American Outdoor Grills (AOG) are manufactured by the same company that makes Fire Magic grills, J.H. Peterson. Both of these products lines boast full 304 stainless construction and other high-end manufacturing specs, such as welded firebox seams; both are made in the USA. It seems like the AOG line is designed to target a unique, narrow market between high-end $2500 grills and mid-quality mass produced grills.
I spent a lot of time researching grills – their design, burners, features and materials of construction. I had seen how some stainless steels can rust when exposed to weather – so 304 stainless became a priority for me (all grills priced below roughly $2500 are made from lower-grade stainless alloys, such as 430 – these will rust and stain easily, especially at locations where protective coatings are comprimised, such as seams, holes, etc – and where in contact with other materials, such as bolts). I also did not want a large 36 inch grill. I was neutral to features like a side burner and rotisserie burner, although I was curious about having an infrared burner option. Above all else, I didn’t want to spend much over $2000 since I don’t consider myself an avid griller or chef!
With these things in mind, the AOG’s are almost the only option out there. The 24PC models are priced around $1800-$2000 with the side burner and rear infrared rotisserie burner. There is a model without these two extra burners for about $1600-1800. Even though these features were not important to me, I thought it was worth the extra $200 (10%) to have them.
The contruction of the grill is really excellent – and it’s beautiful. It’s absolutely entirely stainless. The sheet metal is a bit thinner than higher-end grills, but it is not what I would call thin. My grill arrived with a couple small dings on the back side, and there was major damage to the bottom of the shipping box – so I assume any thickness of stainless would have been damaged a little bit. The lid uses double-thickness, which of course keeps it cooler to the touch and makes it very rigid and sturdy. The grates and diffuser plates are heavy stainless. The burners are a stainless alloy 18SR, which I found is a great alloy choice for high temperature applications (see AK Steel company). The burners have small adjustable ‘air shutters’ so you can fine-tune the flame. All the bolt hardware looks like it’s 316 stainless, which is very important since rusting often starts at bolts (nearly all grills cost-cut with lesser-quality alloys for bolts, because the cost of 316 can add up really fast). Even the knobs are heavy cast, polished metal with rubber grip inserts – very nice! I was always dissapointed to find plastic burner knobs on $1500 grills. The door and lid handles are tubular stainless, and quite beefy. The firebox has welded seams, although they are spot-welded instead of continuously welded – better than rivots, but definitely an area where they are saving money. The side burner lid cover isn’t truly hinged, though – it just kind of pivots in a slot, and the thinner gauge sheet metals gives it a bit of a flimsy feel, but not too bad. It closes completely flush, though – so it’s nice to be able to use it like a flat shelf. The side shelves are very sturdy, made from heavy gauge stainless, and attach with four heavy screws, so they are very stable. There are nice louvered vents on the back side of the grill so the lower storage area does not over heat. The lower doors are box-constructed, so they are very rigid and they have nice, strong magnetic catches. The electronic ignition works well, with a nice rubber-covered ignition button surrounded by a thick stainless collar. The rear infrared backburner mesh grill is made from Inconel (high nickel alloy), another excellent material choice. The burner itself is covered with a ceramic material necessary to produce the IR radiation. The four caster wheels are a bit too small in my opinion – they only roll well on very smooth surfaces. I thought they were replaceable, but in fact they are rivited in place, so they can’t be easily replaced. The rotisserie seems really sturdy to me, although the motor apparently has a modest weight rating – 12-15 lbs, I think. The motor looks great and attachs quickly – it’s also made in stainless, though it’s made in China.
Grilling on the AOG is great – the whole grill can be brought up to maximum temerature in about 15 minutes. The BBQ Guys website has some great videos demonstrating the grill performance. The temperature control and uniformity seems really nice – so far, we’ve cooked everything from burger to veggies to filets, with really great results. My wife likes everything medium-well, so it’s not always easy. I have noticed that I need to adjust my grilling style a bit, since I’m probably not used to such good temperature control. There is alot of talk about preventing flair-ups, which I don’t really understand. I’ve had some flaring on this grill, but it doesn’t bother me.
Note that you can buy an infrared main burner for this grill for about $300. Also, some of the Fire Magic grill accessories will fit the AOG’s, just check with a dealer.