Natural Gas Grill Features To Look For
Stable construction is absolutely essential for even basic natural gas grills. While you cannot bump test (nudge something from different angles to see if it leans or tries to topple) models when shopping online, it is important to note reviews for any mention of it being wobbly or easily tipped. A good grill will be well balanced, regardless of it is has wheels for easy transportation. Most natural gas grills are designed to be installed and remain stationary, which means stability is not always an issue. However, there are models of propane gas grills that can be adapted to use a natural gas line. If you are looking into a convertible model, then be sure it is has a durable and stable four-legged design.
Out of any part on natural gas (or any type) grill, burners are the most commonly replaced item. The reason being is that they get the brunt of the workload put on them. While they are available in many different materials, such as cast iron or brass, it is important to look for a grill that comes with long time warranty (5 to 10 years minimal) on the burners alone.
While burners are the workhorses of gas grills, the grates are like the plow. They have to put up with all the heat the burners dish out, and get all the grime from cooking. It is important to look for natural gas grills that have durable and easy to clean grates. The most common types of grates will be porcelain, chrome, stainless steel, and cast iron (coated or non). Beyond the material, it is important to look for one that has guarantees regarding longevity.
One thing that most customers will remark on is the ignition system. A reliable ignition can be a matter of both safety and convenience. There are two basic types of ignition sources used with modern gas grills; quartz (also known as piezo) and alkaline battery. A quartz based ignition will use a small hammer to strike a quartz plate that creates a spark to light the gas. A battery based ignition will use the voltage in a battery to complete a circuit that creates a spark. The ignition process is either started by a push button or turn knob. There is some debate over which style and control is best, what is important to consider when selecting a model is personal experience and general rating for that model.
There is a very distinct difference between a natural gas grill and a propane gas grill. Natural gas grills make use a line, either one that is extended from the home, or added by a local company. A pure natural gas grill will more often be designed to be stationary as well. However, it is not uncommon for many propane grills to have the ability to convert, or use and adapter, to make use of an available natural gas line. If your home makes use of natural gas and you tend to prefer propane grills over charcoal, a convertible model may be something to consider. Many popular brands, such as Weber, Char-Broil, and Broil King make models that are convertible, or that come in either propane or natural gas versions. Consider the tendency for natural gas to be a less expensive fuel source for those who do a lot of grilling, when picking out your next grill.
When considering a new natural gas grill, it is important to keep in mind that a large portion of pure natural gas grills are designed for permanent placement. If you prefer grills that can be moved out of the way, look for convertibles (propane models that can be switched to natural gas lines) or newer models that are bit more streamline than traditional natural gas grills. Weber Genesis, Broil King Signet and Dyna-Glo Natural Gas series are three brands and model types that offer a measure of portability and are designed for use with natural gas lines.
Best Natural Gas Grill Brands
In the world of outdoor grilling, Weber is one of, if not the most popular brands on the market today. They have several series and models that cater to every variety of grilling; propane, natural gas, and charcoal. Their natural gas grill lines includes the Genesis series, which is a professional quality grill that is designed with stable casters to help adjust its position on your deck or patio. Trademarks of the brand include features standard to professional level grills included on just about every model they sell. In terms of pricing, Weber brand grills tend to be more expensive than other brands, but also tend to last longer.
A name that has been around as long as Weber, Broil King is another major brand for grills. They make charcoal, propane, and natural gas grills for every level of use and experience. The parent company, Onward Manufacturing, has been a family owned business since 1906 and their 100+ years in producing quality goods shows. Expense wise, they are comparable to Weber in terms of features to price tag ratios, often times being a bit more affordable.
As a subsidiary of the GHP group, Dyna-Glo natural gas grills may not be a well branded as Weber or Broil King, but they can easily compete in terms of customer satisfaction and pricing, which they beat the major name brands on. In terms of features, while they do not get quite so fancy as grills that cost three to four times as much, they do come constructed with quality materials. Like other companies, they make grills to suit charcoal, propane and natural gas configurations. Dyna-Glo grills can be summed up as generally being simple, but high quality grills.
Lion Premium Grills
Popular, but pricy, Lion Premium Grills specialize in high dollar, commercial grade grills for the home. You can expect a lot of shiny stainless steel and sturdy construction with Lion Premium Grills. While they are not as popular in terms of widespread use, they are exceedingly well rated by their customers. If you are looking for a reliable, commercial quality grill, then Lion Premium Grills is a brand to consider. They specialize in stationary grilling additions and have been featured in many different magazines, such as “Outdoor Living”. Aside from the more popular brands, there are others, such as Kalamazoo, that like Lion Premium, specialize is professional quality grills for the home. They also feature a setup that is what they term as hybrid because it can be used with charcoal, wood, propane, or natural gas. Though setups like that are not only packed with features, they pack the biggest price tags, but are made to last longer than others. Other brands to consider, if you happen to be looking into adding a more permanent grilling fixture, would be Viking Professional Grills, Crown Verity, and ProFire. These are not your casual outdoor cooking setups, and when installed well, can even add to your home’s value or appeal when put on the market.
Features of Professional & Commercial Natural Gas Grills
Lighting For Controls and Cooking Area
Some people enjoy grilling out at dusk, or after dark. For those that do, it can be extremely convenient and useful to have a natural gas grill that comes with lighting for the controls and cooking area. Professional quality grills will include a system, usually LED, to make sure the food and controls are easily visible, regardless of the time of day or night. If you are an anytime grill master, then be use to look for models that specify it has lighting for both controls and cooking area.
Extra Storage And Work Space
Nothing says commercial or professional grade grills than ones that include ample work and storage space. Having to keep all your tools and accessories indoors can often lead to them being lost. Natural gas grills that come with ample storage compartments can help lessen the chance of being unable to find what you need, when you want it. The inclusion of extra workspace, such as a side bar for holding cooking materials, is also a quality feature that people who use their grill a lot can appreciate.
Professional grade natural gas grills often come with one or more side burners. These allow non and smaller items to be cooked along with the main dish, or can help keep large batches of food warm, without over cooking. If you like to do full meals, or have a lot of mouths to feed, look for models that include additional burners on the side to help accommodate all your cooking needs.
Stainless or Coated Cast Iron Grates
The most durable type of grates are stainless steel, followed closely by coated cast iron. Not only are these two the best type of grates in terms of durability, they are also the best for even heat distribution. Professional quality grills, like those used at most restaurants that sell grilled goods, use either stainless or cast iron. So for the best grilling experience, look for either of these materials when it comes to the grates. For some models, upgrading the grate may be an optional addition to their standard grill.
While it may seem simple, one feature that is more common in commercial and high quality grills is the inclusion of a thermostat. Either located on hood, or as part of the control panel, a display that gives the temperature of the grate, or inside the compartment (sometimes both) is a feature that many cooks enjoy. For those who like precision cooking, or require their meats to be cooked at certain temperature, models that include a thermostat are ideal and more efficient than buying a add on that hangs, or sits on, the grate.
Self Cleaning Mode
Much like the oven in your kitchen, professional grade grills will have a self cleaning setting. This is considered a luxury in comparison to standard grills, but is basically a high burn setting that is set to run for around 10 to 15 minutes with the hood closed. The principal is to help burn away remnants left on the grate and hood interior, which can also make it easier to scrape off. When looking for a commercial grade natural gas grill, keep in mind if you will be using it heavily enough to merit a self cleaning mode.
While grilling accessories are common to all types of grills, models that come with an assortment of them tend to professional quality. Examples of accessories that are not your run of the mill inclusions are griddle sheets, grate expansions via addition racks, add-on side burners, and even conversion kits for propane grills to make use of natural gas are considered professional quality accessories.
Why Natural Instead of Propane?
There is a numerous difference between propane and natural gas. Natural gas tends to be more cost effective for regular usage and it comes in from a supply line. Propane can get expensive (up to six times the cost compared to natural gas) with regular use and comes in metal containers that are prone to mechanical failures, such as leaks and broken valves. Propane also creates what is called “wet heat” that can affect the texture of some foods, especially barbeques. The only disadvantages that natural gas grills have over propane, is that most natural gas grills designed for permanent or fixed installations and tend to be more expensive than other types of grills. However, with conversion kits and newer models, these cons have been can be countered.
Consider Your Habits
Before purchasing a natural gas grill, it is important to consider your grilling habits. How often do you grill? How much do you grill at a time? Do you want to grill all year round, or only in the Summer? Grills come in all manner of sizes and features. When considering a new natural gas grill, it is important to take into account just how much you plan to use it, and how much you want to invest. On average, for lower priced models, the moderate user can expect to repair or replace every three years, while higher quality models tend to last a good bit longer before needing repairs or replacement.
The BTU Debate
One aspect of any gas grill, propane or natural, that you will come across is its BTU rating. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and it reflects just how much fuel the grill will use and how hot the flames can get. As A rule or thumb, the ideal BTU rating for a gas grill is 80 to 100 BTU per square inch of cooking space. For example, if a grill has a single grate that is 2′ x 3′, then you want around a 70,000 to 87,000 BTU rating. Anything lower an it may take longer to cook foods properly and higher may lead to more charring. When factoring up if a BTU rating is appropriate, consider also that secondary tiers and side burners are often included in the total cooking area.
BTU Is Nothing Without Efficiency
Aside from having a proper BTU to cooking area ratio, a grill needs to be efficient. One reason that some models claim their higher BTU rating is better for cooking, is partial true due to the fact it may lack the proper amount of ventilation and design to more effectively use a proportional BTU rate. It requires high quality materials, such as stainless steel, tight seals along the hood, and proper vent placement to get the most out of your grill. Be sure to look for securely closing lids, solid metal frames, and small vents that will allow a controlled amount of airflow to keep the flames well oxygenated.
Maintenance Is Essential
Investing into a good natural gas grill is like any other financial investment, it is only logical to do what you can ensure it maintains its value. This means performing regular maintenance on it, such as regularly cleaning before and after use, keeping it covered when not in use, and regular checks to make sure the connection is secure and there is no sign of wear on the gas line. While most of these things requires more time than money, additional investments into a grill cleaning kit and cover should be standard add-ons to any natural gas grill purchase.