Side burners, we tend to find, don’t get nearly enough credit. To a truly great outdoor grill, these convenient add-ons make an excellent companion cooking appliance. Maybe you're unsure whether you need one or not. That’s fine, because today? We show you the light — a light comes out of a little single or double burner compartment that wants to help your kitchen be awesome.
If your gas grill will be your outdoor kitchen centerpiece, it makes sense to match it with additional outdoor burners from the same manufacturer. This keeps things that much easier — they’re easier to sort out, the appliances will match, and all those pretty logos will make a cohesive aesthetic. Make sure to research whether your burner needs to be plugged into the gas grill or whether it can stand alone.
That being said, not all manufacturers have side burners, power burners, or searing stations available in their lineups. Just because your grill brand doesn’t have the appliance you want doesn’t mean you have to build your outdoor kitchen without it! You can mix and match brands as long as the burner you want to use doesn’t need to be plugged into a certain grill. They even make excellent sidekicks in outdoor kitchens where a gas grill isn’t the main event. If you plan on building your island around a pizza oven or charcoal grill, then a gas outdoor burner is a great way to expand your cooking versatility.
Outdoor burners come in a few different designs which have their own important considerations, which is why our experts put together this handy buying guide. Let’s get straight into it, shall we?
Choose Your Burner Type
Single Side Burners
Have you ever seen a gas stovetop or range burner? Met a stove? Watched any kitchen show ever? If you answered yes to any of those, congratulations — you already grasp the concept (if no, please flip in your textbooks to… well, “Wikipedia”). These function exactly the same way as regular old burners and usually come in slide-in or drop-in configuration (note: drop-in often fits into weird spaces). Will they feed the Five Thousand? No. But single side burners bring a little extra versatility: whipping up small sides, boiling or grilling (not burning) vegetables, and overall greater selectiveness on the grill.
Double Side Burners
Why go single when you can mingle? Offering two conventional gas burners, these are for fitting griddles, aluminum roasting pans, and oddly-shaped cookware. Besides greater capacity, double side burners wield more heat and grant a significant leap in function and versatility. Waiting for a catch? Too bad. Not only do they usually fit into the same overall space as their single counterparts, but the sticker price jump is surprisingly more of a short hop. Case in point, we don’t consider a double burner to be two single burners in one — we see a single burner as half the real deal.
Let’s cover the obvious first: power burners get hot, but that’s actually a very small part of the picture. Don’t just think higher temps; think wider temperature range. Their recessed heating element design enables more delicate fire for softening butter, melting chocolate, or warming BBQ sauce. Meanwhile, those powerful double ring burners are strong enough for low country boils or wok cooking. The power burner is the elegant, sharpened chef’s knife of grilling — absolutely formidable, but not without a delicate touch when necessary.
Infrared Searing Stations
Need incredibly high and efficient heat? Is conventional heat a little too, well… conventional? Do you just think the word “infrared” is just plain cool? We agree. Since infrared heating transfers energy on direct touch, these special burners take just about any searing plate or pot you own and elevate them straight to “secret weapon” status. Speaking of searing, they impressively maintain the moisture barrier of meats — instead, they tend to seal the exterior, resulting in up to 35% less moisture loss compared to conventional gas burners.
Determine Your Side Burner’s Fuel Type
Natural Gas Burners
If your home has an existing natural gas line already, this might be a no-brainer. A few perks come to mind: no refueling, no messing around with portable tanks, and a simple usage fee added to your utility bill. Easy! Be aware, of course, that a licensed plumber is a must for working with gas lines — you’ll have to verify your meter can support the additional flow and pressure, and it’s better to leave that sort of thing to the professionals. While they’re busy mucking about outside, simply brainstorm your inaugural meal to break in that burner!
No natural gas lines? No sweat. You’ve got two options here: your typical 20-lb portable propane tanks, or a bulk propane tank somewhere on your property to be refilled by a utility or bulk gas supplier. For convenience? We’d pick the bulk option every time — but ensure that the large tank has enough pressure and flow to satisfy all propane appliances (distance will make a huge difference here). The portable option requires refilling multiple tanks, and that means less space in your island. We suggest separate tanks for power burners to guarantee they stay fueled.
Choose Your Side Burner’s Configuration
Here’s the common choice. Often enough, “common” is common because it just plain works. Mount flush to the edge of your outdoor kitchen island — the control knobs face forwards — and pay close attention to the closest combustible surfaces (nowhere near your grill, right?). Speaking of the grill, approach installation the same way: cut your island to the exact width, depth, and height of the cutout dimensions and slide it right in. Some manufacturers construct internal heat shields that eliminate needing insulated jackets; others will sell separate insulated jackets, while others don’t. No jacket means no installation into a combustible island!
Remember that one time when we were talking about built-in side burners? Similar premise. Big difference here: drop-in side burners generally don’t have to be flush-mounted to the edge of the kitchen island. This opens up a beautiful world of freedom and functionality. Say it with us... Corners! Tight spaces! Odd areas! If you want to get weird with it, you can! Bear in mind that some models cling tightly to forward-facing knob mount designs; they require some finagling to mount halfway into your island. However, some doesn’t mean all! Most of these burners boast top-mounted knobs for limitless placement.
Cart-Mounted Side Burners
Imagine a freestanding grill — then, think of a sidecar burner mounted to either side, like an extension of the grill grates. There you have it! Built by manufacturers as grill-specific attachments or accessories to existing models, these expand that freestanding grill by: increasing the total cooking area and capacity, making space for cooking sides along with the main course, running different heat levels for different cooking styles or dishes, and adding an outstanding searing zone. Sound awfully familiar? It should. Bear in mind: no installation into an outdoor kitchen island! No costly future addition! This time… simple convenience!
Choose Your Burner Class
Feeling confident about your ideal side burner? We’re glad to have helped you get there, but before you go any further, you should take some time to make sure that model falls into the outdoor burner classification that’s right for you. Not sure what those are? No worries, it’s simple — we’ve divided our selection of outdoor kitchen burners into Luxury, Premium, and Practical classes based on their quality, performance, and features. Our experts spent hours testing and sorting every single side burner we carry so you can get a snapshot of whether it works for you without much digging. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Luxury Side Burners
- Made of commercial-grade stainless steel at minimum for years of use in harsh environments
- Reliable brands like Lynx, Alfresco, and Viking offer lifetime warranties to protect your investment
- Powerful burners can be used for low-country boils, giving you more cooking versatility
- Features like pull-out drip pans and LED-lit control knobs improve safety and aesthetics
Premium Side Burners
- Stainless steel burner bodies and housing last for years while looking great
- Some brands provide lifetime warranties, though most offer only 1–3 years of coverage
- Largest selection of brands and products, including drop-in double side burners
- Select burners have LED-lit control knobs and pull-out drip pans for extra convenience
Practical Side Burners
- Built from mixed materials that result in shorter lifespans and varied quality between brands
- Most Practical grill brands don't offer cart-mounted side burners as aftermarket accessories
- Weber, Napoleon, and others offer Practical grills with permanent cart-mounted burners
- Camp Chef Sidekick and Sear Box attachments are the only Practical units we carry
Other Considerations When Buying a Side Burner
As far as shopping for a side burner or power burner goes, it’s probably safe to say you get the picture now. But wait! Before we let you saunter into our curated selection of side burner attachments — hunting for that elusive next piece to your perfect outdoor kitchen — we’ve got a couple more bridges to cross (they’re quick, we promise!).
Clearance to Combustibles
Our experts are often asked what they think about building an outdoor kitchen out of wood or other combustible materials, and they always give the same answer. In a few words, "Don’t do it!"
If combustible materials are somehow non-negotiable for you, at bare minimum you’ll need to ensure the side burner you’re eying features an insulated jacket the manufacturer can provide. Some lucky side burners out there have zero clearance to combustibles; they alone can be dropped into a combustible outdoor kitchen island that can’t fit a full built-in burner with an insulated jacket. Just because a brand goes the extra mile and builds insulated jackets for their grills, that doesn’t mean they’ll offer their burners the same courtesy. Always do your homework before wasting time, money, and emotional attachment. And, if combustible materials can be discarded from the kitchen island design, our experts wholeheartedly endorse that decision on the daily.
Non-Traditional Gas Burners
These products are all about tallying up the versatility of an outdoor kitchen and deciding the whole idea really deserves another go. Want to go wild with it? Start by installing a built-in griddle or a small built-in gas grill to function as a side burner or secondary cooking surface. For example, the TEC Cherokee Infrared Gas Grill lends itself to the idea: the infrared cooktop is ludicrously efficient for heat transference to the point that heating a large pot is a lot more efficient with those glass panels than any conventional gas burner out there. In outdoor kitchens where a large charcoal grill or pizza oven reigns supreme, it also makes a great companion grill. That’s just one suggestion — such burners offer ample opportunity for culinary creativity.
A Note on BTU's
Heating, turns out, is more than British Thermal Units (BTUs). The heating element itself puts a very heavy thumb on that scale — from the construction and direction of its burner ports and flames, to the method by which it channels heat. With that said, we’re not knocking BTUs. For one example, it’s a great factor for the recovery time of boiling water. But it’s possible that a power burner with lower BTUs but better construction will outpace competitors and boil that water faster than burners with flipped priorities. Wind can be an issue here. Installing your built-in a few inches lower into the counter creates a good wind guard and stronger heat — again, this is a non-starter near combustible materials.
Side Burner Accessories
That side burner is on a mission to treat you right — if you want to pay that forward, consider grabbing a few extras. Bonus: it’ll squeeze every last drop of functionality out of them! Side burners should be paired with burner covers to keep them sleek and beautiful for years to come. Confident it’ll keep clean while exposed? That’s perfectly fine! Maybe you’d rather pick up some new cast iron cookware, a cooking wok, or a griddle. Each new piece only gives your power burner that much more horsepower!
Feeling fired up about outdoor burners? We sure hope so! These often-overlooked accessories really ought to be in more outdoor kitchens. If you agree, take a look at our selection and pick the one that meets your needs. Is there anything else you want to know that wasn’t covered here? We can fix that! For any additional questions about these products — or anything else we offer — give our fantastic BBQ experts a ring at 1-877-743-2269. While you’re hanging out with our extremely knowledgeable BBQGuys associates, be sure to say hello to the fine folks at our Free Outdoor Living Design Service. We had you at “free,” didn’t we?