Gas grills are the easiest, most convenient way to grill. Anyone can master cooking on a gas grill within minutes, and it’s nearly as easy as using a microwave.
Despite what some die-hard charcoal grill traditionalists say, the flavor of food cooked on a gas grill is delicious and distinct. Plus, you get just as good grill marks on your steaks and brats.
But for best results, you should follow a few general gas grill guidelines. One rule is always to preheat your grill—and that’s valid for any gas grill, whether propane or natural gas.
Why Is Preheating So Important?
Preheating your grill is vital to having a successful cook. If you were to skip this essential step, you’re literally putting your entire meal in jeopardy for two reasons:
First, because your grill wasn’t at the optimal cooking temperature, the food on your grill ends up cooking too long.
As a result, you get dried out and overcooked—or as we call it, pricey dog food. You also risk uneven cooking as one side might heat up faster than the other.
Second, by putting food on a lukewarm or cool surface, you can forget that delicious, crosshatched steak you dreamed of the other night.
Putting uncooked food on non-preheated grates destroys any chance of creating those coveted sear marks. And those sear marks are not just for looks. They happen when the sugars in food become caramelized, which lends to the overall smokey grilled flavor.
Last but not least, failing to preheat could cause other issues such as food becoming stuck on the grate. By ensuring your grate’s nice and hot, you not only get those beautifully tasty sear marks, but your food should be much easier to flip!
Another advantage to preheating your grill is that it helps de-grease your grate.
It doesn’t matter how hard you scrub a cold grate. You will never get all the burnt-on gunk and grease off. But, by preheating your grill, your grates become a lot easier to scrub clean. This also helps prevent cross-contamination, ensuring your food doesn’t pick up unwanted flavors.
How Long Should I Preheat a Gas Grill?
The exact time it takes to preheat a gas grill mostly depends on the grill. Single burner grills may take a bit longer to heat up than grills with multiple burners. However, as a general rule, gas grills usually take 10-15 minutes to preheat.
Remember that this is just a rule of thumb. If you’re grilling in cold weather, you’ll probably want to preheat your unit for 15-20 minutes, maybe even more, until the grate gets really hot and the walls start to radiate heat.
How to Preheat a Gas Grill
Here are a few simple steps for preheating a gas grill.
- Open the grill lid.
- Ignite the burners and set the knob to either medium or high.
- Close the grill lid.
- Wait 10-15 minutes for the heat to build inside the cooking chamber (15-20 minutes in cold weather).
- Adjust the temperature knob as necessary before putting your food on the grill.
Should I Grill With the Lid Opened or Closed?
There’s a lot of discussion about whether it’s okay to grill with the lid opened or closed.
The best answer depends on what you’re cooking, among other factors like the type of food you’re cooking, the size of what you’re cooking, and weather conditions.
Now, in restaurants, all grilling is done on open grills. However, those grills are generally way more powerful than most consumer grills, allowing chefs to cook foods in a relatively shorter time.
However, for grilling at home, an open lid can cost heat, which also means you’re using more gas for the grill. Aside from saving propane, grilling with the lid up often takes longer.
On the other hand, certain foods require careful temperature control, such as thinner cuts of meat:
Burger patties are those foods you must watch closely to avoid overcooking. For example, a quarter-pound pattie usually requires less cooking time and a watchful eye to know when to flip and finish before the meat dries out.
As for foods such as chicken breast, you will want to grill with the lid down to preserve heat and allow the thicker piece of meat to cook through. You also have much more moisture and fat to burn before taking the risk of overcooking such foods.
Now, when it comes to steaks, the general rule of thumb is to keep the lid open when searing while keeping a close eye on your meat. Once you’ve gotten your sear marks, move it to your indirect heat side, where you can close the lid and allow it to cook through thoroughly. This technique is called “Reverse-searing.”
Or, you can keep the lid open for the entire cook.
Another advantage to keeping the lid open is that it’s easier to monitor flare-ups.
The main takeaway when it comes to whether or not to grill with the lid open or closed is to customize your cooking strategy based on what you are cooking. You can’t grill every food the same way and expect the best results. Frequently, you have to have a specific strategy for different foods.
Should I Turn Off the Propane Tank After Grilling?
While it may be more convenient to leave your gas on after you’ve finished grilling, this is a potentially dangerous habit to develop.
Propane gas leaks can happen, and they are pretty scary. Leaving your grill on after you’ve finished cooking allows gas pressure to build up in your lines and grill.
Since that gas is just sitting there, you have the potential for a terrible accident. Should someone turn on a gas knob without immediately igniting the burners, the gas would build up inside the grill, which could cause a fireball or explosion.
Another issue is that you’re wasting valuable propane by always keeping the tank on. Think of it like this. Would you leave your gas cap off on your vehicle to save an extra two seconds at the gas pump?
Also, leaving the gas on can lead to your grill entering a reduced gas flow state called bypass. During the bypass stage, your grill will never reach its proper temperature range, usually getting no hotter than 250-300°F (120-150°C).
So always turn off your propane tank or gas supply after every cook.