The Ultimate Guide to Gas Grills
With the right grill, cooking food outdoors for family and friends is a delight. Here's what you need to know to choose the right grill for you.
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Outdoor cooking is great, especially in summer, when folks fire up their grills to produce flavorful meats, veggies, even pizza. Gas grills offer a fast and convenient way to make delicious meals and cool memories for yourself and family. Learn all about gas grills right here.
What Is a Gas Grill?
Gas grills are the outdoor cooking appliances fueled by propane or natural gas. Most come with a lidded cook box mounted in a wheeled cart for portability. Metal burners beneath the cooking surface emit small flames, radiating heat upward toward the food. Natural-gas models are connected to household gas supplies. Propane models draw fuel from portable tanks connected to the burners with a hose and regulator.
Pros and Cons of Gas Grills
Gas grills cook food fast and are surprisingly easy to use, even with no prior grilling experience. Propane models are easy to move around, and can be used anywhere. All gas grills reach temperature quickly, becoming fully ready for cooking in 10 or 15 minutes after lighting.
All grills build up grease and soot after a while, but gas grills are easier to clean than charcoal grills and deliver a more even and controllable heat. That said, gas grills are more expensive to buy and fuel than charcoal units. They also don’t give food the same rich, smoky flavor as charcoal grills.
Types of Gas Grills
Tabletop Grills: These miniature models are great for one or two people. Their small size makes them perfect for camping trips, tailgating and beachside grilling.
Portable Cart Grills: The majority of gas grills are portable units built on wheeled carts. Which model you choose depends on the cooking capacity, features and budget that suit you. Grill size is often expressed in number of burners, typically ranging from two to six. Higher end stainless steel grills often have extra features like infrared rotisserie burners for searing meat.
Fixed Grill: Serious grillers sometimes set up permanent outdoor cooking stations in their backyard, and that’s where fixed grills can be a good choice. Like tabletop grills they have no legs or wheels, and they’re often larger than cart-equipped grills to maximize cooking capacity for built-in patio kitchens.
Flat-Top Grill, a.k.a. Griddle: Almost unheard of when gas grills first appeared, flat-top grills have grown in popularity. Heating a flat, continuous metal cooking surface rather than a slatted grate means these grills offer more even cooking and easier searing and cleanup.
Plus you can make pancakes, eggs and many other foods you can’t make on a traditional gas grill.
How to Safely Start and Shut Off a Gas Grill
Make sure your grill is outdoors in a well ventilated area. Never use it indoors or in a garage. Do a quick inspection of the hose and regulator before lighting, making sure there’s no obvious damage. If you have a propane grill, make sure the tank is in good shape and not dented or rusty.
If everything checks out, open the lid, then slowly open the tank valve all the way. If your grill has an igniter button, press and hold it while slowly turning the first burner control knob to the “low” position.
Turn the knob off again if the burner tube doesn’t ignite after a few seconds. Allow the unburned propane gas to disperse, then try again. Repeat the process for all burners until they’re lit. Use a lighter wand if your grill doesn’t have built in igniters or if they’re not working properly.
Shut down your grill by turning all the burner control knobs to the “off” position, then close the tank valve all the way. When the grill cools down, close the lid and protect the unit from weather with a grill cover.
Gas Grill Temperature Controls
Burner knobs control the heat output. They regulate the amount of gas flowing through burner tubes, changing the size and intensity of the flames that cook your food. A thermometer mounted in the lid of many grills gives a rough idea of interior temperature, but only when the lid is closed.
Finer control happens by choosing more or less direct or indirect heating. Direct heat means the food sits directly above the flames. The flames still cook the meat when heating indirectly, but not from so close. Instead, the meat is set to one side of the burners, leading to slower, gentler cooking with less searing.
How Much Do Gas Grills Cost?
Portable gas grills meant to cook for one or two people cost $100 to $300. Small, two-burner units with wheels cost $300 to $600 or more depending on the brand, features and materials. Full-sized four- or six-burner grills can easily cost $1,000, $1,500, or more, depending on fanciness.
Expect to pay a lot for units with extra features like infrared searing elements, side tables with burners for pots and pans and built-in electronic thermometers with smartphone connectivity.
Best Accessories for Gas Grills
Get a good, basic set of tools to use with your gas grill: a stainless steel wire brush for grate cleaning, a spatula, tongs, grill fork, kitchen scissors and food brush for basting sauces.
Some grills can be retrofitted with infrared searing elements. WiFi digital grill thermometers are a great way to monitor cooking temperature when you need to step away from the grill or you’re slow-cooking a large cut of meat.
A high-quality wire brush can be a good cleaning tool, but some wire brushes shed tiny pieces of wire that can end up in your food. Alternatives to wire brushes include hard plastic brushes and wooden scrapers.
Gas Grill Maintenance
Inspect your grill regularly for leaks by spraying an 80/20 mixture of water and dish soap over the tank valve, regulator and where the hose connects to the grill. Any leaks will make the mixture bubble continuously.
Like all types of grills, your gas grill works best if you keep it clean. Keep the cook box functioning optimally by scraping off and vacuuming the soot and debris after every five or six uses. Clean the drip tray and catch pan too, using grill cleaning spray and wipes. Use more wipes to remove grease and soot from the side tables.
Clean the grates before each use with a wire brush, and deep-clean them with grill spray as needed. Remove the grates every three or four uses and inspect burner tubes for blockage and corrosion. Remove and clean if necessary. Replace burners if they’re beginning to rust out.
This content has been reviewed by grilling expert Allen LeCuyer, a board member of the Minnesota BBQ Society.