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There is nothing complicated about the process — except in the mind of the
manufacturers. As a class, manufacturers know less about what a grill is
supposed to do than a fifth grade social studies class. Apparently their
consuming interest is in manufacturing products which will satisfy the
retailer and, thereby, generate sales and profits for their companies. You
have only to read their brochures to discover that they are unburdened by
the weight of obligations to the consumer to provide complete and accurate
information. Follow their recommendations for operation and maintenance,
but ignore their cooking hints and recipes.
A couple of gas grill manufacturers have incorporated the new ceramic
burner technology which, although more expensive, is much more efficient in
converting gas to usable, radiant heat. Such grills are capable of
producing temperatures almost as high as their prices, but I am not
convinced that either is justified for the backyard broiler. If any heat
source can produce temperatures in the 7-800o range, it is entirely
adequate for broiling a steak. I know of no other cooking use which
requires a higher temperature. I suspect that the boasts of grill
manufacturers and restauranteurs of 1500-1800° for broiling steaks most
likely comes from hot air. Iron begins to soften at 1530° Fahrenheit.
It is dangerous to connect a burner built for natural gas to a propane
source. Because the natural gas delivery pressure is lower, the supply
orifice is larger on natural gas burners than for propane burners.
Therefore, connecting a natural gas grill to a propane bottle can cause a
couple of unpleasant things to happen.
If not enough oxygen is available for the additional fuel to fully burn,
carbon soot and carbon monoxide - a poisonous gas - will be produced. If
enough oxygen is available for the fuel to fully burn, the flame will be
much higher than anticipated. In either case, the results can be dangerous.
Grill orifices can safely be converted from one gas to another, even though
some manufacturers deny it. They want to sell you a new grill. Some natural
gas suppliers will tell you that it costs to much because they want to sell
you a new grill. It is a simple, inexpensive task. If you need to
convert, the first step is to talk with your local gas supplier.
Replacement/conversion orifices can bought for most older grills. Modern
gas stoves have an adjustable orifice which I have never seen on a gas grill.
Gas flames should always burn clear, bright blue with, at most, a small
yellow tip. Yellow color in the flame indicates incomplete combustion and
produces deadly carbon monoxide and other polluting, but less dangerous,
compounds. Normally, the problem is caused by lack of sufficient oxygen
getting to the point of combustion . Most often this can be corrected by a
good cleaning. Refer to your owner's manual for cleaning - but not for
I recommend that the gas bottle be so located that, if there were a serious
flame up or a regulator failure (a remote possibility) allowing
uncontrolled gas flow, the bottle valve could be safely operated. On my
bottle-fired cookers, I use a 3-4' hose to connect to the bottle.
Auto-ignition systems should have either a time limit or other shut off
device which would prevent the continued release of unlit gas. Otherwise, a
deficient igniter, which takes a minute or so to generate an ignition
spark, may allow enough gas to accumulate to cause an explosion. If there
is an igniter, the grill should also have a clear, convenient passage for
lighting by other means, after the ignition system fails. Igniter systems
on gas grills have about the same life span as a fruit fly.
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Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
'According to Smoky' is © by C. Clark Hale
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