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How to Use a Propane Grill

Date: June 10, 2019

Family barbeque

One of the things people love about propane gas grills is the precise control of heat it provides. Turn the dial and instantly get more heat or less heat. That control is a big advantage if you’re planning to cook and serve a variety of dishes during your next backyard barbecue. What’s the secret?

With a propane grill, you have the choice of using different temperature modes, or heat zones. You can easily create these zones by turning the dial on one side to high heat and the other to low heat. This allows you to sear your food on the hottest side before transferring it to the cooler side to slowly finish cooking.

Direct heat vs. indirect heat on a propane grill

The ability to employ either direct heat or indirect heat is another reason why a propane grill is so versatile. While direct heat is great for cooking your food hot and fast—including thin cuts of meat, quick-cooking vegetables, and shrimp—indirect heat lets you grill whole chickens and large roasts, and even bake bread. It’s much like baking in the oven. To do this, simply turn off the burners that sit directly under what you are cooking, keep the surrounding burners on and close the lid of the grill.

Of course, when you use the indirect heat method, you need to be patient with the cooking times, which will take longer because of the lower temperatures. But if you do it correctly, you will be sure to hear praise from family and friends.

Quick tips for grilling meat safely

One great benefit of cooking with a propane grill is that you will greatly reduce your exposure to carcinogens that end up in your food when grilling. In contrast, charcoal grills create more smoke and burn hotter, leading to the formation of toxins that have been linked to some cancers.

Here are some tips to follow that will help ensure that your grilled meat is the safest it can be:

  • grill your meat on a propane grill instead of charcoal
  • trim excess fat before cooking
  • marinate your meat in rosemary (studies show that this significantly reduces toxins; marinades with garlic, onion and lemon juice are also recommended)
  • flip the meat frequently when cooking

The secret of searing

Interested in getting a wonderful grilled flavor for those strip steaks you’re tossing on the grill? Start off by searing the meat. Turn the temperature control to high, make sure the grill is hot and put the meat on the grill. Wait one minute, then flip the food and reduce the heat. The high temperature will caramelize the meat’s surface, giving you a flavorful, crisp surface. You can do this with lamb and pork too.

Maintenance and grill safety

Performing regular maintenance on your grill will keep it working better and longer. Start with a good grill cleaning and continue to a full inspection of all the internal parts. Check the burners to make sure that the ports (the holes where the flames come out) are not clogged.

If they are, use a thin wire or pipe cleaner to clear any obstruction. Blocked ports cause uneven flame and can cause burners to fail. Check the igniters to make sure there is a good spark and the grill lights properly.

Tips to enjoy safe outdoor cooking with your propane grill

  • Clean your grill after each use to avoid flare-ups when cooking. Leftover grease causes about 20 percent of grill fires – more than any other factor.
  • Keep your grill outdoors and keep it positioned at least five feet from the house. It should be on a level surface that is clear of outdoor furniture, overhead trees, or other potential fire hazards.
  • NEVER use your grill indoors! Not only is it a fire hazard, but propane combustion releases carbon monoxide – an odorless and potentially deadly gas that can build up in your home.
  • Before cooking, always check hoses for kinks, cracks or damage.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near your propane grill; make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
  • Stay close to the grill when cooking and keep it in sight at all times. Unattended grills are the source of 46% of cooking fire-related civilian injuries, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That’s more than any other factor.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Keep your propane grill cover open until you’re sure the grill is lit.
  • When finished cooking, turn off the burner controls and close the cylinder valve.
  • Keep your propane grill cover open until you’re sure the grill is lit; a closed lid can cause an explosive build-up of propane gas.

Dealing with flare-ups

Flare-ups, caused by fats and oils dripping down into your grill, are usually temporary. To deal with them, keep a portion of your grill empty so you can move the food should a flare-up occur. When you do have a flare-up, move the food away from it and let the flare-up burn off with the grill lid up. If the fire spreads, remove all food from the grill and let the fire burn off the grease as quickly as possible.

If your fire gets out of control, remove the food from the grill and turn off the burners and the gas. Leave the lid open and let the fire die down on its own.

How to tell if a propane tank is running low

Knowing when you need to refill or exchange your propane cylinder can be difficult because most 20-pound propane tanks — the most common size for barbecue grills — do not come with a gauge. Here are some ways you can do it.

  • There are external gauges you can use on your propane cylinder. You can find them at most home improvement stores, and online. Options include analog, digital and inline pressure gauges.
  • There usually are two numbers stamped on the handle of your propane cylinder. One is “WC”, which stands for water capacity. The other is “TR,” which means tare weight (the weight of the cylinder when it’s empty). Weigh the tank and note its weight. Then, subtract the TR number. That sum will be how many pounds of propane you have left.
  • Fill a small bucket with warm to hot tap water. Then, pour the water down the side of your propane cylinder. Immediately run your hand along that side of your tank and feel for a cool spot. That cool spot is where the fill level of your propane cylinder is. The liquid propane inside the cylinder absorbs the heat from the water, making the metal of the cylinder cool to your touch.

Safety tips for portable cylinders

Follow these safe practices when handling portable propane cylinders.

  • Always store or place a propane cylinder outdoors and in an open area, not in a basement, garage, shed or tent.
  • Always be mindful of the company your cylinder keeps. You don’t want to have it near a stove, a fireplace, or another heat source. For the same reason, you should not store a spare cylinder under or near your barbecue grill.
  • Always stay aware when you are handling cylinders. You don’t want anyone smoking near it. And make sure your cylinder does not come into contact with ignition sources such as flames or spark-producing electrical tools.
  • Always leave the care and repair of a cylinder in the hands of a skilled propane professional. You should not make any attempt to modify or repair valves, regulators, or other cylinder or appliance parts.

If you have any questions about safety for your propane grill, or if you want to learn more about your options in new outdoor grills, please reach out to your local propane company. You can also read more propane safety tips here.

We wish you happy, safe and healthy outdoor cooking this year with your propane grill!