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How to Use a Propane Grill

Propane grill

With the 4th of July holiday weekend nearly here, many people are planning backyard barbecues for friends and family. Hopefully, you have a propane grill that’s ready to handle the load. For starters, it’s a lot less work than dragging out and preparing a charcoal grill for your cookout.

Compared to charcoal grilling, using a propane grill has a multitude of advantages, which is why so many people love them. One of the biggest advantages is the precise temperature control you get from propane grills that you just can’t get duplicate with charcoal. With a propane grill, all you have to do to adjust the temperature is turn the dial. And when you’re grilling a variety of foods that need different grilling temperatures and methods, that becomes a major benefit.

Do your grilling with propane as your fuel source and you get the versatility to create different temperature modes and levels of heat. You can set one side to high heat, the other side to low. This method lets you sear food on the hottest side, then move it over to the less-hot side to finish cooking without the worry of overcooking or burning.

Indirect heat and direct heat on a propane grill

Having the ability to use direct heat or indirect heat —or both at the same time— gives propane grills another huge advantage.

You can use direct heat on one side to grill foods like pizza, veggies, thin cuts of meat, and shrimp. And you can use indirect heat on the other side for longer-cooking foods like barbecued chicken. You can even use indirect heat for baking bread.

How do you set up indirect heat on your propane grill? Turn on all the burners to pre-heat the grill, then turn off the burners directly below where you want to do indirect grilling. Indirect grilling requires patience because it takes longer. But if you do it right, you’ll be rewarded with delicious food and cheers from your family and friends. In short, you can use your grill to bake foods but do it outside in the fresh air—a much better option than adding heat to your kitchen during a hot day.

How to grill meat safely

Propane grilling also offers safety when cooking food, because it greatly reduces your exposure to carcinogens that may end up in your food during charcoal grilling, since cooking with charcoal creates more smoke and burns hotter.

Besides choosing propane over charcoal when cooking, here are three other tips to make sure your grilled meat is as safe as possible.

  1. Trim excess fat before putting the meat on the grill to prevent flare-ups
  2. Marinate your meat with rosemary, which studies show can reduce toxins. Marinades using lemon juice, onion and garlic are also recommended
  3. Make sure your meat is grilled to a safe temperature by using an instant-read thermometer

Propane grill searing secrets

Want to know how steakhouses get that delicious crust on their grilled meats? The answer is, proper searing. And you can do it at home on your propane grill! This is where direct grilling with precise temperature control really comes in handy.

  • Turn your propane grill on and set it to high heat
  • Wait until the grill is hot
  • Put the meat on the grill
  • Do NOT touch the meat for at least one minute
  • Turn the meat over and reduce the heat
  • Grill to your desired doneness

Searing like this will caramelize the meat’s surface and creates that wonderful, flavorful crust.

Propane grill maintenance and safety

Regular maintenance helps your propane grill run better for longer.

First, perform a thorough cleaning of the grill and inspect all of the internal parts. Check for clogs in the ports—those are the holes where the flames come out. Clogged ports create an uneven flame and can cause the burners to fail. If you find clogs, get rid of them with thin wire or a pipe cleaner. Check the igniters to ensure there is a good spark and that the grill lights properly.

Propane grilling safety tips

Naturally, you want to do everything possible to enjoy safe outdoor cooking with your propane grill. With the cooking season in high gear now, it’s no surprise that July is the peak month for grill fires. In fact, about half of the injuries involving grills are thermal burns that could be avoided if safety guidelines are followed. With that in mind, please review these propane grilling safety tips.

  • Clean your grill after each use. This prevents flare-ups, and leftover grease is the most common cause of grill fires.
  • Keep your grill outdoors at all times.
  • When grilling, make sure the grill is at least five feet from the house, on a level surface, and clear of outdoor furniture, overhead trees and other fire hazards.
  • NEVER use your propane grill indoors, and that includes in a garage, shed or covered carport. Not only is it a fire hazard, but propane combustion creates carbon monoxide, an odorless and potentially deadly gas.
  • When you ignite your grill, keep the grill cover open until you’ve confirmed that it’s lit. A closed lid can create a buildup of propane gas, making for an explosion risk.
  • Stay close to the grill and keep it in sight while you’re grilling. Unattended grills are the cause of 46 percent of cooking fire-related civilian injuries, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. That’s more than any other cause.
  • Keep pets and children at least three feet away from the grill.
  • Make sure to turn off all the burners and close the cylinder valve when you’re done grilling.

How to handle propane grill flare-ups

Flare-ups are caused by fats and oils dripping down over your propane burners. While they’re usually temporary, they can create burns on your food.

You can prevent flare-ups by trimming excess fats from meats, and removing excess marinade, before grilling.

When grilling, keep part of the grill empty so you can quickly move food there in the event of a flare-up. Once the food is moved, keep the lid up and let the flare-up burn off. If the fire spreads, take all the food off the grill and let the grease be burned off by the fire. If the fire gets out of control, remove the food and turn off the burners and gas. Leave the lid open so the fire can die down.

How to know if your propane tank is running low

Knowing when to exchange or refill the propane cylinder for your grill can be difficult because most 20-pound tanks (the most common size used for grills) don’t come with their own gauge. We’ve got some tips to help you.

Buy an external propane cylinder gauge. They come in digital, analog and inline pressure options, and can be found at most home improvement stores and online.

You can also look at the handle on your propane cylinder. There are usually two numbers stamped on it. One is “WC” for water capacity, and the other is “TR” for tare weight, which is the weight of the cylinder when it’s empty. Weigh the tank and note the weight. Subtract the TR number from the weight, and you’ve got how many pounds of propane remain in the tank.

Another option is to fill a small bucket with warm to hot water. Pour it down one side of the cylinder and immediately run your hand down that side. You’re trying to feel where the tank gets cool. When you feel a cool spot, that’s where the fill level is.

Safety tips for your propane cylinder

Follow these safety tips when you’re handling propane cylinders:

ALWAYS store or place your propane cylinder in an open area outdoors. NEVER keep propane cylinders indoors or in a garage, shed, carport or tent.

ALWAYS keep the cylinder away from heat sources like a fireplace or stove. NEVER store a spare cylinder under or close to the grill.

ALWAYS call on a skilled propane professional handle maintenance and repairs of a propane cylinder. NEVER try to modify or repair valves or any other parts of the cylinder on your own.

ALWAYS be aware and exercise caution when handling a propane cylinder. NEVER let anyone smoke near the cylinder, or let it come in contact with ignition sources like spark-producing electric tools or flames.

We’ve got more propane safety tips here. If you want to learn more about what’s available in outdoor propane grills today, contact your local North Carolina propane provider.