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Every superhero in the backyard kitchen needs an excellent sidekick… so let’s talk about side burners and power burners! If you're looking for something to add even more versatility to your outdoor kitchen, you may want to consider an additional burner or searing station. We know you have many choices in burners so we're going to talk you through the different options that are out there.
The first thing we'd like to mention is that not all manufacturers have burners to go with their main grill units. Usually, it makes sense to pair your side burners with girls from the same manufacturer, so you might want to consider what burners are available from your grill’s manufacturer if you think you’ll want to add them later. However, using the same manufacturer isn't an absolute necessity. You can certainly mix and match brands, as long as you first make sure the additional burner is not required to be plugged into a specific grill unit.
Keep reading for more information on what you should consider if you’re thinking about adding an additional burner or searing station to your outdoor kitchen.
Like we said, we know there are a lot of options when it comes to additional burners. For instance, you can get a single or a double side burner. These are going to be your conventional gas burners, much like what you'd find on a gas stovetop or range. These are usually made in a built-in or drop-in configuration so it’s easier to put them in odd spaces or use uniquely shaped cookware.
A single burner might be a better fit for your individual situation, but as far as we’re concerned, we’d say that generally speaking, two is better than one! We say this because a double burner is usually going to fit in about the same size space as a single burner, but you’ll have extra versatility because you’ll have the capacity to do more things at once.
You might also consider a power burner. Yes, they get hot, but they also have a bigger range of temperatures. You’ll be able to do everything from melting chocolate to wok cooking with its combination of a built-in heating element design and intense double ring burners. In other words, people usually use a power burner because of the power they can get from it (it’s in the name!), but power burners still allow for a more gentle burn, if needed.
As a side note: you probably won’t be happy if you expect to use a power burner in place of a single or double burner, or vice versa, so if you think you’d have a use for both, you might want to consider installing both.
Another thing to consider adding to your outdoor kitchen would be an infrared searing station. These burners are going to get you beautiful sear lines while still retaining moisture - even more than a conventional gas burner would. Because it doesn’t use hot circulating air and instead transfers heat through direct contact, searing burners can reach extremely high temperatures very quickly and efficiently. So, you’ll be able to cook your food faster with evenly distributed heat.
If you already have a natural gas line at your house, it might make the most sense for you to choose this fuel type. Instead of dealing with refilling tanks, you’ll never have to worry about running out of fuel. Plus, the cost can just get added to your utility bill. However, you will definitely need a licensed professional to verify they can get everything set up for you.
Propane is probably the better option when you don’t already have a natural gas line. There are two choices when it comes to propane - a bulk tank at your home that you can have a bulk gas supplier or utility refill for you, or the standard 20 pound portable propane tanks you refill. If you go with the bulk tank, you’ll have to make sure there’s enough pressure and flow for all of your appliances, which is going to depend heavily on the distance. The potential drawback of portable propane is you’ll have less space in your BBQ island because you’ll have to refill multiple tanks. We absolutely recommend using separate tanks for your power burners if you want to make sure they have enough fuel.
The next thing to think about is what type of configuration you’d like for your side burner - built-in, drop-in, cart-mounted, or freestanding with a griddle.
If you go with a built-in side burner, you’re in good company. It’s probably the most popular choice. To install the burner, you’ll simply cut your island to the exact dimensions of the side burner and slide it in. It should be flush-mounted to the edge of the island. You’ll have to be careful to avoid combustible surfaces - aka stay away from your grill. You for sure need some sort of insulated jacket for this burner if you want to install it into a combustible kitchen island. Some manufacturers include internal heat shields so you won’t need to buy a separate insulated jacket.
Drop-in burners are similar to built-in burners, but you don’t usually need it to be flush-mounted to the edge of your island. This gives you a bit more flexibility in island placement like corners or other tight spaces. This is especially true if the control knobs are top-mounted instead of forward-facing like a built-in burner.
A cart-mounted side burner is designed as an accessory or attachment to your existing freestanding grill. This is going to expand your grill unit so you have a larger cooking area (and therefore capacity), can use different temperatures for different cooking styles, have the capability to cook your main course and your sides, and have a great searing zone. It’s convenient and since you’re not installing it into your island, you won’t have to worry about the installation cost.
We’ve broken up side burners into three categories - Luxury, Premium, and Practical - based on their features, quality, and overall performance.
Side burners in the Luxury class are made with at least commercial-grade stainless steel. These products are backed by lifetime warranties. There are more features in these powerful burners which allows for more versatility in your cooking techniques. These products tend to be safer and more aesthetically pleasing than those in the lower classes.
Premium class side burners have shorter warranties than the Luxury class. Bodies and housing of these products are made with stainless steel, so they’ll last a good while. You’ll find the largest number of products within this category. Available features include drop-in double side burners, convenient pull-out drip pans, and control knobs with LED lights.
The category of side burners that will be the best for your bank account is the Practical category. However, they’ll also have shorter lifespans, aren’t as high quality, and are made from a mix of materials. You’ll have fewer options for accessories and attachments in this category, and most of the brands here do not have cart-mounted side burners.
We strongly recommend avoiding using combustible materials like wood to build your outdoor kitchen. As we briefly mentioned earlier, you’ll need an insulated jacket for your side burner if you do decide to stick with combustible materials for some reason. Granted, there are zero clearance side burners available, but you really need to research what you’re getting into and what products you’re considering installing before deciding to build with combustible materials.
If you’re an out-of-the-box thinker, you might choose to install a small built-in gas grill or built-in griddle to use as your secondary cooking area or as a side burner. Infrared gas grills can be a good addition to an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven or large charcoal grill. The possibilities are endless!
If you install a built-in burner a few inches lower than your countertop, you’ll create a wind guard, which will result in stronger heat.
As always, we strongly recommend a burner cover to protect your investment, but you might also want to consider a griddle, a cooking wok, and/or some cast iron cookware to really up your side burner game.
If you are still lost about what side burner or other accessories you should install in your outdoor kitchen, give our experts a call at 800-437-4188. We’re happy to help you determine what is going to best suit your needs.