Propane vs Natural Gas, What Should You Use For BBQ & Smoking?


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If you decided on a gas BBQ smoker or leaning towards one, then your next decision will be; go for propane or natural gas? We will also show you the pros and cons of natural gas and propane. We will also highlight the true costs associated with both fuels. By educating yourself about the difference between propane and natural gas you will have a clear idea what is the best solution for you.

 

What’s Difference Between Propane and Natural Gas?

   You thought gas was just gas? It is actually much more precise than that. Natural gas is primarily methane, whereas propane is apart of LPG (liquid propane gas). So the essential difference is that natural gas is supplied via the main connection and propane (LPG) is supplied in a tank or bottle. Safety is paramount when dealing with either type of gas, ensure you have a read of our grill and gas safety before you cook up a storm! 

 

Propane (LPG)

Propane or LGP is made by liquefying butane, isobutane and propane gas thought pressurisation. Propane or LGP comes in a tank, this means it is portable, so you move your smoker or barbeque anywhere and connect your tank. Refill tanks are available at all gas stations

 

Natural Gas

Natural Gas is initially extracted from the ground and it may also contain Ethane, Butane, Pentane and Pentanes Plus. Most of these are usually stripped out for other specific applications before it is passed along through the pipelines.  

Natural gas is supplied by a utility company. It is directly piped to your house. To hook it up to your barbeque you simply need a direct pipe to your outdoor smoker or grill. The only downside to this is once the smoker or barbeque is connected it can’t be moved.

 

What Burns Hotter Propane or Natural Gas?

Propane burns hotter than natural gas. When burnt in outside air temperature of 21ºC or 68ºF, methane is 1958ºC or 3556ºF whereas propane burns at a temperature of 1980ºC or 3597ºF. This is a difference of 24ºC or 42ºF.

 

When a smoker or barbecue is built to use natural gas different valves are installed. The valves for natural gas allow more gas to enter the smoker or barbecues burner system. Because natural gas burns cooler the larger valves allow more gas though to be burnt, this ensures the heat produced will be identical whether you buy the propane or natural gas model.      

 

The True Cost of Propane And Natural Gas

A tank cost of propane is more expensive than natural gas that is connected to a main. However, if you aren’t connected to the gas supply you will need to pay to be connected. If you only use your grill/ smoker occasionally propane  LGP might be your preferred option

 

Pros and Cons Of Natural Gas 

Natural Gas Smoker Pros

  •    The gas is automatically provided, this alleviates the worry that you could run out.
  •    Natural gas is much cheaper than propane (LPG) it is typically 1/6 of the price of propane (LPG).

Natural Gas Barbecue Cons

  •    You will need an accredited gas professional to install a natural gas smoker/ BBQ.
  •    You may need to pay to be connected to the gas mains
  •    The BBQ will not be portable after installation. You will not be able to change the position of the smoker to another location in your backyard.  

 

Pros And Cons Of Propane

Propane Barbecue Benefits

  •    Using propane tanks means barbecue or smoker is portable. This can be much more convenient as propane tank can easily be detached and transported as needed
  •    Propane is more environmentally friendly because it doesn’t have lead in it.
  • Propane also creates lower greenhouse gas and produces water vapour and carbon dioxide, which are both found naturally in the environment.

Propane Barbecue Disadvantages

  •    Propane is more expensive than natural gas because it has to be transferred and stored.
  •    You might find that gas BBQs sometimes create a wet heat. This wet heat can change the texture of the food.
  •    Propane has a tendency to stay in the air for longer periods of time, you will find that natural gas disperses quicker because it’s lighter than air.

 

Picking Between A Propane Vs Natural Gas Smoker

Going over the pros and cons for natural gas and propane in detail can be overwhelming. Here’s a handy summary for each fuel type to help you make your final decision:

Natural Gas

  •    You have an endless supply – Direct line is convenient and fuel won’t run out.
  •    The fuel costs less.
  •    This is an environmentally-friendly option as it burns cleaner.
  •    You have high upfront costs for installation
  •    Your grill is in a fixed position

 

Propane

  •    Lower upfront costs are associated
  •    Portable – Tanks and grills can be used anywhere.
  •    Tanks must be refilled and may run out.
  •    You face higher long-term costs to refill the tanks
flammable gas sign

Axenhorn

 

Final Thoughts

I currently use a propane gas smoker as I wanted the option to relocate the smoker. However, we have found that we rarely move it, we also decided that we won’t be moving again until the kids finish school. That means we will be in our home for at least the next 12 years. We both like the idea of using a fuel source that is more environmentally as well as we are both sick of running to the gas station 10 minutes before we want to start dinner! I’d say within in the 2-3 years we hope to have a natural gas smoker installed, well that’s the plan!

Charlie

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