Bring A Magnet When You Go Grill Shopping And Other Tips From Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has some tips for those of you who are grill shopping this week. Our favorite? Bring a magnet! CR says some grills are made of crappy stainless steel that magnets will stick to.

Bring a magnet. Many grills are made of a mix of grades of stainless steel. Our tests have found that 300-series stainless is less likely to rust than cheaper, 400-series stainless. Magnets will usually stick to cheaper grades, so bring a magnet with you to test the metal.

More grill shopping tips at Consumer Reports.

Tip of the Day: Shopping advice for gas grills [Consumer Reports]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. thesabre says:

    Cue the Internet metallurgy experts in 3, 2, 1…

  2. B says:

    Just watch out for grills made of Aluminum, which the magnets will also not stick to.

  3. Asvetic says:

    My pop’s and I went grill shopping about 2 years ago. He found out that true stainless steel was magnetic… we found 3 grills out of 15 that we looked at that were magnetic. This surprised both of us.

  4. This also helps to determine if your grill has had any body work done (magnets won’t stick to Bondo!)

  5. Asvetic says:

    @Asvetic: Oops, I got that backwards. It’s been 2 years give me a break.

  6. akede2001 says:

    Fire pits FTW

  7. @thesabre: Metallurgy? No, no, no, I was going to point out that here in Texas, it turns out that barbeque is serious business. (“Dig a pit 40-feet wide…”)

    Gas isn’t barbeque. It’s like oven broiling upside down.

  8. I just burn crude oil in my back yard like the “Smokers” from Waterworld…is that bad?

    And why is Al Gore circling my house in his private plane shaking his finger at me?

  9. egosub2 says:

    The only grill-shopping tip: buy a Weber.

  10. mavrick67 says:

    @Ash78: No Bondo on my grill, it’s made made from a recycled De Lorean.

  11. wgrune says:

    @thesabre:

    Alright, I’ll bite. 300 series SS is more corrosion resistant then the 400 series. It is also true that 400 series has a higher propensity to be magnetized.

    However, cold-working (such as rolling, as many grills are made of rolled steel) 300 series SS will often leave it slightly magnetic. This means there is a decent chance a magnet will stick to a grill made of 300 series SS.

  12. Toof_75_75 says:

    @Ash78:
    That’s exactly what I was thinking.

  13. Spamwich says:

    @Michael Belisle: True enough for you purists, but some of use have to make do with gas :)

    I gotta put in my 2-cents here though – Cast iron all the way, the thicker the better. It holds the heat far more effectively (though can take a while to heat up).

  14. dreamlayers says:

    I’ve heard the same thing regarding buying stainless steel items for a boat.

    Rusting of inferior stainless steel might not remove much metal, and the rust is easy to clean off steel, but rust stains on porous surfaces can be much harder to remove. Insist on stainless steel which is actually stainless.

  15. EnOne says:

    Makes since that the more iron in the grill the more likely it is to rust. And a magnet is a good way to tell that. Personally I prefer ceramic to metal but it does add to the cost and subtract from the portability.

  16. EnOne says:

    just the facts it looks like I was wrong in my previous post about the iron content the difference between 300 and 400 is the alloy. I looked it up.

    Is stainless steel magnetic?

    Answer: There are several “types” of stainless steel. The 300 series (which contains nickel) is NOT magnetic. The 400 series (which just contains chromium and no nickel) ARE magnetic.

  17. MaxSmart32 says:

    @Ash78: See, this is why we shouldn’t allow Jalops out of the garage…we make silly comments about bondo on a grill.

  18. CRNewsom says:

    @dreamlayers: Even the “cheaper” 400 series grades the article mentions are “real” stainless steel, just of a different grade. You wouldn’t want “surgical” stainless steel (300 series) for part of a hip replacement, as it has a high rejection rate, however, “implant grade” stainless steel (400 series) works quite well for these applications. One grade is not necessarily “better” for all applications than the other.

    Yes, 400 series tends to be more magnetic than 300 series, but if the price is significantly different, you might still purchase the grill, just know what you’re getting, and pay a price that is appropriate for it.

  19. ClayS says:

    @B: @B:
    Yes, also beware of the titanium grills which are also not magnetic.

  20. HIV 2 Elway says:

    Just buy a Weber.

    @Michael Belisle: Gas is for impatient assholes. Sadly, you’ll see gas grills at Arrowhead.

  21. ClayS says:

    @Michael Belisle:
    I know a guy in Texas that would take exception to your comment about gas grilling. Hank Hill is his name.

  22. Crymson_77 says:

    @ClayS: Although…one would think the exhorbitant price for a titanium grill would make it stand out a bit…

  23. Geekybiker says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: Say what? Because some people would rather just cook instead of spending all sorts of time getting a charcoal grill up and running it makes us assholes? You need to go look in the mirror.

  24. mammalpants says:

    i usually like to bring a few frozen patties and see if they work.

  25. @maxforrest32: You should see me on slow work days. I post on Jezebel…please kill me now.

  26. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @Geekybiker: I’ll admit I’m an asshole, just not an impatient asshole. Show the meat some respect and cook it right.

  27. @ClayS: Hank Hill is about as authentic Texan as Texas Roadhouse.

    (Disclaimer: I’m just a carpetbagger here in Texas. I grew up on gas.)

  28. graymulligan says:

    Try explaining that “dinner will be ready in an hour or two, once Daddy gets the appropriate mix of smokey flavor and heat from the charcoal” to a couple hungry 3 year olds.

    And to be honest, hot dogs don’t care how you cook them.

  29. nick_r says:

    @Spamwich: Yep, cast iron all the way.

  30. MikeT says:

    A gas grill that gets used is better than a charcoal one that doesn’t. I prefer charcoal, but usually don’t have time, and a gas grill that gets used is better than a charcoal one that doesn’t.

    And just to pick a fight, I have to point out that Kansas City laughs at Texas “barbecue”. I mean, it’s tasty and all, but it’s not barbecue.

  31. VA_White says:

    My Texan husband swears by gas. And Texas is chock fucking full of Hank Hills.

  32. dman19 says:

    @HIV 2 Elway: you say that because your a Donkey fan. don’t talk crap just because your a fan of one team over another. besides, what do people think of when they think of BBQ? it sure as hell isn’t Denver thats for sure. its Kansas City or texas

  33. jonny6pak says:

    @MikeT: Good statement! Outdoor cooking is better than nothing. And I’ve had great food come from gas grills.

    With that being said, hardwood logs are better than charcoal :)

  34. xmarc says:

    I agree with buying a Weber. Their customer support is amazing as well.

  35. Major-General says:

    @Michael Belisle: Damn straight!

    @ClayS: Hank Hill only pretends to be a Texan.

    @Geekybiker: Getting charcoal burning is about a ten minute process. I prefer to wait rather than have food that tastes like it’s from Burger King.

    Kansas City for barbecue. Period.

  36. Nighthawke says:

    Weber grills. Saw them being built on How It’s Made. Cold-rolled sheet metal, powder-coated epoxy finish that rivals your vehicles’ finish, each individually inspected before boxing and shipment.

    Buy Weber, enuf said.

    Oh, and made in the USA too.

  37. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @dman19: Donkey fan? Try Chief’s season ticket holder. Its a crying shame that people in the BBQ capitol of the world would use gas grills, especially at Arrowhead. Also, what about “HIV 2 Elway” and an avatar of DT owning Elway suggests being a donkey fan?

  38. Nick_Bentley says:

    I’ve had a Weber for years and even though the rack had to be replaced once the grill itself has stood up to about 8 hot florida summers with blasting rain and 95 percent humidity. I leave it out all the time and it’s amazing how the grill itself hasn’t rusted.

    Paid like $60 for it, and I want to get some buckets of the ceramic coating they put on it for other things :)

  39. beercheck says:

    @Geekybiker: The gas:assholes joke didn’t seriously go that far over your head, did it?

    Or, am I the only one that thought it was punny?

    Never mind. Fight on, kids.

  40. ryaninc says:

    Never heard the magnet tip before, so I just went outside and tested my grill. Sure enough, the magnet jumped out of my hand to latch tightly to the metal. I suspected as much. :-)

  41. beercheck says:

    For what it’s worth, magnets love my grill (charcoal, by preference, but whatever), and the only things showing some rust after 10 years in the midwestern elements are some grommets.

    This is mostly a non-issue.

  42. Geekybiker says:

    @Major-General:
    Maybe once you’ve perfected your technique or something. Gas I walk out and turn a know and hit start. Ready to cook. Charcoal I need to prep the coal in a chimney, light it, wait, stick it in the bottom. Probably wait some more, then clean up all the ash afterwards. Its simply not worth the difference to me when all I’m trying to do is cook dinner. I’ve found charcoal frustrating at best in windy/wet conditions. My gas grill fires right up every single time though. No coals going out before they properly ash. Yes there is some validity to charcoal tasting better, but its marginal in my experience unless you’re going all out and using special wood chips, etc.

  43. SOhp101 says:

    Charcoal tastes better but it’s way to inconvenient… from the setup to the cooking to the cleanup. Gas grills win!

    As for stainless steel, the higher quality usually has 304 grade and the lower one is 420–something like that. If you really want to buy a quality grill, don’t go to one of those home improvement stores–only a BBQ/grilling store will do but do your research before stepping into one.

    By the way, there are great grill reviews on [bbq.about.com] (look under buyer’s guide on the left column).

    @beercheck: Grills only need basic cleaning (and a grill cover) to last a long time. You probably clean it regularly.

  44. farker says:

    @egosub2:

    Good advice. We sell Weber grills at the hardware store I work at. The packaging they’re shipped in is perfect, never any dings or scratches. And they go together so easy, no misaligned or mis-cut pieces. And lots of the screws/bolts used to hold them together are SS as well, to resist corrosion.

    I can’t wait til I have my own place and a little money saved up to buy a Genesis series Weber Grill

  45. Everyone knows the best BBQ is cooked with a cut-in-half-and-spray-painted steel drum.

    Rust resistant? Check.
    Made in America? Check.
    Affordable? Check.

    Now, if we could just do something about the pesky lead poisoning…

  46. donkeyjote says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee (AKA!): Consequently, ever see a anorexic hobo? That’s why :P

  47. Letsgohokies says:

    I’ll throw my .02 on the charcoal/gas debate. My wife and I got the Char Broil Charcoal/Gas grill for a wedding present a while ago. I love it. It’s not your high dollar grill, but it can do gas when I don’t have much time, and it has a tray that you use for charcoal when I do have time. Makes for easy cleanup, and you can light the charcoal with the gas, then turn it off. I like it because you don’t get lighter fluid taste you sometimes get with briquettes.

  48. coffee177 says:

    I just put all the meat on my intake manifold before I leave from work to home. Who needs gas (oops, the car does) or charcoal? I just use my buick.

  49. The only real way to cook meat is to slow smoke it.

  50. NinjaMarion says:

    @Major-General: And that’s great for you that YOU prefer to wait and fuss with Charcoal. Many people don’t. It’s their opinion and there’s no need for everyone to come down on people for preferring gas like they’re some kinda food nazi. The fact is they both have their merits and it’s a matter of opinion. You can try to explain to people why your way is a good idea, but to basically tell people they’re wrong (You didn’t explicitly do this, it was moreso some of the others) for using gas is just wrong and BS.

  51. Design111 says:

    We bought a stainless grill from Costco 3 years ago… cost $799 at the time.

    Over a period of 3 years the outer parts looked great but the burners had literally disintegrated into dust. Worse yet, the burners on this grill weren’t replaceable in the way that cheap grills’ are.

    As is usually the case Costco simply took the grill back, and I bought a newer model from them.

    Interestingly, the new grill’s box devotes a great deal of copy to the “lifetime warranty” on the burners. The old ones must have led to lots of returns.

  52. meadandale says:

    Yeah, only cheap stainless is magnetic. That explains why all my high end All Clad pots and pans are made with an exterior of crappy magnetic stainless steel.

  53. ustna says:

    @meadandale

    Too bad. Sounds like you were ripped off.

  54. quail says:

    Hmm, Hank Hill is authentic Texas. He’s just not West Texas like most people seem to assume all Texans are. Mike Judge, grew up in the DFW area and he put old Hank and his family in somewhere in the Metroplex. Growing up in the area during the 70′s my sister and I seem to be the only ones to get some of the inside jokes. Yea, the family looks at us crazy when we laugh at comments about French restaurants named “The Magic Pan.”

    Oh and er…go Weber!

  55. meadandale says:

    @ustna:

    No, it sounds like you don’t know what you are talking about and the article makes an overly simple generalization.

    In fact, my pans are CLAD which means they are a 3 layer sandwich of 304 stainless on the cooking surface, aluminum in the core and magnetic stainless on the exterior. Neither the interior or the exterior of my pots is particularly prone to rust but the interior is more corrosion resistant.

    However, using the magnet test as a simple indicator for quality would incorrectly identify my cookware as inferior.

    Bottom line, simple generalizations are rarely correct.

  56. cecilsaxon says:

    So who the heck sticks a magnet to a grill anyway. Stainless steel grills are the new BMW or something? We are all getting snobby about the metal quality of the darn grill!?

    “Yeah the Jone’s have a Stainless steel grill, but get this, its magnetic, he he can you believe it- he thinks its top of the line…”

    Get a life you Morans.

  57. hatrack says:

    @Ash78:

  58. nikrox says:

    Great! Just saved myself some money. Thanks guys!

  59. ideagirl says:

    @dman19: Not Texas, not KC. Memphis. mmmmmm….

  60. ClayS says:

    @johnarlington:
    It depends what kind of meat you are cooking. For tough cuts like brisket, etc. slow smoking (barbeque) is the only way to go. For steak, fast, high temperature grilling is best.

  61. BrianU says:

    ceejeemcbeegee (AKA!)Try cutting a beer keg in half like the Keg-A-Que :) Gas grilling is outdoor cooking, and NOT the same thing as Bar-B-Qing IMHO. A lot of people enjoy the challenge and process of using charcoal and wood as much at least as much as the results. I have to give Memphis Bar-B-Que a positive nod. I’ve never tried the Carolina style, but it looks like I’d like that variation too.

  62. tinyhands says:

    Feh, to say that DFW’ians are Texans is like saying there are cajuns north of I-10. Bunch of yankees.

  63. Anonymous says:

    @quail

    Perfectly correct. People outside the state always seem to equate “Texan” with West Texas cowboy culture. But there’s more to Texas than that. In East Texas it’s the Deep South, the Hill Country was influenced by a wave of German immigrants in the mid-19th cent., and San Antonio southwards is pure Tejano (i.e. Texas Hispanic).

    So yeah, I think Hank Hill is a Texas archetype. Just not my kind (says the guy who grew up in Austin ;)

  64. anatak says:

    @cecilsaxon: The magnets are just a test to tell you the alloy (and EnOne has the right answer on that, btw).

    The point that CR is trying to make is that lots of companies will chince out and use a lower grade SS on their products to cut costs. The down side? Without a clearcoating, they’ll rust. All stainless steel is not created equal, and great for Joe Consumer to know when out grill shopping. Nothing to do with status, just corrosion protection.

    Another way to check is to inspect the grills that are left out in the elements at Lowes and HD – especially at the end of the season. The surface rust will tell the story.

    Great tip, Meg!

  65. CyberKender says:

    You guys have it wrong. Neither 300 series nor 400 series is ‘cheap.’ They’re both alloys made with a specific set of properties. Neither set of properties fits all situations. And don’t forget, ‘stainless’ is a misnomer. It’s just stain/rust resistant. If you *really* want grills that are corrosion resistant and barely blink at the sort of temperatures your grill can generate, go have your grates made of Inconel.

    Why do you guys keep arguing about whether gas/charcoal is barbecuing? Neither is or both are. Barbecue is when you use low, indirect heat, no matter what the heat source is.

    @ClayS: The titanium grates are easy to spot. They’re non-magnetic, weigh the same as the aluminum ones, and cost more than the rest of your grill did.

  66. meb says:

    Skip the metal grills altogether and get a big green egg! [www.biggreenegg.com]

  67. egosub2 says:

    Those who don’t like the setup and cleanup of charcoal grilling should check out the Weber Performer: It’s the classic kettle but it’s got a propane lighter for your charcoal and an enclosed ash catcher, so cleanup is a piece of cake. Add the prep table, the built-in thermometer, and the charcoal bin and it’s easily worth the price.

    I grill on mesquite charcoal rather than briquettes for the higher temps (gets the steaks rare) and for the flavor. Easy as pie, and there’s a free fireworks show in every bag!

  68. theBIG says:

    to all of the Weber guys here:

    If you are looking for a great gas/propane grill – take a look at FireMagic – these are incredible grills

    They make Charcoal versions too

  69. derekhaltom says:

    @Michael Belisle: @Michael Belisle: Amen. Charcoal is the only way to go.

  70. clickable says:

    @Spamwich:

    …cast iron…

    Word. Every year I look for a replacement for our ancient little Hibachi, which is getting dilapidated after about 30 summers. But nothing on the market – except Lodge grills – comes close to the cast iron. Perfect cooking, perfect charring. And since the body is still intact and functional even though the feet and handles rotted away or broke, it will soon begin its third decade of service. I was a child when my folks bought it, but I know they didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so it must have been the cheapest style they found. Cast iron is still relatively inexpensive nowadays too.

    Lodge cast-iron Sportsman’s Grill:
    [secure.lodgemfg.com]

  71. Cee Bee says:

    my mini webber grill FTMFW! lots of mileage and still not corroded in any way.

    i detest benzene burgers, which is sometimes a problem with a lot of these kinds of set ups, but my mini webber grill has been around longer than most of my girlfriends.

  72. e.varden says:

    @BrianU:

    There is no “Q” in barbecue.

  73. BrianU says:

    @e.varden I could very well be incorrect, but there are regional differences in the spelling, as well as usually acceptable personal variations that still convey the intended subject reasonably well. I once heard a debate from grilling pros as to what the original Spanish word was and how it evolved or devolved into what the average American says and spells. I remain surprised that spelling and grammar experts are so disproportionally numerous in posting on a consumer site with non-consumer related information. And I’ll admit a discriminatory bias I have due to never meeting an English teacher or English major that wasn’t socially inept, and usually a bit of a P.I.T.A. in all interactions, especially ones that would benefit from diplomacy, restraint, and generally “going with the flow.” Still, I am willing to learn by being corrected even if it’s never a pleasant experience. Thank you.