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How to convert a gas grill to charcoal

Updated February 21, 2017

When a gas-grill burner ceases to operate effectively, a purpose beyond the scrap pile remains for this outdoor cooking classic: convert it into a charcoal grill, which many grilling purists prefer because of the rich, smoky flavours imparted to meat by charcoal. With a few modifications to the inside of gas grills, the devices will continue to function, albeit with a different grilling style, for years to come.

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  1. Disconnect the propane cylinder from the grill and remove all gas hoses and regulator valves from below the grill. Removal techniques will vary based on the grill type and manufacturer; having the original grill manual on hand for direction can help in this process.

  2. Leave all gas burners intact inside the grill. These will form supports for a homemade charcoal grate.

  3. Turn all gas burners to high-heat settings and open the grill lid to allow any gas remaining in the lines or burners to escape.

  4. Remove the cooking grate for now and set it aside.

  5. Cut chicken wire to fit the dimensions of the grill interior. This homemade charcoal grate should touch all grill walls while sitting atop the old burners inside the grill. It will provide separation between lit coals and the grill floor so oxygen can reach the heat source.

  6. Drill six holes (if not already present) straight through the grill floor and between the burners to allow air from outside the grill to circulate inside. This provides an oxygen source to fan charcoal fires.

  7. Place the cooking grate back into the grill.

  8. Tip

    In place of heavy chicken wire, old charcoal or cooking grates work as well, but only if the dimensions fit the old gas grill while sitting atop the burners.


    Never begin charcoal fires inside gas grills that are still equipped with propane tanks or active natural-gas lines. This creates a serious danger of explosion.

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Things You'll Need

  • Old propane grill
  • Heavy-duty chicken wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Power drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit graded for drilling metal

About the Author

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative newspaper reporter and editor of 12 years. Specializing in computer-assisted reporting, he holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.

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