Barriers are one of the most critical components of a gas grill. They protect the burners from food debris and grease and help to distribute heat evenly across the grilling surface. In this blog, we will look at what barriers are best and why they are needed.

Most people don't know how or why barriers are needed in gas grills. There is confusion about what kind of barrier is best for their particular needs. Older grills used lava rocks, while newer grills incorporate metal heat shields, and high-end grills come with robust ceramic briquette tray systems.

This article explains everything you need to know about barriers, including why you need them in your gas grill, how they work, where they should be placed inside your grill, and what type will give you the best cooking experience for your particular needs.

What Barriers Are Best and Why Are They Needed?

What is a Barrier and What Does it Do?

Barriers are the heat shields that sit on top of a gas grill's burners. They can also be called radiants, heat shields, heat deflectors, and flame tamers. Barriers help prevent debris from falling onto the gas burners and melting, clogging the burner vents and creating unsafe grilling conditions.

Radiants have a secondary purpose of evenly distributing heat throughout the cooking surface. All gas burners create hot spots where the flames are concentrated. Using stainless steel or ceramic briquette barriers to absorb the heat and radiate it outwards helps eliminate those hot spots. With an even cooking surface, you can prepare food uniformly and quickly for a superior grilling experience.

Barriers also help infuse your food with smoky mesquite flavor. Once the radiant material is heated, it instantaneously melts and vaporizes the grease and fat drippings and juices from the food and reinfuses that aroma and smoke back into the food. The resulting mesquite character produces a better tasting flavor in everything you place on the grill.

Why Don't Gas Grills Use Lava Rock?

For years, lava rock was the popular barrier choice to protect the burners and radiate heat. While lava rock is excellent at absorbing heat, its porous nature would also allow the grease and food droppings to accumulate inside. The resulting build-up became near impossible to clean, creating flare-ups, possible food contamination, and grease fire conditions. These factors prompted the phase-out of lava rocks with the newer technology of ceramic briquettes. 

Types of Barriers

As gas grills have developed, so too have the barriers, protecting them from food and debris. Radiants also help distribute heat evenly across the cooking surface.

What Barriers Are Best and Why Are They Needed?

Ceramic Briquettes

Ceramic briquettes are gas grilling heating solutions made of ceramic that uses less fuel than other alternatives. They come in various shapes and sizes, with the most popular types being square, round, rectangular, pyramid-shaped, and flat. Usually assembled in trays evenly spaced throughout, they can be found online or in hardware stores.

Ceramic briquettes are the clear winner when compared to heat shields, lava rocks, and other choices. The advantages of using ceramic briquettes for gas grills include their fuel-saving, heat-distributing properties, and ease of cleaning.

What Barriers Are Best and Why Are They Needed?

Heat Shields

Heat shields are long, angled pieces of metal that stretch across gas grill burner assemblies. This layer serves to protect the burners from splatters and debris and distributes heat evenly throughout the cooking surface. They are angled to direct larger drippings away from the burners to the drip pan or tray.

Stainless steel is the best material for a heat shield because of its durability and heat retention. Budget grills often compromise on the type of barrier, the metal used, or the thickness, leading to poor performance and early replacement.

Care and Cleaning

Since heat shields receive most of the drippings, they are often the first part of your grill to break down if not cared for properly. Routine cleaning is helpful to maintain their integrity and the performance of your grill. It is essential to consult your user manual for the proper way to clean your barriers without scratching or damaging them.

What Barriers Are Best and Why Are They Needed?

Which Barrier is Best?

The best type of barrier or radiant is any variation of ceramic briquettes. Ceramic briquette trays are the clear winner over lava rock and heat shields with dense construction, easy maintenance, high heat retention, and better performance.

American Made Grills features an Easy-Clean Briquette System in the Estate Grill. A custom-crafted ceramic briquette tray system, framed in high-grade #304 stainless steel for maximum durability, the Easy Clean Briquette System keeps the custom red brass burners safe and protected. Configure your new grill today!

September 21, 2021 — Jason Klein