How to Light a Gas Grill in Less Than 60 Seconds

Turn up the heat as our Test Kitchen pros explain how to light a propane grill—then describe how to troubleshoot when a gas grill won't light.

Due to their quick light-up abilities, speedy step-up to ideal temperature, and ease of cleaning, gas grills are the most popular grill choice among Americans—half of whom grill at least once per year. Lighting a charcoal grill requires charcoal, more time, and other tools like a chimney. When lighting a gas grill, conversely, you essentially just need to flip a switch…and keep the safety pointers ahead in mind.

Read on to learn how to light a gas grill and your next blue ribbon barbecue dinner will be mere minutes away. Plus, discover how to light a gas grill with a lighter if the gas grill won't light as usual.

grilling veggies on a gas grill
Kalim / Adobe Stock

How to Light a Gas Grill

Your grill's instruction manual should walk you through how to light a propane grill. But here's a general guide for lighting a gas grill no matter what model you own.

  1. Open the lid. The first, and most vital step, when mastering how to light a gas grill is an easy one: open the lid. An explosion or serious flare up can occur if too much gas builds up in the chamber just prior to igniting the grill.
  1. Check the gas tank gauge to ensure you have enough. Each propane cylinder should fuel between 12 to 18 hours of grill time, depending on the temperature level of grilling, the altitude, and the items you're grilling. It's wise to stock two propane tanks, just in case one runs out mid-grill.
  1. Flip the switches. Open the shutoff valve at the top of the propane cylinder, then turn on the gas grill burner knob to allow the gas to start flowing.
  1. Hit the ignition. Click the igniter button and keep pressing it until you hear and see it ignite. If the gas grill won't light at this point, check the AA battery behind the igniter; it may need replacing.
  1. Take a beat. Wait for 20 seconds after you hear and see the ignition start. Carefully hold your hand about 6 inches above the grill to test the heat. The grill should be starting to feel warm. Light any burners you'll be using for direct or indirect grilling.

At this point, close the lid to allow the grill to preheat for 10 to 15 minutes. When the grill temperature reaches 500° F or so, use a long-handled grill brush (one of our 10 most essential grill tools) to clean the grates. Adjust the burners to hit the grill temp suggested in your recipe, then prepare your appetite for the fantastic meal that's just minutes away.

If the gas grill won't light because it fails to ignite, keep the lid open. Wait one minute to let any residual gas dissipate, then try these steps again.

Primary igniters do fail sometimes, so if the ignition is not working, check your grill manual to see if you can light it manually. Most models come with instructions for how to light a gas grill with a lighter, either through the cooking grates or via a match holder. Once you've found the best location for lighting a gas grill manually, turn the knob for the related burner to high/light. Carefully position the flame near the burner. Once it has lit, gently remove the match or lighter from the area and ensure the flame on the flame-starter has extinguished.

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When Lighting a Gas Grill

Propane gas is sold in small, pressurized tanks at most supermarkets, home improvement stores, hardware stores, gas stations, and convenience stores. Since it's colorless, it's challenging to tell when something goes awry. But you should be able to smell it—propane emits an aroma similar to rotten eggs or a skunk's spray. The tank will likely also make a hissing sound due to the pressure of the gas leaving the tank. Keep your ears and nose alert for these signs; if humans inhale a large amount of fumes from a leaky gas tank, they may be at increased risk for unconsciousness, asphyxiation or cardiac failure.

Explosions and fires are rare, but possible if a gas leak meets a spark or heat source. Store the propane tank and gas grill according to manufacturer instructions, and follow these gas grill best practices from the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association.

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