Gas grills are efficient, easy-to-use, and ready to cook in minutes. Capable of much more than burgers and dogs, the best gas grills bring kitchen oven versatility and performance to your backyard. However, with so many specs to consider, features to compare, and options to choose from, shopping for a gas grill can get confusing. Don’t despair, FireCraft can help. Before giving up and going with the same cheap grill you’ve replaced over and again, take a deep breath and read on.
3 Things to Look for in a Gas GrillChoosing the best gas grill is as simple as knowing what to look for and which options matter to you. First, and perhaps most importantly, any gas grill you buy should have three basic qualities:
Even heat distribution
Every griller knows that hot-spots are the worst! A grill with really hot areas and some cooler areas makes cooking very difficult. Even heat distribution throughout the grill allows food to cook at the same rate. It also gives you the ability to use your grill like an oven and roast or bake food. You should be able to move your hand over a gas grill and not feel much of a difference in temperature throughout the grilling surface. When shopping, look for grills with high-quality tube burners, a well-insulated hood that locks in heat and efficiently circulates air, and heavy-duty cooking grates that transfer heat well. Together, these elements help eliminate hot spots and provide consistent cooking temperatures.
Like a kitchen oven, a gas grill is an investment. A quality gas grill should last for many years, not just a few seasons. That means they should be built from heavy-gauge and corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel and thick porcelain enameled steel. Gas grills with better construction also retain heat better, which allows them to maintain an even cooking temperature, even in colder weather. Generally speaking, if a grill looks or feels like it is poorly-made then it probably is going to let you down within a year or two.
You should be able to use your gas grill with children nearby and not fear a gas leak or flare-up. This means the plumbing and fittings must be secure while fat and juices from your food must be directed away from the direct flames. It’s also important that electric starters be reliable—starting your gas grill manually with a lighter is both inconvenient and dangerous
Although it's often true that you get what you pay for, you don't have to spend a lot for a high-quality grill. Weber, Napoleon, and Broil King all offer high-quality gas grills in a range of prices—from high-end grills for outdoor kitchens to small grills that are perfect for apartments and small patios or decks. After narrowing your choices to high-quality gas grills that are built to perform well for years to come, you can begin to consider some of the common options and features available on many gas grills.
Gas Grill Fuel Types: Propane vs. Natural Gas
Gas grills are either fueled with liquid propane (LP) or natural gas. Most of the gas grills offered by FireCraft are available in both propane and natural gas configurations.
Propane - The most commonly used gas grills are fueled by liquid propane from a 20lb refillable tank. Many gas stations, hardware stores, and grocery stores offer an "exchange" service in which you turn in your empty tank for a full tank. The advantage of gas grill that uses propane is that the grill can be placed anywhere
Natural Gas - If your home is heated using natural gas, you might be able to use a grill fueled by natural gas. In this case, you would permanently attach your grill to your home's natural gas plumbing. The advantage to a natural gas grill is that you never need to refill a gas tank. However, once it’s connected, you’re limited in where you can move your grill.
How Many Burners Do You Need?
We recommend gas grills with 3 or more burners. Why? It’s difficult to achieve even heat distribution with any fewer than 3 burners. Additionally, indirect grilling requires at least 3 burners. Unlike direct grilling--or grilling directly over the flames—indirect grilling is good for cooking food that requires more time. By setting your gas grill up for indirect grilling, you can expand your outdoor cooking abilities to include slow-roasting a whole chicken or pork loin, smoking authentic BBQ, and even baking dessert. (Learn how to set up your grill for indirect cooking and smoking.)
It probably goes without saying, but grill size and the number of burners go hand-in-hand. If you’re interested in a larger gas grill (larger than 36 inches) then you'll need at least 4 burners. Grill burners should be made from tubular stainless steel, cast stainless steel, or cast brass. Generally speaking, only the highest quality grills have cast stainless steel or brass burners. We recommend avoiding cast iron burners, which are vulnerable to corrosion.
Stand–Alone Gas Grill or Built–In Gas Grill
Most grills are stand-alone (also called freestanding grills), meaning they sit on their own stand or cart. Another option is a built-in grill. Built-in grills sit in custom-made outdoor kitchen islands or counters, offering a seamless integrated appearance. If you are building an outdoor kitchen in your backyard, a built-in gas grill might be right for you.
Side burners offer a great way to expand your cooking area and give you the ability to heat up sauces or boil water without having to go back into the kitchen. Although range side burners are the most common type, some brands offer infrared side burners. We recommend side-burners made from stainless steel or brass. If you want to add a side-burner to your grill, make sure it was designed for your make and model.
Professional chefs often use extremely high-heat to sear meats and caramelize fruit. Infrared burners give grills this same ability to sear foods at over 1,300°F using little fuel. Typical grill burners never reach these high-heat levels. How does infrared work? The burner heats an object, often a ceramic grate, which quickly reaches searing temperature. This grate, not the fire, then sears the food. It's quick, efficient, and works really well. Grills that offer an infrared burner option, typically section off one area of the main cooking grid or offer it as a side burner.
One of the classic ways to grill meat is by using a rotating BBQ rotisserie near a hot fire. This is done by inserting a spit (a sturdy metal rod) through your food, securing the food with metal claws, and then attaching the spit to a heavy-duty motor. The motor slowly turns the food near the fire until the food is cooked.
The advantage of rotisserie cooking is that the food cooks more evenly and bastes itself internally as it rotates. Many grills offer a rotisserie option, but we like rotisseries that are heated using dedicated burners mounted behind the food, not underneath it. This prevents flare-ups and allows the food to baste properly. When choosing a grill with rotisserie capability, be sure to check whether the grill comes included with the rotisserie kit or if it just has the burner and the kit needs to be purchased separately.
Heat Diffusers VS. Ceramic or Lava Briquettes
There must be some sort of a barrier between your food and the flames of a gas grill, otherwise you’d have constant flare-ups. There are two types of barriers: heat diffusers and ceramic or lava briquettes.
Heat diffusers are thin metal barriers that allow heat through but prevent the fat and juice dripping from your food from hitting the flames. The best diffusers are made of stainless steel and help distribute heat evenly throughout the grill while also vaporizing drippings on contact. Grills that use diffusers heat up very quickly.
Ceramic or lava briquettes absorb heat from the fire then the hot briquettes cook the food. Grills that utilize ceramic or lava briquettes take longer to heat up, but infuse food with more flavor.
Cooking Grates: Cast Iron vs Stainless Steel
Grill grates are made either from porcelain-coated cast iron or stainless steel. Here's the deal—cast iron grill grates retain more heat than steel, leaving the distinct sear marks people love. If seasoned properly, porcelain cast iron is also non-stick, so food comes off the grill easier and the grates are easy to clean. HOWEVER, porcelain cast iron must be cleaned carefully and seasoned every once in awhile. If the porcelain coating is chipped or scratched, the iron can runt. (For help seasoning cast iron, check out our Caring for Cast Iron page.)
Stainless steel costs more than cast iron and doesn’t transfer heat nearly as well, but it requires almost ZERO maintenance. It doesn’t have to be seasoned and there’s no chance of chipping, cracking, or rusting. Cleaning stainless steel grill grates is as simple as hitting them with a stiff brush.
The Truth About BTUs
Nearly everyone in the grill industry measures the power or heat of their grill using British Thermal Units (BTUs). In reality, a BTU represents the amount of fuel a grill uses, NOT how hot the grill gets. A grill's ability to produce heat is a function of its design, cooking grid proximity to the heat source, and BTUs. BTUs can be deceptive because, although they give an idea of the grill’s power, they’re useless if the rest of the grill isn’t designed and built well. A grill that features high BTUs but poor construction will lose most of those BTUs to the outside air. That being said, BTUs still do a good job predicting how powerful a grill will be.
This one is easy—usually the longer the warranty, the better a grill is made. The irony is that if you buy a high-quality gas grill, it's unlikely you’ll likely ever use the warranty—which is exactly why they can offer such a great warranty. Still, it's good to know that the manufacturer stands behind their grill and, should something break, your're covered. Most gas grill brands offer different warranties for different grills parts—the hood, grates, and burners will each have a different warranty length—so look carefully and don’t assume everything is covered for the same length of time.
Some smaller or lighter gas grills ship to you via UPS ground. This mean the grill arrives at your house in the classic brown UPS truck and the driver will leave the grill at your door. Larger and heavier grills must ship via truck freight. In this case a delivery company will call you and arrange a delivery time. FireCraft ships most gas grills for free.*
*Although most gas grills ship for free, due to manufacturer agreements some grills will incur a shipping charge.