7 genius ways to use a gas grill that go beyond the basics of barbecuing

Gas grills are more versatile than you think, so whether it's using one to cook in an exciting way, or just repurposing it for something else, we've got 7 ideas to inspire

A gas grill on decking next to planters
(Image credit: Alamy)

For most of us, cooking on a gas grill offers a refreshing alternative to the oven. There's a lot they can do that your standard indoor kitchen can't - the smoky barbecued flavor, perfectly char-grilled food, and an authentic alfresco dining experience - but past these benefits, we often fail to see their full potential. 

What we don't realize is that there are many alternative ways to use your gas grill besides grilling itself. It's a common misconception that they limit you to just one type of cooking; from smoke boxes to accessories like griddles and grill baskets for cooking different types of food, gas grills are more versatile than you think. There's also the question of what to do with that old, disused grill sat at the bottom of your backyard. In such cases, the possibilities to repurpose your grill are quite literally endless... 

If you're looking for alternative ways to make your best gas grill even better, here are seven ideas recommended by barbecue experts themselves. 

1. Turn your gas grill into a griddle 

A gas grill with a griddle attachment cooking meat

(Image credit: Alamy)

One of the best barbecue accessories you can buy that offers an alternative way to cook on your grill is a cast iron griddle. Not only do they allow you to cook other types of food on your grill such as fried eggs or onions, but they also retain juices in the pan helping you to cook more flavorsome meat that won't dry out. 

'Griddles are a versatile way to cook your favorite breakfast, lunch or dinner items,' explains Joe Downey, Senior Merchant of Grills at The Home Depot. 'Using a griddle attachment expands your options for what you can cook on the grill. You don't need to limit yourself to just morning classics such as pancakes, bacon, and eggs, either - you can cook a wide variety of foods on your grill, such as smash burgers, fajitas, cheesesteaks, and much more.' 

According to Joe, griddles also provide exceptional heat retention and distribution to ensure more evenly cooked food.

2. Transform a disused grill into a planter

If you're in the process of decluttering your backyard, there might be an old disused gas grill hiding behind the shed. Rather than dump your hefty appliance, an ingenious way of repurposing your old barbecue is to turn it into a container for plants. 

'Give your old gas grill a new lease on life as a charming outdoor herb garden or planter,' says Shawn Hill, barbecue expert and founder of The Grilling Dad. 'Start by removing the internal components like the grates, burners, and any propane attachments. Clean the interior thoroughly and drill drainage holes in the bottom, then fill the grill with a mix of potting soil and compost, then plant your favorite herbs, flowers, or even small vegetables.' 

One of the perks of this super sustainable idea is that the lid can also be used to control the amount of sunlight or provide protection for your plants from harsh weather. 'Your old grill will become a focal point in your garden or patio, showcasing your green thumb while adding a touch of whimsy,' adds Shawn. 

3. Up your cooking game with a grill basket

A gas grill with fish inside a grill basket

(Image credit: Alamy)

Fed up of sliced veggies and smaller pieces of food falling through your grates? An excellent way to overcome this problem is with a grill basket. 

As Joe notes, this clever little device will make grilling certain foods far easier and quicker. 'If you’re looking to quickly sauté vegetables and bite-size meats like shrimp and pieces of chicken and fish, grill baskets work wonders,' he says. 'They're also perfect for cooking smaller or chopped vegetables. While you can prepare nearly every vegetable on a grill, but some may cook more easily, have more flavorful results, or require extra help, like a grilling basket, to get the job done.'

If you're looking for a tasty dessert to cook on your outdoor barbecue, Joe also recommends adding fruit to a grill basket. 'Grilling brings out the caramelly sugars in ripe summer fruits, like pineapple, peaches, and bananas, making them perfect for side dishes and desserts,' he says. 

4. Repurpose an old grill into a charcoal one

Even if your gas grill has had its day, it doesn't mean its grilling life has to come to an end indefinitely. You may have broken burners or pipes that are beyond repair rendering a gas heating source useless, but it's possible to repurpose the main body of your grill into a charcoal barbecue.

Converting an old gas grill into a charcoal one can be done with just a few simple modifications. You'll need to start by disconnecting the gas cylinder from the grill and removing all pipes and valves so you're left with the bare structure of the grill.  Next, you need to fix some chicken wire to the grill interior, sitting just above the burners. This will provide separation between the charcoal and the bottom surface of the grill, allowing oxygen to circulate. To help this process, you should also drill around six holes in the grill floor if there aren't any already. 

When it comes to how to use your charcoal grill, simply add some coals on top of the chicken wire. The other components such as the grates and lid can then be used as normal to create a new barbecue with a different grilling style. 

5. Turn your grill into a smoker 

Weber Universal Stainless Steel Smoker Box

(Image credit: Weber)

If you love the convenience of your gas grill but crave the rich, smoky flavor of charcoal, you'll be pleased to learn that it's actually possible to turn your gas grill into a smoker.

'You can technically turn your regular gas grill into a smoker by using a smoker box,' says Jakob Miller, blogger and founder of Barbecue Pals. 'These boxes are designed to hold wood chips and sit on top of the gas burners. As the wood chips heat up, they release smoke that flavors your food.'

Jakob does however note that this won't produce the same results as a smoker grill. 'It's best to invest in a dedicated smoker if you're serious about smoking your food,' he says. 

6. Grill your food on a salt rock for more flavor 

A Himalayan salt block with meat on

(Image credit: Getty)

We all know that grilling food straight on your grill's grates produces tasty, flavorsome food, but an alternative way to cook on your gas grill is with the help of a salt block. 

'Salt blocks, salt slabs, salt plates, and salt bricks are nature's cooktop and serving platter in one,' says Joe. 'Cooking on a salt block infuses the clean taste of pure mineral salt into your food. Himalayan salt blocks are perfect for the job as they're incredibly dense and conduct heat slowly but efficiently.'

For the best flavor and to prevent any damage to the salt block, Joe says you should always ensure the block is completely dry before use and allow it to rest for at least 24 hours after each use. 'You should also heat the block slowly as placing it on a hot grill will cause it to crack,' he adds. 

7. Use an old grill as an outdoor beverage cooler

An old gas grill - or any type of grill for that matter - can also be repurposed into an outdoor beverage cooler, perfect for the next get-together you host in your backyard

This clever alternative use for your barbecue can be done with some simple DIY. 'Remove the grates, burners, and other internal components, then clean the interior of the grill,' says Shawn. 'Line the bottom with a waterproof tarp or plastic sheet to prevent leaks, and place a layer of insulation (like foam or bubble wrap) on top to help maintain the cooler temperature.'

All that's left to do is fill the grill with ice and your favorite beverages then close the lid to keep them chilled. 'As a bonus, you can attach a bottle opener to the side of the grill for added convenience,' Shawn adds. The creative DIY idea is guaranteed to be the perfect talking point for guests, too.

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.