Grilling season is officially here. The summer holidays and extra time spent with family and friends outside beg for meals cooked on a grill. If you plan to cook many meals on a grill, you may think it’s time for an upgrade — and you’ve got your eye on one of those fancy gas grills with side burners, propane gauges and thermometers. But all of those extras can get expensive: High-end gas grills can cost more than $1,000. Buying new isn’t the only way to upgrade your grill this season. Whether you’re making the switch from charcoal to gas, or just want more impressive features, here are some ways to get an updated, new-to-you, or — if you’re insistent — a new gas grill on the cheap.
Ask around or check Craigslist for “broken” grills
My fiancé and I got our new gas grill for free from a neighbor who was moving away. The grill’s igniter was broken, so he didn’t see the sense in lugging it to his new house. We went to our local hardware store and found it sold “universal fit snap-on igniter kits” for $17. Bigger stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot may sell them for less, or you can look online for places like eBay ($13) and Amazon to find them even cheaper. Personally, I am willing to pay a few more dollars at a small business to get more personal service; at our store, the worker suggested we change the battery on the igniter before shelling out for the kit. Sometimes the igniter isn’t actually broken; it simply needs a $1 battery.
Upgrade your existing grill
Let’s be honest. High-end grills are unlikely to cook your food any better, they just have more features. Something I’ve seen on a lot of new grills are propane gauges, which can be handy when you don’t want to run out of gas during a neighborhood barbecue. But is that feature worth buying a whole new grill? Our local hardware store sells gas gauge add-ons for $12. Online, you can get one for $9. Another cool feature on new grills are thermometers. You can also buy these online or at your local store for less than $20. Or splurge for a cool remote thermometer — it’ll still be cheaper than shelling out for a new grill.
If you feel like your grill just looks old, maybe it needs a new paint job or a good cleaning. First, try cleaning the outside with dish soap, which will help fight grease. If you still think it needs a new coat of paint, clean the exterior with something stronger to get all of the grease off, which will make the paint go on smoother. If the old paint is peeling, you’ll need to strip it down. A steel wool sponge and elbow grease will do the job. Now you’re ready to paint. A can of grill paint is about $10 to 20, and depending on the surface you are covering you may need one or two cans. You may also want to apply a few coats to get a really polished look.
Still want a new grill?
If you really want a new grill, buy a basic model and incorporate the special features gradually. Just be careful not to get caught up on a grill with all of the “special” features built in. When I was looking at new grills, I saw signs for “free” accessories, including extra meat thermometers and grill mats. Of course, the “free” features were on the more expensive grill models. You can buy them all for less than the difference in cost between a high-end grill and a more standard-issue model. Save your money and put it toward your next big barbecue.