In this ultimate gas grill buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know before buying a gas grill. A Grilling Life guide to buying the best gas grill.
If you’re new to the world of gas grills, you probably ran a quick search on your favorite retailer’s site and were faced with hundreds of options—not the easiest place to start, right?
Even if you’re an old pro, our gas grill buying guide will give you the confidence to make the best purchase.
We’re taking the guesswork out of shopping for a new gas grill so you can find the best fit for your needs.
In this gas grill buying guide, we’ll cover choosing a configuration, gas type, and size, heat and temperature specifications, upgrades, and more. We’ll also throw in some of our recommendations along the way.
With this guide, you’ll get the information you need to pick the best gas grill for you and get to grilling.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
Click a topic below to be taken directly to that section.
Choose your Configuration – Built-In or Free Standing
When it comes to choosing your gas grill configuration, you have two options: built-in or freestanding.
If you’re looking to build an outdoor kitchen area (or have one already, lucky you!), you’ll want to go with a built-in gas grill that is permanently installed into an island or counter. Sometimes they are referred to as drop-ins, grill heads, or grill inserts.
These options are typically pricier, but if it’s a high-quality grill it will pay for itself over time. It ensures that your grill pairs well with the rest of the kitchen equipment and creates an aesthetically pleasing outdoor atmosphere.
Here are my 10 Best Built In Gas Grills recommendations.
You can see my top recommendations here:
These are the best of the best and there a lot of great options to choose from.
If you don’t have an outdoor kitchen space or are looking for a more flexible/mobile option for your grilling setup, look for a freestanding gas grill. These are typically what comes to mind when people think of gas grills, with a cart that has wheels and areas for your accessories and fuel tanks, so they are out of sight yet easy to access.
These also give you a bit more flexibility since they’re easily moved and portable, so if you’re a renter or anticipate moving soon you may want to opt for a freestanding option (and save up for the built-in of your dreams later).
Determine your Gas Type – Natural Gas or Propane
Next up you’ll have to pick whether you want to fuel your grill with propane tanks or natural gas.
When it comes to heat and the cooking quality of your grill, natural gas and propane are almost identical. No option here is really “better.” It typically comes down to personal preference and what’s available in your current home.
Be aware: you can’t use one fuel type with a grill designed for the other. Some grill manufacturers sell kits that allow you to convert a natural gas grill to propane and vice versa, but to avoid that hassle it’s best to pick one and stick with it.
Also, adding a conversion kit to some grills (which should only be done by a licensed professional) may void your warranty, so it is best to check with your grills manufacturer before making a change.
Natural gas is extremely convenient if you already have existing gas lines in your home. It’s quick to set up, usually cheaper than propane and you never have to worry about running out of fuel when you’re halfway through cooking 100 hamburgers at the annual family reunion. Just make sure you pay the bill each month, and you’ll have a consistent flow of fuel.
The only downside of natural gas is that it’s not available in all neighborhoods, and you must be directly connected to a gas source (aka your house) at all times. That means your grill is stuck in the same spot.
If you don’t have preexisting natural gas lines, then look for a propane-powered grill. It requires a little more effort to maintain as you will have to purchase gas tanks and refill them regularly.
While there is more responsibility involved with keeping your propane grill fueled up, you also have more freedom of where to place your grill since you aren’t tethered to the house with a natural gas line.
Choose your Grill Size
Grill size affects much more than just the amount of food you’re planning on preparing. While food volume is a definite factor to consider, your grill size also determines the number of separate cooking zones you can control.
When deciding what size of grill you want to buy, you need to think about how many people you will regularly be cooking for and how many different types of food items you plan on having on the grill at a time.
For example, you might not cook your corn on the cob at the same temperature as a tri-tip. Multiple burner options give you more precise temperature control in these scenarios.
Small grills typically have a cooking surface of about 26 inches wide or smaller. Depending on the specific grill, they could have between one and three burners. If you’re a casual griller and only use your grill a few times a week for small groups, this size grill might be your best bet.
The downside to a smaller grill is that you may not be able to practice advanced grill techniques due to fewer temperature zones.
Medium grills range between 27 and 33 inches in width. This size gas grill can come with two to four burners. They are an excellent place to start if you want to take advantage of indirect heat or use features like side burners without taking up a lot of space in your backyard.
Medium-sized grills are also where accessories like side burners, rotisserie kits, and more advanced technology come into play.
If you plan on cooking multiple courses at once and experimenting with various grill techniques, a large gas grill is a good option. It can be anywhere between 34 and 42 inches wide. It’s great for cooking crowd-pleasing favorites like burgers and hotdogs while simultaneously slow roasting on indirect heat.
Plus large grills will give you a wide array of options for upgrades and accessories if your outdoor space (and your budget) allow for it.
We all have that one friend we trust to take complete control of the gameday feeding frenzy, and if you’re that guy, then an extra-large grill is your only option.
XL grills can be 43 inches or wider. These grills can have up to eight burners and often include rotisserie cooking systems, sear burners, and ample storage areas. Large crowds and multiple courses are no match for the XL grill.
Consider the Way you Like to Cook
You can spend all day thinking about grill sizes and fuel types, but what good will your future grill be if it isn’t suited to the style of cooking you love to do?
The most important features are the ones that you will actually use and will depend entirely on your grilling style. Keeping this in mind will help you find the grill that’s customized to you.
Are you a big fan of smoky flavors or low and slow cooking? You can opt for a grill that has a tray accessory that allows you to add flavored wood chips while you cook.
If you’re interested in buying a gas grill but aren’t ready to part with charcoal quite yet, you may want to consider a combination gas and charcoal grill that can give you the best of both worlds.
Not looking to take it slow? If you’re aiming for steakhouse-worthy sears and high heat, an all-infrared grill may be the way to go. (We’ll dive into infrared in a bit.)
Are you just as focused on how great you look grilling your food as it looks on the plate? Consider investing in a grill that has bells and whistles like interior grill lights and LED-lit controls.
Or maybe you’re the exact opposite—there’s a grill out there for you if you want nothing more than a straightforward tool for enjoying time outdoors and cooking your family a great meal.
Continue reading our gas grill buyers guide to learn more about the features you may want to consider when buying a gas grill.
Know your Budget
A gas grill is an investment toward years of great meals and memories. As with any investment, it’s important to know your budget before you start looking.
Fortunately, you can find gas grills for just about any budget. Small, portable propane grills can start at less than $200. Stand-alone gas grills can range in price from around $500 to $600 for more entry-level and practical models to nearly $10,000 for premium and luxury grills.
Prices will vary as well depending on whether you’re looking for a built-in or freestanding grill with freestanding versions costing more for the extra material.
But be careful when setting a budget. While you may have a lower budget, it’s worth spending a little more on a non-economy model.
If you do buy an economy grill, it will likely be unreliable, made of lower-grade materials, and limit how many grilling techniques you can use due to its size and construction.
The bottom line? You don’t necessarily have to splurge on a luxury grill. But avoid economy if you can, or you’ll likely end up needing to replace them sooner than you would with a more well-made model.
Knowing your budget ahead of time and deciding which features are most important to you will make shopping for a gas grill much more straightforward.
What are they Made of?
No gas grill buying guide would be complete without a rundown of what the best gas grills are made of.
The bodies of most gas grills on the market today are made of cast aluminum, sheet metal, cast iron, or stainless steel.
The materials used to construct your gas grill will affect its price, performance, and longevity. While stainless steel is considered the best quality material for all professional cooking equipment, it is also the most expensive.
In our opinion, stainless steel is the way to go—but not just any stainless steel. You need to remember that not all stainless steel is created equal.
There are different types of stainless steel available. The most common is 304-grade stainless steel, which is used in around half of the world’s stainless steel products. It’s durable, long-lasting, and doesn’t show its age quickly, so it’s what we recommend you look for when buying a new gas grill.
304 stainless steel is not only ideal for heat distribution, but it resists oxidation, weighs less, is stronger, and is virtually streak-free.
But many grill manufacturers will also incorporate grade 430 stainless steel into the body of the grill and its parts. Grade 430 stainless steel is not as resistant to corrosion as grade 304.
A telltale sign that you’re working with grade 430 stainless steel is that it’s magnetic. So, a good way to check if a grill you’re looking at is made with 430 steel is to place a magnet on it. If it sticks, you’ve got a grill with some 430 steel on your hands.
You don’t necessarily have to avoid all grills made with 430-grade stainless steel. Just understand that it’s a good indication of a grill’s overall quality, and how it will hold up over time.
Other materials like cast iron and sheet metal will cost less but will be more susceptible to scratches, dents, and rust.
Check the Build Quality, Design & Style
We know the flavors, textures, and appearance of the food your grilling comes first and foremost in the grand scheme of things, but build quality, design, and style all tie for close second.
Everyone knows the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we thought we could offer you some advice.
We often hear feedback about what buyers like and what they’re excited about. Our design and style ratings take this into consideration, along with the look of the grill, welding style, lighting, and control knob placement in addition to many other factors.
Build quality and design aren’t all about aesthetics. They also play an essential role in cook time and the longevity of your gas grill.
On that note, look for solid stainless-steel construction when possible. The grill should be all-welded, meaning the frame shows no gaps. Welds should be smooth and seamless. If welding isn’t seamless and gapping is apparent, it will allow grease and moisture to accumulate on your grill and cause corrosion over time. Gapping will also make it harder to control and maintain the temperature.
The style and design of certain features will also affect the functionality of your grill. For example, a spring-assisted hood will make all the difference in how easily you remove and replace food on the grill.
If you’re going with a built-in grill as part of an outdoor kitchen, you’ll also want to see if the model you’re interested in is designed with room to add extra accessories as you build your outdoor oasis.
This is your time to check out a grill like you would a new car. Get up close, look at any features that might not be visible from a distance, and most importantly, envision yourself grilling on that grill. If you can’t imagine cooking on it, it’s probably not the one for you.
Understanding Cooking Surfaces –Size & Types
Let’s talk about maybe one of the most important parts of a gas grill—the cooking surface where you’ll actually be putting your food.
The size of your cooking area is another feature you’ll have to consider when choosing a gas grill. We mentioned grill size earlier, but your cooking area can differ from that depending on things like shelves and racks within the grill.
For an average-sized family, a grill that has a cooking area of 450 to 500 square inches should be a safe bet. This is an average size for a three-burner grill.
If you’re cooking for crowds (or just have a big family who loves to eat), opt up for a grill that has between 550 and 650 square inches of cooking area. Grills of this size will typically have five or six burners, which allow you to use indirect heat and different heat zones in your cooking.
But you’re not limited to the cooking area on the grate itself. A grill with a half shelf adds another level to your cooking, and as much as 50% more cooking area for your food.
A warming rack can also add an extra cooking area for cooking food at a lower temperature. Try a warming track for slowly cooking steaks after you sear them, thoroughly cooking potatoes, or toasting buns for hamburgers and hot dogs.
The outer materials aren’t the only ones that matter when it comes to your gas grill. Just as important, if not more so, are the cooking surfaces. Just like with the other features we’ve covered in our gas grill buying guide so far, there are different types of cooking surfaces available, each with its pros and cons.
The most common kinds of cooking grates included:
Stainless steel is the most durable of these, with a high resistance to corrosion (but not 100%—so expect some discoloration or degradation over time). It’s also fairly easy to clean, lightweight, and affordable.
Because stainless steel is so lightweight it also heats up quickly but doesn’t retain heat well for the same reason. If you tend to gravitate toward high heat cooking, you’ll probably prefer stainless steel grates.
- Most durable option
- Easy to clean
- Most expensive
- Lower conductivity
- Doesn’t retain temperature well
- Finish can pit and discolor over time
Cast iron, on the other hand, takes longer to heat up and holds onto that heat for a while. If you like cooking at lower temperatures, or love the look of bold grill marks, cast iron could be your new best friend.
But if you use cast iron pans in your kitchen, you know that cast iron is heavy and requires a bit more maintenance than your average cookware if you want it to last. Cast iron grill grates are no different.
Maintaining cast iron grill grates requires scraping them right after you cook, and getting oil on them while they’re still warm to prevent rust. If you look forward to sitting down to eat with your family right after you pull steaks off the grill, you might want to stay away from cast iron.
- Retains heat
- Provides consistent temperatures
- Less conductive than aluminum
- Possible cracking due to thermal shock
That brings us to enamel-coated grill grates. These are your stainless steel or cast iron grates coated in a smooth enamel that gives them a non-stick, anti-corrosion layer.
An enamel coating does solve some of the issues that come with stainless steel (poor heat retention) and cast iron (potential for corrosion). But it adds some cons to the equation too.
Enamel-coated grill grates can chip during cleaning, which lets moisture in under the coating that causes the surface underneath to rust. Once that damage occurs, these grates lose a lot of the benefits that lead people to choose them in the first place.
- Conducts heat well
- Less durable than cast iron or stainless steel
- More likely to warp
- Loses enamel over time
So what type should you go for? It comes down to how much elbow grease you’re willing to put into cleaning your grill. (Be prepared to clean your grill grates regardless of what type you buy, since dirty grates can hurt grilling performance, leave your food tasting gross, and even be bad for your health).
Cast iron offers awesome heat retention and distribution but needs to be cleaned and seasoned well to stay rust-free.
If you’re looking for an easier to clean option, you might be happier choosing enamel-coated grates or stainless steel. Just watch out for chips in your enamel, and remember that not all stainless steel is created equal!
You Need Multiple Burners
If you’re looking to expand your grilling techniques and use your grill for more than a couple of hamburger patties, you’ll need a minimum of two burners.
The more burners you have on your gas grill, the better. Multiple burners allow you to slow roast, crisp, and keep food warm all at the same time.
Some grills arrange burners from side to side, while others include front and back burners. The latter is ideal for rotisserie cooking, but both setups will work for most grilling scenarios.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you’re whipping up spaghetti and meatballs with a side of garlic bread for dinner. Yum!
A typical approach would be to form and bake your meatballs, simmer them in your sauce, cook up your pasta, and toast your bread as the rest of the food finishes cooking.
You wouldn’t throw all of the ingredients into the oven or into one pot and cook them using the same method and temperature. And you certainly wouldn’t start cooking each component at the same time and serve them all when the first one appeared to be done, right?
(If you would remind me not to come to your house for pasta night.)
This analogy applies perfectly to grilling. So many times people will put all of their food onto a grill that’s one uniform temperature, only to have to keep some of the items warm while the rest finish cooking or risk serving undercooked food. That’s not my idea of a great barbecue.
If you want to serve a memorable meal with multiple dishes, you’ll have to incorporate different temperatures and cooking methods for different foods. This is where having multiple burners comes in!
Having at least two burners, if not more, gives you the power of direct and indirect heat to cook your food. You’ll have more options for direct and indirect cooking, and the flexibility to cook more items at once. Juicy chicken, perfect burgers, flavorful veggies. With these grilling methods, you can deliver them all at their perfect doneness.
When using direct heat your food will sit right above the burner. This is great if you’re cooking small pieces of food that will cook fast, like chicken breasts, burgers, or fish, and when you want a great sear.
With indirect heat you place the food over burners that are turned off or turned on low, relying on heat from further away to cook it slowly. This method is perfect for bigger, tougher, and thicker cuts—think roasts, whole chickens, and ribs.
If you need a refresher on how many burners typically come in a grill, revisit the section on grill size further up in this gas grill buying guide.
Understanding BTU’s – (Caution! Not all BTUs are Created Equal)
When you’re shopping for a gas grill, you’re going to see the abbreviation BTU thrown around a lot. Let’s unpack what that means for you and for your grill.
BTU stands for British Thermal Units and is the measurement of how much energy is required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by 1-degree Fahrenheit. When you see numbers like 2,500 BTU or 1,000 BTU, don’t be misled.
When it comes to grills, the majority of the grilling industry uses BTUs to measure the heat, or power, of a grill based on the amount of fuel that the primary burners use in an hour. But is it really the best indicator of a grill’s performance?
The reality is, you could have the highest BTU output around, but if your grill does not hold and circulate that heat well, it doesn’t really matter. So, a higher BTU rating doesn’t always mean a particular grill is the best. A high BTU will not necessarily improve its performance.
You can go for a lower BTU on a grill that holds the heat well and still be making a good choice as long as the grill holds the heat and circulates well.
Overall BTUs will tell you how powerful a grill can be if it is made well, so by no means ignore it. Just don’t think you need the grill with the highest BTU possible for your family’s weeknight barbecue.
However, you should pay closer attention to “heat flux,” which calculates the BTU per square inch, giving you a more accurate estimation of its efficiency. This number is usually around 85.
Look for Individual & Adjustable Heat Zones
There are two kinds of grillers. The first category of grillers just needs to get the grill hot enough to cook 30 hotdogs to keep the crowd from skipping out on the party early and picking up Taco Bell on the way home.
You are not this griller. You fall into the second category. You’re in the grillmaster lane, and as grill master, you want to create praise-worthy dishes that will have your guests coming back for thirds.
To achieve this level of mastery, your grill should include individual and adjustable heat zones. This will allow you to cook pork chops, zucchini, and peaches all at the same time, all at the appropriate heat.
As we mentioned above with our pasta night analogy, multiple burners will give you flexibility when it comes to the cooking temperature across your grill’s surface.
The areas where you’ll adjust for direct and indirect heat are known as temperature zones, and they’ll let you practice a grilling method known as zone grilling. When you harness zone grilling, you’re basically turning your grill into a stovetop or convection oven that gives you the power to cook more items at once.
Depending on the type of grill you have, you can use a 2-zone method where you’ll simply light one burner and leave the other on low or turned off.
If you want to experiment with a 3-zone method, as the name implies, you’ll need a grill with at least three burners. From there, you’ll turn each burner to the desired temperature setting.
Individual and adjustable heat zones are one of those features that you won’t want to pass on in a gas grill just because you don’t see yourself as an expert griller. Zone grilling will make all of your food taste better, and help make you a better griller in the long run. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Direct and indirect heat grilling is great when you plan for it. But if your grill has hot and cold areas all on its own, you’re going to have a bad time.
So while heat zones should be controlled individually, your grill should also be able to maintain the same temperature throughout. In fact, heat distribution is one of the most important factors when purchasing a new grill.
Even heat distribution means that your grill maintains the same temperature across the entire cooking surface, from one end to the other. When you have even heat distribution your food will cook more evenly, and you can even use your grill like you would an oven.
You know how true this is if you’ve ever had to rotate your chicken breasts to make sure they all get evenly cooked. If you’re cooking with a quality grill, this should never be a problem.
The most important thing to look for are grills that are double-walled or well-insulated. The hood especially should be double-walled and well-insulated for even heat distribution. Great insulation will keep heat inside of your grill, and keep it moving evenly around your food.
High-quality burners, burner placement, and heavy-duty grates that hold and transfer heat well will also add up to help a grill’s overall heat distribution. When your food hits any part of the cooking grate you should hear a sizzle—that’s how you know the heat is evenly distributed across the surface.
Understanding the Different Types of Heat – Convection Cooking vs Infrared Cooking
Convection cooking is a tried and true technique to cooking your food that dates back thousands of years. If you’ve ever used a gas grill, then you’re familiar with how it works.
Most gas grills will use conventional convection heat to cook food. With convection, the heat and smoke from your burners will rise and heat the grill grates, the food, and the air around it, giving you a thorough and even cook.
The only downside is that your grill will take a bit longer to hit the temperature you want and if it’s not done correctly, it can dry the food out, and it takes a little longer for your food to reach a safe temperature.
Since convection gas grills are the most common, they’re usually the most affordable options as well. And most grillers will be perfectly happy using convection cooking on their food.
If you’re ready to take your cooking to the next level, you may want to consider infrared cooking. Not only is it easy to clean and uses less energy, but it delivers juicer results.
Infrared cooking heats food more directly by heating up the grill itself. With infrared, your grill gets hotter, faster, and offers more uniform heating across the cooking surface instead of heating the air around your food. Because of this, your food will often end up juicier, with a steakhouse-quality sear.
Infrared grills also use less energy, since they heat up faster, and they’re also easier to clean and rarely flare up as traditional gas grills can.
A potential downside for the casual griller, of course, is the price. Infrared grills will cost more upfront than their convection counterparts, which means they’re typically the choice for serious meat connoisseurs over casual backyard barbecue fans.
That being said, infrared grills are becoming more common in backyards these days, so if you’re interested in delivering some serious heat to your next cookout, infrared might be for you!
You can read more about Infrared Grills in my article, What Is An Infrared Grill – Is Hotter And Faster The Future Of Grilling?
Heat Diffusers – What are they & which Work the Best?
Your gas grill may need a little extra help when it comes to heat distribution and preventing the flames from directly hitting food. That’s where heat diffusers come in.
Heat diffusers, otherwise known as flame tamers, are grill accessories that prevent flames from directly touching the food and that force heat to distribute more evenly.
These important parts sit between the burners and the cooking grates to help reduce flare-ups, distribute heat evenly, and protect the burners from any dripping sauces or marinades. While they’re not as prominent as other features of your grill, they’re vital to how your grill performs, so they’re worth putting some thought into.
If you’ve ever tried cooking over an open fire, you know how difficult it can be to prevent your food from coming out black on the outside and raw on the inside.
Heat diffusers help prevent such a catastrophe from happening. They separate your food from the fire while preventing fat and juice drippings from clogging up your burners.
Another advantage of a heat diffuser is that it eliminates the risk of flare-ups that would otherwise leave your meat overly crispy and black. You don’t be that person serving up black hotdogs at the pool party. We all know that guy. Don’t be him.
Just like the other features we’ve covered in our gas grill buying guide, there are a few types of heat diffusers available in today’s lineup of gas grills. We’ll go over what options you have, and what we recommend.
Lava rocks used to be a popular choice for many grill masters. They’re were affordable, retain heat thanks to their porous nature, and are environmentally friendly. Lava rocks also do a great job at absorbing drippings, so they keep your grill clean and infuse flavors into your food.
Ceramic briquettes were actually created as a more heat-retentive alternative to these porous rocks.
This time-tested cooking method is still available if you’re looking for an economical way to retain heat, use less energy, absorb drippings, and keep your cookouts environmentally friendly. If you clean and maintain them well, you can get up to two years of use out of your lava rocks.
Diffuser plates are another metal option, although less common. These sheets are made of cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated metal and can be used to separate the flame from the food in your gas grill.
These are easy to clean, mostly corrosion resistant, and easy to handle since they’re just a single unit instead of smaller individual pieces.
You can purchase BBQ metal plates in cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated metal. Each material has its pros and cons. For example, cast iron retains heat the best, but it is not corrosion resistant. On the flip side, stainless steel resists corrosion, but it won’t hold heat as well.
But most diffuser plates simply don’t retain or distribute heat well and offer only moderate flare-up protection, so they wouldn’t be our first choice.
“Flavorizer bars” are another common heat diffuser option you’ll find in today’s gas grills. You may have heard them called heat tents or heat shields but they are just other terms for flavorizer bars. As the names suggest, they are v-shaped metal bars that sit on top of the burners inside the grill.
You may have heard of heat tents or heat shields which are just other terms fo4 flavorizer bars. As the names suggest, they are v-shaped metal bars that sit on top of the burners inside the grill. They distribute heat more evenly than metal diffuser plates, thanks to their tent-like shape.
The flavorizer bars reduce the risk of flare-ups, but you’ll get less flavor and heat retention than with ceramics.
The unique shape also helps keep your burners clean by deflecting food particles away from them. You can find them in cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated metal.
However they still take a beating being exposed to high heat and acid from drippings, so you’ll want to keep an eye on them and replace them if they start showing cracks (most likely around every two to three years).
Ceramic briquettes are one of the most common heat diffuser options you’ll find in current gas grill models. These little bricks are great for heat distribution and retention. They’ll also help your grill use less fuel and reach higher temperatures.
Ceramic briquettes come in various sizes and styles. They can be found in square, round, rectangular, pyramid, or flat shapes. Compared to heat shields and lava rock, these briquettes save more fuel and distribute heat the best.
In most grills, you’ll find the briquettes spaced out in a metal tray for even heat distribution and easy handling. When it’s time for cleaning, just flip the tray over and let the heat do the work for you. With regular cleaning and gentle handling, you should get four to five years of use out of your ceramic briquettes before they need to be replaced.
The ceramic is also great for absorbing grease and drippings and creating the smoke that’s critical for infusing your food with smoky flavor.
You can keep your food hot long after you turn off your grill, thanks to the ceramic’s ability to absorb and radiate heat. As you continue to use your grill, the ceramic briquettes will add more flavor and aroma to your food by absorbing grease drippings over time.
While they are comparable to lava rock’s ability to retain heat and absorb flavors, ceramic briquettes are easier to clean and last up to 5 years before needing to be replaced.
The only downside is that they are more fragile and can break if something is dropped on them like a grill grate.
BBQ Grill Tiles
Another heat diffusing method is barbecue fire bricks or grill tiles.
Sometimes known as BBQ fire bricks, BBQ grill tiles are large porous bricks that diffuse heat evenly across your gas grill. They commonly come in either clay or ceramic material ceramic and offer great heat retention because of the area they cover.
Clay BBQ grill tiles are an affordable option that comes without holes across their surface. While they are efficient for a short time, they won’t last for very long and can be challenging to keep clean.
Ceramic tiles feature holes designed to fit into your grill, whatever its size, easily. Much like ceramic briquettes, these tiles are the best at holding and diffusing heat.
One thing to keep in mind is that they are heavy, and good luck if you drop one—there’s almost a 100% chance you’ll be headed online or out to the store to buy replacements. Because of that, the useable life expectancy for these is usually around six months to a year.
When we compare flare-up prevention, heat distribution, heat retention, maintenance, and lifespan, ceramic briquettes are a clear favorite. Treat them well, and you’ll get years of even heat distribution and great flavor.
If you Really want the Best Tasting Barbecue, then you Really want a Grill with Searing Capability
Think about the best grilled dish you’ve ever had. Remember the flavor, the texture, the color?
Chances are what you’re remembering all boils down to a great sear. Grilling can cook a piece of food to a desired temperature, but only searing can give it that amazing color and flavor.
A crispy crust is the identifying characteristic of barbecued food, but it’s not just about aesthetics. Searing brings out the most flavor in your food.
When you sear meat, the natural sugars caramelize and the proteins brown. The rich crust that forms intensifies the flavor and releases a haunting aroma that will make all the mouths in the neighborhood water.
To achieve a proper sear on your steak, the grill has to reach at least 500 degrees. Here is where buying a grill with a high BTU comes into play. You will want to make sure that your grill can reach these high temperatures and create that drool-worthy sear.
When shopping for a gas grill, look for one that can reach temperatures of at least 500°F—if not more—for the ability to sear. You may not use those high temps all the time, but you’ll be glad you can when you want to.
But if you really want an incredible sear, there’s another gas grill feature to keep in mind.
Consider a Sear Burner
Regardless of the BTU ratings for your grill, you need to have a special burner called a sear burner to ensure that you get the best sear on our steak.
The perfect sear is evenly dark brown. It shouldn’t have overly noticeable grill marks or tan-colored patches. Only a sear burner that puts out extremely high energy will give you that desired crust from edge to edge. That is the true goal when it comes to the perfect sear.
Depending on your model of grill a sear burner may be located in a different spot or use a different type of technology, but it has one purpose: get super-hot, super-fast. You can also purchase stand-alone sear burners for built in kitchens that accompany your grill set up.
Sear burners have a plate that amplifies the heat once you turn it on, quickly heating up to incredibly high temperatures. That heat rapidly sears the meat, giving it the perfect color and crust across the entire surface that we are looking for.
Sear burners give you the power to get steakhouse-quality sears without the guesswork, so we highly recommend adding it to your gas grill checklist.
One of the things we look for when shopping for a gas grill is its temperature range, and how well it performs at each end of the spectrum.
Your grill should be able to perform at both high and low ranges. Most gas grills will either indicate their temperature range by listing low, medium, and high on the built-in thermometer. In contrast, others will clarify the temperature range by listing it as 100°F-600°F.
If a grill has a wide range, then we know it’ll most likely do well handling both low and high temperatures as long as it is well insulated.
Grills that have individualized heat zones allow you to control the temperature on each burner. The best way to check the heat level, however, is to use a digital meat thermometer.
Like we mentioned earlier, if you’re even the slightest bit interested in achieving a phenomenal sear (and honestly I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be…) or cooking other high-heat foods, you’ll want to look for a grill that can reach at least 500°, if not 600°F.
You may not use the highest end of your temperature range every time you grill, and that’s fine! But it’s better to have the ability to hit those high temps when you want them than to buy a grill that just can’t get there when you decide you do.
Getting to Know Infrared
Earlier in this gas grill buyers guide we mentioned that you might want to consider an infrared grill if you’re aiming to achieve steakhouse-quality searing from the comfort of your own backyard.
Whether you’re interested in a grill that uses infrared for all of its burners or as an optional sear, side, or rotisserie burner, there’s no denying that this option is becoming more prevalent among gas grills.
In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that Infrared technology is a game-changer in the grilling world. Rather than using the traditional convection cooking system, infrared grills use radiant heat.
So let’s talk a bit about what exactly infrared is, and what it isn’t.
The best way to describe radiant heat is to think about how your skin feels warm when you stand under the bright sun, even if it’s a cold day. In the same way, infrared heats the meat on your grill without heating the surrounding air.
With your typical gas grill, the flames from the burners heat up the grates and the air within the grill to cook the food.
When you use infrared grilling, the gas heats a solid heat-emitting plate made from stainless steel or ceramic between the flame and the grates. That intense heat (usually between 500° and 700°F) is then radiated right up onto the grill grate, and into the meat.
Infrared takes the circulating air out of the equation, so there isn’t as much of a risk of your meat drying out as there is with typical convection cooking. Infrared is also different in that it won’t disturb the moisture barrier surrounding your meat, so food retains up to 35% more of its juices.
Plus with temperatures that hot and the heat source so close to the food, anything dripping off the meat burns off immediately and is reabsorbed back into it without the risk of flare-ups.
Your meat stays juicy and tender and has that amazing, flavorful sear, just like you ordered it at your favorite steakhouse.
If you’re interested in an infrared option you will likely pay more upfront, since it’s a more common feature on higher-end grills. But if you’re passionate about high-powered outdoor cooking, it’ll be worth every penny.
Other Advantages of Infrared are
- Preheats in 3-5 minutes
- Even cooking without hot and cold spots
- Faster cook time
- More tender and juicy results
- Incredibly high searing temperatures
- Reduced flare-ups
- Energy efficient
You can read more about Infrared Grills in my article, What Is An Infrared Grill – Is Hotter And Faster The Future Of Grilling?
The Ignition System
We’ve spent a while talking about all of the features that go into making your gas grill a great tool for outdoor cooking. But all of that doesn’t mean much until you fire it up!
There are three ignition systems standard in gas grills. These include:
Electronic Ignition Systems
Electronic Ignition Systems rely on batteries. That can get annoying, frustrating, and kind of expensive, at least if you grill often. Be sure to have batteries handy in case yours die when you go to fire up the grill for a party.
Piezo Electric Ignition Systems
Piezo Electric Ignition Systems spark to life through friction. A spring-loaded hammer strikes a small quartz crystal to create a spark that arcs from a wire to the burner tube. You usually press a starter button or turn a knob to ignite the flame. You know it by its signature loud clicking sound.
Hot Surface Ignition Systems
Hot Surface Ignition relies on an igniter rod that instantly heats up and lights the burners. This option can be found on high-end grills. These are one of the most reliable ignition systems because they won’t fail in harsh environments.
It is not uncommon for ignition systems to fail in gas grills. For electronic ignitions, failures are usually due to a dead battery and can be easily fixed.
Some grills come with dedicated igniters for each burner which is ideal for controlling the heat while you’re cooking. Unfortunately, more igniters also mean there’s a bigger chance for malfunction and expensive repairs.
Other grills use crossover ignitions that work by lighting one burner and then spreading the flame across to other burners.
The best gas grill design will also include a manual ignition hole, so in case any of the above ignition systems fail, you can always use a match or long neck lighter to start up your grill.
Hood Mounted Thermometers
Most gas grills will come with a thermometer mounted in the hood. But should you trust them?
For starters, a lot of manufacturers don’t exactly splurge for the top of the line thermometers to build into their grills.
Even if these thermometers were accurate, they still wouldn’t tell you the temperature of your cooking surface.
It’s important to understand that while hood-mounted thermometers may be accurate in some cases, they measure the temperature of the air at the top of the grill rather than the cooking surface.
Instead of capturing the temperature of the grill grates, hood mounted thermometers will read the temperature of the air closest to where they’re installed inside of the hood.
In most cases, that temperature will be between 50° and 150°F cooler than the actual temp of the cooking surface. Not ideal for getting an accurate temperature reading!
Because of that, most grilling experts and barbecue pros recommend using a digital meat thermometer so you can be confident that your meat is cooked to the correct (and safest) temperature.
If you need some help picking a digital thermometer to go along with your grill, we’ve got plenty of ratings for you to check out.
If you don’t have a digital thermometer handy, the best way to use hood mountain thermometers is to record the temperature as a guide to future cooking.
For example, if you just grilled the best steak of your life and the hood thermometer read 400°F, then you can expect a similar outcome the next time without having to know the exact great temperature.
Rotisserie Kits – Are They Worth The Investment?
One of the biggest challenges in grilling is keeping your meat tender and juicy. A rotisserie kit is a great way to ensure that those delicious juices stay in place.
Rotisserie is a solid cooking method for whole poultry and larger cuts of meat since it allows you to just set up and let it develop delicious flavor while it turns and you focus on other things.
The meat’s constant rotation prevents juices from dripping off into your grill and instead essentially allows the meat to baste itself while delivering maximum juiciness with minimal hands-on work. You can enjoy moist and tender results with every use.
Rotisserie kits are a popular add-on for grillers looking for another option to expand their arsenal of cooking skills. But do you need one?
Some gas grills come with an infrared rotisserie burner at the rear of the grill (to avoid flare-ups from dripping grease) and a kit with accessories like your motor, spit, and forks so you’re ready to roll (literally) as soon as you get your hands on it.
For other grills, a rotisserie kit will require an upgrade from your standard grill. This can add hundreds of dollars to the grill’s price tag.
But much like the sear burner, we consider a rotisserie a must-have accessory if you can fit it into your budget.
You’ll love having the ability to give big cuts of meat a gorgeous infrared sear while you work on side dishes or simply wait to accept all the praise from your dinner guests.
Rotisserie kits are best used for:
- Whole chicken
- Roast beef
- Prime rib
- Roast of lamb
- Pork loins
- Shish kabobs
Upgrades – Know what Features are Most Important to you
Ultimately the moral of our gas grill buying guide story is knowing how you grill, how you want to grill, and what features are important to you before you start shopping.
When choosing what features are worth upgrading, you need to consider what kind of grilling you currently do the most and what techniques you’d like to start employing in the future.
For example, if you’re all things steak, then investing in a sear burner is a must. Other optional add-ons might include side burners, a rotisserie kit, built-in thermostats, heat dividers, and night lights.
Most grills will offer some level of customization, with the ability to add on or upgrade different features. You’ll especially see this on built-in gas grills.
It’s important to take the time to think about all of the features available to you and how you might use them, especially if you’ve never considered them before.
As we’ve mentioned, add-ons like sear burners and rotisserie kits can seriously up your grilling game and take your food to the next level, so we highly recommend them if they fit in your budget.
If you do a lot of grilling once the sun sets, consider grill lights to illuminate your work.
If you want to incorporate the flavors of smoking into your grilled foods, consider looking for a grill that has a dedicated smoker box, burner, or drawer that you can use with flavored wood chips.
Other upgrades that can up the convenience factor for your grill include built in temperature probes that can connect to your Wi-Fi, specialized grill grates, flat top griddle’s and even pizza oven attachments.
At the end of the day, the most important features of your gas grill are the ones that make your life easier, your food taste better, and your grilling experience more fun.
One place you should absolutely never skimp on when it comes to a gas grill is its safety.
After all, you’re dealing with a large metal object, extremely high temperatures, and combustible gas. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and we want to avoid those.
For the most part, using a gas grill is safe, yet it does come with a risk level. The high heat used for cooking on a grill as well as the gas used can pose serious threats if not used and understood correctly.
If you’re buying a freestanding gas grill, one of the top safety features to look for is its sturdiness. A well-built and sturdy grill will make the likelihood of an accident happening minor.
Poorly designed grills that can’t hold their weight not only can ruin a meal but can cause injuries to the operator and those around him.
Another way you can keep your friends and family safe is by placing your grill on flat ground away from the house, woodpiles, or dry grass. It never hurts to keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case.
It’s also a good idea to scope out the space requirements needed to set up your freestanding grill before you start looking. This will help ensure the model you pick is the right size to fit where you want to put it and still leave a few feet of space from your house in the event that you have a major flare-up.
To prevent explosions, make sure the hood is open when you’re lighting it, so gas doesn’t build up and remember to always turn gas off after every use.
If you use natural gas and suspect a leak, turn off the gas source and call 911 or the gas company immediately.
When you don’t know, where do you go? To the people that do know. Nothing beats fantastic customer support.
From the early stages when you’re shopping for a new gas grill, when you’re measuring the space for the grill to fit, and having fun collecting all the accessories and other appliances and add-ons, a knowledgeable, helpful, and accessible customer support team is essential.
Do your research on the brands you are considering and by all means, reach out to them with any questions you have before making your purchase.
Understanding the Warranty & Company Reputation
OK, this brings us to the written guarantee section of this article!
Always consider the manufacturer’s warranty before purchasing a gas grill. Reputable manufacturing companies still stand behind quality and durability. Your gas grill should feature the best warranty available.
Warranties can range from 1-year to a lifetime. Know your warranty and register your gas grill with the manufacturer within the first 30 days before you ignite and get cooking.
The more you get to know our passion for grilling and cooking, the more you’ll read in our advice about how essential it is to read the fine print in the owner’s manual that accompanies your gas grill purchase.
And when in doubt, ask questions!
Visit one of a thousand gas grill forums online, email or call the manufacturer, or visit a local grill retailer. Take pictures of any of the parts of your gas grill when you want more information. This way, if you email or Live Chat with a service representative, you can attach the image without describing it as “that thing-a-ma-jiggy with the thing on it.”
Make sure you know precisely which parts of your gas grill the manufacturer will replace under warranty and for how long.
The Value of Real User Feedback & Reviews
Besides us, who better tell you how a gas grill performs than the barbecue and smoking enthusiast that owns that grill!
While the warranty certainly stands behind the manufacturer’s promises, it’s the real user feedback that puts the proof in the pudding.
Grillers are transparent and tell it straight. If a review says, “best grill ever,” or “the attention to detail on this grill makes it the best value around,” best believe, it’s coming from a user excited to share their opinion. To pass along some nuggets of wisdom so you are well informed about your gas grill purchase.
Make sure to check out all the grill’s pros and cons and constructive and helpful user reviews and feedback when available.
Final Thoughts on our how to Buy a Gas Grill Buyers Guide
Buying a new gas grill may feel like you’re taking a giant leap, but don’t be intimidated. The right grill is out there for you.
A gas grill is your ticket to cooking amazing food for family and friends in the best kitchen there is—the great outdoors.
Whether you’re cooking on a freestanding grill or a built-in model that’s part of a souped-up outdoor kitchen, a gas grill gives you the power to easily fire up and flex your grilling skills on a variety of different foods.
Start with the grill’s style, and size that best fits your outdoor kitchen setup, and go from there. By now, you should understand which grate materials and heat diffusers will work best for your style of cooking.
And with accessories like a sear burner or rotisserie kit, you can take your average backyard barbecue up a notch and wow your guests, whether you’re cooking for a few friends or a huge family get together.
When in doubt, reference our gas grill buyer’s guide to help you make the best decision on your gas grill purchase. It will help you spend less time shopping and more time over the grill serving up your famous BBQ creations.
Keep in mind that many features such as accessories can be purchased later on if they don’t fit into your budget just yet.
After you buy your gas grill, be sure to come back and check out our reviews of accessories and other tools that can elevate your outdoor cooking even further.
And of course, stop back to share what you bought and how you like it!
If you have any questions about the gas grill buying guide, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message.
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