VIEWS: 0 PAGES: 8 POSTED ON: 12/27/2010
Title: Burn Through in Stainless Steel Burn ers Word Count: 1137 Summary: A couple of months ago, I noticed t hat the grill was heating unevenly. The left side was noticeably hotte r than the right. The flame was hig her on the left, and I had more pro blems with flare-up on that side. M eanwhile, the right side was not co oking very well at all. Has this e very happened to you? Keywords: gas grill grills burner burners bur n-thru burn through flare ups flame Article Body: I grill. I mean, I grill _ often. I grill ab out 3 or 4 days a week, every week of the year, every year. Living 100 yards from Lake Erie, this is no s mall feat: it gets cold in Clevelan d in the winter, and we get our fai r share of snow _ most of which is lake effect, sometimes measured in feet rather than inches. I have often found myself outside a fter dark on a late December evenin g, in 20-degree weather with an icy wind blowing in off the lake, snow half-way up my shins, basting a ro ast on the rotisserie. Naturally, my wife thinks I am nuts . She also thinks I am a great cook , which is neither here nor there. But, I digress& A couple of months ago, I noticed t hat the grill was heating unevenly. The left side was noticeably hotte r than the right. The flame was hig her on the left, and I had more pro blems with flare-up on that side. M eanwhile, the right side was not co oking very well at all. The grill i s a 3-year-old Fiesta that my wife bought at K-Mart shortly before we met. It sports a stainless steel sh eet metal burner which is adequate for occasional use. I suspected tha t the burner was burned through sin ce I use the grill much more than t he manufacturer intended; I wanted to replace it much earlier than thi s, but since we were buying a house , I placed the project on the back burner, so to speak. The house threw us a couple of majo r curve balls, the worst of which w as a total replacement of our kitch en. At the time, we were waiting on our new counter tops: we did not h ave a working kitchen; the microwav e and the grill were our only worki ng kitchen appliances. Nice time fo r the grill to fail, huh? One night during the remodel, I wan ted to grill some chicken. I fired up the grill, and noticed that the flame on the left side of the grill reached the cooking grate, and the flame on the right was barely noti ceable. Our chicken browned noticea bly toward the left side, and barel y cooked on the right. The photos o n our site show the old burner. I muddled my way through the meal, deciding to take action. The next d ay I ordered a new burner/venturi s et over the Internet. Since spiders love our new house, I splurged on spider guards. The only tools I nee ded for the job were a pair of plie rs and a screwdriver. I assembled t he burner/venturi assembly, connect ed the ignitor to the burner, and w ent out to the grill. I disconnecte d the securing pins for the burner underneath the grill and the old bu rner lifted out easily. The new bur ner settled gently into place, and I connected the ignitor and install ed the spider screens. I tested the ignitor, and, satisfied that it wo rked properly, fired up the grill. Even blue flame, about one and a ha lf inches high, with yellow tips. P erfect. Nice, even heat again. Proj ect completed, and in about a half-hour. So why did this happen? Why did my burner rot from the inside out? The answer is simple physics. When you r burner burns gas, the flame outsi de the burner creates a vacuum insi de the burner. An open valve allows gas under high pressure to flow fr om its source into the burner, wher e the pressure is lower, and then c ontinue out to the outside to be bu rned. So how does this cause burn-through ? Remember the flame that is suckin g the gas out of the burner? Now sh ut that gas off. What happens? The gas is still burning. When there is no more fuel, the vacuum inside th e burner actually sucks whatever is right outside the burner, resultin g in an audible _pop_ when the flam e goes out. Here it is in a nutshell: you_ve be en cooking food, right? You_ve been using spices, sauces and rubs -- a nd the food itself has its own juic es. These are in the air surroundin g the food and the burners, mostly as partially-burned carbon particle s. These carbon particles get sucke d into the burner when the flame is extinguished. These particles rema in in the burner until the next tim e you fire up the grill. When you f ire up the grill, these particles c reate chaos in the flow of the gas. The pressure of the gas will hold these particles against the sides o f the burner. Reaching ignition tem perature, they eventually burn thro ugh the metal from the inside out. Now you know why I had to replace m y burner _ and why you_ll have to d o the same if you purchase a grill with a sheet metal burner. My story points out another issue: what type of burner will your new g rill have? This is a major decision that many overlook when they purch ase a high-end grill. Most grills, even well-known $3,000 to $5,000 un its, have the same stainless steel sheet metal burners that I just rep laced, and many have a thickness in the 20- to 24-gauge range! Let_s f ace it: buying a $3,000 grill is li ke buying a Mercedes or a Lexus; yo u shouldn_t have to replace the eng ine in a 3-year-old Lexus! If you purchase a grill with a stai nless steel sheet metal (or cast ir on/cast iron composite) burner, you will replace the burners at some p oint. The more often you grill, the more often you will replace the bu rner. The more expensive the grill, the more difficult the replacement. "What?" you say! Stainless steel wi ll rust? Well, yes, it *will* rust. It just takes a lot longer. The id ea that stainless steel will neithe r stain or rust is a myth. The "sta inless" in the term "stainless stee l" refers to the fact that there ar e no impurities in the metal itself , and that nickel has been introduc ed into the alloy to produce a more acceptable finish. A lower grade o f stainless steel with a lower nick el content will attract a magnet, a lso contrary to popular myth. What, then, is the alternative to a stainless steel sheet metal burner ? Cast iron? Well, yes, but many gr ill manufacturers also use cast bra ss or cast stainless steel, which w ill not rust or burn through. Lynx and Fire Magic are two such grills, and they_re even warranted against rust and burn-through. A less-expe nsive alternative with cast brass b urners would be the Coleman 6000, r etailing for under $1,000 (photo ri ght). This is not to disparage stainless steel sheet metal burners: Napoleon uses 16-gauge stainless steel in t heir burners, much thicker than jus t about any other brand, and they t end to last longer than other manuf acturer_s burners. They are still p rone to rot and burn-through, howev er: it just takes a little longer, that_s all. So, if you_re shopping for a new gr ill, check the burner construction first.
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