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Cooking Steaks on a Natural Gas Barbecue

By way of a little history, I used to own a propane fueled barbecue and when I cooked steaks I would turn the barbecue onto high and then typically cook my steaks 5 or so minutes a side with the lid closed and Bob's your uncle.
I have now recently purchased a new natural gas fueled barbecue and have been experimenting with cooking the steaks with the lid open (trying to emulate cooking them on a grill as opposed to a oven) and perhaps not surpriseingly it takes forever to cook the steaks.
Using my new method, my steaks still taste pretty good but as mentioned above they take forever and so I am asking the collective wisdom of my fellow Chowhounds whether I should go back to my tried and true method? My suspicion is that the fire produced by natural gas is just not hot enough for a "grill" and that I am stuck with perhaps a combination of cooking with the lid open and closed.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. According to supposed experts I've read, the grilled flavor on gas grills comes from the smoke generated by burning fat. With the lid up, a lot of the smoke flavor will be gone with the wind.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mpalmer6c

      NYC steakhouses have broilers that reach up to 1800 degrees...some brag on how high they are. Impossible to duplicate this at home on a residential stove or broiler, but: cook on real charcoal on a grill and you will never again try to cook a steak on a propoane grill. (PS: barbecue is usually pork, slowly smoked, primarily in a pit, not to be confused with a grill)

    2. Go back to your old method to see if you get the results you want....
      Is the Btu output/rating of the new appliance the same as the old one..?
      Have you considered a small charcoal grill just for grilling...?

      1. Leaving the grill lid open will not add any grill flavor it will just take longer to cook. Go back to your old method. Keeping the lid closed may produce an oven effect to some degree but it also keeps the grates hot.
        If you want more flavor add a few wood chips when grilling.

        1. My guess is that it may be the BTUs, and not the natural gas, that's causing the difference in your grilling experience.

          1 Reply
          1. re: CindyJ

            correct....High on 1 grill doesn't mean the same "High" on another.

            also what's the grilling surface material?

          2. I'm not sure why you think there would be a difference between natural gas and propane in grilling. It shouldn't change the way/method you cook things, the only difference would be due to changing grills, i.e., your new grill might run hotter or colder than your last grill. The same changes would need to be if you simply got a new propane grill.

            1. Check the BTU output of the grill - that's the metric to compare. Propane has 47.5 BTU per gram (and for chemist out there, is a 3 carbon chain - C3H8).

              Natural gas is a mix - mostly methane (1 carbon - CH4) with some propane, ethane (2 carbons) and butane (4 carbons) - so its not exactly an specific thing to measure against, BUT since its mostly methane, it has a bit less energy per gram than pure propane.

              However, you can just use MORE of it to provide heat over the same span of time, so it really depends on how they've designed the grill.

              1. And the oven effects can't be that high.. my grill temp gauge gets up to 400 or so, but the surface of the grill would be much hotter, and its not like the steak is in there a whole lot. Restaurant grills can get away with not being covered because 1) they can pump a lot more heat in quickly, and 2) there is so much flipping and stuff that covering it would be a waste and an impediment to the line chef. However, if you want smoke flavor, you do have to have it covered, usually with half the grill on low to allow for smoke to be pulled over the meat while still having it cook indirectly. Note - this is NOT how you cook a steak, more of a roast technique. I did a great tri-tip roast using this method.

                1. My barbeque is hooked up to the house gas. Other than the convenience of not having to change the propane tank, I don't see much difference between the two fuels. Yes, I do prefer charcoal, but the convenience of our gas grill right outside of the kitchen lets me barbeque virtually year-round.

                  When I make steaks, I usually marinate them in light soy and garlic powder (maybe not truely chowish, but my daughter & I love it). Just before I put them on the grill, I dry them off as well as possible. I grill them on high (usually goes over 800 degrees when I preheat it). I find the flame generated from the dripping fat really makes the flavor, and dry steaks char faster than wet ones. If they cook too fast, I just move them away from the flame.

                  BTW, I prefer my steak rare, and usually, I can get a char & still cook it properly.