Summer time means grilling. Steaks. Burgers. Fish. Veggies and more. If you’re thinking about buying a new grill, the first key question is whether you go with the convenience of gas or go old school like dad and grandpa and use charcoal. It is a passionate debate for the ages, and we aren’t going to get into it here.
Rather, we will talk to those of you who prefer gas, and discuss the pros and cons of natural gas vs. propane.
First the arguments for natural gas.
You never run out. The direct natural gas line means you have an endless supply of natural gas, making it super convenient. No annoying gas cutoff in the middle of grilling. Of course, this assumes you have a natural gas line to connect to the grill.
Economical. Natural gas is cheaper than propane…about 1/6th the cost. Propane tanks in Chicago’s North Shore can run more than $20. If you grill a few times a week or more, it probably makes sense to install a gas line even if it does cost you a little bit to connect (and by the way, please hire a plumber to make the connection; this isn’t a DIY project).
Eco-friendly. Natural gas burns cleaner, even though both natural gas and propane have relatively low carbon dioxide emissions. And since natural gas burns cleaner, natural gas grills can be easier to clean.
Portable. You can move the tank anywhere. A grill connected to a natural gas line cannot be moved. And yes, while the propane may run out mid-grill, there is no law that says you can’t have a second tank nearby. You can also buy a grill with a gauge that lets you know when you run low.
Low upfront costs. While natural gas is less expensive to use, you may have high upfront installation costs. Also, grills that use propane tend to be a little cheaper. So if you only grill a little, this is the way to go.
Hotter. Propane burns hotter. It burns at about 2,500 BTUs, compared to 1,000 BTUs for natural gas grills. Many people feel this results in a superior barbecue experience.
Less effect on taste. This could be the tie-breaker for true grilling aficionados. The odorant emitted from natural gas could affect the taste.
No matter which way you go, check the grill’s warranty and the type of metal from which it is made. A good grill can last several years, so spend a little more for higher quality. Also make sure you cover the grill when you are not using it, especially in the winter.