Gas grills are easy to use, offering many advantages over traditional charcoal cooking. You don’t have to wait for your grill to preheat, and it’s easy to set up and handle a standard gas grill.
With hundreds of recipes just waiting to be savored, don’t let your trepidation as a first time barbeque-er hold you back from experimenting with this must-have backyard culinary tool.
Understand How Your Gas Grill Works
Gas grills aren’t difficult to understand, but knowing exactly how your grill operates will help you become an effective, efficient backyard barbeque-er. A well-functioning gas grill will have evenly distributed flames that are blue with yellow tips. These grills work by incorporating gas to cook your food through a range of temperature settings.
Gas starts out in the gas tank or gas line (depending on the type of grill you have). It moves through a manifold and is then divided up between multiple burners (the number of which also varies, depending on your specific make and model of grill). After passing through the burners, the gas goes to control valves that allow you to adjust the flow rate and effectively control the temperature.
Next, it moves to venturi tubes where it blends with oxygen to burn more efficiently. Then, it moves to the burners and out through the burner ports – which is where you begin to see the gas at work, as it produces visible flames.
Most grills also come with some type of barrier above the burners to help distribute heat and catch food particles. This prevents dangerous accidents and also makes clean-up a bit easier.
Familiarize Yourself with the Many Types of Gas Grills
While there are literally thousands of grills you can purchase for use, all varying in design, function, purpose, and price, the most important difference to note among gas grills is whether they run off natural gas or propane.
Natural gas grills require you to extend your natural gas line from your home to your backyard grill. While this can necessitate some additional expense – and isn’t recommended if you don’t already have natural gas run to your home, as that’s an expensive endeavor in itself – natural gas grills have substantially lower operating costs than propane grills.
These grills are designed to be set up permanently, and although they require you to extend a natural gas line to your yard (typically buried), they tend to be much safer and long-lasting than propane. They are less likely to leak, as they don’t require you to unhook gas lines from tanks. It’s easier to detect leaks when they do occur, too.
Propane-powered grills, on the other hand, are more common among most homeowners because they don’t require you to connect to the energy source of your home. They are more portable and easier to transport, allowing you to trade newer models and keep up to date with the latest trends in backyard grilling. Propane grills also tend to heat up more quickly than do natural gas grills, allowing for more convenient cooking.
Set up Your Grill
When preparing your grill for its first use, make sure you have it sitting on a level surface, preferably at least ten feet away from any dwelling or building that it could potentially damage.
You should also keep it away from any low-lying branches, brush, or debris to minimize your risk of starting a fire. Arrange any rocks that the manufacturer has included on the bottom of the grill, and then place your grill over the rocks.
Next, attach your propane tank. Make sure the gas line is not damaged in any way. While some wear or minimal damage often does not present a safety hazard, first time grill owners should avoid using a propane tank if they have any doubts about its quality.
Make sure your control valve is tightly closed, and then place the tank on the corresponding platform of the grill. The valve opening should be positioned so that it is facing the grill connection.
Depending on the type of grill you have, this step might be tricky. There are multiple varieties of valve connections, so you might need to peruse your owners’ manual to find out what kind of connection your particular grill has. Often, a screw type valve connection is the one that is used, and this is ideal. It provides a simple, user-friendly approach that requires you only to attach a line to the valve with a screw nut.
Next, double-check your connection using a storebought soap solution or a DIY mixture. To make your own solution, simply combine equal parts water and dish soap. Don’t shake it. Apply the solution to the connection and open the control valve.
If bubbles appear in the soap solution, close the valve and do not operate your grill under any circumstance,s as this indicates a gas leak. If, on the other hand, no bubbles appear, you are safe to move on to the next step.
Light the Grill
Ensuring that your propane control valve is open, lift the grill lid. This step is important, as you don’t want gas to build up in the cooking chamber, a dangerous and unpleasant mistake.
Next, turn the gas flow control to the grill on to full. Press the lighter switch immediately so that you don’t waste gas or fill the unit with gas. Some grills don’t come with a lighter switch. If this is the case, you can purchase a manual grill lighter at your local home and garden or hardware store. After you’ve pressed the lighter switch (or have manually lit your grill), the gas will ignite.
Congratulations! Your grill is now ready to use. If, however, the gas does not ignite immediately, you need to shut off the knob and wait a few minutes before trying it again. Most grill manufacturers – and cooks – recommend waiting about twenty minutes for your grill to heat before beginning to prepare your food, but this is not required for health or safety and merely for culinary aspects.
Preheating your food (with the lid closed) creates those beautiful grill marks we all relish when we go out to eat. It allows for more even heating of your food, and prevents the likelihood of food contamination from it being undercooked.
If your gas grill, for whatever reason, won’t light, first examine the type of igniter that you have. Some grills have push-button igniters that are operated by battery power. If that’s the case, and your grill won’t light, first try replacing the batteries. In some cases, you could also have faulty buttons, bad wiring, or something clogging an igniter.
Try out Some Recipes
Cooking on a gas grill isn’t exactly a culinary art, but it does require some practice, patience, and skill. Remember that hotter isn’t always better when it comes to cooking on a gas grill. If you place your food over the hottest flames the entire time, they’ll burn before they are fully cooked on the inside.
Instead, create zones on your grill by turning dials on either side of the grill to opposing temperatures. You can sear your food on the hottest side before moving it to the cool side to finish cooking. In doing so, you will create temperature zones that allow for perfect cooking every time.
While you’re preparing your food, try to resist the temptation to constantly lift the grill cover and peek at your tantalizing foods. Your food will cook more quickly if you aren’t constantly popping the top of the grill. While you will undoubtedly need to check your food from time to time, try to limit the amount of sneak peeks you take in order to lower your overall cooking time.
Shut down and Clean Your Grill
When you’re done using your grill for the day, turn the propane control knob off before shutting off the gas flow control. Then, let your grill cool so that you can clean it before its next use.
Keeping your grill clean is one of the most important habits to get into as a grill owner. While you may not feel like cleaning your grill after a long day of barbequing, it’s important. It prevents bits of food from last night’s dinner from sticking to tonight’s meal, and also keeps debris off the grates. This eliminates the likelihood of food poisoning as well as accidental fires.
Try to clean the grill once you’ve shut it off and it’s cooled down for at least half an hour. You don’t want to let it cool completely, as this will cause leftover food to harden onto the grates.
If you don’t have time to let the grill cool before cleaning it, you can also clean immediately before your next use. To do this, preheat your grill as you normally would, and then use a grill brush to scrape off any leftover food particles.
Keep an Eye out for Problems
Once you become an expert at grilling your own food, you will need to make sure you are keeping your grill in tip-top shape. If you suspect any kind of problem with your grill, first make sure that you have turned off your tank valve and disconnected your grill from its source of fuel. Allow the grill to cool down if you just recently used it, and give it five minutes (at least) to allow the gas to dissipate.
If you are experiencing minimal flame and low temperatures, you may have a problem with your fuel line regulator. This part is oddly shaped and placed on the gas hose near the fuel tank.
They can sometimes stick, reducing the amount of gas that is going to your burners. To fix this problem, release the pressure on the regulator. This should restore normal fuel flow.
To avoid this problem in the future, turn off the grills’ control valves and tank valve. Open the tank valve slowly, and tap the regulator as you wait. If these tips don’t help resolve the issue, you may have a damaged regulator that needs to be replaced altogether.
Another common problem is a grill that produces yellow or orange flames. This generally signifies an obstructed or misaligned flow of fuel. If your venturi tubes are not properly aligned, or your shutters need adjustment, you can easily fix this problem yourself.
Simply locate the venturi tube adjustment screw to release the shutters, then light the grill and turn it to low. Loosen the venturi tube adjustment screw to open the shutters, waiting for the flame to turn blue. Turn the gas back off and tighten the screw. Let the grill cool down and monitor it for further problems.
You might also notice uneven heating. This is usually caused by a blocked burner. Because burners have multiple holes along the sides, it is not uncommon for food particles to clog the ports. You can use a wire brush to remove the particles and to return to more even cooking patterns. Do not use oven cleaner or other harsh chemicals on your grill, as they can corrode the metal and cause further problems down the road.
Refill Your Propane
Something else you need to monitor is your propane levels (if you are using a propane grill instead of a natural gas grill). Nobody wants to eat a half-cooked hamburger because the grill ran out of propane – and it’s just as inconvenient (and less tasty) to have to finish cooking your food inside on the stove.
Keep an eye on your propane tank gauge every time you grill, and make a note if the levels are getting low. You should also make sure the valve on your tank is tightly closed after you’re done using the grill to prevent any unnecessary leakage. Some homeowners also keep a backup propane tank on hand – just in case.
Remember – Safety First
While everybody enjoys a hot dog fresh off the grill, nobody likes to get hurt or lose property as a result of gas grill misuse. Remember to follow a few key safety steps when operating your gas grill.
First, make sure you read your users’ manual. If you follow the safety guidelines, you are less likely to make a mistake that could prove to be dangerous or even life threatening. Always pay attention to what the manufacturer says- even if you consider yourself a grill aficionado.
Second, make sure your grill is located in the right place. Don’ place it near your hoe or any deck railings. Never, under any circumstances, use a grill indoors, as this can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Always keep a fire extinguisher handy, and exercise common sense to reduce the likelihood of personal injury or property damage.
Watch your grill carefully when in use as well as when it’s cooling down, paying attention for signs of damage or malfunction. Inspect your grill regularly, particularly at the start of the grilling season.
Make sure no animals or insects have made nests inside the grill, and check gas lines for any leaks or cracks. If you smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill and contact the fire department.
With these tips in mind, consider a gas grill as your next investment in your homegrown cooking journey. Once you have mastered the art of cooking with a gas grill, you will be exposed to thousands of new recipes to share with your family, friends, and neighbors.
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).