The Pros and Cons of Gas Grills
When it's time to whip up a meal, there are few methods of cooking as fun as starting up the grill. With a gas grill, you can spend time outdoors with your family and join in all of the good weather fun while still producing a home-cooked meal. You don't need culinary training or have gone to cooking school to do it, either. When you grill with gas it's just you, your skills, and the flames working in unison.
Pros to Grilling with Gas
Grilling with gas has quite a few advantages. When it's time to put the burgers, veggies, or chicken on the grill, you only need a few minutes to set it up. Basic culinary training will tell you that it's best to start foods on a hot surface, so all you have to do is start the flame, close the lid, and give the grill surface time to heat up. And be sure to give your grill plenty of time to heat up. It takes time.
Although most gas grills have a built-in thermometer, it usually only measures the temperature of the air under the hood, not the temperature of the grates you will be cooking on. This is fine if you are planning to use your grill for roasting something like a whole chicken using an indirect cooking method, but when it comes to grilling burgers or a steak, you need to know when the grates are hot.
You have heard some cooks say they tell by placing their hand over the grill, not touching it of course, and if they can keep it there for only so many seconds, it's ready to go. I'm not sure how accurate that can me since my hand may be more thick-skinned than yours or you may have a higher pain threshold. I much prefer to use a handy little surface thermometer to tell me exactly how hot the grill grate is.
Easy to Light
Unless your starter button is broken or you are out of propane, gas grills are much easier to get started than charcoal grills. Turn on the gas, push a button, adjust the dial and you are ready to go.
Some Temperature Control
Different foods require different temperatures, and fortunately a gas grill can offer that variety in the flame. Any cooking school will tell you that too high of heat will char the outside of food and leave the inner portions raw.
On the other hand, too low of a temperature will cause your meal to take forever to cook, and it may also dry out the meat. Gas grills offer the ability to turn the flames up or down depending on the meal. Most of them have easy-to-turn dials that have a series of numbers on them. It's easy to set all of the dials to the same level, ensuring even heat at a temperature you control.
Grills with Extras
Grilling with gas isn't just a one trick pony, however. Many gas grills have a burner as well as the grill grates, allowing you to boil water or cook up some beans while the steaks are on the fire. With this greater versatility in culinary options, you can create an entire meal in the great outdoors instead of running inside to check on the stove.
Clean up can also be easy. I suggest you clean your grill grates right after using them so next time you go to grill you have clean surfaces. When you are done grilling, close the lid, turn up the heat and give it a couple of minutes to get really hot. Then use your wire brush to give the grates a good cleaning. If the grill is particularly dirty, I might put a layer of aluminum foil on top of the grates so they get really hot and burn off some of the residue. It also makes brushing a lot easier.
And don't forget to clean under the grill every once in a while or you may be surprised by a flash fire if your grease tin catches fire. There is an area under the grates that catches the "stuff" you use your grill brush to clean. Make sure every once in a while you get in there and give them a good cleaning. Remember, a clean grill will burn hotter and heat is your friend when grilling.
Cons to Grilling with Gas
The biggest disadvantage to grilling with gas in my opinion is the amount of heat they produce. A lot of factors go into how much heat a grill will produce:
- BTU rating
- Size of the Grill
Depending on these factors, you can only get a gas grill so hot but with a charcoal grill, you can add more charcoal to crank up the heat or pile it up higher on one side to provide a hot spot on the grill for searing and a cooler side for finishing.
Gas Grills Usually Cost More
While the overall grilling process may be quicker and easier, there is unfortunately a greater monetary investment. Gas grills cost more than charcoal grills, and purchasing one is not something you want to skimp on. It's better to pay more for a new grill than to risk buying an unsafe used grill on the cheap.
When you are using pressurized gas and flame, it's also important to keep safety in mind. Not only are there flames involved, but that gas could also cause a major explosion if it isn't treated with care. Fortunately, gas grills are easy to operate and maintain, but because of the fuel reserve there is simply a greater, if still small, risk of explosion.
Purchasing new fuel can also be an investment. Most gas grills use refillable containers for the propane. When you need a refill, you simply turn the old cylinder in and take home a new one. The first one you purchase, however, requires that you pay for the cylinder itself along with the propane it contains. The propane you purchase will last for many grill sessions, but each refill will be more out of pocket than a bag of charcoal, even though the total fuel cost does even out over time.
Getting Started with Your New Grill
Grilling with gas is a great way to spend some time outdoors and enjoy quick meal prep and a relaxing dinner. You'll be able to create meals in record time while still sharing the same great outdoor space as your friends and family. Just be sure to invest in a quality grill, and be sure that you fully understand how to operate it safely. With some basic know-how and all of the culinary training you already have, you're sure to have a great time grilling with gas.
Where to Find Gas Grills
You can find them at all the big stores like Home Depot and Sears plus outdoor specialty stores as well as most local hardware stores. I have some suggestions on my Reluctant Gourmet Amazon Store.