Q: If I am building an outdoor kitchen, does the grill and burners need an insulated sleeve?
A: That depends mainly on the cabinet construction. There are many types of construction one can pick when considering their outdoor kitchen. But it really boils down to is the cabinet made of “combustible or non-combustible” material? The sub-framework…is it treated wood or galvanized steel frame? Cement board? Brick? Cinderblocks? Stone? Or is it a finished cabinet made out of teak, alpaca, or Brazilian cherry, cypress or some other type of wood? If there is any wood, sub-frame or finished, that comes close to the grill and some side burners…you will need an “insulated sleeve” to protect your investment from drying out and eventually potentially catching on fire. Some grill manufactures do not offer insulated sleeves and their owner’s manuals probably state something like “this grill is only intended to be installed in a non-combustible cabinet”. Over the years we have seen firsthand why this is stated…yes, it can and does happen. So, please follow the manufactures suggestions, it’s for your safety. You may have to pay more for the insulated sleeve or modify your design of your cabinet…but “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Call our customer service hot line if you have any further questions, we will be happy to assist you.
Q: How often does a gas grill need service?
A: That depends on the demand placed on the grill (how often one uses the grill) and a few other key factors. Generally, we suggest to our customers that most grills will need an “annual” cleaning and evaluation. There are three key components that affect how a grill will perform and it’s safety: The ignition system, the burners, and the grease from previous cookouts. Addressing one at a time, there are several types of ignition systems on grills today: push button piezo, battery spark generator, and hot surface ignition. All gas grills have some sort of electronic ignition system and the main reason they fail (the first two types) is because the system cannot spark to soiled or greasy metal. So, in most cases a simple cleaning of the “ignition area” where the electrode sends a spark to the burners can be cleaned using a Q-tip suave and a cleaning agent like finger nail polish remover, xylene or any other paint thinner. Sometimes if you feel comfortable disassembling these components, you can use sandpaper or a cordless drill with a wire wheel…just make sure that there is an approximate space of 1/8”-1/4” between the burner and the electrode and make sure the wires are snug on the generator and the electrode. The hot surface ignition systems that are generally found on newer high end equipment fail for two reasons: power outage at the receptacle that the low voltage generator is plugged into, and loss of energy over the years at the tip of the hot surface probe. Even though it still glows red hot, at some point the energy is simply not hot enough to ignite the gas. If this is the case, you will have to replace the wire and probe. Most grills with this type of ignition will also have a “match light” tube integrated in the design where the gas is channeled up to the surface of the grill through a tube and which can be lit with a lighter or match. This is not meant to be the standard way of lighting the grill, just until the primary can be fixed. Another key component that needs to be maintained not only for safety but performance is the burners of the grill. Even if the design of the grill shields excessive grease from the burner, oxidation accumulates around each port of the burner. This is caused from water vapor that is within gas: propane or natural. For instance, for every 100,000 btus of natural gas consumed it will produce 1.5 gallons of water. Propane is similar, so every time you light up the grill you are accumulating oxidation on your burners which causes a “narrowing effect” and the hole gets smaller and smaller…restricting the amount of gas (heat) coming out. It’s very similar to what you sometimes see with shower heads and calcium build up. The newer shower heads have a rubber port that the water comes out. And to fix you simply rubber your fingers over the jets and the calcium falls off and your problem is fixed. Not so easy with these burners but simple enough. To fix this problem, remove the burner and place on a work table. Get a cordless drill and a drill bit (several just in case you break a few) that is the same size as the hole in the burner and a chair. Drill out each and every hole. Then either blow out the burner with compressed air until no sediment comes out or you can rinse with a garden hose, again until no sediment remains. Some “H” burners have what we call “cross over” areas on the tips of the “H”. They are generally “slits” in the metal and allow the flame to make the curve so that it lights in the middle. This can be cleaned out by using a hacksaw blade. Drain the burner of any access water and let dry. Re-install the burner making sure that the venturi (the part with the air mixer that fits over the jet or orifice) is surrounding the jet (this is very important for your safety). After the burner is re-installed, light it to see if all the ports are clear and have a flame coming out of them. You should notice a tremendous difference. And lastly, the excessive grease. This not only can cause malfunction in your equipment, but also if ignited, can cause a dangerous grease fire. First, always inspect and if needed clean out you grease tray on your grill if it has one. Some have areas where excessive grease funnels to aluminum pans. Change these out when there are signs of moderate grease accumulation. There are also many nooks and crannies that grease can get held up in your grill and once cool, coagulate into a gelatin like substance. But once heated sufficiently, will liquefy and funnel further down into the grill. We recommend that if you have cooked meat that contained a lot of fat, to leave the grill on after the food is removed for approximately 30 minutes on high. This will vaporize the liquid components of the grease and turn it to a “crust” or carbon. If you have a tendency to cook leaner cuts of meat, this can be done every third or fourth cookout. To clean the cooking grids, sear grids, flame tamers and other components inside the grill, we recommend lighting the grill as stated before, burn on high for 1 hour and once cooled, brush off all the crust, carbon and dried up debris. Then, using a vacuum (and not your indoor one) suck out all the debris. With these annual cleaning techniques you will ensure that the safety and high performance of your grill will always be where you want it.
Q: What is better: Natural Gas or Propane Gas?
A: Technically, propane generates more BTU’s than natural gas when comparing equal quantities…nearly double. But when gas grills are engineered, and the BTU’s that are figured to give the desired results for grilling are equated, whether it is natural gas or propane gas…the jet size is factored in to achieve these goals. In other words, propane is a more volatile gas than natural and takes less gas to achieve the desired BTU. To adjust for this offset a jet or restriction port is installed on each valve. A propane burner may have a #56 jet where as a natural gas grill may have a #45 to hit 25,000 BTU’s . But the same heat is being generated, so although you may spend less money with propane overall vs. natural gas…it will not affect performance. The main thing is convenience. If your home has natural gas and your grill is tied into that supply line, then you will never have to worry about running out of gas…so long as you pay your gas bill. But some areas do not supply natural gas so propane would be you only other option. Propane allows you to be more mobile on your patio. You can grill out by the pool, or you can wheel your grill up under the covered area in case of bad weather. They both have their ying and yangs. If you have both available to you as an option, figure out which one best serves you and go with that knowing that if you change your mind or if your family moves and your situation changes, most grills can be field converted from one gas to another. One last safety note: propane is heavier than air vs. natural gas which is lighter than air. When you turn the gas on your grill, propane is pooling in the bottom of your grill and if not lit immediately with drift downward into the cart or if you have an outdoor kitchen…your cabinet. Make sure you have proper ventilation on your cabinet to allow any unlit gas to escape at the ground level. If your grill does not light within 5-10 seconds, turn off your valve…fan out the compartment with a magazine and try again. If your igniters are not working properly, look on the side of the grill for an ignition hole or port that you can light with a long match or lighter. Never….NEVER stick your head over any grill that is not lit. We have seen customer lose a lot of facial hair by making this mistake. Natural gas is lighter and may not be potentially as hazardous, we still recommend the same procedure as propane. Be Safe!
Q: What the better grill: Gas or Charcoal?
A: It really depends on several factors as to the grill that’s right for “you”. What type of food are you wanting to prepare? Don’t get me wrong, any grill can “cook” any type of food…but some do a better job than others. For instance, if you were wanting to prepare ribs, brisket, pork shoulder and chicken with the skin on…I would say a good smoker or BBQ charcoal grill would perform and produce much better results than a gas grill. Gas is popular because of its simple and clean operation…you don’t have to light coals, and it’s pretty much instant. We call Gas Grills “week night” grills when you don’t have much time to prepare and cook the meal. Most cook-outs last 30 – 45 minutes. Whereas with charcoal, which we call the “weekend” grill, where you may have more time to prepare and cook the meal (where cook times generally go from 1 hour to sometimes 6-8 hours), and where temperature and flavor take precedence over convenience…this may be a better choice. We feel that the “perfect” scenario is to have each type of grill because they each offer specific outcomes. It’s kind of like having a 4x4 truck and a Ferrari in the garage. So, do you want to go fast, or play in the mud? Or Both? But seriously, if you are looking for the one right grill, find one that fits “most” of your criteria…and that’s probably the right one for you and your family.
Q: What’s the difference between a $500 gas grill and a $5,000 gas grill, other than price?
A: We have all heard the old saying “you get what you pay for” and that’s true most of the time. Having sold gas and charcoal grills for over 30 plus years, I would say this mantra applies nearly 100%. Not to say that an inexpensive grill isn’t a good grill or a grill you should or shouldn’t own. I would just encourage anyone to keep your expectations in line with the quality, performance and yes, price. A grill’s price is determined by many factors: type of material used in the construction, Country of Origin, performance and features, accessories and warranty to name a few. To elaborate, there are many “grades” of stainless steel. And in talking with Metalologist dealing with products they use in the oil & gas industry where corrosive agents are prevalent, there is a big difference between American Stainless Steel and foreign stainless steel. Most high quality grills have also a higher level of performance…and I am not just talking about BTU’s or the how hot it will get. More than that, it has been designed and engineered to withstand high frequency cookouts, more even heat distribution over the entire cooking surface, more dependable ignition systems, and overall the essential parts like the burners, sear grids (flame tamers), cooking grids and the like will last much longer. These grill manufactures back up these products and quality with serious warranties like “Lifetime burner warranty”. But the bottom line is that if you plan on using your grill 3-5 times a week…you will need a grill that can take that kind of punishment. Or plan on buying a new grill every 2-3 years. Another quote we like is that from one of our forefathers, Benjamin Franklin “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” So, do your research…warranty, material used, maintenance expected, performance...if you do this, and keep your expectations proportional…you will be thoroughly pleased with your purchase.