An Expert Guide to Gas Grills
Grilling season is upon us! This year make sure you have all the necessities to host some great barbecues, starting with the perfect gas grill!
‘Tis the season for grilling, sauteing, smoking, and roasting! This gets even more exciting when you realize that you can do all of these on a gas grill! There have been so many advances in cooking over the last few years, very notably, gas grill cooking. Now, you can build a gas grill as a part of your outdoor kitchen on your patio, serve the entire tailgating squad, slow-cook tough meats to highly tender, and give your food that sought-after smoke flavor. And, you can do it all on a gas grill, no matter your cooking or grilling style.
Natural Gas or Propane?
When looking into natural gas grills or liquid propane gas grills, mobility and burn efficiency are the main things to consider. With this, you have to evaluate which system is right for you.
When thinking about mobility, you want to consider where you see yourself using your new gas grill. If you are looking to move it around the backyard and transport it to other outdoor events, then a propane grill will be your best bet. With a propane gas grill, portable propane tanks can be switched very quickly and provide over 24 hours of burn time. Natural gas grills require a natural gas line, which makes natural gas a pretty permanent option unless you have a conversion kit.
Both propane and natural gas grills have a standard gas grill setup—grill grates, control knobs, and a thermometer somewhere near the lid. The difference is the BTU efficiency. Propane cuts down the cooking time because of the higher BTU output, but on the flip side, natural gas burns cleaner and is a less expensive option in the long term than propane.
Expert Tip: You can get a conversion kit to convert either natural gas to propane or propane to natural gas. Ensure you chat with your Expert about the best practices on how and where to do this.
British Thermal Units (BTU)
British Thermal Units are essentially the energy produced from burning gases like propane and natural gas. How many BTUs do I need to get cooking? To be perfectly honest, it really all depends on your cooking surface area and heat distribution, but you are usually looking at 75-100 BTUs per square inch.
For example, if you are cooking on your fantastic new Napoleon Prestige with a cooking area of 17.75 x 28, you are looking at about 497 square inches, which comes out to about 37,275- 49,700 BTUs for a fast constant cook. This is a rough estimate to show how many BTUs you need to get cooking instead of the overall grill output. Just remember that higher BTU grills don't always mean higher heat!
What Should You Look for in Your New Gas Grill?
Now that you have chosen your fuel and done a little grilling math, let's break down what to look for when selecting a gas grill. The areas you want to focus on are grill size, grids, flame tamers, burners, grill construction, lighting, conversion, backup ignition, and warranty.
Whether you are looking at a Weber Genesis or a Napoleon Prestige, you want to make sure you take the time to check each one of these areas and make sure that they fit your grilling and cooking lifestyle. Always remember that a huge reason why gas grilling is so popular is because of its convenience—find something that works for you so you can turn your gill on, grill up some fantastic food for the family, and then turn it off and get back to life.
The absolute first thing you have to do is figure out your grill size. So, how do you like to grill? You are more than likely going to have this grill for a pretty long time, so knowing what you like to cook and how much of it you want to cook is going to determine which gas grill is right for you.
The most common grill size is typically around 32 inches, but a giant grill means more versatility. If you are the type that cooks for many people or likes cooking steaks on one side and wants to cook vegetables on the other, then bump it up a couple of inches. More grill surface area usually means more burners, and this means more control over your cooking environment. A larger surface area also means that you can more efficiently utilize both direct and indirect heat.
The cooking grids are the central part of the grill that takes a lot of wear and tear, so ensuring you have thick, durable cooking grids will ensure their longevity. Additionally, knowing how you like your grid spacing is good to know as the closer the grids are, the fewer things will fall through. This also aids in heat retention on the grill surface which plays a massive part in caramelization. Caramelization is a reaction also known as the Millard Effect (which occurs at temperatures between 280-330℉) and gives you that nice sear and the grill marks you want.
There are usually two types of cooking grids: stainless steel or porcelain-coated cast-iron grates. Stainless steel is often the desired route as it’s not as susceptible to rust. However, make sure you compare the construction of the stainless steel as some designs use less and some are built a little tougher.
There are a few different styles of grids as well—the straight or the wavy. Straight grill grids are usually standard when buying a new gas grill. However, the wavy design on some of the premium grill grates, like the Napoleon models, does tend to aid in effective heat distribution and provide a little more surface area.
Flame Bars (Tamers)
These hard workers sit between the burners and the cooking surface. Flame bars help protect the burners from grease and other food slips and sticks. They usually come flat or angled and turn those drippings into that lovely smokey flavor, so it's essential to make sure the flame tamers cover the entire burner area. The angled tamers are great at deflecting the tidbits from hitting the burners and causing flare-ups. Complete coverage of flame bars also helps distribute heat to give you a more even consistent cook. For the construction of these bars, make sure you are getting heavy gauge stainless steel or ceramics, and make sure they cover the total cooking area.
Burner and Grill Construction
Burner construction and design set the stage for your entire gas grill cooking practices. Burners can vary immensely in terms of durability and construction. Getting higher gauge and more durable stainless steel burners, including your infrared side or rear burner (which I highly recommend), will improve the lifespan of your gas grilling and cooking.
Another huge area of construction that you do not want to skimp on is the gas grill body or heat box. You want to make sure that the body on the grill you choose is whole-welded. When you take the time to examine the grill body, you can tell whether the body has been fully welded and the seams fully polished.
Also, the hood should be double-lined commercial grade stainless steel. A double-lined hood not only helps heat hover in the center of the grill where it should be, but it helps prevent yellowing on the exterior of the grill.
Expert Tip: Look to see if there is a backup ignition option. Being able to re-light a blown-out pilot light from offset tubes is a necessity.
Make sure you take the time to glance at the warranty; doing this will save you so many headaches down the road and save you money. You want to make sure you pick a brand that has a burner warranty of 10 years or more. This added to excellent customer service is a win!
Types of Gas Grills
Now, after you have determined what to look for in the construction and assembly of your new gas grill, the time has come to put all that knowledge to good use and select your grill. There are so many types of gas grills out there to accommodate everything you like cooking under one hood, from freestanding and portable to built-in flattops. These also come with so many different features, some discussed above and some I will introduce now.
Freestanding and Portable
Freestanding gas grills are by far the most popular and the most recognizable. They come with a cart-like setup for extra gear and propane tank storage. These are the ones you see most in showrooms and advertised online. From Napoleon Prestige and Weber Genesis to the Victory 3 and Magma Marine, these excellent gas grills have the options to outfit your next grilling/cooking session right.
Portable grills are a fantastic affordable option and will give you a lot of the same technique and flavor as a freestanding grill. Weber, Napoleon, and Magma make some great options that won't break the bank but have that same amazing quality. It’s amazing to slap on some burgers at a tailgate party and then pack it all in after the game.
Built-Ins and Griddles
When constructing the platform for your outdoor kitchen, take into consideration the size of the built-in gas grill or griddle. As mentioned before, the standard popular size of a gas grill or griddle is about 32 inches. This is the size most often used for built-ins as well as the size most converted from freestanding to built-in—that’s right, you can convert your grill from freestanding to built-in, and given the size you prefer, you can increase the size as well.
Ensure you set the built-in grill in an insulated jacket and always try to keep at least 24in of clearance from any combustible materials like cabinets or siding—this goes for built-in griddles as well. When in doubt, make sure to refer to the manufacturer's guidelines that come with the gas grill built-in.
Gas griddles definitely have a great place in our gas grill arena as well! The Blackstone 28-inch griddle station is perfect for entry-level bacon and eggs cooking. With 34,000 BTUs across a 525 square inch cooking surface, the Blackstone will be a great addition to your gas grilling experience!
A Note on Gas and Charcoal Combos
It is a fantastic world we live in where we can get both gas and charcoal grills! This combo happens with a simple charcoal grill insert tray in some grills and a completely different grill chamber in others. For gas grills that use the tray, just remove the standard gas grill grates, pop in the charcoal grill tray, top it off with charcoal, and light. The other hybrid gas/charcoal grills have the grill sectioned off so you can operate gas on one side and charcoal on the other. You can do this at the same time and interchangeably.
The best part of grill shopping, after you have selected your grill, of course, is the accessories. This is where you can get surgical on what additions you want to add to your gas grilling experience. Choosing options like a rotisserie box and stainless steel rod, infrared burners on the side tables, or interior/exterior lighting can be exciting but overwhelming!
What you are definitely going to want to look at is a gas grill cart with storage either for your propane tank or your other grill accessories and room for prep along the side of the grill. These side tables have many options to extend and collapse. All the other accessories are really for your needs and desires, and accessorizing with all these fun toys is the best part! If you want to talk through some of these considerations, chat with a Grill Expert!
To Sum It All Up…
We have covered a lot in this breakdown guide on gas grills. Whether you are cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, ribs, or whole chickens, you can get it all done on a gas grill. You can char-broil on high heat or smoke your BBQ brisket with wood chips. You can convert your freestanding to built-in and your gas grill from natural to propane. Gas grills have stepped it up on construction, durability, and versatility. The convenience of being able to cook and grill anything with every method anytime is a fantastic all-in-one adventure. Reach out to a Grill Expert here on Curated to get started on finding your perfect grill.