Gas Grill Parts
Three out of four American households own a grill, also known as a barbecue. Many grill components can be replaced with new parts, adding to the useful life of the grill. Though charcoal grills can sometimes require new cooking grids and charcoal grates, gas grills are much more complex, and require additional components such as burners, valves, and heat shields.
A gas grill's burner is the central source of heat for cooking food. Gas grill burners are typically constructed of
- stainless steel
- aluminized steel
- cast iron (occasionally porcelain-coated)
Burners are hollow with gas inlet holes and outlet 'ports'. For each inlet is a separate control on the control panel of the grill. Many grills have just one burner. Common configurations are referred to as dual burners, with two gas inlets and two corresponding control knobs - right and left, and single burners, having only one inlet and control. The most common type of gas grill burners are called 'H' burners and resemble the capital letter 'H' turned on its side. Another popular shape is Oval. There are also 'Figure 8', 'Bowtie' and 'Bar' burners.
Other grills (typically more expensive models) have a separate burner for each control, usually featuring three or four individual burners. These burners can be referred to as 'Pipe', 'Tube', or 'Rail' burners. They are mostly straight since they are only required to heat one portion of the grill. For example a gas grill may have 3 pipe burners which run from the front to the back of the grill - a left burner, center burner, and right burner. This allows the user the flexibility to use any combination of the three depending on the amount of food being cooked and the desired temperature.
Burners are situated at the bottom of the grill. They can have 'legs' or rest directly on the grill casting. Gas is supplied through venturi tubes or simply 'venturis'. Venturis can be permanently attached to the burner or removable. At the other end of the venturi is the gas valve, which is connected to the control knob on the front of the grill. When the user turns the knob, the valve opens, allowing gas to flow through the venturi tube and into the burner. Some burners (usually pipe style) do not require venturis and connect directly to the valve.
Because burners operate at such high temperatures (typically 300 to 650 degrees fahrenheit) and are subject to drippings from cooking meat (corrosive due to their moisture content and acidity), these crucial components are usually the first to wear out. A gas grill burner can typically operate effectively for 1 to 5 years with average usage. When the burner becomes significantly corroded, or 'rusted out', gas escapes through the corroded areas, creating 'hot spots' and making it difficult or impossible to properly cook food.
When a new burner is required, there are several possible sources. Usually the original manufacturer of the grill offers a replacement which is identical or nearly identical to the original part. This is known as an OEM part. This is a desirable option for many because the burner is known to work with their grill. However, sometimes grill manufacturers may go out of business, may not have the original replacement available (especially for older grills), or may charge a price which is deemed too high by the consumer.
Several companies manufacture 'after-market' burners which can be a suitable replacement. Though they may not be exactly like the original, they have been tested and shown to work with the grill models for which they are sold. When choosing an after-market replacement burner, there are 3 main criteria which must be met for optimal operation:
- The burner physically fits in the grill and rests evenly at the bottom of the grill
- The burner is relatively close in size to the original
- Gas can be supplied to the burner
Because of the wide variety of burner/venturi configurations, after-market parts manufacturers typically offer 'universal' venturis, which can be bent and extended to reach from the burner to the valve in order to meet the 3rd requirement above.
Cooking grids, also known as cooking grates, are the surface on which the food is cooked in a grill. They are typically made of:
- Stainless steel (Usually the most expensive and durable, may also carry a lifetime warranty)
- Porcelain-coated cast iron (The next most durable after stainless, usually thick and good for searing meat)
- Porcelain-coated steel (Will typically last as long as porcelain-coated cast iron, but not as good for searing)
- Cast Iron (More commonly used for charcoal grills, cast iron must be constantly covered with oil to protect it from rusting)
- Chrome-plated steel (Usually the least expensive and shortest-lasting material)
Unless the grid is stainless steel, the protective coating will eventually wear off and the underlying metal will begin to rust. At this time it is time for a new grid. As with burners, replacement cooking grids can be obtained from the original grill manufacturer or an after-market parts dealer.
Though some refer to a cooking grid's front to back dimension as 'width' and the side to side dimension as 'length', proper terminology defines the 'depth' of a cooking grid as measured from to front back and the 'width' as measured from side to side. When looking for a replacement cooking grid, the grid's depth is the most crucial dimension. A typical rule of thumb is that the depth must be within 3/8" of the depth of the original grid to fit properly. The width is less critical, and can be shorter that the original, simply reducing the amount of cooking area.
Rock grates are placed directly above the burner and are designed to hold lava rock or ceramic briquettes. These materials serve a dual purpose - they protect the burner from drippings which can accelerate the deterioration of the burner, and they disperse the heat from the burner more evenly throughout the grill.
Rock grates are one of the least expensive replacement parts for a grill. Because they do not hold food, they do not need to be protected from rust like cooking grids. Therefore, they are typically constructed of carbon steel which will start to rust almost immediately. A rock grate is useful until it rusts completely through and no longer holds rock.
Heat shields are also known as burner shields, heat plates, heat tents, radiation shields, heat angles, or flavor grids. They serve the same purpose as a rock grate + rock, protecting the burner from corrosive meat drippings and dispersing heat. They are more common in newer grills.
Some advantages of heat shields over rock:
- They do not harbor bacteria
- They are not as heavy
- They are easier to replace
It is also claimed by some that they vaporize the drippings and 'infuse' the meat with more flavor, though it is debatable if there is any difference in this regard to rock. Many users still prefer rock over heat shields.
Valves can wear out or become rusted and too difficult to operate, thus requiring replacement. A valve is unlike a burner in that a replacement usually must match exactly to the original in order to fit properly. Therefore, many grills are disposed of when valves fail, due to a lack of available replacements.
If a valve seems to be moving properly, but no gas is getting to the burner, the most common cause for this is spider webs or other debris in the venturi. This impediment can be cleared by using a long flexible object.
With the exception of cast aluminum, all grill posts will eventually rust through and need to be replaced. If an exact replacement cannot be obtained, holes can sometimes be drilled in a post with the same diameter as the original where required to mount the grill head.
Grills contain many other less essential parts, such as handles, heat gauges, warming racks, condiment trays, and more. As a general rule, the less critical the part, the more likely that it will only be available from the original grill manufacturer.
How to Decide When to Replace a Grill
Each user will need to determine the most cost effective option for his or her situation. If the total of the replacement parts required is more than a new grill, by all means buying a new grill is the best option. If the casting (the actual body of the grill) is corroded or significantly warped, buy a new grill. Almost all other parts can be replaced on most grills.
There are dozens of grill manufacturers. Some build grills designed to be kept for many years, and as such provide replacement parts and make the grills compatible with industry standards. Usually manufacturing their grills in the United States, some examples of these manufacturers are Modern Home Products and Broilmaster. These grills are typically more expensive and not available at large home improvement warehouse stores or discount chains. However, they tend to last a very long time, sometimes as much as 30 years or more.
Other grill companies sell models which may have many of the parts manufactured at low costs in Asia. This allows the grills to be sold for less, but can also mean that original replacement parts will be hard to find or not available at all. Examples of these manufacturers are Char-Broil and Vermont Castings.
There are currently two U.S. companies manufacturing after-market grill parts for a wide variety of grill models:
These manufacturers do not sell directly to the public, and customers must go through a dealer in order to obtain parts. Local retail shops can sometimes provide these products. There are also many websites selling gas grill parts. A few examples are: