Why don’t gas grills use lava rocks anymore? This question is actually quite common among grill users. This is actually a very good question to look up. You shouldn’t be using lava rocks. Using Lava rocks is a bad idea and I’m going to explain why. There are several reasons for this, all of them concerning your health and well- being. To why you shouldn’t use lava rocks in your grills, we have to know what lava rocks are first.
What are Lava Rocks?
The proper term for “lava rock” is “igneous rock”. “Igneous” comes from the latin word “Ignis” meaning “flame” or “fire”. Igneous rocks are actually the most abundant rocks on the earth’s crust. So they are definitely commercially available for very low prices. These rocks are found when volcanoes erupt. It’s basically solidified lava. It’s either found on the surface or underground. It comes from a literal volcano, so as you can imagine, it handles heat pretty well. But it has a fatal weakness, it’s porous (let’s water and other liquids through it). Why is that a bad thing? You’re about to find out.
How are Lava Rocks placed in Gas Grills?
Lava rocks are placed above a grate which is above the burner of the grill. Then above the rocks is the “cooking” grate, which is where you place your meat. Setting it up might be rather difficult which is another reason why Lava rocks shouldn’t be used. But if you want to try it, and I would advise you not to, be careful. Take instructions from someone that knows what they are doing. It might be unwise and downright dangerous for an amateur grill user to attempt to install lava rocks onto their grill.
Functions and advantages of Lava Rocks:
Lava rocks have many useful features, it provides an even heat distribution in the grill, it absorbs grease, but it has ONE main function. Lava rocks have one main function. Can you guess what it is? No? Let me give you a hint; what is the main argument for “charcoal is better than gas for grilling”?
Yep, you’ve guessed it. It’s the rich smoky flavour. That signature barbeque taste which tastes amazing and comforting at the same time. When the meat drippings from your barbeque drop down to the lava rocks from the cooking grates. These rocks evaporate the meat juices that drop down to them. Then those juices become smoke, which then enters into the meat giving it that charcoal- like smoky flavour.
Then there’s the even heat distribution provided by the rocks, which is an added bonus. One of the disadvantages of gas grills is that you have to find the “Hot spot”, the place where the grill is hottest. That’s where you get the best sear on your meat. If you’re cooking a dozen stakes on your grill, I’m afraid that there is not enough space in the “hot spot”. So different pieces of meat require different cook times. With Lava rocks, the heat distribution is very even, so you don’t have to worry about that. And grilling becomes easier.
And of course, they are easily available and very cheap. I mean VERY cheap. You can probably buy a bag of Lava rocks for like 5.00 USD. so you could be asking again, “Why don’t gas grills use Lava rocks anymore?” I can understand why it can be very tempting to use them. But PLEASE DO NOT USE THEM. I will explain why shortly.
Another thing about Lava rocks is that they absorb grease rather well, which reduces flare ups significantly. One of the most annoying and sometimes dangerous things about grills are flare ups. The occasional flame that rises because of excess grease. Lava rocks reduce flare ups, But grease absorption is a double- edged sword when it comes to Lava rocks, grease and “meat drippings” absorption is the fatal flaw of lava rocks.
The fatal flaw:
The Achilles heel of Lava rocks is that they are porous. The meat drippings that drop down from the meat are the problem. The very thing that makes the meat have that rich smoky flavor, is also the thing that ruins lava rocks. The porous rocks absorb the meat drippings. There is no physical way of removing them from inside the rock. The meat drippings inside the rock can cause harmful bacteria to develop. And I’m guessing you don’t want meat infused with bacteria. So, avoid lava rocks at all costs. And you have your answer.
Why don’t gas grills use Lava rocks anymore? Because it’s not safe to use.
In the end, grill manufacturers settled for the standard, vanilla gas grill. But there have been improvements over the last few years. Gas grills have got better heat distribution now and some grills have found ways to infuse the smoky flavor without the lava rocks. It’s a bit of a shame that we can’t use Lava rocks, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. Lava rocks just aren’t that healthy for you.
Lava rocks just aren’t good for you or your family and friends. If you own a grill, it means that you are a person that likes to make food for others, which means you have many loved ones. Their safety is priority. Or maybe you just love the taste of barbecue, and honestly, I respect that. If you still want the rich, smoky flavor, you might want to look at charcoal, or even infrared, which is a great option by the way (Highly recommended).
There are a great variety of grill options. And what better way to do that than checking out some of our suggested grills. If you’ve made it till the end, thank you so much for reading this. Keep grilling and keep having fun doing it.
To sum it all up: Don’t use Lava rocks. They’re not very safe. They are not that healthy.