Gas vs Charcoal Grills - Which is for you?

Written in 2024
by Adam

    Gas vs Charcoal Grills - Which is for you?

    Ideally, you would be able to own both a gas and a charcoal grill.

    You’d have the option of quickly heating up the gas grill and eating some burger patties 5 minutes later, or taking plenty of time to fire up some charcoal and sear some steaks.

    Sadly, you’ve got to pick just one.

    Ignore the usual fanatics for gas or charcoal, and just decide what you enjoy the most, as it'll work best for you.

    Down below you’re gonna learn about the key differences between gas and charcoal, and make the best decision for you.

    What's the fuss about?

    As I’m sure you already know, the main difference is which fuel you decide to use.

    But what are the actual difference for you at home?

    Gas grills obviously have some great key advantages :

    • Gas grills are much quicker, and easier to use
    • You can find a gas grill at a wider variety of prices
    • The high-end grills come with enough perks it’s almost a kitchen!

    Charcoal does require a certain level of technique to it to light it and maintain your desired temperature.

    • Once you know how to keep the grill at the right temperature - these grills are made for searing.
    • The workload to keep and maintain is a lot more for these.
    • You’ll receive an authentic taste every time, without those expensive add-ons.

    Now you know the general of the argument, we can go on to learn what's fact and what's fiction.

    How do Charcoal Grills Work?

    Charcoal grills tend to be the most simple, and the most affordable. You can find a classic Weber Kettle sitting around in the backyards of houses all around the world.

    You can also get Kamado style grills, or if you're lucky, large built-in standing grills.

    It’s the same concept throughout, using lit coals to produce enough heat to cook the food, and using vents to control the airflow, and the temperature.

    Some charcoal grills allow for an adjustable tray, meaning you can move the coals further to or farther away from the coals to create a more/less intense searing.

    Lighting the coals seems to be a problem for a lot of people, but you don't have to resort to dousing the whole thing in lighter fluid.

    The easiest way is to use a chimney starter to light your fire.

    The Pros of A Charcoal Grill

    -It’s undisputed the charcoal grills do produce the best taste.

    -Because the coals reach higher temperatures, they’re the natural choice for searing and cooking a lot of steaks.

    -Charcoal grills could also be used as smokers.

    Meathead Goldwyn tells us:

    “The best reasons to buy a charcoal grill is that charcoal can get hotter than standard gas grills without infrared burners, and heat is what you need to keep them nice and crisp on the outside while keeping the red and pink on the inside.”

    Why Charcoal might not be for you

    -If you’re impatient, you’ll have to wait longer for your meal to be ready when cooking with charcoal

    -By nature, charcoal is messier, which means that cleanup and maintenance is more complicated.

    -You’re gonna need more know-how and experience when using a charcoal grill, but we see this as more ‘fun’ than a con, but that's down to you.

    -Certain rules don't allow for some residencies to use charcoal grills.

    Which Food is best for A Charcoal grill?

    Charcoal excels when you sear, and if you prefer a more smoky flavour.

    Whilst you’ve probably heard that charcoal tastes better, how true is it?

    Good Housekeeping magazine did a blind taste test in 1998 and found that tasters couldn't tell the difference between burgers cooked on charcoal and gas grills.

    However, when cooking those thicker cuts of meat with longer cooking times, the taste difference became clear.

    If you want to invest more time into your cooking and you do a lot of searing or you might even want to try using your grill as a smoker, make sure to pick up a charcoal grill.

    How do Gas Grills Compare?

    We do need to have a look at gas grills before we claim that charcoal grills are the best, however.

    The most obvious difference between the two is the fuel.

    Either propane or natural gases are used in a gas grill. Propane is used more often, so that’s why you’ll see the terms ‘gas’ and ‘propane’ grill used pretty often.

    To use natural gases is a little more complicated, you need to have a mainline connected to your house and grill. 

    You can use propane in places where this isn't available, as they come in large, refillable tanks.

    These grills are a little more complicated than their charcoal cousins, let’s see how they work:

    • Gas travels through a hose to the regulator
    • Then flows through the manifold
    • Then from the manifold through the valves
    • You can control the amount of gas that is burned.
    • You can do this to control the temperature in the grill.

    Higher-end gas grills could have infrared burners which help to evenly distribute the heat among the food.

    Why Gas Grills are so Popular then?

    -Gas is much quicker and can be ready in about 10 or 15 minutes, and is easier to work with than charcoal.

    -Gas grills are easier to clean and cool quicker.

    -Controlling the temperature is much easier on a gas grill.

    -There are plenty of features to accessorize with on a gas grill.

    The Problem with Gas Grills

    -Cheap grills won’t compare to same price charcoal grills with searing.

    -It costs a lot of cash to improve the searing of a gas grill with an infrared burner.

    -Gas grills are more dangerous than charcoal grills, as they always have a potential for a big bang.

    What Food is Best for a Gas Grill?

    If you purchase a plain gas grill, they’ll be best for grilling the thinner meats, as the lack of smoky flavour isn't noticeable at all.

    If you can splash out on all the extra bits and bobs, then you can cook almost anything perfectly with a gas grill.

    You might be wondering now, “If I can only choose one, which is for me?”

    Gas and Charcoal Grills go Head to Head

    Ease of use

    -Gas - Its easier to control the temperature, as well as quicker to start up.

    -Charcoal - Considerably harder to maintain, and temperature control takes a little bit more skill.

    Temperature Control and Range

    -Gas - Controlling the temperature is just as easy as turning the dials.

    -Gas - Whilst the cheaper grills won’t give you the flexibility to smoke, the more expensive ones can.

    - Charcoal - Charcoal will give you the low and high temperatures to be able to sear and smoke.

    What About Grilling and my Health?

    For the barbecue fans that are more cautious about their health, there are some factors you need to consider.

    Char is a compound that is known to be produced during cooking meat at high temperatures, and cooking with charcoal means that you could, in fact, consume a lot of it.

    Keeping those temperatures high enough to sear can be done from a good gas grill or a charcoal grill, and a good sear, is great, however, it is, in fact, a cancer risk.

    Whilst this isn’t the end of the world, do consider that much more research needs to be done into how much of these compacts can be consumed before our health starts to be affected.

    Wrapping Up

    As we’ve said throughout, there is no winner of which grill is best…

    If you want to put the time in and you desire that smoky flavour, then charcoal grills are best for you. If you want the ease of use and speed, then a gas grill might be the best choice.

    We hope this guide helped, let us know down below what you decide!

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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