All grills have a primary grate on which to cook food. Some grills, however, have one or more additional cooking grates or surfaces attached to the side. Known as side burners, they allow you to cook other foods and side items while your meat is cooking on the primary grate. To learn more about side burners and how they work, keep reading.
Side Burners Explained
A side burner is essentially a gas-powered cooking surface -- similar to the burners used in kitchen stoves -- that's attached to the side of a grill. It's typically smaller than the grill's primary cooking grate, meaning you won't be able to use it to cook large foods or large quantities of foods. Rather, side burners are designed for small foods, such as sauces and side items. While your main course is cooking on the grill's primary grate, you can cook small foods like these on the side burner.
What Type of Grills Have a Side Burner?
Side burners are found in two types of grills:
- Gas grills
- Hybrid charcoal-gas grills
Unfortunately, you won't find side burners in charcoal-only grills. To use a side burner, you'll need to invest in either a gas grill or a hybrid charcoal-gas grill.
Benefits of Using a Side Burner
Because they are powered by a separate flame, side burners allow you to cook foods at a different temperature than that of the primary grate. Depending on the heat setting, a grill's primary grate may reach 500 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. While perfect for grilling chicken, steak, ribs and other meats, this heat can burn vegetables and other small foods. If your grill has a side burner, though, you can cook small foods separately from your meat. Just place your meat on the primary cooking grate, and then place your small foods on the side burner.
Your grill should have a separate temperature control knob for the side burner, which you can adjust to find the "sweet spot" for cooking small foods. Side burners are heated by a separate flame than the main cooking grate. Therefore, you can lower or raise the temperature of your grill's side burner without it affecting your meat on the primary grate.
Side burners are useful as a backup cooking surface. Hopefully, this doesn't happen, but if your grill's main burner fails, you can use still use the side burner to cook foods. Granted, you won't be able to cook large foods on a side burner, but it's still an effective way to cook a variety of small foods if your grill's main burner stops working.
Using a Side Burner to Boil Vegetables
One of the perks of having a side burner is that it allows you to boil vegetables on your grill. Just fill a pot with water, add your desired veggies and place the pot on your grill's side burner. As the side burner heats up, it will cause the water to boil, allowing you to easily boil vegetables while your meat cooks on the main grate.
Create Delicious Sauces With a Side Burner
In addition to boiling vegetables, you can also create delicious sauces using your grill's side burner. Rather than using a pot for sauces, however, it's recommended that you use a pan. Add your ingredients to the pan and then place it on the side burner. Of course, you should cook sauces at a much lower temperature than other foods. In most cases, you should let your sauce simmer as it cooks, meaning the sauce stays below its boiling point. If you cook your sauce than its boiling point, water and other liquids in your sauce will evaporate into the air.
Is a Side Burner Really Necessary?
If your grill has a side burner, you may find it useful for cooking vegetables, sauces and other small foods. With that said, you don't need a side burner to cook delicious foods on your grill. You can use your grill's main grate for the purpose. The only downside is that you won't be able to selectively cook your foods at different temperatures. And assuming you have access to a kitchen, you can boil vegetables and simmer sauces on your stove. The bottom line is that you shouldn't assume side burners are necessary when grilling.
A side burner is a separate cooking surface found on the side of gas and hybrid gas-charcoal grills. It's powered by a separate flame, allowing you to cook a greater variety of foods. While it's certainly useful, though, a side burner isn't a necessity when grilling foods. You can still grill delicious foods without this feature.
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