The Importance of Preheating a Grill and How Long It Should Take

Last Updated on April 15, 2021
Doug Stephen

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.

how long to preheat grill

Grilling is like fine art, and it has so many rituals and unspoken rules. Whether you load your grill with beef, fish, or lamb chops, all these rituals and traditions remain the same around the world. And one of the most important customs that all grillers must adhere to is preheating the grill before cooking.

It doesn’t matter whether you are using a charcoal grill to make brisket or cooking ribs on a propane grill. You must preheat your grill every time before cooking. If you load your food too early before the heat is ready, chances are that the food won’t cook to perfection. 

In today’s post, we discuss the reasons why you should preheat your grill and how long it should take.

1. Top reasons to preheat your grill before cooking

Preheating your grill is vital for success. Overlooking this step may ruin your entire BBQ meal. With this in mind, here are some of the top reasons why you should preheat your grill before laying your food.

  1. Attains optimum cooking temperature

Both charcoal and gas grills cook food through conductive and radiant heat. Radiant heat emanates through the bars of the cooking grate while the hot grates spread heat to your food through conduction. This means the grill has to attain a particular temperature before it can start cooking your food optimally. You can only attain the right temperature by preheating the grill in advance.

  1. Degreases the cooking grates

No matter how hard you scrub, removing troublesome fat and stuck food residue from previous grilling sessions is a tough challenge. Preheating your grill a few minutes in advance will degrease the cooking grates and make it easier to scrub. This will go a long way to prevent cross-contamination and ensure your food is fresh with no funny flavors.

  1. Prevents overcooking

One of the main reasons why you need to preheat your grill is to prevent overcooking. If you decide to cook your food before preheating the grill, you might not reach the optimum temperature required for your BBQ dish. This means your food will stay much longer on the grill and this might lead to overcooked food or dried-out results.

  1. Ensures even cooking

Preheating your grill before cooking eliminates hot spots and ensures your food cooks evenly and consistently. If you place your food on the grill before heating, chances are that one side will cook differently from the other. The first side on the grates will cook at a lower temperature than the other side facing up. To avoid this, always preheat your grill first before anything else.

  1. Creates flavorful sear marks

Every griller finds joy and delight in the ability to create beautiful and flavorful sear marks and crosshatch patterns on their steaks and BBQ recipes. Sear marks not only look good, but they also add flavor to your food. They allow the food to caramelize, subsequently forming a tasty layer on the outside. 

However, to create these sear marks, you need to preheat your grill first until the cooking grates become super-hot.

  1. Makes flipping a breeze

Preheating your grill makes cooking a breeze. You no longer have to struggle with food latching on the griddle plate or the cooking grates. If your grill is not warm enough, it increases the chances of food sticking on the grates. You will also have trouble flipping your food when you want to cook the other side.

2. Steps on how to preheat your grill

Preheating a gas grill is different from preheating a charcoal grill. This is because they have varying heating mechanisms and the time it takes to preheat either of them also varies. Here are the steps on how to preheat a gas grill and a charcoal grill.

Preheating a gas grill:

  1. Open the lid of the grill
  2. Light the burners and turn the knob to medium or maximum temperature
  3. Close the lid
  4. Wait until heat builds up in the cooking chamber
  5. Adjust the temperature as necessary and start cooking

Preheating a charcoal grill:

  1. Light your charcoal using a chimney starter or auto ignition
  2. Allow the charcoal lumps to burn until they are white and ashy
  3. Transfer the lit charcoal lumps from the chimney starter to your grill
  4. Open the grill’s dampers
  5. Close the lid
  6. Wait until heat builds up in the cooking chamber
  7. Adjust the dampers to modify temperature as necessary and start cooking

3. How long to preheat the grill?

How long it takes to preheat depends on the type of grill you are using. Gas grills take between 10 and 15 minutes to preheat and reach the required temperature while charcoal grills take 5 to 15 minutes to preheat.

4. Why do gas grills need to preheat longer than charcoal grills?

types of smoker

As you’ve probably noticed, charcoal grills take long to light than to preheat. You can preheat your charcoal grill in less than 5 minutes and you are good to go. Gas grills, on the other hand, require a full 15 minutes to preheat.

Charcoal grills don’t require much time to preheat because the hot coals produce plenty of radiant heat compared to gas grills. Once the charcoal lumps are hot, it won’t take long to heat up the walls of the grill and the cooking grates.

Gas grills do not produce as much radiant heat as charcoal grills. For this reason, most gas grills come equipped with ceramic rods and metal bars between the grates and burners to help distribute heat within the grill. The process takes a full 15 minutes to convert the gas flames into radiant heat. This explains why gas grills take longer to preheat.

Doug Stephen

Doug Stephen

Final Thoughts 

One of the biggest mistakes newbie grillers make is to avoid preheating their grills long enough before the grilling session. You might be eager to get down and start barbecuing, but failure to preheat your grill will only put your food in jeopardy. Do not let this happen to you. Always preheat your grill and enjoy tasty, flavorful dishes every time.

If you’re preparing food for your friends and family, we have fall grilling ideas for you. These are easy to make grill recipes that will satisfy anyone who you invite to the table.

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