Grill It: How Many BTUs Do I Need?

Posted by: on March 3rd, 2012 | 4 Comments
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open grill with side grill cooking meat and vegetables

Q: How many BTUs do I really need?

A: A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, measures the amount of heat a grill can give off. A grill with the highest BTUs may seem like the best at first glance — it can get the hottest, right? — but that is not necessarily the case. Many grill aficionados say that BTUs are oversold.

When you are purchasing a grill, compare the BTUs to the size of the useable cooking surface. Look for 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space. The more BTUs a model has, the faster it will burn up your fuel, so it is wise to only go for a grill with the amount of BTUs you need to get the job done.

Look, too, for a grill with a relatively heavy grate (to hold heat) and a tight fitting lid (to hold heat in). A light weight grate and thin materials for the unit might require more BTUs… and more fuel.


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  1. Porfirio says:

    I have limited space for a grill. I purchased one with 10,000 BTU’s. It works fine but will not stay lit on windy days. What are your recommendations?

    • Craig Allen says:


      That sounds like a very frustrating problem. I took your question over to our online How-To Community Forums for answers from the experts. I’m hoping they can suggest ways to make your grill more wind resistant, so you don’t have to buy a whole new grill.

      In any event, click here to go to where I posted your question.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot

  2. Brett says:

    is there any type of grill that exceeds 100 BTU’s?

    • Craig Allen says:

      Yes, Brett, there are grills that exceed the 100 BTU per square inch threshold. That 100 number really is just a rule of thumb, though. If you have a grill constructed of heavy, heat-saving materials, you might not need 100 BTU/sq. in. If the grill is very light weight, you might want a little more.

      But in any event, a lot of experts say you shouldn’t get too hung up on the BTUs of a grill. It’s a good number to know for comparisons, but there’s a lot more to determining a good grill from a not-so-good grill than BTUs.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot