summer bbq gas grill near the pool

Natural Gas Grills vs. Propane Grills

  • Written By: Rebecca Bridges

  • You’re all ready for an outdoor party and barbecue. Maybe it’s even a summer pool party. You went to the pool supply store, got the pool cleaner and the pool light set up. You have the mosquito net tent on the patio, the citronella candles and the sun tea getting ready. But when you go to light your outdoor grill…

    Oops! Forgot to buy the propane!

    That’s why we like natural gas grills instead.

    In this article you’ll learn:

    • Natural Gas Grills vs. Propane vs. Charcoal
    • How to Convert Your Grill from Propane to Natural Gas
    • Best Low Cost Gas Grills
    • How to Get Smoky Flavor with a Gas Grill
    • Costs of Propane vs. Natural Gas

    Natural Gas Grills vs. Propane Grills vs. Charcoal Grills

    Some folks swear by old-school charcoal. Charcoal does have the benefit of easy heat management. By spreading out the coals in your grill, you can have different areas of high or low heat. You can do the same with a gas grill by turning the flame up or down. Charcoal does impart a that traditional flavor though. And we’re not talking about the flavor of lighter fluid! If you do use charcoal and lighter fluid, make sure that the coals are completely ready (gray ashy color) and the lighter fluid smell has burnt off before putting food on the grill.

    But once you decide to go beyond charcoal to gas grills, it’s the great gas grill fuel debate — natural gas or propane?

    About 2/3 of gas grills sold in the US are propane gas grills. It’s easy, it’s portable, it’s accessible at many grocery and drugstores. Only problem is when you forget to refill it. Nothing better than having a nice filet on the grill when the flame goes out. Even more fun if you have company over.

    With a natural gas grill (the other 1/3 of gas grills sold in the US) you don’t have to worry about when the charcoal will be ready, or whether you have a full tank of propane. Turn it on, and it’s there. You never run out of the source of heat, because your natural gas supply is continuous.

    Can I Convert my Gas Grill from Propane to Natural Gas?

    If you have a grill that currently uses propane, you can convert it to natural gas. However, we recommend that you check your manufacturers web site to find out what they recommend. On some grills you may void the warranty if you convert your grill from propane to natural gas. Others sell conversion kits specifically for their brand of grill. And newer grills may include the connections for both propane or natural gas, and you can choose to install whichever fits your needs.

    Propane gas burns hotter than natural gas and therefore, the valves are designed for a lower gas flow on a propane grill than a natural gas grill. If you simply try to connect your current propane grill to natural gas, the flames will be very small and the grill will not heat up properly. (Plus, it could be super dangerous!)

    The safest and easiest way to convert a liquid propane grill to natural gas is with a conversion kit supplied by the manufacturer.

    How to Convert Your Gas Grill to Natural Gas

    There are a couple steps to converting and then installing a natural gas grill.

    First, purchase a gas grill natural gas conversion kit from the manufacturer of your grill.  Install the new parts by closely following the instructions.

    Then, contact a local plumbing company to get a natural gas line run from your meter to your grill location, also known as a gas grill natural gas hookup. Your plumber will know this, but make sure the gas line is buried deep enough to meet local requirements, and not somewhere that you plan to plant a garden! (Ask us how we know…)

    Best Low Cost Gas Grills

    And after reading about how to convert a grill from propane to natural gas, maybe it would be easier to buy a new grill, and just start fresh.

    If you are looking to buy a new natural gas grill, here are some resources.

    The Spruce Eats:  The 6 Best Natural Gas Grills of 2019

    BioHackers:  Best Natural Gas Grills (Reviews & Buyers Guide)

    Or… shop based on most popular gas grills on Amazon.

    How to Get Smoky Flavor with a Gas Grill

    “But how do I get that smoky flavor if I have a gas grill?” you may ask. It’s pretty easy.

    You can add smoke flavor to your food by using liquid smoke. (Ick). Or you can use wood chips in your gas grill.

    Infusing the smoke flavor into your food takes time. Smoking should be used with larger cuts of meat that will be on the grill for 20-30 minutes with the grill lid down. You aren’t going to smoke a grilled burger, after all. You’re talking the good stuff — beef brisket, port shoulder, or ribs.

    Wood for smoking is usually available pre-cut into chips or smaller pieces. You can find it in the grocery store near the picnic supplies.

    Your selection of wood chips will depend on the type of food you are cooking.  Here’s a guide from the folks at Char-Broil:

    • Fruit woods such as pecan, apple and cherry lend a smoky sweetness to the meat.
    • Hickory infuses a stronger smoke flavor and works well with bolder cuts of meat like pork butt and ribs.
    • Mesquite is the strongest smoking wood and is ideal for smoking dark meats.

    Before being used on your gas grill, the wood needs to be soaked in water to be fully saturated. This is important! You can’t just dip the wood chips in water and get the same result.

    Once you are sure the wood chips are fully saturated, don’t just toss them on the grill!  You will need to gather the wood together so it can smolder on the grill and produce smoke.  There are 2 easy options. One requires pre-planning (purchase a smoker box for your grill). The other uses something you have in your kitchen — aluminum foil. Wrap the chips loosely in the foil, punching a few holes in the top to allow smoke out. Now place the packet on the grill. Voila! You now have a smoker!

    Safety tip: Wood chips in aluminum foil can smolder for over 24 hours after they are used, and can melt plastic trashcans and ignite trash, even if they feel cool to the touch. The used foil packets should be completely soaked in water, or placed in a fire resistant container. (Again… ask us how we know.)

    Cost of Natural Gas Grill vs. Propane Grill

    Natural gas is significantly less expensive than propane when evaluating the cost of fuel.  However, a natural gas grill model is typically more expensive than a propane grill. Plus you will need to hire a plumber to run a gas line from your meter to your grill location. That said, the convenience of a natural gas grill simply can’t be beat!

    If you are in a deregulated natural gas market like Ohio, Michigan or Georgia, you can choose your natural gas supplier. Shop to select a fixed price natural gas plan, and get away from the utility’s fluctuating natural gas prices!

    Whether or not you are in a deregulated natural gas market, your local natural gas utility company may offer discounts and incentives for using natural gas. Check with your local utility company to see if they are running any special summer discount programs for natural gas grills, natural gas fire-pits or natural gas generators (since summer is also hurricane season.)

    Time to fire up that grill and get cooking!

    About Rebecca Bridges

    Rebecca Bridges has worked in deregulated energy markets since 2001. As chief marketing officer for NaturalGasPlans, she focuses on energy efficiency tips and helping consumers pick the best natural gas plan for their home. Outside of work, Rebecca uses her marketing experience to support dog rescue and can often be found hiking or biking local trails.

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