Gas grills are designed for simplicity and ease of use. Even so, there are some things that you, as a responsible griller, should know. Safety tips, food-handling and temperature tips, and how to set up your gas grill for the first time. We’ve got you covered, grillmaster. Below is all about how to start and use a gas grill: a step by step guide.
Maybe you’re new to grilling in general. Or perhaps you’ve been cooking with charcoal, but have decided to give gas a try. Perhaps you’ve even been grilling with gas for a while, but feel like there’s room for improvement. No matter where you are on your grilling journey, we’ve got something for you. For the sake of thoroughness, let’s start at the very beginning.
How to Set Up and Start Your Gas Grill
For the proper set up of your gas grill, it’s best to follow the instructions in the owner’s manual. But, we’ll go over the basics that pertain to almost all propane grills.
If you have a grill that is fueled by natural gas, setup will usually require an additional gas line installed in your home. Since every home is different, you’ll want to contact a professional who can safely work with your natural gas lines to set up your grill.
Propane grills are the most popular gas grills on the market. They’re easy to use, fairly cheap to run and leave no ashy mess to clean up. But before you get to cooking, you’ll want to properly set up your propane grill.
Step 1: Attaching Your First Propane Tank
As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to have two propane tanks on hand. The worst thing that can happen is you run out of gas in the middle of a grilling session. Purchasing two tanks the first time will be expensive because you’ll be paying for the tanks themselves. But, after that first time, you’ll simply be exchanging the empty tanks for full ones, and the cost will be significantly lower.
Before you attach your grill’s regulator to the propane tank, it’s a good idea to inspect both the regulator fixture and the tank gasket. Look for any debris or obstructions that may have gotten inside, and clear any out.
You also want to make sure the rubber of the gasket itself isn’t warped or cracked. If it is, you may want to exchange it for another tank with a gasket that isn’t damaged. Whether you try to use the tank with the damaged gasket or not, you should test for leaks after you’ve attached the regulator to the gasket, which we’ll go over below.
When you do attach the regulator, you only want to hand-tighten it. Never use tools to screw your regulator onto your propane tank. They’re both designed to be removed and attached by hand.
Step 2: Testing For Leaks
Once you have the two components attached, make a mixture of soapy water in a spray bottle. Make sure all of the gas control knobs are in the off position. Open the propane tank valve fully by turning the tank valve counter-clockwise until it stops. You can then spray the area where the two components connect. If you see soap bubbles forming, it means there is a leak. If there are no soap bubbles, you have a secure connection.
If you do have a leak, fully close the propane valve, disconnect and inspect the components for damage. Then try it again, twisting as hard as you can with your hands. If a leak persists, you’ll want to try a different propane tank. If you still have a leak, your issue probably lies with the regulator. At which point, you’ll want to contact the manufacturer about replacing the part.
Step 3: Starting Your Gas Grill
Once you have a secure connection to your fuel source, you can proceed with lighting the grill. If you’re using a propane tank, make sure it’s fully open. You always want to open the lid of the grill before attempting to light it. Lighting a gas grill with a closed lid can cause an explosive hazard, as the gas can build up inside the lid.
Most modern grills have an electronic ignition system that works with the press of a button. If yours does, simply follow the instructions outlined in your manual. This usually involves turning one burner to the ‘high’ setting and then pushing the ignition button. Once the first burner is lit, you can light the other burners easily off of the flame of the first one by turning the knobs.
If your grill doesn’t have a push-button ignition system or the ignition system isn’t working, you can light it manually. Most grills come with a small hole in the side of the housing for manual lighting. Many grills also come with a match holder attached near the hole. If yours doesn’t have a match holder, you’ll have to use a long match or a wand lighter to reach the burner and ignite the flame.
Turn the knob to the closest burner to high and then insert the match or lighter into the hole. Once the flame reaches the gas, the burner should light quickly. From there, you can light the rest of the burners with ease.
Now that the burners are lit, you can start grilling, right? Not so fast. There are still a couple of easy things you’ll want to do before putting your food on.
Step 4: Preheating Your Gas Grill
One of the reasons people like gas grills is that they preheat quickly. Once you have the burners lit on high, you’ll want to close the lid and let the grill preheat for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the grill has been heated, you can turn the burners down or off as needed.
Most gas grills have a built in thermometer on the lid. You can use this to gauge your temperature at start up and while cooking.
Step 5: Cleaning and Oiling Your Grates
Before cooking, you’ll also want to brush down your grates with a grill brush. This is best done before and after you grill, while the grates are warm or hot. If your grates are brand new, you can skip this step.
The last thing you want to do before grilling is to oil your grates. This helps to keep your grill grates clean by preventing food from sticking. It also extends the life of your grates by providing a sort of protective layer when done regularly.
To oil your grates, soak a paper towel in a vegetable oil of your choice and brush it along the grates. To avoid burning yourself, grip the paper towel in long grilling tongs.
Step 6: Mastering a Gas Grill
Your grill is hot, your grates clean and oiled, and you’re ready to throw some food on. Below are a few tips on how to master a gas grill.
Know Your Meats
Different cuts and different meats have different grilling requirements. You’ll want to utilize high-heat when cooking burgers, brats, hotdogs, and thin pieces of chicken. This usually means cooking directly over a burner set to high or medium-high.
Other cuts, such as roasts, ribs, bone-in chicken, and fish fillets, should be cooked on low or indirect heat. No matter what you’re cooking, it’s always a good idea to utilize the two-zone method.
The Two-Zone Grill Method
The two-zone method is just what it sounds like. Two separate zones of heat. In one zone, you’ll want to have high-heat for searing and high-and-fast cooking. In the other, you’ll want to have low heat for slow-cooking and keeping food warm. The beautiful thing about many gas grills is that they have a top rack for this very purpose. Need to move some food around or simply keep some meat warm? Transfer it to the top rack for a little while.
When to Open the Lid
When cooking stuff like burgers and hotdogs, you don’t really need to close the lid. It’s easy to overcook thinly sliced meats by closing the lid, as this turns your grill into an oven.
However, if you’re cooking food low and slow, a closed lid is your best friend. Opening the lid releases the heat, extending the cooking time of your food. Don’t do it unless you have to. Of course, if you’re new to gas grilling, you’ll probably have to get a feel for how fast or slow your food cooks.
Opening the lid too often is an inevitable part of the learning process. But, you can help yourself by purchasing a quality thermometer that you can place near your food to get an accurate read. In fact, no grillmaster should be without an excellent thermometer.
Step 7: Turning off and Securing Your Grill
When you’re done cooking, you’ll want to properly turn off and secure your grill. Turn off all the grill knobs to make sure no gas is flowing. Don’t forget to scrape your still-warm grill with your grill brush to get it ready for next time. It’s also a good idea to brush vegetable oil on the grates again to help protect against the elements.
Make sure to close the valve on your fuel source, as well. This is important for safety reasons and to save you money in case there is a leak somewhere in the line. You don’t have to detach the propane tank from the grill every time, unless you’re putting it away until next season.
Propane tanks should never be stored inside. If you move your grill into a shed or a garage, detach your propane tank and keep it outside in a cool place. Before disconnecting your tank, make sure that the valve is fully closed by turning it clockwise until it stops. If you have a cover for your grill, you can put it on once the grill has cooled.
There you have it! The step by step guide on how to start and use a gas grill. Gas grills are incredibly safe and easy to use. Just keep a few things in mind to make sure your grill lives a long and happy life. Deep clean it once or twice a year, brush the grates before and after grilling, and oil them after you brush them. Safely store and use your propane and your grill for the next session.