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Gas grills are popular with home cooks and those who compete in barbecue challenges. Unlike charcoal grills that can significantly change the flavor of the foods that you cook, gas grills let the flavors of those foods come through. As Hank Hill on “King of the Hill” loved to say, you can taste the meat and not the heat.
The problem is that there are so many different types available that you might not know where to start. How much heat do you need and do you need external burners are some of the questions you might ask. Buying a gas grill is much easier when already know about these grills before you start shopping.
How Long Do Gas Grills Usually Last?
With proper care and maintenance, a gas grill can last much longer than you ever thought. Though companies release new models every year, you can use the same grill for years without replacing any of its parts of spending money on a new model. Proper care and maintenance should include both cleaning the grill and covering it between uses.
You can buy grill covers online designed to match the dimensions of your grill or the exact make and model that you have. These covers are easy to use because you just drop one over the top of the grill. It should be long enough that it extends over the sides of the grill and down to the ground.
When it comes to cleaning, you’ll want to clean the grill before and after you use it. Make sure that you remove any grease or stuck-on food particles from the grates and that you wipe down the gas tank. It’s helpful to check out the grill at the beginning and the end of the season to make sure it runs properly too.
How to Pick a Gas Grill
How Big of a Grill Should I Buy?
When it comes to grill size, bigger is not always better. Grills that are larger give you space for burgers and anything else that you need to cook for a crowd. The downside to a large grill is that it will take quite a bit of time for it to come up to temperature.
Most grill manufacturers use the term cooking space, which refers to the total amount of cooking space inside the grill in terms of square inches. You'll find some with 700 to 800 square inches of cooking space or more. That's enough room to grill more than one dozen burgers at the same time.
The most common size for a home grill is 32-inches, which refers to the length of the grates and the interior cooking space. This gives you enough room to cook a batch of food for your group without taking loads of time to heat up. You may want to look for one that includes a separate top grate too, which lets you keep food warm as you continue grilling.
How Many Burners Do I Need for a Gas Grill?
When deciding on how many burners you need, think about the amount of outdoor space you have and the number of people you will usually cook for on the grill. Some of the smaller grills come with two burners inside, which is usually enough to make food for four people. Those that have three burners can cook food for up to eight people, and those that have four or more burners help you grill for a crowd.
As you look at those burners, you also want to look at the grates and the controls on the outside. You want to make sure that you can control each burner with one of those knobs and that the grates are far enough away that you're not cooking directly on the flames, which can cause food to burn.
How Many BTUs Should the Grill Have?
British thermal unit (BTU) is a measurement that tells you how well a burner can heat. For grilling, the grill must produce at least 100 BTUs per square inch. You can go down a little if you just want to barbecue, but this is the minimum amount needed for grilling, which gives the food the charred areas that you want. As grills generally have a BTU rating in the 20,000 to 50,000 BTU range, you will need to divide this figure by the size of the grill to find the individual rating.
Do You Need Side Burners?
A popular option found on some gas grills is the addition of one or more side burners. These are the same grills that you'll see on “Top Chef” and other cooking shows. Most have a knob that controls the heat and flame of the burner that is separate from the knobs on the front.
While you do not need a side burner, they can come in handy when grilling outside. You can use the burners to keep the sauce that you use on meats warm or to make side dishes to serve with your main dish. Some grills have just one side burner, but others have one to two side burners on each side of the grill.
Is Natural Gas or Propane Better for You?
As we talk about gas grills, we refer to those that run on propane. You can pick up a propane tank from your local hardware store, though most grocery stores and big-box stores such as Walmart also sell tanks. It only takes a few minutes to remove your old tank and set up the new one. You may have the chance to take back your tank and get it filled too.
With natural gas grills, you need to work with a professional who will run a gas line to the grill. You cannot use propane with those grills as it will increase the risk of fire or explosion. Grills that use propane are easy to use and less expensive.
What Else Should You Consider?
Far too many people think that they need the most expensive grill on the market without thinking about their budgets. You'll find some grills priced as low as $200 and others that cost $1,000 or more. We found quite a few gas grills in the $500 and under range that are suitable for home cooks and grilling enthusiasts.
Not everyone can afford the expense of a brand new outdoor kitchen. If you're one of them you should look at grills that come with extra storage. This can include an open space beneath the grill that can hold an extra propane tank and hooks along the front for potholders and utensils.
If you love grilling meats that come out perfectly juicy with a nice sear on the outside, you'll want to look for grills with infrared burners. This new type of technology increases the heat produced to give you great grill marks on the outside of foods without drying out the inside.
One of the best types of grills available today is one that also does double duty as a smoker. You can use natural gas with or without wood to smoke everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and seafood.
A gas grill makes it easier to cook burgers, hot dogs, steaks and other types of meats outside. You can use that same grill to make desserts and side dishes that incorporate other ingredients too. Before you buy a gas grill, make sure that you read through our answers to some of the top questions asked about those grills.