Skip to main content

Our Gadget Expert on Grilling with Gas

Get to know your burner controls, and don't forget to preheat.
By Published May 25, 2017

I told you yesterday that I prefer cooking with charcoal grills—but that doesn't mean you can't achieve great results cooking on a gas grill. As with charcoal grills, it helps to know where the vents are on your gas grill. (Hint: they're always at the back of the grill.) You'll also want to get acquainted with your grill's burner controls so you can effectively dictate the level of heat under the lid.

Here's some advice on cooking with gas grills. And again: happy grilling! 

Clean Your Grill Before You Cook

No matter what method you use, there’s one cardinal rule of grilling: Always scrub down your grates before you start to cook, every single time. Otherwise, you'll be eating grit and char from the last time you cooked outdoors. Not so appetizing.

Here’s how: Get a good grill brush, a small bowl of vegetable oil, a pad of folded paper towels, and a pair of our favorite 16" Oxo Good Grips Locking Tongs [Buy on Amazon]

1. Preheat your grates thoroughly, and scrub them with the brush till they've been stripped of any old food stuff. 

2. Now, wipe down the clean, hot grates with the vegetable-oil-dipped paper towel held by the tongs. This will help prevent food from sticking to the grates. 

Don't Forget to Preheat

Preheating is always the best practice when grilling, but it's truly essential with gas grills. You might think you can just flip them on like your indoor stove and start cooking, but your results are going to be spotty because the grill is going to be spending most of its energy warming up instead of cooking your food. If you don't preheat, you're going to get hot spots and cool spots—they’ll eventually even out over time, but your food will cook badly.

Preheating Is Just One Part of the Pre-Grilling Prep Work

On most gas grills, all of the vents are placed in one location: across the back of the grill body. That means all the heat and smoke head straight out the back, and it takes longer for heat to spread across the grill surface for uniform cooking. Our recipes always recommend turning all the burners on high for 15 minutes and heating the grill with the lid down, then scrubbing down the grates before finally resetting the burners according to your recipe. This will guarantee that everything is ready to sizzle when you add the food.

Get to Know Your Burner Controls

Use the burner controls to create hot and cool zones so you can move food in and out of direct heat. That gives you more control. Our recipes specify which burners to turn on or off to provide the right kind of cooking surface for that recipe.

Testing Gas Grills Under $500

It doesn’t matter how powerful a grill is. If it can’t distribute and hold the heat where you want it, your food will suffer.  
Read the Review

When It Comes to Smoke, Positioning Food Is Key

Smoke flavor—part of the reason we all grill—is going to be harder to come by on gas. You get some grilled flavor from fat dripping onto the inverted metal V’s (often called Flavorizer Bars) placed over the gas flames, which vaporize into flavorful smoke. For smokiness, you have to think about the construction of the grill. Since the heat and smoke are going to be traveling front to back in your gas grill, and therefore toward the back vents, you're going to want to align your wood chip packets to put the food in the path of the smoke before it hits the exit. That's why our recipes are so fussy about specifying exactly where to place the food, the wood chips, and the pans of water (which add steam that helps smoke flavor adhere, and keeps meat moist). It really does matter!

Use Tools to Track the Temperature

Keeping track of temperature is important, especially when you're doing low-and-slow cooking. Low and slow barbecuing will go even lower and slower if you keep opening the lid to check for doneness. (Which is fine if you want to eat around midnight.) Many gas grills come equipped with a thermometer in the center of the lid, but they only tell you what the temperature is in that exact spot, and don’t account for the temperature anywhere else on the grill—such as down on the grill surface, or at either end of the grill. If you want more exact results that tell you when food is done, use a probe-style thermometer such as the ThermoWorks Chef Alarm [Buy Now], or the iDevices iGrill Remote Grill Thermometer [Buy on Amazon]. With these, you insert a temperature probe into your food and run the wire to a monitor outside the grill, so you can track what’s going on without opening the lid and letting heat out. For direct grilling, where the grill stays open, you can use an instant-read thermometer like the ThermoWorks Mk4 Thermapen [Buy Now]. Grilling goes fast, and you don't want to dry out and overcook food while you're guessing if it's actually done or not.

Think of the Grill Lid as the Oven Door

The lid is your friend and cooking assistant. It’s not just there to keep leaves from falling onto the grates when the grill’s not in use. Keep it down to trap in the oven-like heat. Unless you're doing quick, simple, direct-heat grilling, frequently shutting the grill to hold onto valuable heat helps food cook through.

Master of the Grill

With recipes and techniques arranged by skill level—from The Basics to The Easy Upgrades to The Serious Projects—cooks of all stripes can dive in and choose their outdoor cooking adventure.  
Save 41% Now

Which type of grill do you prefer: charcoal or gas? Let us know in the comments! And for more on grilling, read these posts: