You can call it ‘grilling’ or ‘barbecuing’ but there’s no denying that a solid, reliable gas grill is a necessity for epic outdoor cooking.
Grilling is not just about cooking healthy food. It brings the kitchen outdoors, where you can gather with family and friends for an afternoon of fun and leisure.
You know it’s time to invest in a new gas grill, but choosing the best one for your purpose is the tricky part. There’s a dizzying array of choices in every store. Don’t think of it as a disadvantage, though, because it makes prices pretty competitive.
Gas and charcoal grills are the stars of outdoor cooking, but why choose a gas grill? The main reason why gas outsells charcoal is convenience. Gas grilling is easy, automated, and after-party cleaning is not a pain. Moreover, the heat is predictable and easy to control. Still, that’s not all it has to offer.
Modern gas grills come with a variety of accessories and features, some of them you’ve probably never heard before. To make your buying experience more confusing, you have to think about the number of burners, types of fuel, body and frame materials, BTU rating, and cooking grates.
We are here to help you understand what makes a good gas grill, so read on. You’ll find out the essential things to look for when buying a gas grill and we added tips on how to maximize the lifespan of your grill.
Things to consider when purchasing a gas grill
Even a typical gas grill from local manufacturers comes with lots of bells and whistles. Mastering the idiosyncrasies of grilling is important. Every grill is different and you need to be acquainted with your grill for your food to taste better.
Likewise, you must think about your personal preferences when shopping for a new grill: where do you want to use it, how often do you intend to use it, what’s your budget, and how much space can you spare for storing it?
Because your grill will mostly be outdoors, enduring harsh elements and ever-changing weather, opting for a gas grill with a durable body is a good call.
Gas grills are usually made of cast iron, stainless steel, and cast aluminum. Some are made of a combination of metals. Aluminum gas grills are lightweight and rust-resistant, as well as able to withstand discoloration and material fatigue.
Stainless steel is durable, low-maintenance, sears food effectively, but also fairly expensive. Make sure the whole body is made of stainless steel as some manufacturer uses painted steel frames that tend to rust.
Grill grates must be made from heavy metal, as thin metals can warp over hight heat. The tines should not be too far apart. Ideally, they should be at least ½ inch apart.
The size of your grill’s cooking surface (grid) depends on the number of people you might want to cook for. The measurements are expressed in square inches. About 300-400 square inches cooking space is ideal for grilling several dishes at a time. It would be enough for a family of four.
Some grill models come with additional rack space to keep food warm. While it’s handy, it adds additional footprint. Consider this when calculating the size of the cooking surface.
Manufacturers also require gas grills to sit at least 2 feet away from your house and other combustible objects. Make sure your outdoor space is enough to accommodate your new grill’s dimensions.
If you choose a grill with a large cooking surface, you need more than one burner to keep the heat distribution even. A gas grill with a 500 square inches cooking area can accommodate three gas burners.
If you want to cook using the indirect heat method, you need three or more burners for proper cooking.
Burners made of stainless steel or brass are the most durable. Iron is durable and inexpensive but quick to rust. Aluminum tends to warp and burn out over time.
Types of Fuel
Portable gas grills use propane gas. They are freely available and can be taken anywhere. Natural gas is made of methane. It can be more economical but it requires a gas line from your house, so you need to hire a contractor to do the installation.
The main advantage of natural gas is the cost. In the long run, it’s way cheaper to have natural gas than buy propane gas on a regular basis. A full tank of propane allows you to grill for 12-18 hours straight. With natural gas, you don’t need to run to the store to refuel.
Propane grills require a conversion kit to be hooked up to natural gas at additional cost, and the regulator should also be adjusted. Some grills cannot be adapted to natural gas, so you have to consider that.
A gas grill uses one of two types of electric ignition systems: an electric spark generator that uses batteries and a piezoelectric ignition. Most high-end grills have a dedicated igniter for each burner, but repairs can be expensive if they malfunction.
Look for grills with a manual ignition hole, so you can insert a push-button igniter or a wooden matchstick if your igniter breaks.
Heat intensity capability
The BTU (British thermal units) rating measures the heat output of a gas grill. A higher BTU number doesn’t mean better performance. It should be balanced with the size of the grill.
Larger grills with a large cooking surface and more burners require more BTUs per hour. If you want hotter grills, don’t look for the BTU numbers alone. You need a grill with burners that require higher BTUs and a gas pipeline with a larger diameter.
As with all purchases, planned or on a whim, you need to determine how much you are willing to spend. How much you spend depends on what you want from it. The price range for gas grills is wide. You can get a decent grill for $300-$400 but top-of-the-line grills can run over $5,000.
Your purchase may come with a complimentary propane tank. Note that you would need to spend an additional $20-$30 if it is not included in the deal.
Your gas grill may have additional features or accessories to make your grilling experience more convenient. They are standard on more expensive grills, but some can be purchased as attachments for your existing grill.
Rotisserie set up – premium models may feature a rotisserie motor mounted to the grill or an infrared burner which provides uniform heat and prevents flare-ups.
Smoker box with smoker burner – for those who prefer the flavor of charcoal but want the convenience of a gas grill
Side burner – for sauces and side dishes. A built-in side burner can be used as a warming rack.
Storage shelves – some grills may feature a condiment tray, pull-out drawers, and other storage compartments.
Grill cover – an important accessory that can improve the lifespan of your grill.
Pull-out drip tray – this is often included in high-quality gas grills. Without it, you need to regularly clean the bottom of your grills for drippings and accumulated grease, which can lead to a grease fire.
Q: Can I smoke food in a gas grill?
A: It is possible to smoke food in a gas grill. It would require wet wood chips placed in a smoker box or a makeshift perforated aluminum foil. It is done using indirect heat grilling, so you need a grill with at least three burners.
Q: How long do gas grills last?
A: Gas grills made of high-quality materials can last between 5 to 10 years if properly taken care of. To keep your grill in top shape, clean the grates regularly (preferably before and after using it). It’s better to brush the grill while it’s hot. Always keep it dry to prevent rusting. Don’t let nasty stains stay for long periods of time.
Q: How can I prevent the meat from sticking on gas grill grates?
A: After lighting the grill, you need to preheat it for 10 minutes to prevent it from sticking to the metal grates. Just cover the grill after your fire is lit and wait for the fire to transfer heat to the grates.
Q: Are gas grills safe?
A: Gas grills are generally safe when used properly. Injuries from gas grills and home structure fires can occur if combustible materials are placed near the grill. When using a propane gas grill, check your fuel lines for leaks. If you are storing your grill indoors, remove the propane cylinder and keep it outside in a shaded spot, away from any source of heat. Never store propane cylinders inside your home or garage.
Q: What’s the difference between direct and indirect cooking in a gas grill?
A: The direct-heat method involves placing the food directly over the grill’s heat source. Any food, even seafood and vegetables can be grilled directly over the fire. Indirect grilling means placing the food over a burner that has been turned off while keeping other burners on medium or high. This technique allows the food to cook itself without burning. If you only plan to use the direct method, a gas grill with one burner is enough.