Do you need Lava Rocks for a Gas Grill?
There was a time in which you needed lava rocks to properly heat your gas grill. Before the advances in grill technology gas grills had problems with retaining heat. Lava stones would be placed in the grill and heated up.
Today you don’t need lava stones unless you have an older model grill. If you have an older grill and struggle with heating issues, then you probably need lava rocks.
The porous rocks hold heat so well foods get cooked directly on the surface. They char foods very well if given ample pre-heating. They also can stop fats and marinades from dripping into the flames, which will lower flare-ups and carcinogens that get infused into the foods.
The question if you need them can be answered by the age of your grill. Since older grills came with them standard, if you have one then yes you need lava stones. A new grill will not need lava stones, but can still accommodate them.
If your grill is newer, lava stones still can be beneficial to you. Since they retain heat so well they can help evenly cook foods easily. I would recommend everyone try grilling with lava stones, they have a lot of beneficial aspects that can help elevate your food.
What are Lava Rocks?
Lava rocks are a great addition to any grillers arsenal. Lava rocks are stones that have been forged by a volcano. They are very porous rocks, which makes them perfect for retaining heat.
Lava rocks are available for purchase in almost any home improvement or grilling store. The stones are created in magma flows and from volcanic blasts. Mostly the stones are comprised of basalt a hard rock, making them very durable.
Lava rocks have fallen out of popularity in recent years, the stones used to come standard in gas grills. Today gas grills do not come with stones out of the box but they are readily available for purchase and easy to find.
Benefits of using Lava Rocks
Lava rocks have a bunch of benefits. For one they help your grill retain heat. If you properly pre-heat your lava rocks you can essentially turn the gas off while cooking.
The rocks retain heat so well that even without a direct heat source lava rocks stay very hot for a long time. Saving gas is always a plus, nothing is worse than having to buy more gas when you need it right away.
Lava rocks also help evenly cook foods. A gas grill is known for having difficulty evenly heating the cooking area. Some areas are way too hot while others are colder. If you load up your cooking surface without lava stones you can feel the heat drop. Lava stones hold that heat inside and transfer it to your foods. None of the heat produced is wasted.
Another benefit is that they help keep fats and oils out of the fire. It’s true that some will drop into the flame, but most will get absorbed by the rock. Keeping flare-ups at bay helps not only evenly cook foods, but also reduces harmful carcinogens that get released by the fats flaring up.
Since the stones retain heat so evenly your cooking times are reduced. Foods such as steaks cook faster while being cooked on a lava rock. Same with chicken, fish, and vegetables. Lava stones also increase the cooking area of your grill. The entire stone gets hot allowing you to fully utilize your cooking surface, no more dead spots!
The largest benefit is the fact that you can turn your grill off. Lava rocks don’t require a constant flame to stay hot. They just need to be heated properly, if heated properly they can hold heat and continue cooking even without a direct heat source.
Turn the grill off and keep the lid closed to continue heating your food or keeping them warm prior to serving.
Where do you put lava rocks in the grill?
Lava rocks will be placed on a special grate, called a rock grate. You can find this grate at any home improvement store. You may also just place them on your grills grate, just make sure you have some space between the rocks and the top of your grill. Lava Rocks require some air circulation to keep the heat even.
To properly heat the rocks, you want them to be one to two inches above the flame. Any more space and they may not heat properly, any less and they may get too hot. You also want the top of the stones to be clear of your grill’s top. You should be able to close the grill completely.
Leave at least a quarter inch of space between each rock. This will allow heat to circulate the stone and heat it from all side. Causing the stone to heat faster and evenly. Stones placed too close together will have cold spots and will heat slowly.
Light your grill, let the stones get nice and hot.
How do you use Lava Rocks in a gas grill
Using lava rocks is easy! Once you have them placed correctly, you just turn on the flame. Just like pre-heating a grill, you must pre-heat the rocks. Let the rocks heat for fifteen to twenty minutes, this should allow them to completely heat through.
Once pre-heated the rocks are ready to be cooked on. Place foods directly onto the heated rocks. You should hear that searing sound if the rocks are properly heated. If not remove any food and close the lid. Let the stones get hotter.
If you are having trouble with the stones getting hot you may need to work on their positioning. Stones require antiquate air circulation to heat up. Give them some room to breathe.
Since the lava rocks are dispersing heat evenly throughout the grill, flipping foods are not required. Foods such as burgers and steaks you should still flip, as you want a sear on both sides. Foods like fish and shrimps should be cooked from the heat alone.
My rule for cooking with lava stones is if the foods are delicate, just let them do their thing. The moving heat should cook foods evenly on all sides. If you require a sear on multiple sides, then you should flip them to sear.
Be aware the grill’s hotter so foods are going to cook faster.
At any point during the cooking you may turn the flame off. The stones should remain heated for the remainder of the cook time. If you notice a drop in temperature, then just turn the flame back on. Foods that require a high heat may also require a constant flame but this is not always the case.
Once finished cooking you may keep the foods on the stones to keep them warm until you are ready to serve them. Be aware that the stones may still be very hot and thus will continue to cook your foods. If you plan to hold them for a while you may want to begin setting up the table right before the cooking is finished.
You will need to wash your lava rocks after a few cooking sessions. The porous tendencies of the lava rocks will absorb fats and oils from the cooking process.
Unlike your grill’s grates, lava stones cannot be cleaned with a ceramic or steel brush. You won’t even want to use water or a sponge to clean them. The best way to clean your rocks is to burn them clean.
First, let the grill cool a bit by leaving the top open. Once the grill has cooled you will flip the rocks over so that the cooking surface is now facing the flame. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and place it over the stones to enclose them, trapping more heat.
Turn your grill on high and close the lid. Let the grill heat for twenty minutes with the foil-wrapped stones. Your grill will smoke as the fats and oils get burned off from the stones. Be aware that depending on what you cooked last the smoke may be very thick.
After twenty minutes turn your grill off, long exposure to high heat can damage the body of your grill. Let the stones cool and check them to see if they are clean. If they are not clean just simply place the foil back and repeat the heating process.
Once clean the stones are ready to be cooked on again. If your stones are starting to fall apart, don’t even bother cleaning them. Crumbling stones are a key sign that it is time to replace them.
Can you use Lava Stones in a Charcoal Grill
Since lava stones are good at holding heat using them in a charcoal grill will be redundant. Charcoal is also very good at holding and distributing heat evenly. Lava stones will add no benefit in the heat distribution department.
Charcoal also cannot be shut off. Lava stones don’t require a constant heat source as once they are heated they hold that heat. Charcoal will constantly heat your stones and may cause them to break down faster.
Yet you still may want some of the flavor associated with lava stones. If that is the case, by all means, you can use them in your charcoal grill. Charcoal does everything lava stones do, but if you are struggling to evenly heat your charcoal grill then you might want to try and use lava stones to better spread the heat around.
If you are looking to try something new lava rocks are an idea you should try as they are pretty cheap to purchase and fun to use.