Grill It: How Many BTUs Do I Need?

Posted by: on March 3rd, 2012 | 6 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.

 

Grilling Tips is for all you grill fanatics out there. Whether you swear by propane, charcoal or gas, our BBQ tips have you covered.

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  1. Vicky says:

    this is the dumbest answer I’ve ever seen. The question is: HOW MANY BTU’S DO I NEED? You never answer the question! You state an opinion that BTU’s are oversold. THAT’S AN OPINION!
    WHAT A JOKE.

    • Craig Allen says:

      Vicky,

      It’s impossible to give a single BTU number, as grills come in many different sizes. The rule of thumb is to look for grills that have about 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking space. And, yes, that’s just a rule of thumb. A heavy-duty grill will be fine with less than 100 BTU per square inch of cooking space. A lighter weight grill might need a little more. But, don’t get too hung up on that number. There’s a lot more to a grill than just the BTU rating.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot

  2. 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:

      Porfirio,

      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

  3. 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