What Size Grill Do I Need? A Beginner’s Guide to Grill Sizes

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Having a BBQ is a lot of fun, but it’s even better if you have the right size grill that lets you cook everything quickly and efficiently. What size grill do I need if I want to host a large gathering and still be able to cook things properly?

Many people choose a smaller grill than they need. This results in foods taking too long to cook. On the other hand, those who have a bigger grill than needed find it challenging to maintain. Also, it doesn’t cook as efficiently.

With all of this in mind, how do you know what grill size to choose? Let me explain…

What Size Grill Do I Need?

Deciding on how big of a grill do I need depends on many factors. It will depend on the number of people that you want to cook for at one time, as well as the number of dishes that you wish to prepare.

Before you try to determine what size grill is going to be best for you, first think about how you want to use it. What’s your primary reason for wanting a grill?

Do you plan to host family and friends? Do you only want to be able to cook a small, intimate meal?

Your answers to these questions will affect the final grill size, so it’s essential to consider these factors early on in the process.

While it’s fun to think of the parties you can have, consider your primary purpose.

General Rule for Choosing Grill Size

I’ll get more into the details of choosing sizes, but start with this easy calculation: For every person you want to cook for, allow around 72 square inches of grilling space. This means that you would want to get something with at least the following minimum sizes:

  • Three people: 216 square inches
  • Four people: 288 square inches
  • Five people: 360 square inches
  • Six people: 432 square inches

In many cases, people will round up to the next hundred to ensure that they have enough space. Grilling things that are too crowded leads to less tasty results and more cooking problems (uneven cooking, part of something being burned, etc.). Extra space is an essential factor to consider adding.

what size grill do i need
Calculate grill surface area

Standard BBQ Grill Size

When it comes to a standard BBQ grill size, most people who want to cook hot dogs and hamburgers go for a similar size. These grills are usually a minimum of 360 square inches. Those who want to be able to cook for a larger crowd might increase to around 400 square inches.

BBQ grills that are ideal for hot dogs and hamburgers go all the way up to more than 1,200 square inches in size. However, most households will be happy with a grill between 400 and 550 square inches in size.

Calculate Grill Surface Area

When deciding what size grill you need, it’s better to pay attention to the grill surface area rather than any abstract measuring factors.

Measuring by other factors, such as the number of burgers that can fit on a grill, is very dependent on external factors and should be avoided. Instead, you would want to pay attention to the cooking surface area.

Cooking surface area

The cooking surface area is equal to the width of the grilling area multiplied by the length. This gives you the measurement in square inches. Most gas grills will measure in between 400 and 500 square inches. This is a common size for the average household.

For those with a large family or want to host guests, choosing a larger grill up to at least 600 square inches is a good idea.

What about half shelves?

When calculating or reading grill surface areas, make sure to check if the number includes any half or top shelves in the calculation. These shelves add extra cooking space, but they grill much differently than the lower shelf. In short, they are incredibly useful for two-heat cooking or indirect cooking.

Since most people will use each area of the grill for different things, you should know how much space is devoted to each section.

Without this knowledge, you might accidentally plan to cook too much at once on direct heat even though the space is unavailable.

If you need a grill with 400 square inches of active, hot grilling space, models with a top-shelf might not be ideal unless you go bigger. A split shelf grill could put 200 square inches of space on a top shelf that cooks slower, and that would change your grilling plan.

How Many Burners Should a Grill Have?

When using a gas grill, the structure will have a variety of burners that can each be set to a different temperature. Depending on the type and lineup of the burners you have, you can use them to create different heat zones in the grill. Grill burners may be aluminum burners, cast-iron burners, stainless-steel burners, or brass burners.

There are also infrared and sear burners, which are specialty burner types. These are very popular with grill masters who like to cook steak.

Is 2 Burner Grill Enough?

When buying a gas grill, two burners is the minimum number you should consider. Having two burners enables you to be able to have one on and one off so that you can control the heat as needed. Two burners also give enough flexibility to do all of the basic grilling that you will want to do.

If you’re new to grilling or like to keep things relatively simple, two burners should be enough for your grilling needs.

Do I Need a 3 or 4 Burner Grill?

Not everyone will need a grill with more than two burners, but many will find that having more burners is helpful. The more burners that a grill has, the more versatility you can get out of it.

Of course, having more burners means that you also have to get used to working them; there is a learning curve to grilling.

With three and four burners, you will be able to create low, medium, and hot zones. Having all of these zones allows you to cook things in very specific ways, even when cooking various items. Three or four burners are great for many people, but they are not necessary.

Do you want to be able to create a beautifully grilled meal of meat, veggies, and more? What about kabobs for five or six people?

If so, you will want to look for grills with three or more burners to ensure you have the necessary flexibility to do just that. Plus, having more burners makes it easier to implement healthy grilling tactics!

What about side burners?

Speaking of added burners, many people wonder if they need side burners or not. You can find these on some grills, and they are useful for heating sauces, side dishes, cheeses, and more.

Very detailed BBQ masters will love having this added burner, but not everyone will make use of it. If you find a grill that you like without a side burner, you can always use a portable side burner instead.

Side burners are by no means a requirement for good grilling, but many find them to be a useful benefit.

One potential problem with side burners is that the heat on them can be hard to control. That is why many serious cooks like to use a separate, portable grill for side items.

Still, there are some grills with more specific side burner control.

Regardless, it is good to decide if you would be interested in a grill that has a side burner or not. Just remember that it is not a requirement for good at-home grilling.

what size grill do i need
How many people will you BBQ for when you grill?

Other Considerations When Choosing Grill Size

While burners and the grilling area are a crucial factor for cooking, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when deciding on how big of a grill do I need.

How the burners line up, as well as heat diffusion and lid design, will also affect how things cook.

Burner Lineup and Heat Diffusion

Burners that are lined up from front to back tend to be easier to use when creating specific heat zones. Grills will also have some type of heat diffuser over the burners, which allows for heat to distribute evenly.

In some cases, this is a metal heat diffuser that also protects the burners from drips. In other cases, the heat may be diffused through lava or ceramic rocks.

Regardless of the type of diffusion in the grill, it will need to be cleaned or replaced periodically to ensure proper heating.

Burners are important, but they aren’t the only part of the grill that must be paid attention to.

Lid Closure and Headspace

Finally, it is also important to consider how well the lid closes and what kind of headspace is inside the grill. If the lid on the grill doesn’t create a good seal, heat will escape from the grill while you are cooking.

Seeping heat will cause the temperature to fluctuate while grilling, and that is something that grill masters should avoid.

Look for a lid that opens easily but stays closed tightly to ensure that you get the best cooking experience.

Additionally, consider what kind of headspace there is inside of the lid when it is closed. To be able to cook a rotisserie chicken or a full turkey on the grill, you will need to have enough headspace.

Some smaller at-home grills have very little room on top. Therefore, you need to consider if expanding headspace is important to you or not. Generally, you should look for a grill with at least 12 inches of headspace.

Find out if any included warming racks are removable as well; they will cut into available headspace if they are not removable.

Grill Footprint

While thinking about the grilling space that you will have available, consider the footprint of the grill. Many grills have size tables that can fold out to give more prep or cooling space. Others have a lid that must be fully opened to the back.

Finally, it’s always important to have a few feet on each side of the grill so as not to overheat anything else on your patio.

What does that mean when choosing a grill? It means that you need to consider the entire footprint of the grill and how it will fit into your life.

Some grills may have the ideal space for you and your grilling needs, but the footprint will be too much for your space.

Consider how much room you have, and make sure that any grill you choose stays. After all, a grill with lots of grilling space that cannot fit into your yard won’t do you any good.

HOA and Condo Restrictions

If you are planning to purchase a grill to use on your balcony, in a shared space, or in an area where there are HOA rules, be careful.

Sometimes, these rules limit what you can and cannot use in the space. In these instances, you may consider portable grills for tailgating and camping.

Due to the dangers of using a large grill, many areas restrict how large a grill can be or what type of fuel can be used. These rules exist to lower the risk of injury around a large grill.

Before you make any decisions or large purchases, double-check that your new grill will be allowed.

What Size Grill Do I Need?

Determining what size grill is needed when purchasing a new grill can be complex. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Most people will find that they are happy with a grill measuring between 350 and 500 square inches.

This is fairly standard for a four- to five-person household.

If you plan to regularly host more people, there is no harm in going bigger as long as the footprint works for your yard.

Of course, grilling surface area is not the only thing to consider when selecting your grill.

By taking into consideration size, as well as footprint, the number of burners, and other factors we listed earlier, we are confident that you will end up with a fantastic grill.

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