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What is a Good BTU When Choosing a Gas Grill?

What is a Good BTU When Choosing a Gas Grill?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of how much heat a grill can produce. So, the higher the BTU rating is, the better, right? After all, isn’t that what you look for when buying a gas grill? Well, not exactly.

Many grilling enthusiasts say that choosing a grill based on the BTU is overrated. To others, it's the most important factor to consider when buying one. The reality is, the truth lies somewhere in between.

So, what is a good BTU for a gas grill? Does it even matter? This guide will put the matter to rest once and for all.

BTU Rating – What the Numbers Truly Mean

BTU ratings can be a tad bit deceptive, to put it mildly. The BTU of your grill is a reflection of the total heat output of all burners per hour. This number, however, is reserved for the main or primary burners – the ones located directly beneath the cooking grate.

Many manufacturers also include the BTU of the side burners, smoker burners, and even the rotisserie to make you believe that a grill is more powerful than it is. The truth is a BTU value is meaningless unless you know the total area of the primary cooking surface itself.

Think of it this way. A typical gas stove has different sized burners – a large one and a smaller one. If you place a large pan with a massive diameter on the smallest burner, the heat on the pan will likely be concentrated at the center. The outer parts of it will be considerably cooler.

If you were to make a large pancake on it, the center would most likely become charred before the outer parts cook all the way through. So, regardless of how high the BTU of a burner is, it is not a true reflection of the stove’s cooking power given how large the cooking surface (which in this case is the pan) is.

What Is a Good BTU for a Gas Grill?

To get a better idea of what a good BTU is when choosing a gas grill, you need to divide the total BTU of the primary burners by the total cooking area in square-footage in inches. Here’s an example to better understand this.

If you come across a gas grill that has four primary burners with a total of 40,000 BTUs and a primary cooking area that measures 450 square feet, to get the total BTU per square inch simply calculate:

40,000 BTU ÷ 450 square inches = 88.89 BTUs per square inch

This is an excellent rating and shows that your gas grill has the potential to be a real force to be reckoned with. The rule of thumb when choosing a gas grill based on the BTU rating (regardless of the size of the cooking area) is that the above calculation should not yield a figure that's below 80 BTUs. Anything between 80 and 100 BTUs per square inch is good enough.

How Important Is BTU in Barbecuing?

One thing you need to be aware of is that bigger doesn’t always mean better. The higher the BTU is, the more gas you grill will use. If you buy a grill that has one giant burner or multiple burners that can’t be individually controlled, it will use up gas ridiculously fast, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Unless you’re buying a gas grill for a commercial kitchen that needs high-level BTUs to cook for hundreds of people every day, home-use grills don’t require that level of cooking power.

Buy a grill that has just the right number of BTUs you need to get the job done. Additionally, today’s grills are more energy-efficient than older models. A high BTU rating is great and all, but not necessary if all you intend to use your grill for is barbecuing meat for your family of five.

Other Factors to Consider

A high BTU is of no use if the materials used to build the grill are of low quality and inefficient when it comes to heat retention. You would rather have a gas grill with a lower BTU rating but is better at trapping and retaining heat than buying one with a high rating but loses heat quickly. A grill with heavier construction and a tightly fitting lid would yield better cooking results.

Beyond BTUs – Overall Performance Matters

What is a good BTU for a gas grill? At the end of the day, it all boils down to what your grilling habits are. If you regularly host hordes of people in your home for backyard barbecues, then you need a gas grill with a higher-than-average BTU that’s capable of cooking up a feast.

While 80 to 100 BTUs are great for a home-use grill, this shouldn't be the only deciding factor when choosing one. Its overall performance, particularly when it comes to heat retention and quality are factors you can’t afford to ignore.

Does your gas grill have a flame tamer? Check out our blog to find out what it is and why you might need one.