At school, many of us have limited access to grills, except for when we decide to take over at the occasional tailgate (and sometimes get politely, or not-so-politely, kicked off grill duty because we really don’t know what we’re doing. Yep, guilty as charged). But now that summer is in full swing, it’s about time we hone our grilling skills, and if you don’t have one, now’s the perfect time to make that investment. I’m not recommending you go out and buy some $155,000 machine, like this one, though that thing is impressive. There are plenty of grills that fall within the college budget. First things first, here is a quick guide to help you differentiate between the three primary types.


grilled chicken

Photo by Bernard Wen

These are the grills that come to mind when you hear the word cookout. Charcoal grills have a compartment below the grill grate that is filled with, you guessed it, charcoals, which when burning, cook your food. Many charcoal grills are portable and simple. The lack of heat settings is made up for in eyeballing how many charcoals you have burning. Many people like these grills for the unique flavor they produce, but remember that you have to periodically check and turn the charcoals during the grilling process. Also, the charcoals turn to ash after they’ve burned, and you have to clean that out every time. Fun fact: charcoals aren’t actually even coals, but just wood chunks that have been heated without oxygen. Mind bomb! These grills usually range from $50 for basic charcoal to $500 for charcoal-gas combination grills.


grilled chicken

Photo by Kirby Barth

These are perfect for the environmental enthusiast or anyone living in an apartment or condo that prohibits open flames or smoke #21stcenturyprobs. An electric grill is super easy to use and clean up. All you have to do is turn it on, let it heat up for a few minutes and start grilling. Wipe down the grill surface after cooking, once it has cooled. Most electric grills are also small and portable, so long as you have an electrical socket nearby. Electric grills usually range from $50 to $2,500, depending on the size and quality.


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Photo courtesy of flickr user woodleywonderworks

If you want a real grilling experience (read: open flame), a gas grill is probably the easiest choice. Like electric grills, clean up is a breeze because there are no ashes or coals to dump—just brush off the grate and you’re done. Also, put to a taste test, many people say that they can’t really tell the difference between a gas and charcoal grill anyway. These grills usually range from $100 to $10,000, depending on the size, aesthetic and quality.

For more grilling info and grilled recipes, check these out: