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How to Grill with Gas

Gas Grill Heat Zones

Heat zones:

Every grill has different temperature zones these vary with heat settings, venting, burner types and the basic shell of the grill has an influence as well. Above you will find an example of the temperature zones on my gas grill. It has three burners that run vertically with heat diffusers on top of them. With all burners on high the temperatures range from 300 to 550 degrees. That's a big variation, especially when you consider the spots are only a inches away from each other. This is why nobody can give you exact cooking times on any foods a grill is not like an oven that maintains a constant and even temperatures throughout. The upper rack temperatures range from 355 to 370 degrees again quite a variation when you consider it's only about 8 inches off the lower rack.

Temperature control: With most of the things we cook on the grill temperature control is key. As long as your gas grill has at least two gas control knobs you can control the temperature while it may not be exact and get a pretty close temperature control. Just by adjusting the gas and placement of your food. I will refer you back to the heat zone chart of my personal grill. With three separate burners and three separate gas control knobs I can achieve a wide variety of temperatures simply by turning burners on or off or on high or low then placing the food directly above the heat off to the side. I can cook things anywhere from 200 to 500° at a constant temperature.

If I want to cook something at 200°, I simply place the food to the far left and have only the right side burner on low. If I want to cook something at around 400° I have the center burner on about three quarters of the way and the other two burners off. There is a learning curve to this; however, you can use some of the wide variety of thermometers available to get your cooking more accurate quickly. You can use something as basic as a surface thermometer with a dial or as high tech as an Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer, whichever method you choose will pay off for you in the long run.

gas grill loaded

Keep the lid closed: You lose a lot of heat every time you open the hood of your grill. Here are some examples from the temperature drops on my grill over a five-minute period of time with the lid opened. This test was done with an infrared temperature gun. The temperature on the lid of the grill, said it was 350°. While that may have been close to what was on the upper rack. It was off by almost 200° on the lower rack temperature.

Always keep that in mind when trying to keep a constant temperature With the lid closed, internal temperature 530° Lid open 30 seconds 450° Lid open 1 minute, 340°. Lid open 2 minutes, 300° Lid open 5 minutes 250° Now you see how much heat, you lose. Every time you open the hood to check on your food it's very hard to get consistent cooking. With the temperature is going up and down all the time.

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How long will my propane tank last? Propane tanks are supposed to supply 22,000 BTU's per pound. A typical grill tank holds 20 pounds of gas (check the rim for your empty tank weight). So if we do the math here it’s 20 X 22,000 = 440,000 BTU’s for a full tank. Now you divide 440,000 by the BTU’s of your grill (math is hard). If you have a 10,000 BTU grill 440,000 divided by 10,000 is 44, that means if your grill is on high all the time it will should last 44 hours. Nobody cooks on high heat all the time (I’ll typically only have 2 burners on either one on high) so feel free to guestimate on what percentage of gas you typically use for the calculation. I really wish that was the end of this but it’s not.

I have found that a propane tank lasts longer in the summer months than during our cold winters, so cut approximately 20% off of the life expectancy of your propane if you grill during frigid weather. This could be due to contraction of the gas in the cold or just because you need to cook at higher temperatures.

How do I tell if my propane tank is low? If you do not have one of the many gadgets available to measure how much gas you have left, here are a few tricks: The most accurate way is to weigh the tank, the empty tank weight is stamped on the top ring near the handles typically on a 20 pound propane tank they are around 17 to 18 pounds. First disconnect the hose then set the tank on a bathroom scale, subtract the empty weight of the tank and what is left is the pound(s) of propane you have left. Or Shake the Tank: Propane is a liquid so you can hear it sloshing around inside the tank. Disconnect the hose first.

About the author: Mike is the owner of, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.

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