The 16 best BBQ and grilling cookbooks for aspiring pitmasters, from a book that pairs wine and grilling to a historical account of Black barbecue

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Beyond the recipes, a cookbook is equal parts instruction manual, personal history, and story book. Barbecue reminds us of backyard parties and bonding over burgers, so it’s no surprise that barbecue and grilling cookbooks tend to be personal for the author.

Whether you’re planning your next dinner party, slow cooking your first brisket, or just looking for some new grilling recipes, these cookbooks will help turn any home cook into a grill master. Here are 16 cookbooks that celebrate regional flavors and offer personal tips for ensuring your best barbecue yet.

For expanding flavor horizons

product image of Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill  Classic Recipes for Seafood and Meats Cooked over Charcoal by Leela Punyaratabandhu, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill: Classic Recipes for Seafood and Meats Cooked over Charcoal” by Leela Punyaratabandhu, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Leela Punyaratabandhu celebrates the open-air grilling traditions of Southeast Asia in this cookbook. The more than 60 recipes are organized by type of meat and highlight the region’s signature flavors and spice blends. Punyaratabandhu selected recipes that could be replicated with cuts of meat and ingredients common in the U.S., bringing meals from her childhood in Thailand to her adult life in Chicago.

For the eternal optimist

cover image of Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ  Everyday is a Good Day by Rodney Scott, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Everyday is a Good Day” by Rodney Scott, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Equal parts inspiring and instructional, this book is a guide to James Beard award winning chef Rodney Scott’s barbecue. The first part of the book chronicles Scott’s journey from his family owned barbecue joint to his restaurant in Charleston and every fire pit in between. Later, he explains how to build your own barbecue pit and roast a whole hog. You’ll also find easy to manage recipes like loaded nachos and grilled chicken wings, too. 

For bringing vegans to barbecue

cover image of VBQ: The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“VBQ: The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook” by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Vegans don’t have to be an afterthought at your next backyard party. The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook has more than 80 recipes using vegetables, tofu, tempeh, and seitan. You even get a crash course in choosing the right grill and how to avoid common mistakes when cooking vegan dishes.

For those looking to slow down

cover image of “Mallmann on Fire  100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime Anywhere” by Francis Mallmann, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Mallmann on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime Anywhere” by Francis Mallmann, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

To the celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, known for live fire cooking, the environment is just as important as the meal. His belief in enjoying the process of cooking in nature is the backbone of this cookbook, with recipes developed in Paris and the remote Patagonia region of Argentina. On every page, from the charcoal explainers to a recipe for coal roasted squash, Mallmann brings an attitude of wonder back to cooking.

For the history buff

cover image of “Black Smoke  African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop

This book centers Black barbecuers through their historical and present contributions to the American food scene. Each chapter tells a different part of the African American connection to barbecue, from the relationship between grilling and church culture, to the history of sauce. Recipes are interspersed throughout, so you can cook up some ribs to go along with your knowledge.

For the Korean BBQ fan

cover image of “Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces” by Bill Kim and Chandra Ram, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Crate & Barrel

Inspired by his training and Korean roots, Bill Kim created this cookbook, which details his approach to Korean BBQ through the flavor profiles of seven master sauces and three spice rubs. Flexibility is at the core of each recipe so any chef can experiment with the flavors depending on what they have available.

For those who like wine with dinner

cover image of “Fire + Wine  75 Smoke Infused Recipes from the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings” by Mary Cressler and Sean Martin, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Fire + Wine: 75 Smoke-Infused Recipes from the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings” by Mary Cressler and Sean Martin, available on Amazon and Walmart

In this book, married couple Sean Martin and Mary Cressler combine their areas of expertise as a pitmaster and sommelier, respectively, to pair barbecue with bottles of wine. The regional distinctions of wine are like those of barbecue, and this book honors the two philosophies. Pacific Northwest flavors are prominent in the book, but Martin and Cressler explore multiple flavor profiles in their 75 recipes. 

For thinking of smoke as an ingredient

cover image of “Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Project Smoke” by Steven Raichlen, available on Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble

The author of the Barbecue Bible, Steven Raichlen focuses on the intricacies of smoking in this book. Whether it’s with your brand new Big Green Egg or a trusty grill, Raichlen walks you through the setup and technique needed to impart smokey flavor to your food. He treats smoke as an ingredient, using it to elevate basics like salmon and pork, as well as new creations like smoked cheesecake.

For a good laugh and a good meal

cover image of “Meathead  The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling” by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling” by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

A blend of scientific exploration and humor, “Meathead” is a practical approach to barbecue. Author and chef Meathead Goldwyn offers definitive dos and don’ts with myth busting asides, promising you’ll leave this book with perfectly roasted ribs in your future. Like any good barbecue chef, Goldwyn includes a chapter just on brines, rubs, and sauces. 

For getting the most out of veggies

cover image of “Charred  The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Grilling and Barbecue” by Genevieve Taylor, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Charred: The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Grilling and Barbecue” by Genevieve Taylor, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Genevieve Taylor is out to counter the idea of grilling being all about man versus meat. As a lover of vegetables, Taylor created over 70 original recipes for “Charred.” The same flavor-intensifying, sugar-caramelizing magic that happens with meat can happen with vegetables. Some of the recipes can be replicated on a griddle pan or in the oven, but all of them are meant for open flames.

For the true beginner

cover image of “How to Grill Everything  Simple Recipes for Great Flame Cooked Food” by Mark Bittman, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food” by Mark Bittman, available on Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble

If you’re new to grilling, don’t be overwhelmed by the 1,000 recipes and variations inside “How to Grill Everything.” Bittman strips down the basics of cooking over fire so that beginners can follow every step to smokey perfection. Before you invent your own recipes, get the basics down and impress everyone at your barbecue.

For the precision chef

cover image of “Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue” by Tuffy Stone, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Cool Smoke: The Art of Great Barbecue” by Tuffy Stone, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop

This book is a treasure trove of grilling and smoking recipes, from mustard and rosemary-crusted pork shoulder to caramelized apple sauce. Champion pitmaster Tuffy Stone offers readers every tip and trick he’s learned from years on the barbecue competition circuit. Trained by a French chef before he found his way to the open flames, Stone has precise recipes and a plethora of complimentary flavors. 

For the Big Green Egg-head

cover image of “Mastering the Big Green Egg by Big Green Craig  An Operator's Manual and Cookbook” by Greg Tabor, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Mastering the Big Green Egg by Big Green Craig: An Operator’s Manual and Cookbook” by Greg Tabor, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Big Green Egg has become synonymous with outdoor cooking in recent years, and this is the perfect cookbook if you have one of these grills in your backyard. Greg Tabor honed his BGE expertise while cooking for his family, and developed his signature style through attending grilling competitions known as Egg Fests. If you’re new to the world of the Big Green Egg, this book prepares you for common problems, encourages experimentation, and provides fail-proof recipes.

For a new regional taste

cover image of “Michael Symon's Playing with Fire  BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace” by Michael Symon, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Michael Symon’s Playing with Fire: BBQ and More from the Grill, Smoker, and Fireplace” by Michael Symon, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble

When Michael Symon opened his barbecue restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio, he wanted to cultivate a regional style of barbecue, instead of imitating other delicious other traditions. This book documents the results of his tour of American barbecue, with original recipes that have a distinctive Cleveland flair.

For a tour of American barbecue

cover image of “Pitmaster  Recipes, Techniques, and Barbecue Wisdom” by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques, and Barbecue Wisdom” by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

If you’re looking for a barbecue anthology, this book covers almost all of American barbecue’s standards. The book is divided into six sections: backyard barbecue, North Carolina, Kansas City, Texas, the North, and competition barbecue. Each section has guest pitmasters, like Steven Raichlen and Tuffy Stone, as expert guides for the recipes and techniques. 

For the DIY barbecuer

cover image of Franklin Barbecue  A Meat Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay, a best cookbook for grilling in 2021

“Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto” by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

This book offers advice on do-it-yourself barbecue from one of the most popular barbecue chefs. There are fewer recipes here than in traditional cookbooks. Instead, Franklin and Mackay use the space to consider wood type and describe the gradations of fire and smoke. For the cook who considers barbecue a personal and delicious art form, this book will help them create their own recipes and signature style.

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Wildly popular seltzer brand Spindrift now makes hard seltzer – after testing all 4 flavors, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the drink of summer 2021

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spindrift spiked seltzer best hard seltzer 2021 product image
  • Spindrift is known for infusing real squeezed juice into its seltzers.
  • Just like its non-alcoholic seltzer, Spindrift Spiked Seltzer offers a fresh, fruity taste.
  • The drink became available in mid-April in select cities across the U.S.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

This content is intended for readers 21+. Please drink responsibly. If you or anyone you know is dealing with alcohol abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) provides a free, confidential, 24/7, treatment referral, and information service.

Spiked Sparkling Water (small)

The sparkling seltzer market has tons of options, but Spindrift stands alone as the first sparkling water made with real squeezed fruit juice.

If you haven’t tried Spindrift before, this hint of juice adds a deeper flavor than you’ll find from most seltzer brands. It also comes in refreshing flavors like cucumber, cranberry raspberry, orange mango, and more.

Its unique flavor has drawn a fervent fan base and sales have exploded over the last few years, growing 800% between 2016 and 2018, according to Bevnet. Once local to only New England, you can now find Spindrift nationwide at major retailers such as Target and Trader Joe’s.

The wild success of its non-alcoholic seltzers has resulted in even more hype for it’s most recent launch: Spindrift Spiked Seltzer.

Being both a Spindrift fan and hard seltzer enthusiast, I knew I had to get my hands on a pack of the new spiked seltzer. I tried all four flavors of Spindrift Spiked Seltzer to see how it stacks up against a saturated hard seltzer market ahead of the summer.

What’s in Spindrift Spiked Seltzer?

There are four flavors of Spindrift Spiked Seltzer: pineapple, mango, lime, and half and half (half tea, half lemonade). Compared to popular hard seltzers, Spindrift has a slightly lower ABV than Truly, White Claw, and Bon & Viv, at just 4%. All four flavors are under 100 calories per can, too, lower than most competitors.

The biggest difference between Spindrift and competing seltzers is the 4% to 10% fruit juice in its hard seltzers. Despite the juice, the Spindrift seltzers somehow boast only zero to three grams of sugar per can and fewer carbohydrates than competitors.

The spiked seltzer is currently available in select major cities including Boston, Los Angeles, and San Diego, though you can also buy it online through Total Wine.

Review of Spindrift Spiked Seltzer

can of Spindrift Spiked Seltzer Half and Half a best hard seltzer in 2021

Each can of Spindrift Spiked Seltzer has a thin design similar to White Claw and minimal branding. I paired my first seltzer, a half and half-inspired mix of black tea and lemonade, with a batch of hot wings hoping it would cool off my tongue.

Seconds after I cracked open the can and took my first sip, I noticed how non-alcoholic the drink tastes. It was akin to a watered down Arnold Palmer, but much more fizzy and bubbly.

This provided an immediate cooling sensation and I could sense the fresh, cane sugary taste of the lemon and tea.

Spindrift Spiked Seltzer Pineapple product image best hard seltzer 2021

Next, I tried the pineapple flavor. The fruity taste was a bit more apparent than the half and half flavor, and the alcohol stood out more, too. I liked the smooth, tropical flavor more and more as I sipped on it. I felt similarly about Spindrift’s mango flavor.

Spindrift Spiked Seltzer Lime product image best hard seltzer 2021

I saved lime for last since it’s often one of my least favorite flavors of seltzer. Yet, the second I cracked open the can, I could smell just how genuine the taste was compared to other lime-flavored food and drinks I’ve had. This was easily the most enjoyable flavor of the pack and reminded me of a quality, crisp sour ale.

The bottom line

After polishing off the cans from my taste test, I immediately looked up where I could find Spindrift Spiked Seltzer. It’s one of the best alcoholic seltzers I’ve ever tried. The fresh hint of juice fused well with the bubbly effects of the seltzer, and the alcohol subtly blended into the beverage. It’s a crisp, refreshing drink that would be perfectly at home in a beach cooler or at a summer cookout.

Spindrift Spiked Seltzer Mango product image best hard seltzer 2021

The low 4% ABV means it will likely take more than one drink for you to feel its effects. This could be a plus or a negative for some people, depending on the setting or occasion for drinking the seltzer. Still, it feels more refreshing than higher-alcohol competitors.

For now, the seltzer is just entering U.S. markets which means it could take awhile before it hits your local convenience or grocery store. (You can buy it online and have it shipped, however.)

Pros: Real juice taste, crisp bubbly effect, standout lime flavor

Cons: Hard to find in stores, will require more than one or two drinks to feel a buzz

Spiked Sparkling Water (button)

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18 places to buy alcohol online – from general online liquor stores to monthly wine delivery services

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where to buy alcohol online 2

This content is intended for readers 21+. Please drink responsibly. If you or anyone you know is dealing with alcohol abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) provides a free, confidential, 24/7, treatment referral, and information service.

For something that’s supposed to make your night more fun or relaxing, shopping for alcohol isn’t exactly easy. 

Even if you go into a liquor store knowing what type of alcohol you’re looking for, there are countless brands to consider. And, after you make your purchase, you have to keep those glass bottles safe and secure through a bumpy car ride (or worse – a long walk home). 


Luckily, online delivery services are making the ordeal of buying alcohol much more convenient and enjoyable, as they do for most things (see: buying mattresses, gourmet foods, and even large house plants). You won’t have to figure out how to lug five bottles of wine home or make a mad dash to the store 15 minutes before your virtual happy hour starts. 

Companies that sell alcohol online also help you discover new varieties. With the help of personalization algorithms, their recommendations are often scarily accurate. You’ll waste less time and money by taking advantage of these online guides. 

If you want to buy your alcohol online, we’ve rounded up our favorite retailers below and divided them into these categories:

  1. General online shop: For when you know exactly what you’re looking for
  2. Discovery-based: For when you’re not sure what you like
  3. Kits and mixers: For cocktail cravings

Most places have implemented contactless delivery and ID scanning, and the elimination of customer signatures to minimize contact with its delivery people, so be sure to pay attention to delivery methods.

Here are the 18 best places to buy alcohol online: 

General online shop: For when you know exactly what you’re looking for

alcohol delivery buy online


Indie purveyors are brought to the forefront at, where “Angel” customers act as investors to support small winemakers around the world. To become an Angel, you deposit $40 to your account every month to spend at any time on more wine. This membership gives you access to exclusive wines, discounts (40%-60% off), and tasting events. 

Shop wine at | Read our review of

2. ReserveBar

ReserveBar is the perfect place to shop for yourself and pick up gifts because it offers premium brands like Johnnie Walker and Ciroc. It’s also where you’ll find cool limited-edition products such as the Game of Thrones collection and rare beauties like a $3,650 Louis XIII cognac. To make it shine on your bar cart, add a custom engraving to a spirit of your choice. 

Shop premium, limited-edition spirits, wine, and beer at ReserveBar [Spend $100 and get $20 off your next order with the code “BUYANDSAVE”]| Read our review of ReserveBar

3. Thrive Market

Thrive Market is a marketplace focusing on natural, non-toxic, and healthy brands, so its wine selection is narrowed down to varieties that are pesticide-free, have no added sugar, and are even biodynamic. They come in variety bundles or 6-bottle cases. 

Shop wine at Thrive Market | Read our review of Thrive Market

4. Drizly

Drizly has your alcohol needs covered by delivering whatever you’re in the mood for in under an hour. Search the exact liquor, wine, or beer you need on Drizly. The prices aren’t marked up, and the delivery fee is only $5. 

Shop spirits, wine, and beer at Drizly [Use the code “INSIDER5” at checkout to receive $5 off a purchase of $20 or more] 

5. Saucey

Saucey isn’t available in as many cities as Drizly, but it promises even faster delivery (30 minutes) and it’s free, with no minimum purchase required. Get your Bud Light alongside your Ballast Point, then pick up some snacks to pair with those icy cold beverages.

Shop spirits, wine, and beer at Saucey [Use the code “INSIDER10” at checkout to receive $10 off your first order]

6. Minibar

Minibar is available in more markets than Saucey and is great for people who want the option of in-store pickup or exclusive wines. Delivery fees can depend on your local store, but you’ll still get your order within the hour. 

Shop spirits, wine, and beer at Minibar | Read our comparison of the best on-demand alcohol delivery services

7. FreshDirect

FreshDirect offers the full grocery-shopping experience, with none of the inconveniences. The New York-based delivery service carries both local and name-brand alcohol and runs deals every week, just like your local grocery store. It has a whole section of organic wine, plus a category called Select Sips, which features wine and spirits sourced from around the world. 

Shop beer and wine and spirits at FreshDirect | Read our review of FreshDirect


It’s exactly what it sounds like. is the world’s largest wine store, where you can shop wine from regions as different as Africa, China, and Greece. Though the options are vast, they become a little easier to navigate with a filtering system, professional ratings, and a recommendation engine. Become a member for $49 annually to receive free standard shipping with no minimum orders.  

Shop wine at [Use the code “PSCASE10” to get 10% off 12 bottles or “DECNEW100” for $20 off orders $100+ for new customers] | Read our review of

Discovery-based: For when you’re not sure what you like

where to buy alcohol online 8

1. Winc

California-based winery Winc, which was co-founded by sommelier Brian Smith, uses an online Palate Profile, along with your own ratings, to recommend and ship wines tailored to your tastes. The wines, which come from winemakers all over the world as well as Winc’s own vineyard, start at $13 a bottle. There’s no fee or commitment to join, and you can skip a month’s shipment any time you want. 

Discover wine at Winc [New members receive $20 off their first box] | Read our review of Winc 

2. Firstleaf

Note: Firstleaf is providing contact-less delivery by eliminating customer signatures.  

The barriers of entry to Firstleaf are low: it has a great introductory offer where you get your first six bottles for just $39.95, plus free shipping. Afterward, you’ll receive six bottles at a time, at a frequency convenient for you. The company prides itself on its custom algorithm that predicts which one of its many award-winning wine options you’ll like, and if you don’t like a bottle, you’ll get a refund. 

Discover wine at Firstleaf | Read our review of Firstleaf

3. Vinebox

Every three months, Vinebox sends you a box of nine glasses of wine packaged in individual vials. Vinebox’s unique bottling technology ensures they maintain their full flavor and mouthfeel as they make their way to your doorstep. Each quarter’s box contains seasonal varieties, wines you should be drinking right now, and other fun picks. With each box, you’ll also receive up to $30 in credits to buy the full-size versions. Vinebox also has holiday boxes in festive packaging (currently unavailable), which are great as gifts or a treat to yourself.

Discover wine at Vinebox | Read our review of Vinebox

4. Bright Cellars

Two MIT grads are behind the monthly wine club Bright Cellars, which sends four new wines each month for $80. The company has a competitive curation process — it says it only picks one out of every 12 wines it tries for the monthly collections and promises to show you hidden gems from vineyards in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and South America. 

Discover wine at Bright Cellars [New members receive $50 off their first box]

5. Tavour

The only drawback of loving craft beers is that you can’t always buy all the ones you want to try. Every day, Tavour gives you access to two beers you can’t normally get in your area (say, Anchorage Brewing’s IPA) and you claim the ones you want. It delivers to your door, so you get an international craft brewery tour without ever leaving your house. The experience also connects you to a community of fellow beer lovers. 

Discover beer at Tavour

6. Flaviar

Flaviar is a club for those who love fine spirits and have a desire to explore beyond the usual names (e.g. Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker). With a membership, you get a complimentary full-size bottle, plus a Tasting Box every quarter, free distillery tours, and access to detailed bottle profiles. It prides itself on sharing rare and previously unattainable whiskey, rum, cognac, and more. 

Discover spirits at Flaviar

Kits and mixers: For cocktail cravings

alcohol delivery buy online 1

1. SaloonBox

Recipe cards, top-shelf spirits, and all the ingredients you need for two different cocktails are included in each month’s SaloonBox. It sends you only what you need to make the drinks, which means nothing ever goes to waste and you don’t have to search high and low for obscure ingredients. Each box is meant for two people, so pick your favorite person to try delicious cocktails like Blueberry Bourbon Collins and Kentucky Rosaritas. 

Shop cocktail kits at SaloonBox 

2. Shaker & Spoon

Shaker & Spoon doesn’t send you the liquor, but it will send you everything else — syrups, bitters, mixers, garnishes — to make 12 drinks. The three recipes in each box are designed and recommended by actual bartenders, who will be sad to miss you at the bar but understand the desire to simply stay in tonight. 

Shop cocktail kits at Shaker & Spoon [Use the code “FIRST5” to get $5 off your first order] 

3. Cocktail Courier

You don’t have to wait each month to shop for a variety of delicious cocktails at Cocktail Courier. They usually come in multiple serving sizes, so you can serve up drinks to your entire friend group, and come with the alcohol. The site also sells barware and party supplies.

Shop cocktail kits at Cocktail Courier

4. Mouth

For gourmet gifts like fancy chocolate, creatively flavored popcorn, and picnic-worthy charcuterie boards, we love shopping at Mouth. It’s also where you can shop the drinks to go along with these delicious snacks. The mixed drink kits, unfortunately, don’t contain the liquor. However, you’ll be more than happy with the artisanal mixers, seasonal specials, and quality barware offered by the site.  

Shop cocktail kits at Mouth

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This AmazonBasics patio heater lets me enjoy socially distanced outdoor hangouts even when it’s below freezing outside

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AmazonBasics patio heater

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As the weather cools and the novel coronavirus sticks around, I’ve been spending time with loved ones primarily outdoors. No family has set foot in my house for nearly a year except to make a quick bathroom pit stop (with a mask on) after enjoying several caffeinated beverages on the deck.

As we round the corner into winter, many patio heaters are still on backorder. I managed to snag one after an aggressive bout of browser refreshing in early September. The days were getting shorter and I was nervous about the prospect of cutting off social ties completely. I knew that if I wanted to see my mom before next summer, I had to find a way to keep us both warm while enjoying distanced breakfasts. 

I chose the AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater partly because it was the only one available and, at about $150, it happens to be fairly affordable. It also meets all the marks of what to look for in a patio heater from our guide to the best patio heaters: it’s from a brand I was familiar with, available on a site I shop at regularly, and had a good return policy should it not work.

In researching our guide to the best patio heaters, I also discovered that the higher the Btu, the better – 40,000 Btu is a good baseline, especially for cold-weather entertaining. At 46,000 Btu, the AmazonBasics heater is mighty powerful and meets that mark. I hoped it would extend outdoor socializing well into the winter. 

Editor’s note: we’ve seen this patio heater go in and out of stock many times over the last several months. If it’s not in stock at the moment, you can sign up for e-mail alerts for when it becomes available on its Amazon page.

Assembly and ease of use

AmazonBasics patio heater

The sleek, stainless steel, dome-top patio heater arrives in pieces, so some assembly is required. As the not-so-handy one in my household, I enlisted the help of my husband – who regularly, eagerly volunteers to assemble other people’s IKEA furniture. Setup took about 40 minutes, thanks to the clear and easy-to-follow instructions. None of the pieces were warped or difficult to put together, either. 

Once assembled, getting the patio heater ready to heat is easy. Simply twist and lift the cover to load up a 20-pound propane tank using the included hose and regulator, which attach in the same way you’d hook up a propane tank to your grill. A single propane tank should last you around 10 hours in a heater running on high, and a bit longer if run on lower settings. We popped in a propane tank (we always keep one on hand just in case) and started it up. I was immediately impressed with the device’s heat output. I instantly felt warm on an evening where my exposed arms were dotted with goosebumps. 

Adjusting the temperature is easy, too. Although, I do have to stand on my tippy toes to reach the ignition knob and adjust the output from low to high. Bonus being that if you have kids, they definitely won’t be able to reach the knob and the taller height keeps the hottest part of the heater well out of reach.

Review of the AmazonBasics Commercial Patio Heater

Patio heater in the fall

Since the day we assembled it, I’ve used the AmazonBasics heater consistently for more than three months – on chilly evenings, during socially distanced outdoor dinners, and to keep warm while letting the dogs out to pee. More recently, I’ve tested its limitations in more uncomfortable, freezing conditions. Through it all, it’s allowed me and my pod of outdoor guests to keep warm when we’d otherwise much prefer to be inside. I’ve used the heater a lot. Mostly on days where it’s cold enough to need a sweater. A few times, I fired it up to enjoy breakfast with my parents on days with no sun and temperatures dipping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit – cold enough to need a jacket. Overall, I’ve spent way more time outside during the fall months than I have in any other year and it’s largely in part to having the heater on hand to keep me warm. 

To really test the boundaries of the heater, I took to my patio table on a day where snow was still on the ground and it was almost 32 degrees outside. I grabbed my trusty digital thermometer, fired up my laptop, and turned on the patio heater hoping that it would warm the air and prevent me from freezing while I tried to get work done. 

The 46,000 Btu managed to raise the surrounding ambient temperature of my 300-square foot deck to about 51 Fahrenheit. It’s a significant temperature difference when the air is that cold. It should be noted that it took a while for that temperature increase to occur – about two hours. 

Here’s the deal: In the deep cold of winter, a single patio heater won’t get you very far – especially if you’re sitting around a table. During this chilly test, the coldest part of my body was my lower half, which was tucked under my patio table. I could definitely see myself sitting out there longer with a jacket and a warm meal or coffee, but I’d be most comfortable with an additional compact heater, like the Mr. Buddy Patio Heater, on the ground heating up my legs. Of course, sitting directly under the heater makes for a toastier experience than sitting across the table from it. 

That said, the AmazonBasics patio heater is an excellent option for keeping your outdoor spot comfortable during chilly summer nights and cold fall evenings, so long as the temperature doesn’t dip too close to freezing. It’s also apparent that any kind of breeze – even a slight one – has a significant impact on heating performance, especially in cold weather. Over the many months I used the heater, I noticed I always felt more comfortable on a still day, rather than a breezy day, even if the temperatures outside were the same. Additionally, you’ll also feel warmer on a sunny day versus one that’s overcast. 

Durability and storage

The bottom line patio heater

The heater has so far survived multiple rainstorms, one snowfall, a freeze, and windy weather. You can add sandbags to the bottom for added sturdiness, but we didn’t bother and it never once wobbled on stormy evenings. 

There’s no need to disassemble it to store it for the winter. You can keep it on your deck or patio. I did buy a cover for it, but I haven’t yet managed to put it on because, well, I am too short to reach on my own. I also love that it has wheels and you can roll it around. It’s easy to move it out of the way when not in use. 

Safety features

The AmazonBasics heater has a tip-over shutoff feature, which automatically turns the heater off if it falls over – I tested this by tipping it over while lit, and it works (I don’t recommend trying this at home, however). Despite its safety features, it’s always important to be vigilant around any heating appliances. These flaming patio accessories can warm you up nicely, but they can also do some damage if not used correctly. 

Matthew Griffith, Prevention Section Chief with the Montreal Fire Department, cautions people to keep patio heaters away from flammable materials, paying attention to low-hanging tree branches, umbrellas, wooden fences, and other obstacles. He also warns people to never use propane-powered appliances like patio heaters indoors, because they emit carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in confined spaces. 

The bottom line 

The AmazonBasics patio heater is now a permanent fixture on my deck. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of it when it’s regularly freezing outside, but it has helped me extend my outdoor social time during the pandemic. At a time when gathering indoors feels fraught, I’ve managed to occasionally see the people I love and maintain safe social distancing – even just for an hour.

But it’s not a perfect solution. Ideally, I’d outfit my patio with multiple heaters, but availability and cost limit my options. The heater isn’t capable of melting layers of snow, so there’s bound to be a moment in time when we’re stuck indoors and outdoor meetups are impossible. There’s also some trial and error involved in figuring out what feels acceptable and comfortable for you. Still, the heater makes me feel like I’ve won in some small way. I imagine that even when the pandemic is over, I’ll feel as if I’ve conquered the change of seasons with the help of my fiery, warming device. 

Read the original article on Business Insider