If you're considering getting a grill for your patio, porch or outdoor kitchen, there's inevitably one question that comes to mind: "Do I choose natural gas or propane?" Of course, this is the major divide that's split grilling for years – but it's not the only consideration you'll want to make. Before you head out and buy a high-end grill, make sure you weigh all your options. Start with which camp you fall into: natural gas or propane?
Which fuel type is right for you?
Before you decide whether you're a natural gas or propane person, you've got to learn what the differences are between the two fuels.
Natural gas grills require access to gas lines, which can be more difficult to find outside the home and may require installation. Luckily, most natural gas grills come with relatively long, flexible hoses.
Propane – or liquid propane – is usually stored in small tanks that sit right next to or underneath the grill. You can purchase or refill these tanks at most hardware stores, and a short hose and gas regulator are all you need to get grilling.
A lot of folks find propane more convenient, simply because it condenses into a liquid when compressed and so can be carried around in the small, portable tanks. Natural gas can be convenient if there's already a line into your home for your furnace or kitchen stove, but your grill's mobility will be much more limited.
Propane also allows grills to reach a higher BTU. This is the measurement of the amount of heat required to raise the temperature in a pound of water a single degree Fahrenheit. A cubic foot of propane contains approximately 2,500 BTU compared to a cubic foot of natural gas, which only contains approximately 1,000 BTU. Depending on the size of the grill you're looking for, it could reach anywhere between 20,000 to 50,000 BTU – so in this way, a larger grill can run through either gas more quickly than a smaller grill, but propane will generally last longer.
Of course, propane grills could possibly run out of gas. This isn't an issue with natural gas, which, because it comes from a pipeline, will remain consistent even during long grilling sessions and never requires replacing.
Eco-friendly grillers will be happy to know that both gas types are a lot greener than charcoal grilling, though. And you can even recycle old propane tanks.
When it comes to the actual food you're making on the grill, either gas is up to the task, although some folks prefer propane for red meat. Grilling vegetables, fish and poultry doesn't require a whole lot of BTUs – in fact, for some dishes, like fish, you'll want to keep the heat low – but when it comes to a steak, most grillers prefer to serve the food fully cooked on the outside and rare on the inside. This is where higher BTUs can come in handy and certain folks prefer propane.
Don't forget the specialty features
The choice between propane and natural gas isn't the only one you'll have to make while you're shopping for a new grill.
For instance, a lot of folks think that just because they're investing in a gas grill they can't get the unique flavor and character that charcoal grills offer. But if you want to enjoy some smoked barbeque, just make sure your natural gas or propane grill comes with a smoker box. Using a smoker box, you can fill your grilled foods with the aroma and flavor of hickory, apple, cherry or mesquite wood chips.
Other features and accessories, such as a warming rack, grill lights, side burners and equipment such as meat thermometers, cleaning brushes, tongs, spatulas and cooking baskets are also useful.