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Insulated Grill Jacket: Do You Need One? & 6 Little-Known Facts

By Jayme Muller

December 19, 2023

You’re in the middle of figuring out how to build a BBQ island… And you’re seeing talk of insulated grill jackets.

Sometimes they’re used… And sometimes they’re not.

What gives? How are you supposed to know if you need one or not?

You want to be sure you’re planning properly… But the information out there is muddy at best.

We’re here to clean off the grime… And leave you with crystal clear nuggets of information to glean from as you plan.

insulated grill jacket featured image

Point is, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about an insulated grill jacket… And so, so much more.

In fact, we’ve completed independent research on several grill jacket brands for one of our own outdoor kitchen lines. Needless to say… We’ve learned a lot about what makes these little jackets tick.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Quick Links:

The What and Why of an insulated Grill Jacket

Ward Schraeder installing a grill jacket into a MOKS outdoor kitchen

So what’s a grill jacket… And why do you need to use one?

Let’s start with what.

Insulated grill jackets are metal sleeves designed for your built-in grill to sit into.

Pretty simple.

Why do they exist?

Depending on the way your outdoor kitchen is constructed (we’ll get to that)… An insulated jacket is designed to protect your island from damage or a potential fire.

This is because certain outdoor kitchen materials are combustible… And if they’re not protected, the unencumbered heat from a grill could easily set your island ablaze.

All in all, insulated jackets are simply used as a protective measure. They don’t add functionality or aesthetic value… It’s just down to safety.

With that said… What about the types?

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Types of Grill Jackets

Another thing you’ll have to be aware of are the types of grill jackets out there.

And while they’re not fully defined… These accessories are typically only designed in one of two ways.

So thankfully, it’s not much to keep track of.

That said.. It’s important to be aware of this and the differences in how they function.

Non-Vented Grill Jackets

Viking 5 Series insulated jacket

If you’ve looked into grill jackets at all… These are probably the ones that you’ve seen.

Generally speaking… These are dual-walled steel structures that fully enclose the back, sides, and bottom of the grill head.

The only openings will be a small cutout for hooking up gas and/or electric.

Ultimately, these non-vented insulated jackets are simply designed to form a complete barrier around the grill.

Which means your built-in grill won’t be directly touching any combustible materials. That’s great.

However… There are situations in which this might not be ideal.

Why?

Well, there’s no ventilation built into these grill jackets.

So this means that your insulated grill jacket is just absorbing heat from your grill… And it doesn’t really have anywhere to go.

Which means in some scenarios… It is possible that your surrounding island structure could get hot enough to be in the danger zone.

It’s for this reason that we prefer the use of vented grill jackets, where possible.

Vented Grill Jackets

Although less common… It’s our preference to see insulated grill jackets that are vented.

Coyote Outdoor Living’s grill jackets are the perfect example of this.

They’re actually technically not insulated, because they are constructed with a single layer of 304 stainless steel.

However, they do have ample ventilation on the sides and back of the unit.

This is a great solution… Because the heat dissipating from your grill isn’t accumulating in a single area.

It’s allowed to freely vent into the cavity of your island… And as long as your island is ventilated properly, that heat will be able to fully exit your structure.

So it’s easy to see why this setup is our preference.

The more airflow you can encourage for heat dissipation… The better.

Now, let’s get clear on when a grill jacket is necessary.

When a Grill Jacket is Necessary

Thankfully, this point is pretty simple. There’s only one situation in which the use of a grill jacket is absolutely necessary.

If your outdoor kitchen is made with combustible materials.

Wood, PVC, composite decking, and HDPE are prime examples of combustible materials. If they reach a high enough temperature… They’ll combust and start a fire.

Composite decking in particular can begin to soften at temperatures as low as 176°F… And wood isn’t much better.

As a Los Angeles Times article put it, “Wood normally begins to burn at about 400 degrees to 600 degrees F. However, when it’s continually exposed to temperatures between 150 degrees and 250 degrees F., its ignition temperature can become as low as 200 degrees F.”

Think about this for a second.

Most gas grills will cap out at temperatures of 500°F, charcoal grills can reach temps of 700°F and some high-performance models can exceed scorching temps of 1,000°F.

And if you’re grilling on a regular basis… That consistent high heat exposure is causing the wood in your island to become more dry and brittle. (And thus, far more easily combustible, like kindling.)

So for this reason, if you’re using combustible materials in your outdoor kitchen… Skipping the use of a grill jacket could prove to be a perilous mistake.

But is the answer really as simple as buying a grill jacket?

We’d like to think there’s more to contemplate here.

They aren’t the End-All-be-All

While it might seem like an open and shut case… We’re more of the mind that an insulated grill jacket is really just a band aid solution, covering up an underlying problem.

As we mentioned right at the beginning of this article… We’ve completed our own independent testing of grill jackets in a combustible outdoor kitchen.

These points in particular are a reflection of our findings.

You Lose Interior Island Space

Let’s begin with the most minor effect of a grill jacket. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, per se… It can prove to be a challenge as you’re planning an outdoor kitchen.

Obviously, an insulated grill jacket will take up space. That’s no surprise to anyone.

But that can prove to become a major annoyance as you’re designing your outdoor kitchen layout.

Why?

Well… This added footprint of a grill jacket may prevent you from installing other appliances you want.

Certain doors and drawers may no longer fit underneath your grill… And it might force you to push other appliances further away, such as a refrigerator.

All in all, this doesn’t have to be a complete deal-breaker. But if you only have the space for a small outdoor kitchen… The lack of accessibility can become a significant barrier for you.

It Doesn’t Reduce Clearance to Nearby Combustibles

fire catches on pergola

Here’s an insulated grill jacket myth for you.

When buying a grill insulated jacket for your outdoor kitchen… Many homeowners mistakenly believe that they can now place their island closer to other combustible structures.

Examples of this would be a wooden privacy screen, near the exterior wall of your home, wooden pergola, or other overhead structure.

Unfortunately, this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.

An insulated grill jacket only offers protection for the countertops and below. Anything above it will need separate consideration for protection.

So if you were hoping to cram an island into a smaller space because you have an insulated grill jacket… Or you wanted to avoid paying extra for installing a backsplash or overhead vent hood… Your hopes certainly are dashed here.

There’s no other way to put it. There’s no shortcuts when it comes to proper safety.

Even if you install a grill jacket into your outdoor kitchen… You still want to follow recommended setback guidelines from your appliance manufacturer. (And install backsplashes and/or vent hoods when suggested.)

We’ll leave you with this. Your BBQ island needs to breathe!

You Still Need Island Ventilation

Top down view of island cross ventilation

On the topic of “breathing”… There’s another requirement that an insulated jacket doesn’t save you from.

Island ventilation.

Sad to say, this is the most overlooked portion of an outdoor kitchen project… And it’s an oversight with potential for dangerous consequences.

Let’s step back for a moment.

You’re now aware that an insulated grill jacket provides a physical barrier around your grill… Thereby protecting the combustible materials in your island.

That’s all fine and good.

But when your grill is running full blast… It’s producing a ton of heat. And that heat needs somewhere to go. (Even in the case of a vented grill jacket.)

Left unchecked, it’s possible that the interior of your island could get hot enough to combust anyway… Even with that physical barrier in place.

Point is, your insulated grill jacket simply cannot function properly if the island itself isn’t being ventilated.

So it is of utmost importance that you work with an outdoor kitchen builder who understands island ventilation requirements… Or select a solution that’s already thought this through.

You Can’t Mix-and-Match Brands

Sometimes, homeowners try to get clever.

Insulated grill jackets all look pretty much the same… But the price for them varies widely.

So if you sprung for a more expensive grill brand… Why not buy a cheaper grill jacket from another brand to save some money?

We can see why you’d be thinking along those lines.

Unfortunately… This should never be done!

Whether it’s Summerset, Hestan, DCS, Fire Magic, Lynx, Coyote, Alfresco, or Blaze grills… Attempting to mix and match brands for your grill jacket is an absolute no-no.

The reason for this is simple.

Every brand of built-in gas grills will have slightly different requirements. And every brand designs their grill jackets for their specific grill line.

Take Coyote, for example. Their insulated grill jackets are designed with ventilation on most sides. This is because their outdoor grills need that ventilation to operate safely.

So if you decide to plop a 36 inch gas grill from Coyote into a Blaze grill jacket of the same size (with no ventilation)… You’re setting yourself up for disaster.

Point is, built-in grills and their respective insulated jackets are inseparable. (It’s not a racket to get more money out of you!)

And speaking of money…

They don’t Save You Money

budgeting to save money on outdoor kitchen

This might seem like a hot take… But when you run the numbers, it’s really not.

If you cast aside all the safety reasons why wood is a poor material choice for an outdoor kitchen… Many homeowners still feel that the savings they’ll get from choosing wood is a benefit that outweighs any other consideration.

But even if you throw caution to the wind and build an outdoor kitchen with wood… When you add in an insulated grill jacket, are you really saving money?

A single grill jacket alone will run you several hundred dollars.

For some perspective… Coyote’s insulated jacket for their 36” grill will run you $769.00.

That’s no small sum!

But that’s just the beginning.

If you have any other cooking appliances in your grill island… Every single one will need their own grill jacket as well.

That includes griddles, power burners, double side burners, pellet grillsYou get the idea.

The more you have, the more you pay. And if you’ve got several cooking appliances in your layout… That’s easily a several thousand dollar expenditure you weren’t originally planning for.

And at that point… Wouldn’t it just make more sense to pony up the cash for a better solution?

You Might As Well Pursue a Safer Option

And herein lies the true problem underpinning this whole insulated grill jacket debacle.

There’s so much extra time, fuss, money, and risk involved with building an outdoor kitchen that requires grill jackets… And it gets to a point where simplifying the process becomes the most logical answer.

Especially when you consider that there’s no real downsides.

What are we trying to get at here?

Since it’s clear you care about building a safe outdoor kitchen… You might as well avoid the runaround and go straight for a solution without the confusion.

An outdoor kitchen that’s completely made with non-combustible materials…

An outdoor kitchen that doesn’t require grill jackets at all…

And an outdoor kitchen that’s designed with safety in mind from the get-go.

That way, you don’t even need to get distracted or confused by the concept of grill jackets.

You can know for certain that your outdoor kitchen isn’t prone to combustion… And to us, that peace of mind is worth so much more than trying to save a few pennies.

But does this elusive outdoor kitchen solution even exist?

Well…

Skip the Insulated Jacket for Grill, Without the Risk

With RTA Outdoor Living, you can truly have your cake and eat it too.

We won’t rehash all the points you just read… But it’s clear this is the outdoor kitchen solution you’re looking for.

Why?

First and foremost, RTA islands are constructed with high performance concrete. Not only is this concrete rated for 100 years… It is 100% non-combustible.

Hence… Fully eliminating your need for a grill jacket from a safety perspective.

Yes, it’s true that concrete is more costly than wood.

But you won’t be spending hundreds or of dollars for a wood BBQ island that’s not built to last… And will need to be replaced in a few years anyway. (Aside from combustibility, wood is susceptible to warping, rotting, swelling, and termite damage.)

So while upfront costs are likely to even out… RTA wins out on sheer longevity. (No repair or replacement headaches here!)

And while it’s clear that an RTA outdoor kitchen saves you the grief of having to fret about grill jackets… We also remove the anxieties of other safety considerations.

Take island ventilation, for example.

As you know… An insulated grill jacket will be rendered useless if that heat can’t be properly flushed out of your island.

And it’s for this reason that we go nuts on ensuring our islands have adequate ventilation. In fact, every RTA island has ventilation in 7 unique locations.

So rest assured… Your custom outdoor kitchen will remain cool, calm, and collected. (And so will you!)

Well, what do you think? Are you ready to begin your outdoor kitchen journey?

Check out our free online design tool to deck out your new island… And play around with the appliances to your heart’s content.

Gas grills, flat top griddles, power burners, and pizza ovens are all on the table… No insulated jacket needed!

Have fun… And we’ll be in touch soon.

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Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

A built in grill insulated jacket is necessary if your outdoor kitchen is constructed with combustible materials. Examples of this are wood, PVC, and HDPE.

A grill insulated jacket is an accessory designed for built-in grills. If your outdoor kitchen is made from combustible materials such as wood… The grill insulation jacket is designed to protect your island from combustion by providing a barrier between the grill and island materials.

In truth, there isn’t a “best” insulated jacket for built in grill. Each outdoor grill insulated jacket is specifically designed for the grill brand it comes from. So there’s no safe way to mix-and-match grills and insulated jackets from different brands. To rephrase another way… The best insulated jacket for gas grill is the one that matches the brand of your built in grill!

An insulated jacket for outdoor grill works in a couple ways. Primarily, it works by providing a direct barrier… Providing protection for combustible materials inside your outdoor kitchen. Some insulated jackets are designed with vents, thereby providing ventilation for the heat as well.

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