Propane Grill Buyer's Guide
- A man cooking on a propane gas grill
Propane grills have all the convenience of gas grills, without the hassle of a natural gas hookup. It's a perfect option for rural areas that don't have access to natural gas or for people who want their grill to be portable.
One of the added benefits of choosing a propane grill beyond their popularity is that there are many options to choose from when it comes to styles, sizes, and accessories.
If you're interested in a backyard propane grill, we've created this guide to give you an overview of what is available and what to look for when choosing the perfect grill. You'll also find tips for how to use and care for your grill once you have one!
What Are Propane Gas Grills?
Outdoor propane grills use propane tanks to fuel the burners for the grill. Often, these tanks are small enough to fit in a built-in enclosure under the grill. Propane BBQ grills are easy to use and produce a very clean burn.
- Open stainless steel gas grill
Typical propane grill setups include the propane tank with hoses and valve regulators to control the flow of gas to the burner. Many grills include more than one burner so that you can adjust the heat across the grilling surface.
In terms of starter or ignitor options, one common option is a push-button or rotating knob that creates a spark to ignite the gas. You will sometimes see these listed as "piezoelectric" starters since that is what is used to create the spark.
Flamethrower ignitions also use a piezoelectric spark, but instead of lighting the burners directly, it lights a concentrated flow of gas and then shoots the flame out to the main burner. A third option used in some higher-end grills is something called a hot surface ignitor, which uses an electric heating element to ignite the gas. A downside is that grills that use hot surface ignition require electricity.
Flash tubes are simple metal tubes that funnel the flame from a lighter down to the burners. Doing so keeps you from trying to stick a match in between the grates and getting frustrated or burned. This grill is an example of a propane grill that uses flash tube ignition, but you can also use a flash tube as a backup option if your main ignition method fails.
In addition to the gas burners, tubes, valves, and ignition systems, propane grills also include a cooking surface like a grate or grid along with a control panel for adjusting the flow of gas and a grill exhaust hood. Vaporizer panels are tented metal panels that cover the burners to help create an even distribution of heat.
Many propane grills have a built-in enclosure for the propane tank, but if yours does not, you should look into getting one. You may also want to invest in an insulated liner to protect the tank in case your enclosure is made from combustible material.
Barrel grills and cart style grills are two of the most common configurations for backyard propane grills.
- Propane grill side by side
Barrel grills look like a barrel flipped on its side and are often mounted on a stand or cart. Cart style barrels mount on a stand (typically with wheels), but they are more rectangular.
Before You Buy
How do you know when you've found "the one"? Planning ahead and coming up with a list of the features you are looking for will help you narrow down the myriad of options. These include things like setting a budget, estimating how much space you'll need for grilling, and picking a location for the grill.
A quick note on fuel choice: It's very important to get a model that is specifically designed to work with propane fuel. It won't work to use propane with a grill that is set up for natural gas. The good news is that many grill models are available in either natural gas or propane options, and you can also get conversion kits to convert a natural gas grill into a propane grill.
When you're considering the size of the grill, think through how many people you plan to grill for at a time. Overcrowding food like raw meat on a grill is dangerous since the cross-contamination of raw juices onto cooked meat can cause food poisoning.
- Blaze stainless steel grill
Another dilemma is figuring out how much heat you'll need. For gas grills, the output is measured in BTUs. BTU is a common way of comparing the thermal output of appliances, but more BTUs doesn't necessarily mean a hotter grill. The reason for this is because you also have to factor in things like the grill's efficiency and size.
If you want to know more about BTUs, check out our guide: What Are BTUs?
A high-quality grill might actually have a lower BTU rating than one that's cheaply made because it takes less thermal energy for the quality grill to maintain a high temp, while the cheap, less efficient grill must compensate by pumping out more and more.
So how many BTUs are enough? In general, 80 to 100 BTUs-per-square-inch are a good ballpark for a standard grill that is well-made.
Sure, you could just start googling propane grills, but if you're concerned about finding a grill that won't disappoint, here are some brands to get you started. You'll find a range of prices and styles, but the thing they have in common is the fact that we vouch for their quality.
- American Outdoor Grills – These grills use the highest grade stainless steel with solid brass valves. Their options include a variety of configurations, including portable and built-in grills.
- Broilmaster – Broilmaster has been in the business since 1966, and their new line of gas grills carries on the tradition with a sleek modern look. They have a wide selection of propane grills to choose from.
- Everdure – Everdure takes grill aesthetic to a whole new level. Their grills are high quality and innovative with a modern artistic flair.
- PGS Grills – PGS prides itself on straightforward, heavy-duty quality (along with their extensive warranty). Built to withstand the wear and tear of commercial grilling, these are simple enough to make good beginner grills as well.
Propane Grill Do's and Don'ts
Following the safety and maintenance guidelines is always essential, but even more so when you're dealing with a fire appliance. Extra caution is also required in properly handling the propane tanks. Reading the manual is necessary because it has the information specific to your particular model. Also, here are some general rules.
- Stacked propane tanks
The National Propane Gas Association/Propane Education &Research Council published this list of guidelines:
Propane Grill Do's
- Always use the grill outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Always follow all the manufacturer's instructions and keep written materials and manuals in a safe, accessible place.
- Make sure the grill burner controls are turned off and keep the cylinder valve closed when not in use.
- Make sure the gas grill is shut off and completely cooled before covering it after use.
- Always use or store cylinders in an upright, vertical position. Be sure to store them outdoors away from sources of ignition (i.e. heat, matches, or lighters).
- When a cylinder is refilled, have the supplier check for dents, damage, rust, or leaks.
After filling, take the cylinder home immediately. While transporting, keep the vehicle ventilated with the cylinder valve closed and plugged or capped.
- When a grill is not in use, cover disconnected hose-end fittings and burner air intakes with small plastic bags, or obtain protective fitting caps from the propane gas retailer to keep out dirt, insects, and moisture.
- Before lighting a propane gas grill burner, use a leak-detection solution to check all connections for tightness. Contact a local propane gas retailer to obtain the leak- detection solution and instructions on how to use it.
- If there is a significant and uncontrollable release of gas or fire, call the fire department immediately and move all people and pets away from the unit.
- Standing propane tanks
Propane Grill Don'ts
- Do not bring cylinders indoors or into an enclosed space such as a garage.
- Do not smoke while handling the propane cylinder.
- Do not leave the cylinder in a vehicle.
- Do not use matches or lighters to check for leaks.
- Do not allow children to tamper or play with the cylinder or grill.
- Do not use, store, or transport a cylinder where it could be exposed to high temperatures. (This includes storing spare propane cylinders under or near the grill.)
How to Clean a Gas Grill
If you're using and enjoying your grill, chances are you'll start to have a buildup of grease and gunk – all signs of a good time! Here's how to clean your propane grill in a way that won't damage it. (We encourage you to consult the manual or manufacturer to see if there are unique instructions for cleaning your specific grill.)
- Wash bucket with soapy water
When the unit is cooled off, make sure it is turned off and make sure to disconnect the propane tank. You can take out the grates and start them soaking in soapy water while you deal with the rest of the grill. Dump the grease from the drip pan in a trash can and set it to soak in soapy water as well.
There might be a film of grease and soot on the underside of the hood. Use a grill brush to (gently) scrub this off. Next, scrub the inside walls of the grill above the heating element. A damp paper towel works well to wipe down the interior once you've cleaned it.
Once the grates and drip pan have soaked for at least 10 minutes, scrub them with a grill brush and rinse clean. Let these dry and then replace them in the grill.
Smaller, portable grills usually ship via standard parcel post, while the larger ones are shipped on pallets using LTL freight. Sometimes even if a grill is technically light enough to qualify for regular shipping, it is still shipped on a pallet for extra protection.
If your grill is coming on LTL freight, the shipping company will contact you to arrange a delivery time. No matter what shipping method you use, always check the grill as soon as it arrives to make sure nothing was lost or damaged in transit. Contact the seller or manufacturer immediately if anything is amiss, and they can help make things right.
- Grilled apples on a gas grill
Are you hungry for some backyard grilling? Hopefully, you've found these tips helpful and will be firing up your own propane grill in no time. It's no surprise that their convenience and versatility have made propane grills such a popular option.
And if you ever have any questions about propane grills or other backyard BBQ options, please reach out! Our NFI Certified technicians are happy to help.
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