Barbecue University™

Performance Enhancers for Gas Grillers


It’s understandable if gas grillers, despite their overwhelming numbers, sometimes feel left out of the barbecue discussion. Pit masters who use wood and/or charcoal seem to get all the love, and sometimes, verbally bully gas grillers. Yet, 64 percent of American grillers own gas grills. Steven and I are among them.

We own gas grills for the same reasons you do. They’re convenient, easy to light, don’t get your clothes dirty, and put dinner on the table in minutes.

So, gas grillers, this blog is for you. Here are our best tips.

  1. Every gas grill seems to have its hot spots. Knowing where they are is invaluable information. And you don’t need any high-tech gadgets to identify them. Just a cheap loaf of white bread. Or two.  Deputize a friend, as this test is easier if you have two people. Light your grill and close the lid. Let it heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Raise the lid, then quickly lay slices of bread shoulder to shoulder on the grill grate, covering it. (You do half, and your deputy does half.) Set a timer—most iPhones have one—for 90 seconds. Quickly shut the grill off. Using tongs, turn each piece of bread over. Take a photo. You will immediately see where the hot spots are. This information will serve you well in the future.
  2. We have repeatedly told you you can’t smoke on a gas grill, and that’s mostly true: The vents in the back release the smoke, making it difficult to maintain those flavorful compounds inside the grill. However, there are many ways to introduce smoky flavors to your food, even if you’re not cooking over wood or charcoal. Here are some of our tricks:
    • Soak wood chips in water or another liquid, like beer or wine. Drain. Place in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil. Bring the sides up over the chips and fold them closed. Crimp the two sides to enclose the chips. Poke it repeatedly with a sharp implement, the place over the burners before grilling. Wood pellets work, too. Do not soak, however.
    • Nestle one or two chunks of wood over the burners or Flavorizer bars (if you own a Weber gas grill).
    • Lay fresh herbs or sprigs of pine on top of the grill grate before grilling. They will infuse your food with flavorful smoke. (See Steven’s recipe for veal chops with rosemary here.)
    • Use foods that already taste smoky in your grilling. Examples include bacon, chipotle chiles, ham, liquid smoke, Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton), mezcal, Scotch whisky, smoked salt, and rauchbier (smoked beer).
    • Infuse your foods with a hand-held smoker such as this one. Or use devices like my Smoker Pucks or the A-Maze-N smoker.
  3. Invest in a rotisserie if the maker of your grill sells one. A rotisserie will expand your grilling horizons.
  4. Buy a salt slab, and place it on your grill grate. Heat it slowly, then use it to grill foods like shrimp, chicken breasts, fish fillets, etc. The salt slab not only imparts a subtle salt flavor, but looks cool as all get out!
  5. A plancha is another great investment. It’s like a griddle, and enables you to cook foods like bacon, asparagus, quesadillas, etc. A large cast iron skillet works well, too.
  6. Spatchcock (butterfly) a whole chicken, and cook using a weight like a salt slab, grill press, or a brick covered with aluminum foil.
  7. Indirect grill by lighting only one or two of your burners.
  8. Grill fish, which is notorious for sticking, on a bed of sliced lemons or onions. Or buy a grill basket.
  9. Transport propane tanks in sturdy plastic crates. Buy the propane just before you return home. Buy two tanks to insure you don’t run out.
  10. Check your propane by pouring hot water over the outside of the tank. You’ll see a condensation line, which indicates the propane level.
  11. Become acquainted with planking—grilling on wood planks.
  12. Do not forget to clean out the drip pan underneath your grill. Out of sight, out of mind—until a conflagration occurs. Some gas grills also use replaceable foil drip pans. Change out as necessary.
  13. If your igniter isn’t working, replace the battery. Most grills rely on an AAA battery, but many people don’t know this and assume their igniter is broken.
  14. Use the end of a bent paper clip to clean the small holes in your burners.
  15. Invest in a charcoal grill. (Just kidding!) What we really meant to say is . . . gas grills work great for direct grilling—any food that is under an inch thick.

What’s your best gas grill tip? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or the Barbecue Board.

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