank on or off a snap and simplifies changing it.
None of the small and portable grills in our tests excelled in the cooking trifecta. The Napoleon Terrace SE325PK came closest with excellent scores on high and low heating and a very good score on indirect cooking. It has lots of stainless steel and shelf space, two main burners, coated cast-iron grates, and a long warranty on its burners. It sells for $600 but the propane tank is extra.
In its survey, Char-Broil also asked what person folks would like to engage in a grill-side chat. Mom and Dad won that one but three presidents also made the list: Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. And so did grill master Bobby Flay.
—Mary H.J. Farrell