You don’t need a degree in engineering to light a gas grill, but here, too, there are a few watch points.
Lighting the Grill
First, be sure you have enough gas (that’s where the gas gauge comes in). There’s nothing worse than starting to cook a whole brisket or ham and running out of gas halfway through.
Uncover the grill, set the starting burner on high, and light it with the ignition switch (or if you have an old model, a match). Make sure the burner is lit. Most gas grills have a peephole located under the burner control knob for viewing the burner.
Should the gas fail to light after you’ve pushed the ignition switch for a few seconds, shut the grill down, wait a few minutes to let the grill air out, and then try again. Many men (myself included), lack a patience gene (not to mention a common sense gene), so I mention this for anyone falling into that category: Do not keep the gas flowing while you keep pressing a balky ignition switch. The firebox will fill with gas, and when the spark finally comes, the gas will ignite with explosive force.
Once the master burner is lit, light the others, setting all on high. Preheat the grill to the desired temperature. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t skimp on this preheating time-that’s one of the most common mistakes people make when using a gas grill. (It is best to preheat the grill to high then lower to the desired temperature.)
Direct Grilling on a Gas Grill
Set the burner dials on high and preheat the grill until the internal temperature is at least 500°F. (The temperature is usually measured at the lid level of the firebox, so it may be somewhat higher than the temperature at the grate.) You’ll probably need to light all the burners to achieve this high heat. Once the desired temperature is reached, you can shut off one or more burners if you don’t need the whole surface of the grate.
To direct-grill at medium-high heat, set the burner dials on medium-high, so that the internal temperature reaches at least 400°F.
Indirect Grilling on a Gas Grill
Nothing could be easier than setting up a gas grill for indirect grilling. You’ll need a grill with at least two heating zones (right side and left side), preferably three (front, middle, and back or left, right, and center). Preheat the grill to high, as described above.
To indirect-grill on a two-zone grill, reduce the heat on one side to medium-high or medium and turn the other side off. Place the food and drip pan (if using-many gas grills have built-in drip pans) on the off side. Adjust the gas flow so that the temperature inside the firebox stays around 350°F.
For a three-zone grill, set the front and rear (or left and right) burners on medium, leaving the center burner off. Place the food and drip pan in the center. Again, adjust the gas flow so that the temperature inside the firebox stays around 350°F.
Barbecuing on a Gas Grill
To barbecue on a two-zone grill, reduce the heat on one side to medium-low and turn the other side off. Place the food to be cooked on the off side. Adjust the gas flow so that the temperature inside the firebox stays around 275° to 300°F.
For a three-zone grill, set the front and rear (or left and right) burners on medium-low, leaving the center burner off. Place the food and drip pan in the center. Again, adjust the gas flow so that the temperature inside the firebox stays around 275° to 300°F.
Using Wood Chips on a Gas Grill
Gas grills present a special challenge for the cook who wants to add the heady flavor of wood smoke. Many gas grills are equipped with smoker boxes (a metal box with holes in it to let the smoke out), but unless the grill is operating at full blast, it doesn’t get hot enough to make the wood smolder. (This is not a problem on a charcoal grill, where the wood comes in direct contact with the glowing coals.) But if you run a gas grill on high, the temperature will be too hot for indirect grilling or barbecuing.
There is a way to get around this problem. Put all the presoaked wood chips in the smoker box and position the box directly over one of the burners. Preheat the grill to high until the smoke billows then lower the heat to the desired temperature for indirect grilling or barbecuing (or follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
If your grill lacks a smoker box, you can buy one from a grill supply shop (see Mail-Order Sources) or you can improvise one, using a small loaf pan or metal pie tin.
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