Note: I’ll explain everything in excruciating detail. If you’re in a hurry or don’t like reading long texts, then skip to the summary (video included).
Congratulations on being the owner of a new gas grill!
You’ve assembled it and are eager to make your first burgers. You set up the ingredients, utensils, and other things you think you’d need, including the “kiss the BBQ chef” apron, but suddenly you stop in front of the grill and ask yourself: “How to start it? How to use it? Am I doing this right?”.
Well, first of all, don’t be scared. It happens to every newcomer, even me.
When I was first using a gas grill, it was awkward. It was VERY awkward as didn’t have the internet (nor anyone else for that matter) to assist me.
I don’t want any future griller to experience the same things as I did, so I’ve made this handy how to use a gas grill for the first time guide: step-by-step and in detail.
How to Use a Gas Grill for the First Time
1. Double Check the Assembly
It sounds absurd, but you’d be surprised at the number of grilling adventures that failed for the first time because the grill itself wasn’t assembled correctly.
The first thing you want to do is double-check your grill.
Make sure that it is put together correctly, and especially make sure that it is sturdy.
A metal box is designed to hold fire, and it can’t do its job well if it is wobbling all over the place – and if this is the case, a (house) fire is sure to happen!
What to Do if Your Grill Is Wobbly
If your grill isn’t stable, it’s critical to correct this before starting grilling.
If the grill isn’t a full-sized unit but more of a portable unit, find a better table or resting surface.
If it’s the grill itself that’s wobbling, try to find something that isn’t flammable such as a metal door stopper or bricks.
If you can’t find anything that’s stable, don’t use the grill. Wait with cooking until you solve this problem first.
If the grill is stable, but the whole grilling cart is wobbly, then try your grill on a flat surface, and then inside a gravel pit, and find whatever works best to keep your grill still.
This way you will be more confident to use your grill safely.
Does a Grill Need to Be Level?
Yes, and for many reasons.
The grill not being level results in uneven heating as the heat moves to the highest point of the grill.
Grease collecting pans aren’t usually deep, so they may overflow. This presents a bigger challenge if you have a griddle.
Another reason is safety: a tilted grill has a better chance of falling over than a level one. In this case not only it would mean the end of the cookout but also a fire hazard.
2. Check the Connections
Yeah yeah, you want to light your grill! Hold your horses; you’re almost there.
You need to perform one last vital check: that the propane canister is hooked up correctly and that isn’t leaking.
Check for Leaks
Make sure that the propane tank is secure and gently turn the valve on.
How Can You Tell if Your Propane Tank Is Leaking?
With a spray bottle, spray some water and dish-soap solution onto the valve and gas hose.
If it bubbles, there’s a leak. If there are no bubbles, you’re set to go.
If you don’t have a spray bottle, use a paintbrush instead.
Should I Smell Gas From My Grill?
Once you fire up the burners expect a smell. In other cases, no.
If you smell gas (i.e. rotten eggs) before, during, or after grilling, you have a leak, and immediately stop cooking.
Is a Leaking Propane Tank Dangerous?
If you’ve got a leakage, you don’t want to proceed – you’d light the whole grill on fire, and anything else in its vicinity.
What Do You Do if You Smell Propane?
You need to go to the hardware store and get a new hose or swap out your faulty propane tank.
All parts should be pretty easy to fit on, as most grills are made with the knowledge that in some climates these hoses don’t fare well, so they’re made to swap out easily.
3. Prep It
How Do You Prepare a Gas Grill for the First Time?
- Preheat the grill to remove any residue from the manufacturing process
- If you spot some debris after, then give the grill a good brush
- Season the grates: clean them, apply some oil or cooking spray, and turn on the grill for about 15 – 20 minute or until you see smoke
- if the grates are porcelain-enameled, skip this turn
4. Fire It up
Finally, the fun part you’ve been waiting for.
Now that you’re sure that your grill isn’t a fireball but just a regular cooker, it’s time to light the grill.
How to Start a Gas Grill for the First Time
Make sure the valve to the gas is turned on and activate the grill’s lighter.
Some grills have push buttons, some have strikers when you turn the temperature knob, and some require manual lighting.
What to Do if Your Grill Doesn’t Light
If you’ve turned on the gas and tried to ignite it with an electronic lighter or internal mechanism of the grill but it didn’t light, then turn off the grill and wait a few minutes for the gas fumes to dissipate.
If you try to light it right away, the grill will more or less likely explode into flames because of excess gas around the grill from not lighting the first time correctly.
What Do You Do When Your Grill Won’t Light?
If your grills’ lighter is not working at all, then you’ll have to light your grill manually, i.e. with a match or a lighter.
The Lighter Method
Can You Use a Lighter to Start a Propane Grill?
If the grills’ igniter isn’t functioning, then yes.
With a long reach lighter, open the gas valve and ignite the lighter near the burners.
Most grills have a hole for just this case.
If yours doesn’t have one, then lift the grates and ignite the burners.
Is It Safe to Light a Gas Grill With a Lighter?
If you use a conventional cigarette lighter, there’s a chance you might burn your fingers. Other than that, you’re fine.
The Match Method
Can You Light a Gas Grill With a Match?
Most gas grills come equipped with a match holder.
Use it to safely start the grill.
How Do You Light a Gas Grill With a Match?
- Place a match in it and fire it up
- Place the match between the grates and near the burners
- Open the valve and voila – let there be fire
What Is a Lighting Hook for Gas Grill?
This hook-like gizmo holds the match so that you can safely ignite the grill.
Why Will My Gas Grill Not Light?
It could be that the grill is defective, or that you forgot a step in assembly or set-up.
For the former, you’ll need to gather your warranty and support information and inform the manufacturer of the problem.
5. After the Cookout
Are You Supposed to Turn off Propane Tank After Grilling?
After you’ve finished cooking, turn off the tank.
Also, I like to clean the grill at this point because it makes me happy to see the wisps of smoke as I brush off the excess
It’s also easier to clean it then than after it cools down.
What Happens if You Leave a Propane Tank On?
If you fully turned off the burner valves and the grill is in tip-top shape (there’s no leak), nothing.
If you didn’t completely close the burner valves, the propane will dissipate into the air and you’ll be surprised next time when you fire up the grill that the tank is empty.
The same thing happens if there’s a leak. But there’s a twist: if you fire up the grill, there’s a chance of an explosion.
In any case, just turn the tank off when you’re done cooking.
It’s not really hard, just a few twists of the wrist.
There’s no sense compromising the safety of you, your loved ones, and your possessions because of this minuscule safety precaution.
What to Do With the Propane Tank
Where to put the propane tank gets a lot of people into a problematic spot.
Now, the grill itself can stay outside in the shade or you can store it in a shed or something similar. I always recommend a grill cover to protect your investment, though.
But the propane tank always has to be outside.
It can’t go inside, even in a shed. The reason for this is because if the tank leaks, it’s outdoors where it can mix in the air and dilute faster rather than becoming concentrated in a small, trapped area.
Is It OK to Leave Propane Tank Attached to Grill?
There’s nothing wrong with leaving the tank attached to the grill as long as you close it when you’re done cooking.
Is It Bad to Lay a Propane Tank on Its Side?
For the sake of transport, yes. If you’re just cooking, then this doesn’t present any threat.
Why must the tank be upright when being transported? Because if something happens to the valve (for example, the tank rolls while making a turn and the valve hits something), there’s a big chance it might explode.
A Quick Summary
- Check the grill if it’s assembled correctly
- Secure the grill if it’s wobbling
- Check for leaks
- Clean and season the grates
- Fire up the grill to remove any debris and residue left behind by the assembly and manufacturing process
- Start cooking. Burn baby, burn
- After cooking, close off the valves and store the grill and the propane tank in a dry and dark location
For all you visual learners out there:
A Few Words on Maintenance
You always want to make sure your grill is at least reasonably clean before you start grilling.
While it is true that some organic material will be burnt off like a self-cleaning oven, all of it certainly won’t be, and the flammable, organic residue presents a huge problem.
Make sure that every time you cook on your grill, there isn’t caked in grease or other fire hazards.
You don’t want your entire grill erupting in flames!
While you make sure if your grill is ready for use, you should check the grease trap and empty it out. You should also give it a quick wipe down before placing the trap back in.
A trap that is overly full will leak out onto the ground beneath you, and onto the grill, too.
Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that the trap is fine, but it can overflow faster than they might think.
A Few Words on Gas Leakage
Is It Possible to Have a Gas Leak and Not Smell It?
If you have a clogged nose or got your gas from a suspicious supplier, then yes.
Jokes aside, both natural gas and propane have a distinct smell: the smell of rotting eggs.
Both gases are odorless in their natural state, but the utility company, the supplier, and other people responsible for manufacturing and distributing gas add the smell for safety reasons.
This smell is called Mercaptan or Methanethiol.
Although it makes you want to puke, it’s completely harmless.
What Should You Not Do When You Smell Gas?
The first thing you shouldn’t do in an event like this is to have a smoke break.
The spark from the lighter or match is an accident waiting to happen.
Smoking really kills in this case.
As such, you shouldn’t use any sort of appliance or other things that could cause a spark and/or flame.
How Do You Fix a Leaking Gas Grill?
The fastest and hassle-free option is to just replace the part that’s making the leak:
- The propane tank
If you spot a leak around a nut, try tightening it before you choose to replace it.
You might be able to fix these components, but this is beyond the scope of this guide.
It Might Look Intimidating, but It’s Actually Simple
I hope this guide helped you to understand how you should deal with your gas grill properly.
It’s not actually hard; there are just a few more safety checks than with a pellet or charcoal grill to make sure that everything is sound.
Now that you know what you’re doing, you can strut your stuff and show off that delicious BBQ!
What was your first gas grill? Show me the model in the comment section below.
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