7 Ways to Conserve Propane & Save Money While You Grill
Running out of propane while grilling is never a good thing. You have to abandon half-cooked food, leave behind the good times you’ve cultivated at the cookout, and hightail it to the nearest grocery or hardware store to make an exchange. As bellies begin rumbling more intensely and food languishes on rapidly cooling grill grates, you’re stuck swapping out propane tanks. And worst of all, you missed Jim telling a joke that still had everyone in stitches when you returned! Now there’ll be references every time the group gets together, and you’ll be left wondering if you really understand what was so funny in the first place. We guess you just had to be there.
The thing is, that’s not even the worst-case scenario. Let’s say the above situation plays out exactly as described — thanks a lot, Jim! — only during a nationwide propane crisis causing skyrocketing fuel prices and possibly even shortages in some areas. Unfortunately, that’s not just a crazy hypothetical: industry experts predict high propane costs and low supply as we head into winter 2021–22, making propane conservation more important than ever. But instead of giving up the gas grill until things settle down (could you imagine?), we want to help you keep on grilling with our top tips for conserving propane and keeping more dollars in your wallet. Because as someone who’s Born to Grill™, not even a fuel fiasco can deter you from your calling.
The 2021 Propane Crisis: Higher Costs, Possible Shortages
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s talk a bit more about why propane conservation should be at the top of your priorities this year. Experts expect supply issues based on 2 factors: our current barrel stock, which is reportedly well below the previous 5-year average, and our rate of export, which has ballooned amid global economic recovery following the first effects of COVID-19 in 2020. Factor in what should be increased heating demands during colder-than-average fall and winter seasons, and propane prices are projected to climb even higher with potential shortages in certain parts of the country.
The proof is already here. Fuel costs are sitting at 7-year highs in some spots, while the US Energy and Information Administration warns that “the 5% of U.S. households that heat primarily with propane will spend 54% more — 94% more in a colder winter and 29% more in a warmer winter.” Add it all together, and it could be a propane-ful situation for your grilling habits unless you take serious steps to preserve fuel.
Propane Conservation Tips
Apologies for all the doom and gloom above, but now we’re going to look at what you can do about it! The tips detailed here are all simple and straightforward, with a few recommendations that are best practices no matter how the gas industry is faring. Even if you live in a region where you have to winterize your backyard and won’t be doing any outdoor cooking during the height of the anticipated propane shortage, we think you’ll find these tips for conserving propane helpful the next time you fire up the grill. And let’s be honest — when it comes to grilling, there’ll always be a next time.
- Preheat your grill only as long as you need to, and only to the temperature you plan to use for the cook. You should always preheat your grill, but be ready to get cooking once it’s preheated. Try fully preparing your food before instead of during preheating so you can toss it on the grill when the cooking time comes.
- Use only the burners you need to cook. There’s no need to fire all 3–4 burners on high if you’re just grilling a few burgers for the family, so be smart about creating multiple grilling zones and leave burners completely off when you can.
- Leave the grill lid closed as much as possible while cooking. Trapping heat inside the grill body cooks food faster, using less fuel to achieve desired results. Last time we checked, efficiency always saves money.
- Install and cook over an infrared burner, if your propane grill has that option. Infrared searing burners are typically more fuel-efficient and cook faster than conventional burners.
- Always turn off your gas at the propane tank when you finish using the grill. Though you might be tempted to leave the gas on for convenience next time, that can cause major safety issues. A burner knob accidentally turned on would fill the grill body with gas and flames, while wildlife chewing through hoses attached to the cylinder would create a gas leak. Both scenarios waste huge amounts of propane but are more harmful as potential explosion hazards, making this a best practice regardless of propane pricing or availability.
- Frequently check all propane hoses, fittings, and connections for leaks — and fix any that you find. Another safety precaution no matter how much you’re paying for propane, you need only a spray bottle filled with soapy water to spot gas leaks.
- If you’re winterizing the grill, be sure to disconnect the propane tank and ensure its valve is closed tightly. Same idea as we explained above: if a rodent chews through the cylinder’s hose, you’ll return in spring to find an empty tank. Trust us, that’s not a good way to start grilling season.
There you have it: 7 simple and effective ways to conserve propane like a professional. Following these straightforward steps will put more money in your pocket while helping you continue to put delicious grilled food on your table. And once the propane industry makes it through this rough patch, you’ll be able to get more out of each tank and keep those emergency refueling runs to a minimum. Joke on, Jim!