Posted by Tracy Hollander on March 11, 2017
People often ask us Which is better Ceramic Briquettes or Heat Shields?
Our opinion ... Ceramic Briquettes all the way.
Heat disbursement is an integral function of the gas grill. It is necessary to carry the flames that come from the burner across your cooking surface in order to provide even heat and cooking.
Ceramic briquettes have been a popular choice amongst many grill grill brands for their heat dispersing system for decades. The briquette was introduced to replace the lava rock making it a cleaner and more heat retentive alternative. Some manufacturers moved from the lava grate system to the heat tent system as the lava rock would crumble and leave a mess in the grill. Charbroil was one of these manufactures who widely used lava rocks in their grills then moved to their version of the heat tent they dubbed a flame tamer. Other manufacturers found that to get the same vaporizing flavors from the lava they would need to find a cleaner, longer lasting alternative thus making way for the ceramic briquette.
Ceramic briquettes are one method to help evenly spread the flame across the grilling surface. They are great at retaining heat thereby using less fuel. Since ceramic absorbs heat, they still radiate heat even when your grill is turned off. They are also great at flavoring your food. When the grease drippings sit on the ceramic briquettes and they are reheated by the grill, a delicious aroma adds flavor to your food. People swear that their foods tastes better on a gas grill that uses ceramic briquettes. They are easy to clean too. Just take a brush and brush off the debris.
Ceramic Briquettes are long lasting in comparison to heat shields or lava rock. They also are the closest replacement to cooking with charcoal to give added flavor without the use of chemicals that are found in the charcoal and lighter fluid. They come in different shapes and sizes as well some are square, round or rectangular and some have pyramid shaped tops while other are flat. No matter the shape or size, they are still the superior solution to heat disbursement and retention.
They are easy to install as you just place them evenly across a rock grate or in the slots of your briquette tray, whichever your grill comes with. They are now also being sold in varying flavors such as hickory or mesquite. Ceramic briquettes only need to be replaced if they begin to crumble (which takes years) or they crack or break.
If your grill traditionally uses lava rock, you can absolutely begin using ceramic briquettes. The lava rock becomes very brittle and crumbles potentially clogging your burner holes while leaving a mess at the bottom of your firebox. Due to the irregularity of the shapes of the lava rock, they do not distribute the heat as evenly as the consistent shape of the briquettes.
Heat shields, Heat Plates, Flame Tamers, Flavorizer Bars are all some sort of metal tent that sits above the burner. They are manufactured in many different styles. Some look like tents, some are wavy, some are waffled but, basically, they serve the same heat dispersing feature as ceramic briquettes but they do not have the same heat retention as ceramic briquettes. They also come in stainless steel (which provides the longest lasting heat shield and porcelain covered steel (which when chipped rusts out very fast)
Metal can only conduct heat to a certain point. These shields often are the first part to corrode in a gas grill and have to be replaced somewhat frequently (depending on how often you grill). They do not have the long lasting ability of briquettes. In fact, leaving grease drippings on these shields to flavor your food will cause them more damage as well. These are the most popular replaced part in the grill. Over time, the heat from the grill coupled with grease drippings sitting on the heat shield, it will quickly rust out and begin to fall apart. The biggest claim to fame with heat tents was the theory that by having an angled design over the burner you would reduce flare ups by having the grease drip away from the burners. In order to extend the life of your heat tents, you should periodically clean them with a degreaser and either a brillo pad or a brass bristle brush.
Can I convert my grill from using heat plates? There is a possibly you can replace your heat plates with a rock grate and use ceramic briquettes. Simply measure the ledges (front to back) in your grill where your current heat tents sit. Then measure the left to right. If there is a rock grate in your size you're in luck!
Many imported grills have changed the face of the gas grill industry by predominantly using these metal plates in their grills. This is a lower cost design as many heat tents are thin metal. There are still some high quality grill manufacturers that still use this feature, as they know after years of designing and engineering bbq's that it is the best method. These include MHP, Alfresco, Artisan, Lynx, Twin Eagles, Delta Heat, DELSOL and Broilmaster. Even Kamado cookers like the Big Green Egg, are made of ceramic.
We promise you will be happier with this method! When looking for a new grill, make sure that one of the features is some sort of ceramic heat disbursement system.
Remember we are always here to help. Call us at 877-983-0451