How Long Do You Really Need to Preheat Your Grill?

updated May 20, 2020
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Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

One of the most common mistakes I see newbie grillers make is also the simplest: They don’t let the grill preheat long enough. Yes, just like your kitchen’s oven, your grill needs time to properly heat before you add food. How long you need to preheat your grill depends a bit on the type of grill (gas or charcoal) and it’s size.

A grill that has plenty of time to preheat cooks food faster and more efficiently. And it is less likely to leave you with food stuck to the grill grates.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How Long to Preheat Your Gas Grill

Crank open the propane container and ignite your gas grill and it’s good to go, right? Not so fast! Even though the heat in a gas grill is instantaneous, that doesn’t mean your grill is ready for cooking. It is important to give your gas grill plenty of preheat time — especially for larger grills — so that the heavy-duty grates can warm up. This allows warm air to collect under the cover and create convection. Turn all of your gas grill’s burners to high heat and let the grill preheat for 10 to 15 minutes before adjusting the burners as needed for your recipe. Alternatively, if you plan to slow cook something like beer-can chicken, you can turn your grill to medium heat and give it 25 to 30 minutes to preheat while you prepare the food.

How Long to Preheat Your Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grilling takes a little longer than gas grilling, but the reward is the slightly smoky flavor and the cook-anywhere nature of charcoal itself. There are two steps to preheating your charcoal grill: lighting the charcoal well and preheating the grill. We highly recommend a charcoal chimney starter to make lighting lump and briquette charcoal much faster. With a chimney starter, 2 to 3 quarts of charcoal will take about 25 minutes to light and become hot enough for grilling. Then, you’ll need to dump those hot coals into your grill, add the grill grate, and cover the grill for 15 minutes. You’ll want to be sure that your grills vents are open to allow airflow while the grates preheat.

Now go forth and grill these great meals: 50 Summer Grilling Recipes from Kitchn