The Pros, the Cons, and the Facts in this Cooking with Charcoal vs Gas Grills showdown.
I am sure you have heard it discussed before and if you are an avid griller, chances are you have been right in the thick of it at some point.
Bring this topic up to any seasoned griller, and you will be met with some very strong opinions. I have friends who swear by one and who absolutely refuse to use the other. Charcoal enthusiasts scoff at the idea of using gas and ridicule anybody who would even suggest it and vis a versa.
Ok, that last one has nothing to do with BBQ, but it is a great debate regardless. 🙂
But what are the differences and which option is better?
Well, we are talking about different rules, different skills, a whole different ballgame really. The end results may be similar, but getting there requires different techniques.
No matter which side of the fence you are on, I am here to tell you that there are pros and cons to each option and depending on your situation, either or both can work for you.
- Clean up
Tend to be less expensive
Traditional, wood flavor
Requires more hands on
Wider temperature range
Messy ash to clean
Are more expensive
Lacking smoky flavor
Low temperature range
Charcoal vs Gas Grills
Let’s Break It Down Further
Charcoal Grill Pros
Real wood fired flavor that you just can’t get from a gas grill.
To me, nothing says BBQ more than the mouthwatering Smokey goodness of a slow cooked piece of meat on a charcoal grill.
I can go on and on about the flavorful advantages of natural charcoal, but I will save that for another article.
Intense and fast heat is what is needed to get your meat charred on the outside while keeping it a nice juicy pink on the inside.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can generally achieve lower temperatures with charcoal than you can with gas which is perfect for slow cooking and smoking meat.
A charcoal grill can easily reach a temperature of up to 900°F or as low as 225°F and even lower.
Many gas grills can typically only reach up to the 500°F range with a low of 250°F-275°F range.
On the extreme low end, you can get something like a small Weber “Smokey Joe” for about $25. A tried and true “Weber kettle” can be had for about $150, while a “higher end model” can be had for about $600.
It is tricky to master the fire and requires much more involvement and attention, but the first time you nail it, the feeling of accomplishment is second to none.
You can easily bring, set up and use a charcoal grill almost anywhere it is permitted.
Charcoal Grill Cons
It can take up to 30 minutes just for the fire to get up to the proper cooking temperature (check out these awesome charcoal lighting techniques) compared to about 10 minutes for a gas grill.
Of course, this is only a con if you don’t have your favorite beer in hand to help ease the wait.
Cleaning out the ash is messy, time-consuming and an overall pain in the a$$.
It takes some experience and a lot of trial and error to master the art of temperature control with a charcoal grill.
The outside weather can play a major factor in this too. Too much or not enough wind can affect airflow which is the key to temp control. Weather that is too hot or too cold can keep you from getting to the desired heat.
Not everybody will want to be out grilling in the extreme elements, especially those who live in areas where it snows.
Obviously, it will be harder to light and keep your fire going in windy and wet conditions.
Can’t Be Used Everywhere
You should always check your local codes and laws ahead of time.
There is no hiding the smoke and aroma caused by the briquettes or wood that sticks to your clothes, hair, and skin after you’ve finished fire grilling that juicy rib-eye steak.
Gas Grill Pros
When you need dinner on the table fast with and minimal fuss, a gas grill is your huckleberry.
Ease Of Use
Gas grills can easily and quickly be started with a push of a button.
There is no worrying about getting those coals to stay lit, wondering when they’re going to be ready or having to shut down the fire when you are done.
Propane tanks can provide enough fuel for 16 to 20 hours of cooking time.
It is as easy as turning a dial to your desired setting of low, medium or high in most cases. For the most part, the heat produced is even and consistent.
No worrying about adjusting vents or air flow. You can even close the lid without putting out the fire while maintaining the heat.
When you close the lid on most charcoal grills, you will be decreasing the oxygen flow and putting out the fire unless you know how to use your vents properly.
Ease Of Cleaning
Gas Grill Cons
You can pay for assembly at many places you purchase your grill, but this will add another factor to the total price.
Prices start around $129 to $299 for the most popularly priced (but cheaply made) gas grills. A mid-range gas grill can run around $800 with the top of the range premium gas grills can cost as much as $5,000 and beyond.
Parts can also rust or fail or wear down. You will also need to take trips to refill your propane tank when it is low.
A good “grill cover” can help minimize the exposure to the elements and is recommended.
This doesn’t matter as much for short cooking foods, where the flavor can be as good as charcoal, but indirect cooking and smoking won’t give you same flavor.
Some of the higher end grills have built-in smoke boxes that you could add wood chips too, but for most, you will need to add homemade foil packets filled with wood chips and put them directly on the burner.
There are a few other options for added smoke flavor you can find out there as well. The biggest issue when trying to smoke is that most gas grill lids do not seal well (a built-in safety precaution because of the gas), so a lot of the smoke is lost.
I’m lucky enough that my wife allows me to own three grills (gas, charcoal, and pellet smoker).
I use each for whatever the circumstance calls for. Sometimes it just depends on how I am feeling on any given day. Other times I use more than one option simultaneously.
I am a bit of an extreme case (head case some might say) though, and more than one option is not needed.
There is no question that great tasting BBQ can come from either gas or charcoal grilling but no matter which you choose, I would always recommend that you read the owner’s manual before the first use, so you know exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your grill.
Now It’s Your Turn
Which outdoor Grill have you used before?
Do you prefer a Charcoal or Gas grill and have any tips to share?
What features do you typically like to see in a grill?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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