Why Don’t Gas Grills Use Lava Rocks Anymore?

lava rocks

I could start this with a phrase like “once upon a time” and continue from there by telling you that I, and many others, loaded their gas grill with lava rocks.

Here you can read why we did that and also why we stopped using lava rocks on our gas grills.

What Are Lave Rocks?

As the name already gives away lava rocks are made from magma that flows out of a volcano after an eruption.

“The United States has several places in the west such as Colorado and Utah where many years ago we had active vulcanos.”

Why Lava Rock On A Gas Grill?

At the time gas grill were trying to push charcoal grills out of the market they had to compete with the flavor of charcoal and that was not easy to do.

If you like to read more about why that is I recommend reading my article on charcoal versus gas for the grill. That will explain more in-depth why charcoal gives more flavor.

In short, the story is that the drippings of the grill that fall on the charcoal give off a nice flavor that is absorbed by the food you cook.

The head shield above a propane gas grill does not have that effect on the flavor.

So, there was a need for something in between the grill grate and the heat shield to get some of these flavor-enhancing gasses back into the meat and that is what the lava rocks are used for.

Advantages Of Lave Rock On Gas Grills

  • Heat resistant
  • Cheap
  • Better heat distribution.
  • Flavor enhancing

Disadvantages Of Lave Rock On A Gas Grill

One of the pros of lava rocks turned actually into a con.

Lava rock is very porous and although at first that was mentioned as a pro it also absorbs some of the greases that were not burned off all the time and this can cause a health problem in the long run.

They also did not protect the burners from moisture and made the rust after a while.

Even turning the gas grill to full throttle in an attempt to burn it all off did not work anymore after a while. Replacing was then the only option left.

Alternatives For Lave Rock

let’s be honest if lava rock were the best we would still use them. Unfortunately, they are not so the gas grill manufacturers had to come up with a solution.

Flavorizer Bars

Flavorizer bars cover the whole burner and shield it from the grease falling on them.

Since they are placed directly over the burners they protect them from the drippings and since they are getting very hot the vapors are getting back up into the meat.

Ceramic Briquettes

These were actually used before the flavorizer bars became more used in the mainstream gas grill industry.

The advantage is that they are just as charcoal briquettes made uniform and the regular shape in combination with the fact that they are not porous made them pretty popular.

Lava Rock On A Gass Grill – My Opinion

I have used them on my Char-Broil X 200 portable gas grill for a while in combination with the flavorizer bars that came with them to try to eliminate hot and cold spots.

However, it was hard to fit them in between and it did not work the way I hoped it would.

Since all we try to achieve is that smokey flavor in our meat and we know that we will never have the same success as with charcoal grills I suggest using a more effective way of getting smoke flavor in our meat and that is using smoke tubes for grills.

I have used them and I think they are the best to use on a gas grill. The combination of flavorizer bars and the added smoke will make your meat taste as close as possible to meat on a charcoal grill.

Have you ever used lava rocks on a gas grill? Feel free to leave your experience in the comment below or contact me and I will add it for you.

Eddie van Aken

Eddie van Aken has years of experience in running his full-service restaurant and with this came working with using and dealing with all types of kitchen equipment. With his experience, he can find all the pros and cons of grills and add them to the grill reviews and the outdoor cooking tips he is writing about. You can read more on the About page for Eddie van Aken

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