Whether you want to do a simple cookout on your grill or a long day of smoking meat on a smoker, the spring and summer months are just made for cooking outdoors. But if you’re new to the grilling game, you might have a few questions. Questions like “With all of the different devices for cooking out there, which one is right for me?” It’s a valid line of inquiry, and like any good question there’s more than one way to answer it. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to a few things, like the size of your cooking area, and your method of entertaining. But whether you have a small patio or a huge backyard, there’s a proper grill out there for you. So go ahead and break out the hamburgers, hot dogs, and baby back ribs, because we’re going to teach you how to buy the right grill or smoker for your backyard.

Where Is The Grill Going? For grilling and smoking, you’re going to need a flat, stable place in order to set everything up. Places like decks and patios are ideal, but putting a smoker that close to the house may have some unwanted effects, like discoloration of siding or pervasive odors. But if you’re going to place your grill or smoker on the lawn, things get a little more complicated. It’s tempting to pick a heavier model in order to make up for the lack of stability that soil can offer, but when it comes time for you to mow the lawn, you’re faced with the task of moving your equipment out of the way. Consider a smaller, lighter model of grill or smoker in order to avoid all of that heavy lifting.

Smoke production. Grilling and especially smoking meat are going to produce smoke. A lot of it, actually, which can linger in the air for quite some time, perhaps days if the air is still enough. Not only can this be unpleasant for you, but it’s likely that your neighbors won’t be pleased to have smoke drifting onto their property for hours and hours while you smoke your meat. If you live in close quarters, you may want to consider choosing a smaller model of grill or smoker in order to avoid neighborly disputes, or invest in an exhaust system that will funnel the smoke away from sensitive neighbors.

Consider The Size Of Your Space. The first thing you’ll need to take into consideration is how much room you have to cook. For those of you living in apartments or condos, your outdoor space may be pretty limited. That’s okay though, because there’s still hope for you in your grilling quest. Small grills and hibachis are perfect for you, in that they’re mobile and lightweight, and their small size only allows a small amount of food to be cooked. Hibachis also run on charcoal, meaning they’re ideal for use as a small smoker as well, allowing you to get that real BBQ taste. For those with larger spaces, obviously a bigger grilling set-up is ideal. Big gas grills or charcoal grills will do nicely, but don’t discount smaller models, either. When it comes time for camping or tailgating, you’ll be glad you chose a smaller grill or smoker.

To Build In, Or Not To Build In? Anyone who’s ever watched a home improvement television show has likely marveled over the beautiful built-in grills and smokers that people have in their backyards. It’s true that those things are wonderful to look at and make great centerpieces for entertaining, but they’re also costly. In fact, on top of the grill itself, the cost of the masonry involved can easily be in the thousands, especially if you want to add embellishments like marble or precious metals. You’re also sacrificing the ability to ever move your equipment, at least not without removing some stone and concrete. Arrangements like this are typically large, and building your grill directly into a structure may cramp your yard as well, so be sure that this is the route you want to travel before you pull the trigger. They’re gorgeous, but not without their own perils!

-Stu Moody