Propane grills outsell charcoal grills and it is easy to understand why. They offer convenience and control. You are also using a sustainable energy source that will save you money.

They are easy to start, heat up within 10-15 minutes, hold temperatures steadily, are easy to clean, and can be configured for indirect and multi-zone cooking. If it’s Tuesday and you need dinner ready in an hour, the gas grill can do it. Low to mid-price gas grills typically have a top end of 400-600F. More expensive grills can get up to 700F.

Gas grills are not perfect. A dial setting of 1 may equal 275F on a 70F day, but it can be 225F on a cool, windy, or rainy day. Or 300F on a hot day. But once you get to know your instrument, it is pretty easy to manage and if it has two or more burners it is easy to have two or more heat zones. On a three burner grill you might use a hot zone for meat, a medium zone for veggies, and a low zone for holding finished foods. It is still necessary to know what temperature you are cooking at, and the thermometers on most gas grills are not precise. Buying a thermometer is a smart, though small, investment.

Most gas grills use metal plates, lava rocks, and ceramics to radiate heat, so there are no open flames, no flareups, and cleanup is easier because drips are usually vaporized. There’s little or no ash, so gas grills are easier to clean, but they suffer from carbon and grease buildups that need to be scraped or pressure washed every few months. There are also gas jets that can clog up. Some people discard the lava rocks or ceramics every year.

Gas grills can come with a wide range of accessories. Most are set up so you can easily attach a rotisserie accessory and many come with side burners so you can keep sauces warm or cook side dishes. You can get night lights, side tables, spice racks, storage drawers, side burners, and there’s probably even one with a DVD player.

The biggest problem with gas grills is that only the top end models get hot enough to get a steak crunchy on the exterior without overcooking the interior. If you like your steaks well done, gas grills are perfect for you. But if you like your meat crunchy on the outside and rare to medium rare on the inside, the temp at which it is most tender and juicy, then most gas grills just don’t get the job done.  Many of the more expensive gas grills now come with “infrared” burners off to one side. They can give you those deep dark crusty steaks with red or pink interiors. Alas, most infrared burners are only big enough for one or two steaks at a time.

Some high end gas grills also have smoke boxes for wood chips, but for most gas grills you need to make foil packets or put pans of wood down under the cooking grate near the flame.

Two types of gas

With gas grills you have your choice of liquid propane (LP) or natural gas.

LP gas comes in 20 pound steel tanks. If you have an LP grill you should always have a full backup tank on hand. Nothing is more annoying than setting a chicken on the grill, cranking up the lawn mower, and returning in 30 minutes to discover that the tank ran out and the bird is raw.

Propane gas is ideal for grills because, when pressurized, it compresses and turns to liquid, making it easy to store in tanks. It also contains more cooking energy than natural gas as measured in British Thermal Units (BTU). A BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water 1F. There are about 2,500 BTU in one cubic foot of propane and only about 1,000 BTU in one cubic foot of natural gas.

Come down to CoEnergy for all your propane needs, and while you’re here, take a look at our gas grill selection!