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Features to Consider When Selecting a Gas Grill

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BTU Rating
When you’re choosing a gas grill, more BTUs is not necessarily better. This really depends on how much you’re going to be cooking at any one time. If you tend to stick with burgers and hotdogs, you don’t need an incredible amount of heat. Remember also that higher BTU usage is equal to more fuel consumption. You’ll be refilling your propane or natural gas tank more often, especially if you’re firing all of the burners at the highest settings.

Number of Burners
Many models will let you choose how many burners you want. Typically, you’ll see 2 to 5 burners on a gas grill. The BTU rating will often be divided to give you a number per burner, e.g., “2 x 10,000 BTU burners.”

Side Burner
A side burner is usually placed on a table-like surface that extends from the side of the grill. The side burner is great for toasting buns at a lower heat than the surface of the main grill. It’s also useful for whipping up a batch of gravy in a small sauce pan. Most side burners have a fold-down lid, so when it’s not being used, the area is also good for temporary storage of tools or serving platters.

Secondary Cooking Space
The best gas grills provide secondary cooking space. This is usually in the form of a rack that hangs over the main grilling area, providing more square inches of grilling space. The heat is more indirect because the rack is farther from the main heat source. This makes it a great space for cooking vegetables, “baking” potatoes, toasting bread, roasting corn, etc.

Size Of Cooking Surface
Referring back to the BTU rating, you’ll want to look for around 100 BTUs per square inch. This is a good baseline of heat production. First you want to look at the main cooking area. If there is a secondary cooking space, subtract that square area to arrive at the area of the main grill.

So if the grill advertises 700 square inches of cooking space with 530 being part of the main cooking area, you want around 53,000 BTUs. Models with exceptional insulation, however, can use energy more efficiently and don’t need as many BTUs.

Propane Or Natural Gas Grills
Some gas grills are capable of running on either propane or natural gas. If you are looking for natural gas grills, don’t assume a propane grill will work. You may need to purchase a separate conversion kit to run a propane grill on natural gas.

To use natural gas, you’ll need a direct gas line from your home. Sometimes newer construction houses will have an external line near the backyard that is meant to hook up a natural gas grill or fire pit. If you do not already have a line set up, you’ll have to pay someone to run a line for you. You can contact your gas company for a list of certified contractors who are qualified to do this work.

Natural gas is a tempting option if you can get it, because it costs up to 83% less than propane fuel. Because it runs from the home’s line, you’ll also never run out. There’s no last minute trip to the store to refill tanks.

Keep in mind that natural gas has a lower BTU rating than propane. That is to say, natural gas produces less heat per pound of gas than propane. You’ll have to use twice as much natural gas to get the same heat. However, because natural gas is so much less expensive than propane, this is still a net savings.

Grate Material
Grates are usually made of stainless steel, cast iron, porcelain coated cast iron, porcelain coated steel or plain, untreated steel. Untreated steel can be thin and prone to chipping. Its thinness also means it does not retain heat well compared to other materials.

Stainless steel will last longer, but it can also be susceptible to chipping depending on how thin it is. Even microscopic chipping can cause food to stick. That being said, a stainless steel grate should last you at least 5 years or more, especially if you properly clean and care for it.

Porcelain coated cast iron and steel last even longer, but quality means everything. Poorly made porcelain coatings can rust, especially if they’re not properly maintained. Make sure to never use a metal scraper on a porcelain coating. This can permanently damage the coating. You can still use a stainless steel grill brush. To avoid hard brushing, heat the grate up first to help loosen the burnt-on gunk.

Probably the best gas grill grate material is plain cast iron. Cast iron will last for ages with proper care. It is very durable, and it is thick and heavy so it will retain higher heat for longer periods of time. It also tends to be expensive.

Side Shelving And Tool Holders
These features are great for storage and organization. Side shelving is a good place to set down food, plates and condiments. Built-in tool holders will usually be found as small hooks underneath the side tables.

Portability
Portable gas grills are great for family picnics, tailgating and other gatherings. There are essentially two modes of portability: fold-up or wheels. A fold up grill, like the Coleman Road Trip LXE, is specially designed to easily collapse to fit in the trunk of a car. It also includes wheels to roll the entire unit in its compacted state. That’s why we selected the Road Trip LXE as the best portable gas grill.

Other gas grills are designed more for wheeling the unit from the garage to the driveway and back. They include wheels on one side that allow you to tilt and roll, but they are still generally too bulky to easily fit in the car. To bring one of these grills to a friend’s house, you’d most likely have to partially disassemble the grill or use a pickup truck bed.

Grease Management
Excess fat that drips onto open flames can cause flare-ups. These can be dangerous if they are not carefully controlled. Some gas grills, like the Weber Spirit, include a grease management system that funnels grease into a removable pan. This is an excellent safety feature, and it also makes cleaning and maintenance easier as well.

Remember that water is not your friend when it comes to putting out a grease fire. If you do experience a significant flare-up, close the lid of the grill, turn all of the burners off, and try to kill the fire by removing its source of oxygen. If all else fails, keep a box of baking soda or a fire extinguisher nearby.

Warranty
We’ve listed warranty details in most of our gas grill reviews. Warranties are very important to consider when you’ve narrowed the field down to two or three natural gas grills or propane grills. Some warranties are limited to manufacturer defect. Length of time is another factor. A warranty may be good for 6 months or up to 5 years for the best gas grills. The manufacturer may also offer split warranties, where the burners are guaranteed for a longer period of time than other parts of the grill.

The Bottom Line
Grilling should be a fun, tasty experience. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to enjoy freshly grilled food. You also shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality to find gas grills on sale. That’s why we researched and rated dozens of popular brands and models to provide the best gas grill reviews. Whether your primary concern is the square area of the grilling space or the portability for tailgating, we have selected a top performing grill just for you.

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