Gas BBQ: Propane vs Natural Gas

A woman grilling in an outdoor kitchen.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 1500
What You'll Need
BBQ Grill Propane Gas Grill Propane tank
What You'll Need
BBQ Grill Propane Gas Grill Propane tank

If you're in the market for a new barbecue grill, you may be trying to decide what option to go with. But, before you start reading online reviews for specific models, you need to decide whether to go with a gas or a propane grill. Take a look at the pros and cons of each type so that you can make an informed decision.

Understanding Propane Barbecues

Approximately 60 percent of grills on the market are fueled by liquid propane. The propane comes in a portable tank that fits underneath or beside your grill. The tanks can be refilled by qualified personnel at a gas station, or you can buy pre-filled tanks.

The tank connects directly to your barbecue with a connector or valve that looks similar to those used on garden hoses. Before using it, you must decompress the propane by turning a valve that releases the gas and distributes it to the burners. A spark from an instant igniter creates a flame and heats the gas to create a hot cooking surface.

The most common size is a 20-pound tank, which provides about 25 hours of cooking time.

Propane Barbecue Benefits

  • They're more convenient to use because they're portable. The propane tank can easily be detached and transported as needed with the barbecue.
  • Propane provides 2500 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per unit volume, which is higher than the 1,000 BTUs natural gas provides in the same unit size.
  • Propane is environmentally friendly in that it does not contain lead, creates low greenhouse gas emissions, and produces water vapor and carbon dioxide, which are both found naturally in the environment.

Propane Barbecue Disadvantages

  • Propane is more expensive than natural gas.
  • Propane gas BBQs create a wet heat. It can sometimes change the texture of the food being cooked.
  • Propane, like natural gas, ignites easily. But it's heavier than air and stays concentrated and dangerous for longer periods of time than natural gas, which dissipates easily because it's lighter than air.

Understanding Natural Gas BBQs

Natural gas BBQs cook food in the same way as propane barbecues, but your gas source is attached to your house. Your grill needs to be plugged into a gas line from your house to access the fuel, which is then rerouted to the burners through a special hose on your grill. The burners are then ignited by a spark from an electronic igniter.

Natural Gas Barbecue Benefits

  • Fuel is automatically provided, so you won't run out even during the biggest barbecues.
  • Natural gas is cheaper than propane. It typically costs typically 1/6 as much as propane.
  • Natural gas is classified as a greenhouse gas. Propane is not, even though it is also an environmentally-friendly fuel.

Natural Gas BBQ Disadvantages

  • The location of your BBQ will be fixed. You will not be able to move it from one end of your deck or patio to the other, although a long, flexible gas pipe can give you some mobility.
  • Professional installation is required to use a natural gas BBQ, and the initial cost of gas plumbing can be expensive.
  • Natural gas barbecue models are more expensive than propane ones.