Many people enjoy using gas grills for their ease of use and efficiency. Frustrations caused by flare ups and hot spots encourage the use of a wide variety of briquettes and other products. Ceramic briquettes are most commonly used because they provide an even heating surface and last for several uses.
Gas grills most often use ceramic briquettes, lava rocks or, more recently, ceramic tiles in order to distribute heat. Ceramic briquettes come in the traditional shape, lava rocks are similar to those used in landscaping, and tiles only differ from briquettes by shape. Traditional charcoal briquettes can be used, though they maintain several disadvantages.
Place briquettes, tiles, or lava rocks in a solid layer on a screen between the heating element and the grill surface, making sure to leave space for air to circulate. Light the grill and check to make sure that all areas of the heating element are covered, filling any empty spaces.
Ceramic briquettes, tiles and lava rocks all serve the same purpose. The advantage comes from their ability to reduce flare-ups and hot spots. They can also be used several times, minimizing set-up and making cleaning easier. Traditional charcoal briquettes are cheap and easy to find. They also provide the smoky flavor associated with traditional charcoal barbecuing.
Ceramic briquettes, tiles, and lava rocks are not as easy to find as traditional charcoal briquettes and are more expensive. Traditional charcoal briquettes do not repel run-off from food, but rather retain it, causing hot spots and flare ups. Charcoal briquettes also need to be replaced after each use and are harder to clean up.
Any additional product placed inside a gas grill should not come in contact with the heating element. Doing so can cause increased stress to the grill, as well as clog vital gas ports. Always maintain a clean grill. A buildup of old briquettes can cause inadequate performance.
References and ResourcesHPBA Tips for Safe Barbecuing
BBQ Grill Company -- A quick overview of briquettes