Once you’ve decided to buy a gas grill, you’ll have to choose between natural gas and liquid propane.
While there aren’t a lot of differences in how each type of grill cooks, there are pros and cons for each. Let’s review them to decide which is better for you and your lifestyle.
Natural gas vs liquid propane grill: what’s the difference?
Propane and natural gas are both non-toxic and colorless gas types. Natural gas comes from underground pipelines. It’s methane pressurized into liquid form from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, propane is a hydrocarbon gas.
Let’s start with the main difference between the two gas types. Natural gas comes from your property’s main gas supply. So, if your home has a gas stovetop, guess what? You can typically install a natural gas grill. Some modern houses already have the exterior gas connection waiting patiently outside.
Propane is a liquid gas stored in metal tanks often found at local hardware stores, gas stations, and grocery stores. You attach it to the grill, and it’s portable compared to the immovable natural gas grill.
Propane burns at around 2,500 BTUs (British thermal unit) per cubic foot of gas consumed, compared to natural gas burning about 1,000 BTUs per cubic foot. But this doesn’t necessarily mean propane gas is better.
It just means that while natural gas technically doesn’t burn as hot as propane, it generally produces the same amount of heat thanks to specific valves installed in most grills. Most people don’t notice any difference.
Easy to use
One thing these gas grills have in common is that they’re easier to start than charcoal grills, as they both use electric starters. They’re also easier to clean, as gas burns cleaner than a charcoal grill. So, there are no ashes to dispose of and less product baked onto your grill grates.
The price for the actual gas grill is very similar. While you can find some affordable propane gas grills (mostly tabletop grills), you’re typically looking anywhere from $250 to $2500.
Both natural gas and propane tanks are readily available worldwide.
There isn’t a significant difference in flavor between natural gas and propane. It’s all odorless and tasteless gas, delivering the same taste results.
Natural gas pros and cons
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a natural gas grill.
- Affordability: Natural gas generally costs a third of what liquid propane does in the long term. The cost is simply added to your monthly gas bill, fluctuating depending on current market conditions.
- Convenience: You’ll always have fuel once you hook up your natural gas. Having no tanks to exchange or worry about is also very convenient.
- Slightly more environmentally friendly: Natural gas is only marginally cleaner than propane. But it emits less harmful toxins into the air. It’s also better in the long run, considering tank wastage. You need to buy a propane tank; if you can’t get a refill, you’ll need to buy a replacement. Natural gas is also much cleaner compared to wood-burning or charcoal grills.
- Immovable: There’s zero flexibility because natural gas grills are connected to your home. There’s only one place it can fit, and that’s that! In comparison, propane grills give you the flexibility to go anywhere. What happens if you move house and your new property doesn’t have an exterior natural gas connection? You can’t use your grill, and it’ll be costly to install it.
- Inflexible: You can’t use a natural gas grill with a liquid propane tank and vice versa. However, some brands do sell conversion kits.
- Need a connection: Using a natural gas grill requires a natural gas line. This is a pro if your home already has an exterior gas outlet. But if not, you must pay for an extension, which can be expensive depending on your gas tank’s location. It’ll be more expensive again if your home doesn’t have an existing gas connection. In fact, HomeAdvisor estimates the cost of installing a natural gas grill anywhere from $350 to $1,716. So, refilling propane tanks might be more cost-effective in the long run compared to these setup costs.
Liquid propane pros and cons
Here are the pros and cons of investing in a liquid propane gas grill.
- Flexibility: One of the best things about propane grills is their freestanding flexibility. You can make the move easily with a portable propane grill, as there’s no gas or electricity hookup. Roll your grill away from your home, take it camping, or even tailgating.
- Slightly more efficient: Liquid propane gas is somewhat more efficient than natural gas as it contains more energy. Because it heats up quicker thanks to its higher pressure, less is needed to produce the same amount of heat as natural gas.
- No upfront costs: All you need is a propane tank, and you’re good to go! There’s no need to worry about those often steep upfront natural gas costs.
- Can run out: Unlike natural gas, you can unexpectedly run out of fuel with propane grills. We always recommend keeping a spare bottle on hand in case of emergencies. You can also purchase a propane tank gauge that can help indicate the amount of fuel left.
- Expense: Depending on where you live, a 20-pound liquid propane tank can cost around $40 to $50. When it runs out, you’ll either need to refill it for $3 to $4 per gallon or exchange it for $4 to $5 per gallon.
- More dangerous: Look, all gas has its dangers. However, more accidents occur with propane tanks versus natural gas connections. You must also maintain your propane tank. It can deteriorate over time and produce leaks. If you’re ever worried about a leak, spray soapy water around the tank’s neck. If it bubbles excessively, contact a gas specialist; you probably have a gas leak.
Can I use natural gas on a propane grill?
No, you can’t use natural gas on a propane grill, and you shouldn’t try, as it’ll put you in unnecessary danger. But conversion kits are available to convert propane into a natural gas grill and vice versa. We recommend getting a gas specialist to help with any conversions.
Natural gas versus propane grill: which is better?
We honestly don’t think there’s a clear winner between natural gas and propane grills. It comes down to personal preferences and your home’s compatibility.
Choose natural gas if:
- You already have a natural gas hookup available.
- You live in a state with a high natural gas supply (the top three are Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana).
- You don’t mind the immovability.
Here are our favorite natural gas grills if this is your winning choice.
Choose liquid propane if:
- You want flexibility and portability.
- You’re currently renting.
- You want less upfront costs.
The Victory 3-Burner Propane Grill is a great mid-range option.
Consider your needs, lifestyle, and the listed pros and cons to make the best decision for you.