9to5Toys Gift Guide: Patrick’s path to the perfect outdoor grilling setup from $15

Now that the Thanksgiving and Black Friday holidays are behind us, it’s time to look forward to Christmas and the gift-giving season. We’re here to help you find the perfect present for everyone in your life, and today we’re going to focus specifically on the outdoor cook and griller that loves the open flame as a way to craft great meals for the family. Sometimes it can be hard to find just what that griller needs for Christmas, but we’ll do our best to help you make an informed decision in various categories, ranging from full grilling setups to accessories that are a bit off the beaten path but still welcomed in all toolkits. So, without further ado, here’s the 9to5Toys gift guide for the best grilling essentials.

The best setups include pellet grills

While you can absolutely have multiple cookers on your porch, there’s something about having one tool that really can do it all. Our grilling gift guide starts out with Traeger at the top of the list for all-in-one cookers, though the price does reflect that. You can enter the Traeger game for under $500, and those models surely will be a solid grill/smoker for any setup. However, the company’s higher-end models ship with WiFIRE technology and a much larger cooking surface, which is why those get our stamp of recommendation for all-out grilling setups.

Why Traeger? Well, the grills from Traeger offer extreme versatility. With the ability to heat up to 500-degrees, and also get into the low 200s, you’ll be able to do more than just grill here. On a Traeger pellet grill, you’ll use real wood and fire to cook instead of propane, natural gas, or charcoal. This imparts a smokey flavor on just about everything you cook, making it taste like you’re at a steakhouse every night. This allows you to both grill and sear at higher temperatures, or smoke and BBQ at lower temperatures, with the ability to even bake in the middle if you need. Really, the Traeger is an all-in-one cooking tool that is sure to take any outdoor grilling setup to the next level.

The Traeger Ironwood 885 offers the most features for what home cooks need, including a massive 885-square inches of grilling space that can hold up to 10 chickens, seven rib racks, or nine pork butts with ease. There are two built-in meat probes to let you monitor your grilling progress wirelessly through the Traeger app, and WiFIRE technology allows you to preheat the Ironwood 885 without ever stepping outside. The six-in-one design of the Ironwood 885 allows it to grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise, or BBQ with one simple tool. As Traeger’s best-selling pellet grill, it’s hard to deny that this would be the outdoor cooking setup of any pitmaster’s dreams, though it does come at a steep price of $1,600.

However, if the high price of the Ironwood 885 is a bit out of budget, there are other higher-end cooking setups that we recommend checking out. The Pro Series 575 costs a whopping 44% less than the Ironwood 885 while offering a similar feature set. Coming in at $900, the overall cooking surface steps down from 885-square inches to 575-square inches, though that’s still enough to grill 20 burgers, five rib racks, or four chickens with ease. You’ll find the same six-in-one design here as well as meat probe, all at a lower cost than Traeger’s flagship offering.

You don’t have to break the bank though

Traeger, while a household name for many high-end outdoor cooking setups, might be out of the budget for some, so let’s take a look at other options in our grilling gift guide. If that’s the case, you can still enjoy a very solid grilling experience without breaking the bank. While I don’t have a Traeger personally, I do find myself outside grilling or smoking a good meal most of the summer, and even many weekends during the winter (cold can’t keep me away from a good meal!) I’ve chosen to go the route of having a separate grill and smoker setup, which drastically reduces the cost though it raises the overall footprint that your gear takes up.

Char-Broil is the grill I have sitting out back right now, and it’s always treated me right. This model on Amazon is quite similar, really, and delivers 425-square inches of cooking space with an additional 130-square inches of warming room for $300. The electronic ignition makes it simple to light the burners, and being powered by propane you can use this grill anywhere you bring a tank. It’s quite versatile, though Char-Broil’s grill is really only made to cook or sear, not BBQ or smoke like Traeger. But, at a fraction of the cost, it’s well worth considering for the outdoor cook in your life.

However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a tried-and-true alternative. Some pitmasters prefer grilling with charcoal and real wood to propane, in which case the Char-Broil wouldn’t be a good fit. Weber is a go-to company when it comes to charcoal and wood grills, and for good reason: it’s one of the oldest brands in the space. Opting for a charcoal grill instead of propane or pellet offers extreme versatility at a lower cost, with Weber’s model coming in at $194. Sure, you can use lump charcoal to cook, but it’s also possible to throw a few chunks of wood in there to add some smokey flavor, or for the entire cook if that’s something you’re after. It’s simple to just pack up a charcoal grill and bring it to the lake or camping, as you can really use it to burn anything that’ll get hot enough to cook.

Smoking is essential to good BBQ

The above grills, outside of the Traeger models, really are only good at grilling or searing. If you want to cook low and slow for a tender, smoke-infused experience, they just won’t be able to deliver the same experience a smoker will. That’s why if you’re shopping for someone who prefers their meal smoked instead our grilling gift guide pick is Masterbuilt’s digital electric smoker, which is available for $212 on Amazon. Sure, it won’t be able to cook burgers or steak, but it’s hard to argue with a slow-smoked chicken or tender and juicy pork butt that was put on at 3 a.m. to be ready in time for dinner.

Opting for the Masterbuilt smoker will net you a few niceties that lower-cost models can’t offer. For one, it has a digital temperature gauge. My smoker doesn’t have this and it makes it hard to maintain a specific temperature for precise cooking. In addition to that, being electric means there’s no flame to tame. Just set the temperature, fill the wood chip bin, and return to a nice and juicy meal ready to be devoured.

Of course, there’s also the offset smoking method which is a favorite by many. For that, Char-Broil is coming in clutch with the most budget-focused grill in today’s gift guide at $100. Designed to be an offset smoker and grill in one, you can either put wood in the side firebox for smoking or charcoal under the grates for grilling, depending on what you need at that time. It’s a fairly versatile setup for any home cook, though it’ll take a bit more effort to dial in the temperature and keep it stable over longer smoking sessions. But, whether you’re on a tighter budget this Christmas or just want to pick up a lower-cost grill to get started, this is a solid choice all around.

Proper accessories can make all the difference

Maybe the pitmaster in your life already has a solid grilling setup. If that’s the case, proper accessories can make all the difference in a great outdoor cooking experience. You’ll find that Meater Plus makes it high on my list of recommendations at $100 for the outdoor cook that has it all. You can never have enough meat thermometers, especially Bluetooth-enabled ones that have two probes for measuring both internal and ambient temperature while cooking. I’ve had Meater for a few years now and always love using it when I’m smoking chicken. It makes it simple for me to monitor the internal temperature of a cook, lets me know when to pull it out, and even alerts me if the ambient temperature goes too high or low.

However, on top of Meater, I always have an instant-read digital thermometer on hand. Instant read thermometers are more budget-focused than Meater and accomplish a similar task. You simply insert the tip into whatever meal you’re making and seconds later it displays the temperature on the backlit screen. This makes it easy to know whether a steak is medium, medium well, or rare and also lets you check whether chicken is done cooking without cutting it open. I love my instant-read thermometer, and at $15, it’s something that every grillmaster should own.

Honorable mentions for additional stocking stuffers and presents can really help fill out an outdoor cook’s arsenal. Meater’s Grillmaster bundle includes a Meater Plus wireless thermometer as well as the company’s gloves, both of which I own and love. For $125, you’re only paying $25 more than the Meater itself and getting heatproof gloves that are perfect for high-temperature cooks. Cuisinart’s Grilluminate Expanding LED Grill Light is another must-have for late-night cooks as it can help shine some light on your meal when the sun goes down for just $30. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with Cuisinart’s Deluxe Grill Tool Kit on Amazon for under $60, which includes 20 must-have tools for every setup.

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