Gas vs Charcoal Grills – Which is right for you?

Jason Webster
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What’s the fight about?

You have a choice when it comes to cooking up your way in the backyard: gas or charcoal grills. Each has its pros and cons.

Gas grills offer an easy, flexible way to cook your food as you can simply control the amount of time and power output required using a dial.

Gas grills are cleaner than charcoal grills … because there’s no messy ashes to dispose of at the end of the day. That means you spend less time in the cleanup department, which makes less work for you and frees up more time for spending with friends and family.

The convenience and ease that come with gas grills means that you can cook up items more quickly than you would on a charcoal grill. You can even put the food on a separate shelf above the heat source.

As for the heat, it heats up the food from all angles equally. Once the heat is on, it’s very predictable that the food will cook at a consistent rate.

Your hands don’t come in contact with the flame, so your safety is better protected than it would be to a charcoal grill whose heat source is usually at the bottom of the grill.

How do charcoal grills work?

Charcoal grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook.

A charcoal grill consists of a bottom grate set in a relatively shallow pan of water. To build a charcoal fire, you position a layer of briquettes in the charcoal grate, light them, and let the coal burn until it’s white-hot.

There are several advantages to cooking over charcoal. For one, the grilling temperature is stable and remains relatively cool, which is better for food safety.

It is much more versatile than other types of grills. You can cook almost every type of food on it, from your steak to some vegetables and various seafoods. In fact, I have never seen a fish grilled on a gas grill. It’s just magnificent.

Another advantage is that you can add more charcoal to the grill for cooking foods over a longer period of time. Here, I want to mention that charcoal is usually more expensive than propane and natural gas. If you plan to use the grill for longer periods of time, charcoal grilling may be a better investment for you.

What Food is Charcoal Best For?

Although both gas and charcoal grills will get the job done, they do it in slightly different ways.

Gas grills heat up the fastest and can reach the highest heat. They also provide even heat and don’t need to be constantly attended to.

Gas grills are also the easiest to light, which is a bonus if you’re dealing with charcoal grill newbies or are in a hurry.

Charcoal grills can get hotter than gas grills, which makes them better for searing steaks and other types of food that you need to brown on the outside and cook thoroughly on the inside, like chicken breasts or hamburgers.

In general, I like to cook with charcoal because it gives food a wonderful smoky flavor, but which one works better for you really depends on your preferences and your cooking preferences.

Understanding the basic differences between the two types of grills will help you figure out which is better for your cooking style.

How do gas grills compare?

On the market, a gas grill will typically cost roughly half of what a charcoal grill will, but there is obviously more to consider than price.

Here are a few things to consider as you weigh your grill options.

  • Performance: Charcoal grills have been the standard of backyard grilling for years but gas grills can hold their own in terms of grilling performance. Keep in mind, however, that it takes a substantial amount of charcoal to achieve a similar heat output as a gas grill (an amount that may not always be environmentally friendly). Nonetheless, both charcoal and gas grills get the job done.
  • Cooking time: When it comes to cooking for large crowds, the charcoal grill remains king. You can prep everything in the kitchen, bring the food out to grill, and then go back in the kitchen to make the side dishes and desserts. It’s a much more labor-intensive process for the griller but more convenient for those in the kitchen. Gas grills, in comparison, are much more convenient with the cooking and prep done in tandem.
  • Spatial considerations: You can literally fit a lot more on a gas grill than a charcoal grill. As such, they are great for large gatherings and also families with children since everyone can grill at once.

What Food are Gas Grills Best For?

Gas grills are great for grilling fast foods such as hamburgers, hotdogs, kebabs and vegetables.

When you want to grill a light meal, gas grills are the way to go. They heat up quickly, are easy to light and offer great control over the heat.

The downside of gas grills for light meals is that they lack the big area required to grill large food items.

Light meals are typically easier to cook and heat is not an issue, while gas grills excel at heating up quick and offering you more control over the heat.

If you want to give your burgers or kebabs a smoky flavor, you should use charcoal. Gas grills are almost incapable of creating that smoky flavor. They may help you replicate that smoky flavor if you cook your food on direct high heat, but otherwise, charcoal grills are definitely your better bet.

Gas and Charcoal Grills go Head to Head


Gas Grills

Gas grills are easy to use and start-up compared to charcoal grills.

Charcoal Grills

Good for beginners, as they are easy to control the temperature even for a beginner.

Less maintenance than gas grills.

No add-on expenses of propane.

Charcoal burns slowly and hot.

Less variety of grilling options.

Fire may flare-up.

Takes longer to get hot.

Takes longer to cool down.

Smokey aroma.

The fuel at times can run out while cooking.

Which one is right for me?

It depends on the kind of grill you want. You should know where you will be using the grill and what you would be cooking.

In most cases, Gas grills are good for use at home because the fire does not flare up, unlike when cooking over charcoal. Gas grills are also better in that they get hot faster than charcoal grills and give you the convenience of a propane tank for an endless supply of fuel.

Charcoal grills are better for larger meals and for cooking more types of dishes, as the temperature can be controlled to a high degree.

If you are looking for convenience, go with gas grills not that you want to enjoy your meal, go with charcoal grills.

What About Grilling and My Health?

“Aha”, you say, “I can smell the chemicals in a gas-grilled steak. The secret to great barbecue is a charcoal grill.”

True, well-seasoned, clean charcoal is indeed delicious. But it also releases other chemicals in the form of gases when it burns. It’s the gases that make the charcoal flame yellow; when it is not yellow but blue, then it’s probably burning at an insufficient temperature. Do you believe that it is safer to grill at a lower temperature?

If one has no allergies or conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, then grilling in any manner, including with charcoal and gas, is perfectly safe. I have a gas grill, and I’m not going to change it just because gas releases a few chemicals, though I will be very mindful when I use it in the future.

37 Grilling and BBQ Gift Ideas for 2019

I’m sure you’ve heard this said more than once.

“This is the best grilled chicken recipe ever!”

“This is how you make the perfect grilled burgers recipe!”

“This is how you cook the perfect grilled steak recipe!”

“This is how you grill the best ever grilled fish recipe!”

“This is how you get the best grilled salmon recipe ever!”

So many recipes, so little time to try them all!

Grilled or barbecued food is something that takes practice to perfect. Some of us get it right the first time, but most of us just learn by doing.

First get familiar with the different types of barbecue grills available. There are gas barbecues and charcoal barbecues. Each is better for certain types of cooking.

Some griller prefer conducting their grilling and barbecue tasks using charcoal as the fuel for their barbecues. But there are also some who prefer to use propane or natural gas as their favorite fuel source for their gas grills.

The choice is yours, and you should know the proper way to maintain both of them.