Summer is almost here, and for many people, that means it’s time to fire up the backyard grill. That can be a relief, as it can mean less mess in your kitchen (as well as less heat in your house!), and it’s a fast way to serve a delicious meal to a larger group of people if you’re entertaining. Besides, whatever your food preferences, there’s something special about juicy burgers, succulent steaks or grilled veggies cooked to perfection on an outdoor barbecue.
Like anything else, though, not all barbecue grills are created equal. There are differences not only in taste (and only you know which you like best) but also with respect to energy efficiency. What’s the most energy-efficient grill? First, we need to look at various types of grills:
Second, let’s look at your immediate objective. Are you in the market for a barbecue and trying to decide which you’d like to purchase by evaluating the difference between propane and natural gas grills? Or are you considering an electric? In this comparative guide, we’ll look at the differences among propane, natural gas and electric grills.
Traditionally, people tend to think that an electric grill offers the least-authentic barbecue flavor, so that might be a big consideration in your electric vs. gas grill decision. You might not be looking for the most energy-efficient grill but rather the one that offers the best taste, and that’s a worthwhile rationale.
Some food enthusiasts maintain that there’s no comparison between an electric and a gas grill when it comes to barbecue flavor. After all, an electric can’t get that open flame that you can achieve with gas.
But in lots of ways, an electric grill is safer, and if you’re someplace more indoors or close to a building (in a garage, for example, or on an apartment balcony), an electric grill could be the only safe choice.
Also, depending on your location and access to natural gas lines, you may have limited options in gas grills. Cost may be another important consideration: Natural gas grills are slightly cheaper than their electric counterparts, which can require quite a bit of power.
Gas grills are the most commonly sold grills today. If the choice is a gas grill vs. electric grill, either might suit your needs, but a gas grill arguably confers better flavor to your food. Still, an examination of the pros and cons can help you decide between the two.
In mulling over propane vs. natural gas grill options, there are a few factors to consider. For instance, where do you live? Natural gas grilling might not even be available to you if there isn’t a convenient natural gas line. Often, if you live outside a municipality, there’s no direct access to natural gas. If there is, natural gas can be both more convenient and more cost-effective than propane.
There’s not much of a difference between propane and natural gas grills when it comes to food quality and taste. The bigger consideration when it comes to propane vs. natural gas grill use is energy and cost. You can purchase propane in a tank at most convenience stores, gas stations or supermarkets. If you’re using natural gas, you purchase from the gas company and the line connects your source directly to your grill. What are some other differences?
Still, if the choice is propane vs. natural gas grill and which would best meet your needs, bear one thing in mind: Most propane grills can be converted to natural gas with a few adjustments. The gas company will be able to advise you which parts are necessary to make the switch. So, if you’ve already purchased a propane grill but are considering natural gas, it’s usually possible to convert.
Comparing gas vs. electric grill cost efficiency, the average electric grill uses 1,250 watts. How much money you’re actually spending will depend on the rate you pay for electricity. It’s easier to determine the cost of your barbecuing if you’re using a propane grill because you know exactly how much you paid for the liquid propane at the store.
If you’re leaning toward gas in the gas grill vs. electric grill question, you might want to consider the associated costs. Because we’re talking about two different types of energy, it’s hard to evaluate cost; it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. But here’s a start in determining what would be the lowest-cost and most energy-efficient grill:
Still, if you’re comparing gas vs. electric grill efficiency, there are really two main costs for electric: the cost of the grill itself and the cost of the electric energy. If you’re grilling once or twice a week (but not every day) then you might find that it’s less expensive to use a gas grill vs. an electric grill. Generally, one unit of gas is about three to four times less expensive than one unit of electricity. Gas grills also heat faster, which means that they use less energy per unit of cooking time.
If flavor is your only concern, charcoal is the clear winner in any grill discussion. Charcoal smoke enhances flavors in a way natural gas, electric and propane grills can’t match. Charcoal barbecues aren’t nearly as commonplace as they used to be, however, in part because it has been shown that charcoal burns much more carbon than the alternatives.
Large items take much longer to cook than smaller pieces of food. For instance, a whole chicken takes longer to grill than a chicken thigh. You can save energy by cutting food into smaller pieces before grilling — and you’ll have food on the table faster too.
Don’t fall into the trap of turning up the heat to cook food faster. Doing so increases the risk of burning the outside of the food and ruining dinner. Instead, set up part of your grill as a high-heat zone to sear food like vegetables, and use a low-heat zone to finish cooking.
Many people cook with the grill lid open so they can watch for signs of overcooking. Doing so dissipates heat into the surrounding air, reducing grilling temperature and wasting energy. Cook with the lid down for consistent temperatures.
The modern grill comes with plenty of additional features, including warming areas, side burners and infrared burners. To conserve energy, turn off these features when you’re not using them. If you’re concerned with food getting cold, take it off the grill and keep it warm in a microwave or oven until you’re ready to eat.
Turn off your grill as soon as you’re finished cooking: Letting it run without food just burns energy. For safety with gas and propane grills, use the shut-off valve when the grill isn’t in use. This reduces the risk of children accidentally turning the grill on.
Bonus tip: No matter what kind of grill you use, provide yourself with adequate lighting if you’re cooking after the sun sets. Solar lighting systems and outdoor automatic lights provide the illumination you need to whip up a meal on those hot summer nights.
So, what’s your preference? Do you insist on the flavor that comes from a gas grill, or do you like the portability of an electric? Share your comments below. We’d love to hear what you think! And regardless of your grill preference, you can find other ways to save on home appliance energy use. Remember to check back here often for more home energy efficiency tips. And in the meantime, fire up the grill, crack open a cold drink and grab your grilling utensils — summer awaits!
Whatever your energy needs, we've got a plan for you
The unplugging-appliances-to-save-energy myth is actually not a myth at all. If you’re wondering whether unplugging appliances saves electricity, here are some answers.