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Mainstream's Tips for Better Outdoor Grilling

It’s summer and with July 4th just a couple of weeks away (and Father’s Day even sooner) what’s better than an outdoor barbecue with friends and family (or maybe just friends). It’s likely that you either own a grill or know someone who does. But if you’ve recently upgraded from a charcoal grill to a gas grill, you may find that the flavor and texture of your burgers, ribs, and chicken are all coming out wrong. There’s an art to grilling with natural gas or propane and it’s different from how you’d treat an electric grill or a charcoal grill. As experts when it comes to gas heating, we know a few key points that will improve your grilling.

Keep Your Grill in Good Shape

Just as you’d want to maintain your water heater or furnace, keeping your gas grill in good working order is key! Start by making sure that the grill itself is clean. Charred remains can affect the flavor of your food and will adjust the temperature of the metal rack. These are all small effects but they compound together and can be off-putting. Plus, a dirty grill is unhealthy, so clean that rack with soap and water and allow it dry ahead of time.


Listen to your tank – noise is an excellent way to detect possible problems.

Whether you’re using propane or natural gas, you’ll treat it much the same as you would your furnace. Make sure that you have plenty of fuel and let the flames burn for a few seconds before trying to grill anything (don’t put the meat on until after you’ve turned on the grill). Take a look at the flames before starting. With either natural gas or propane you’ll want a nice blue flame. Orange or yellow flames mean that the fuel isn’t burning properly and is wasting gas. The incomplete combustion means you’re losing extra fuel and are likely releasing soot and carbon monoxide (another reason to always grill in a well-ventilated area). A blue flame also has a higher temperature than yellow, which is why incomplete combustion may be part of your grilling woes.

Listen to the lines around your grill. If you’re connect to the main gas hookups for your home, start at the tank and listen for the hiss of escaping air. If you hear a loud knocking sound and the flame on your grill is yellow or orange, it likely means the gas and air mixture is uneven. There might be a problem with your regulator and you should call for a repair.

Tips for Better Gas Grilling

Charcoal grilling works through indirect heat to sear meat and cook the inside slowly. This is perfect for slow grilling whole chickens and large patties or franks without turning the exterior into a charred mess. The good news is that you can do the same thing with a propane grill. While you may face an occasional flare up, gas grills give you excellent control over the amount of heat you’re applying. That control of heat is the main selling point of a gas grill and, when used properly, gives you incredible grilling potential.

Sugar and Sauces – We’ve separated this because sugars change the temperature you need to be grilling at. Since it burns at roughly 265 degrees Fahrenheit you’ll need to drop the temperature of your grill down below this level to keep the sauce and exterior of your food from blackening.

Temperature Control – I mentioned that this is where gas grills shine earlier. Unlike Electric and charcoal grills, the temperature here is easily variable and doesn’t require a warm-up/cool-down period between temperatures. This lets you change what you’re cooking on the fly rather than having to cook in order as your grill heats up or cools off. Thin cuts of red meat require hot and fast cooking. Lighter meats such as fish and chicken (or vegetables) should be set to a medium setting. Thick cuts of meat and large roasts or chickens should be grilled for longer at lower temperatures. Remember, it’s about making sure that the heated exterior warms up and cooks the inside without charring the outside.


Gas grills really can do it all!

How to Sear Meat – Use high heat to caramelize the surface of a meat. As soon as that’s done, flip the meat over and lower the heat setting and continue grilling until the meat is cooked through. This will create a flavorful and crisp surface to your meat while still letting you cook the inside to taste.

Use Indirect Grilling – With indirect grilling you can grill entire chickens, roasts, and even toast breads. To do this, turn off the burners that are directly underneath your meat. This will warm up the meat slowly, cooking the exterior and warming the interior to give you a more even heating that gives you moist, tender meats at lower temperatures. You can even pair this with searing to give you a crisp outer layer.

A Note on Electric Grills

Without instant heat, and with less overall heat at maximum temperature you’re going to need to stay focused on how you prepare your grilling. Preheat for a long time, make sure that the inside of your grill is as hot as possible before you start. Electric grills have guaranteed temperatures, but they lose heat easily.

Other than the heating issue, electric grilling works very much the same way as any other style of grilling. Heat up the grill, place meat and vegetables on the tray, let things sizzle, flip over food, lift and serve.

  • So, when you’re cooking with an electric grill:
  • Preheat
  • Open the grill and place meat on tray
  • Close the grill – leave it closed, let the meat cook
  • Flip – open the grill just long enough to flip over the patties and vegetables, then close it again.

Always leave the grill closed, don’t fiddle with the food since that means the grill is open and all of your heat is escaping. An electric grill works more like a roaster with a searing surface than a traditional grill. Don’t overload your grill all at once either. Heat conservation and use is key to grilling. Give the food time to cook and don’t waste your heat.