How to Light a Gas Grill

Gas Grill Ignitions - video thumbnail
  • A grill can’t cook without a fire, and that fire has to get started somehow. With gas grills, there are four primary ignition types and a few methods of backup ignition that you should be aware of. No matter which mechanism your grill uses, make sure the lid is open when you light the grill or else gas will build up in the body and present an explosion hazard. You’ll also need to open the gas valve on your propane tank if that’s your fuel source, whereas natural gas is constantly pumped into the grill.

  • Gas Grill Ignitions - video thumbnail

  • Single Spark Ignition

    This method requires you to use two hands — one pushes a button to fire a single spark from a piezoelectric igniter, while the turns the burner knob to create gas flow. Because of the relative complexity and smaller odds of first-time lighting, single spark ignition is common among side burners and low-priced grills.

  • Chicken wings slathered in bbq sauce with a basting brush.

  • Continuous Spark Ignition

    Continuous spark setups may also call for the use of two hands for pushing a spark button and turning a gas flow knob, though some grills have combined both elements into a simple knob turn. The major difference between this method and single spark ignition is that continuous spark ignition draws on battery power or an electrical connection to produce a series of sparks. Thanks to this arrangement, you’ll have a better chance of achieving first-time ignition.

  • Chicken wings slathered in bbq sauce with a basting brush.

  • Flame Thrower Ignition

    To harness the power of flame thrower ignition, all you have to do is turn a knob. The piezoelectric spark is integrated into the knob turn, lighting a concentrated stream of gas that shoots flames straight down both sides of the burner. This mechanism is highly reliable because wide flame contact with the burner increases your chances of instant ignition, not to mention that some higher-grade grills even have crossover channels that transfer the flame between burners.

  • Chicken wings slathered in bbq sauce with a basting brush.

  • Hot Surface Ignition

    Just like flame thrower ignition, the only action you need to perform with hot surface igniters is turning a knob. They light fuel with a small heating element that’s held at a steady glow, making for a highly reliable ignition design sometimes found in luxury grills. Though hot surface ignition provides great odds for first-time lighting, grills with this setup must be plugged into a power source.

  • Chicken wings slathered in bbq sauce with a basting brush.

  • How to Light a Gas Grill If the Igniter Fails

    Primary igniters will fail sometimes, which is why it’s a good idea to look for grills that contain flash tubes for backup ignition. They’re nothing more than metal tubes that let you light burners from grid level using a long lighter or a matchstick. Flash tubes are practical and prevent you from having to place your hands too close to the fire, but keep in mind that you’ll smell a bit of gas when using them.

    For grills that don’t have flash tubes (and for those that do), you can always manually light your burners with a long match or a longneck butane lighter.

  • Chicken wings slathered in bbq sauce with a basting brush.