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Beginner's Corner

The Complete Guide

Welcome to Barbecue'n On The Internet's "Beginner Pages!" If you have proceeded in order, then you should have a pretty good understanding of outdoor cooking. We will now turn our attention to the "Fine Art of Grilling with Gas". We suggest each beginner get the grilling aspects down pat before proceeding to barbecuing. If you feel a need to go back and review some of the previous pages, go ahead . . . . we'll wait right here for you to return!

Beginning Grilling

We separate gas grilling from charcoal and wood grills because, really, they are two different animals. Gas, unlike charcoal and wood derives its source from propane, butane or natural gas. For the purposes of this presentation, we will treat all as simply "Gas". We should note, however, that modifications need to be made to a propane/butane grill before it can function properly using natural gas. For more information on this item, please check our Frequently Asked Questions for a topic in that area.

Alright now, let's address you 'Type "AA" folks' who like to "light and run". Not only do you folks want to eat quickly by grilling, but you are also in a hurry and don't want to waste any time waiting for the coals to get ready. In contrast to the Charcoal folks, a gas grill offers convenience above everything else. Simply turn on the fuel near the bottle, raise the lid, turn on the gas valve on the grill and light the match! There, you have received the complete course. BUT, of course, there is more to turning out great food than that.

As we move along our journey to getting started using a gas grill, you will notice that we never refer to cooking barbecue on a gas grill. The reason is that to cook barbecue, one needs to use charcoal/wood coals cooking over long periods of time (6 to 12 or more hours) in dry heat. Obviously, gas grills will not work in this manner.

Since you folks are in such a hurry, we shall move on along . . . . . . . In this section, we will be discussing the following points:

  • Choices of gas grills
  • Basic features
  • Lighting the grill
  • Getting started
  • Methods of cooking various meats
  • Cleaning the grill

    Choices of Gas Grills

    And there are many types of gas grills which to choose from. For the most part, there are only two basic styles. First, forget the fancy options. Beginners should concentrate on performance over convenience. We say that, because we are simply sticking to the basics here. The primary choices should center around Size, Construction and Performance. Size:
    Choose a grill which is large enough to cook for a relatively nice size party. Once you get the hang of outdoor cooking, you are going to want to invite your friends, and heaven forbid, your relatives over for some great food. So choose a grill that will handle the action. If you choose a grill that is convenient just for you and your significant other, then what are you going to do when I come over and want to eat too? Besides, a gas grill is always capable of cooking smaller quantities just nicely.


    Gas Grills come in many different sizes and shapes. Additionally, they come in several different types of materials. Stainless Steel, Solid Steel and Cast Aluminum. We choose not to discuss the ones constructed out of sheet metal, unless price is more important that longevity.

    Our first choice is split between stainless steel and cast aluminum. Both of these materials resist rust, corrosion and general deterioration. Both will offer you long life and superior performance. You be the judge.


    This is sort of a "catch all" category. Look for a grill offering at least dual (2) separate burners. We'll talk about that a little later in our "Techniques" area. Make sure you get a grill capable of generating at least 35,000 Btu's. If you cannot generate enough heat, you will be sorely disappointed in the performance. It is easier to get the head down instead of simply wishing that you could increase the heat. Also, we recommend portability. This offers the ability to move in under the shed from the weather, be it pouring rain or blistering heat. Lava rocks, flavored briquettes, metal deflectors . . . . . basically, they all serve the same purpose, some better than others. One, they prevent fat from the meat reaching the flames which in turn create infernos inside you pit, and two, the offer a radiating of heat which helps cook more evenly. The best idea we have seen are thick full deflecting shields which cover the entire flame (not just a portion which can find the flame) and are thick enough to radiate some good even heat.

    The rest is window dressing and depending upon the depth of your pocket book, are or are not necessary. When Smoky is asked "Do I need a window in my gas grill?", he retorts "The meet doesn't need to see out and with all the smoke, you can't see in!". You be the judge on accessories.

    If you desire more information on gas grills, feel free to visit our other Popular Gas Grills pages for more details and explanations. Remember, you are just beginning don't need anything real fancy. So, don't go out and blow a bundle. Start with something simple. Prices will vary from $200 to $1000 and more. I believe a good quality grill can be purchased for $300 to $400 that will last 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance and care. Good luck!

    Lighting The Grill

    FIRST, ALWAYS KEEP THE LID RAISED WHEN LIGHTING THE GRILL! AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN YOUR USER'S MANUAL. The reason we want the grill lid to remain open is due to the simple fact that if there is a ton of gas in an enclosed chamber and you place a match in it, the we have to go find another reader for our pages. 'Cause you aren't going to be around here any more. Hint: If it is real windy, have someone hold up a shield of some kind or move the grill to an area where it is less windy to keep the wind from blowing out the flame or match. Do not light or use in an enclosed area!

    Simply put, 1) raise the lid of your gas grill. 2) Turn on the gas at the propane tank. 3) Turn on one of the gas burners on the grill. 4) Press the auto light button if your grill has one. If there are holes in the bottom of your unit, then you can stick a match near the burner from that position. If not, then use a long match from the top. If that is not available, throw a match in near the burners. Once the burner has been lit, then turn on the other one or two burners. Allow the entire grill to burn for about 5 to 10 minutes on high. This will burn off any remaining food and grease accumulations on the diffusers below. Once the smoke subsides and it appears to be burning smoother and cleaner, then you can turn the burners back down to low and get ready to do some cooking! REMEMBER, ALWAYS KEEP THE LID RAISED WHEN LIGHTING THE GRILL!

    Getting Started

    Now that we have our gas grill selected and lit, we are ready to begin the process of outdoor cooking. Get ready to fend off the neighbors when the food begins sizzling and smelling up the neighborhood!

    Plan your meals - decide at least several hours ahead of time what the menu will consist of. Meat, veggies, appetizers and dessert. Do the shopping early and have each item planned and set out for easy access. Season the meat and allow it to sit for at least an hour before cooking begins. Beverages are an important part of any cookout . . . so make sure the favorites are within reach at all times. And remember the famous quote of C. Clark "Smoky" Hale, notable baster and "Barbecue Hall of Famer: "Don't be nervous or up-tight . . . it makes the meat tough!" . . . . . Thanks, Smoky.

    So, Let's Get Started

    "What" is to be cooked is not nearly as important as is "how" it is cooked. A juicy hamburger is better any day than a char-dead steak! So, our objective, as well as our intent, is to teach each person to cook anything and everything. We will let you determine which recipes seem appealing and we'll show you how to cook it!

    The actual cooking on a gas grill is not that much different than with a charcoal grill with one exception. A gas grill has the tendency to get too hot. To alleviate the problem, you can try two alternatives. First, since many grills will not allow you to turn down the flame any lower, try to turn down the amount of gas on the propane tank itself. You should be able to get it quite low. If this doesn't work, then take a piece of wood or metal and place it between the lid's top and bottom thus forcing the lid to stay open and let some of the excess heat out.

    Many want to know "Do I cook with the lid open or closed?". Well the answer depends upon what you are cooking. For the most part, when the lid is closed, then you are going to be cooking a little faster than with the lid open. A closed lid retains the heat and thus allows higher temperatures to accumulate. If the meat it thicker, like a brisket whole chicken or even a pork shoulder, then the best way would be with the lid closed. (Remember to hold the lid open if necessary to adjust the heat levels.

    Our experience indicates that most users of gas grills have a tendency to have the lid closed when cooking. Well, . . . . . . we're not sure that is the best way to grill foods. For example, how many times have you been to a outdoor fair or even a restaurant and seen the lid closed? Some, I'm sure. But the great majority have the lid open and they simply stand there turning the meat as it cooks and letting both sides experience the flame. Except with the possibility of delicate meats such as fish, we recommend keeping the lid open. This allows the meat to be grilled on each side the exact amount of time you desire and will keep the meat from being cooked too fast with temperatures that are too hot.

    In between size of meats, such as whole turkey breasts and chicken quarters, then perhaps try it both ways and see what works best for you. Remember, you are grilling with hotter temperatures and not barbecuing. Therefore care needs to be taken to prevent over cooking and cooking too rapidly . . . . therefore our recommendation for mostly open lid cooking.

    The required temperature of the grill will vary depending upon the selection of food. Use the "Hand" method discussed above in Lesson Number 3 - if a thermometer is not available. For example, fish will need a medium fire 350 to 400 degrees while a steak will need a hot fire 700+ degrees. Here are some rough ideas for your use:

    Use a medium fire. Fish should be close to room temperature before cooking. Coat the fish with a light coating of oil and turn often. Remember, fish cooks easily and quickly. To determine when fish is done, use a fork and attempt to break it apart in the thickest portion. It should flake easily. If not, then cook on . . . .

    Chicken Pieces
    Use a medium/hot fire. Chicken should be close to room temperature before cooking. Place the seasoned chicken on the grill and allow to brown on the first side and then the other. If the fire is hot enough, the chicken will seize the cooking grate at first and then release when it is ready to turn. Chicken will be done once it reaches 165 degrees F. Use the bi-therm instant thermometer to verify it is done. For more information on cooking chicken breasts, please see Smoky's "Valentine Breasts".

    Pork Chops
    Use a medium/hot fire. Pork and Lamb Chops should be close to room temperature or a little cooler before cooking. Cook similar to chicken. Pork is done when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. There may be some pinkness, but all undesirable are killed at 137 degrees F. Do not cook over 155 degrees F. as you will then guarantee a dry, tough piece of meat.

    Use a hot fire! The temperature of a steak before cooking may vary somewhat. Our preference is to select a smaller diameter yet thicker (3/4 inch) piece of meat. This allows for proper charring of the outside of the meat, but still retain a juicy interior. These are the type of steaks seen in favorite steak houses. If for some reason a thinner steak is being used (1/2 inch), cool the steak down to where it is firm, but not frozen solid. This will provide for charring on the outside while the inside is spending most of the time just thawing. The result will be a charred outside and juicy inside! For more information on cooking the perfect steak, please see Smoky's "A Steak on Every Grill".

    Always use the bi-therm instant read thermometer to determine when the meat has reached the desired doneness. For more information on grilling temperatures, please consult Barbecue'n's Cooking Temperature Pages.

    Cleaning The Grill

    To clean a gas grill, simply turn the burners on high and allow them to burn the excess grease and food from the grates. Usually if turned on high, the burners will remove most particles in 5 to 10 minutes. You can then take a wire brush and brush the steel grates so that they are clean. On the ceramic grates, follow manufactures' recommendations. If you do not have such recommendations, then use a damp cloth and wipe them down clean.

    As for the grates, again let the grill cool. There are two ways to do this. . . . First, simply take a steel wire brush and vigorously brush/scrape all of the cooked on food off the surface. Then use a paper towel to remove any loose material. Secondly, before you begin to cook the next time, heat the grill to high temperature to cook the food off. You can then simply brush the food off easily.

    We hope the forgoing sets each person on the correct path to creating great outdoor events. Don't forget to enjoy the process, have fun and if things don't turnout just right, consider it a learning experience and keep on trying. Getting there is most of the fun!


    So much for grilli'n . . . . . . . WANT MORE? . . . . . let's look at barbecu'n! . . . . . .

  • Charcoal & Wood Grilling Barbecuing
  • Basic Outdoor Cooking Lessons - Go here first!
  • Back to the Beginner's Page
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