Gas Grill Buying Guide
Ah, the thrill of the roast. Grilling and cooking outdoors is fun, but choosing the wrong tool can turn it into a frustrating nightmare. So, we proudly present our helpful gas grill buying guide to help you buy the right equipment at the right price. Print it and take it with you when you go gas grill shopping, or browsing for one on the Internet.
Ready? Here we go.
Propane or Natural Gas
Propane is portable and freely available, which makes it the only option for portable gas grills. Natural gas is cheaper in the long run, but it requires the installation of a gas line at your home. Many grills can adapt from propane to natural gas, but often not without a conversion kit. If you think you’d want to use natural gas on your grill, make sure it is compatible and also enquire about the cost of a conversion.
Your grill will mostly be used outdoors, and we know the elements are not kind to metals. Gas grill bodies are made from a variety of metals, including cast iron, cast aluminum and stainless steel.
Cast aluminum is rust resistant, while also resisting discoloration and structural fatigue. In addition to this it is fairly lightweight. Stainless steel is your next best bet. However, make sure that most of the body is in fact stainless steel. Manufacturers have been known to cheat with metals to save money.
Whatever material your grill is made of, taking good care of it will extend its life.
Material (Cooking Surface)
The cooking surface of a grill usually consists of grates made from a variety of materials. Sometimes it is just heavy wire, but it could also be cast iron, stainless steel or porcelain coated steel.
Most of these work well, and it may come down to your personal preference. The secret to making a cooking area last longer is to know how to care for it.
Keep in mind that wire frames and cast iron tend to rust. Stainless steel or porcelain coated cooking surfaces are recommended.
Obviously, you can only buy what you can afford. Gas grill prices typically run from around $150 into the thousands.
So, determine how much you’re willing to spend. There are a lot of grills to choose from, and getting your price range will make the decision a little bit easier. Sometimes you can score included extras with a purchase (like a complimentary propane tank), so keep an eye out for these as well. Typically, a good basic gas grill for a medium sized family should set you back around $300 – $500.
Enquire about the warranty. What is covered, and for how long? Inevitably, things will break on a grill, and it’s nice not to have to replace or fix it out of your own pocket.
Having too small a grill can be a real frustration. The first thing you should look at is cooking space, where an accepted standard is 72 square inches per person. So, for a family of four you’d look at nothing less than about 300 square inches of cooking space.
Be careful though: some manufacturers will add additional rack space (for keeping food warm, for example) to the cooking area dimensions. Since you can’t cook in this space, it should be ignored when calculating the size of the cooking surface.
Head space is important as well. Imagine the nasty surprise you’ll be in for when you buy a grill for turkey roasting, and the turkey can’t fit under the lid.
On a large cooking surface, you will need more than one gas burner to get an even heat distribution. Make sure there are enough burners.
Always consider how many people you will typically cook for. This should guide your decision as to the size gas grill you’ll need to choose.
The heat output of a gas grill is measured in BTU. The amount of BTU should be balanced with the size of the grill. For example smaller, compact grills can get away with a lot less BTU than larger grills. Too little BTU can increase cooking time (bet you can already hear the wife going “is it done yeeeet?”). It can also prevent you from properly cooking food that require intense heat, such as steak.
The burners will take most of the heat in your grill. Stainless steel or brass burners may prove the most durable. Aluminum burners tend to burn out over time, while iron of course is ever vulnerable to rust.
Gas grills are ignited by one of two systems:
- a push button system, which generates a spark
- an electronic system, which requires a battery
The electronic system is more reliable, and will give you a one press ignition pretty much every time.
Caring for your Grill
Learn how to take care of your grill. Clean it properly, store it safely. Proper care and maintenance can add years to its lifespan. Be aware of little things that can make all the difference. For example, most grills should be cleaned while still hot, except for porcelain. Porcelain is fragile when hot and can chip easily.
Accessories and Added Features
Here are some additional features or accessories worth looking for when buying a gas grill:
- Side tables or shelves are handy. On portable grills in particular they provide you with much needed space, especially out in the wild away from the comforts of home.
- Rotisserie: this automatic rotating mechanism is great for slow roasting chicken, ribs and other meats that require a long time on the grill.
- Side burners: these offer you the ability to prepare sauces or other side dishes without interrupting your main cooking process.
- Cart: these can make moving your gas grill around somewhat easier.
All these additions or features may amount to extra costs, so only get them if you really need them.
Well folks, that’s a wrap for this gas grill buying guide. Browse the rest of our site for specific reviews and comparison on gas grills, and happy cooking!