Gas Grills vs. Charcoal Grills: Which is best?
Updated 05-04-2021 – Kenny Willis
It’s time to end the debate of gas vs. charcoal grill once and for all. This simple list of pros and cons should be able to help you pick the right grill for you and your family. Everybody has their viewpoint when it comes to either method of grilling. Which kind of grill is at the top? Is there a right decision for cooking up delicious grilled dishes?
Instead of guessing what grill to use at your next event, here’s a list of pros and cons for both grills. So, here’s our Gas vs. Charcoal Grill Review:
A lot of BBQ fans say that charcoal grills are the only way to go. We wanted to get a more unbiased view, so here are the things that stand out with charcoal grills:
High Temperature – Generally, charcoal grills reach more significant temps than gas ones do. A grill needs to have a temperature of a minimum of 600 F to get a good sear on any meat. That isn’t an issue for a charcoal grill filled with burning hot coal since it can get as host as 700 F. Although there are gas grills that can get very hot as well, they’re typically on the more expensive end.
Flavor – Do you know why charcoal grills give a lot of flavors? Well, it seems that more heat is the answer. When the drippage from your meats and veggies drops on the hot charcoal, they create flavor-filled steam. The smoke goes right up into the food, giving it a unique smokey taste that you only get with charcoal grills.
Affordable – A simple charcoal grill goes as high as $25, whereas moderately priced grills can be up to $150. You can get higher-end units that are more expensive, but even so, charcoal grills manage to outshine gas ones, which go for $130-$300.
Longer Time to Heat Up – Charcoal grills typically take around 15-20 minutes to give the ideal cooking temp, and this is without including the time you spend lighting the coal. In contrast, gas grills immediately start-up and take fewer than 10 minutes to give the cooking temp.
High Fuel Cost – A 10kg gas cylinder can offer about a month’s worth of cooking time, while a bag of charcoal of similar weight only provides three grilling moments. The kind of charcoal you use can affect the way your meals taste too. Clean-burning charcoal, lump or hardwood, can cost about $35-$40 for a 10kg bag.
Laborious Cleanup – Unlike a gas grill that only requires a short scrub using a brush, a charcoal grill needs emptying after use, before scrubbing. This process can be messy and time-consuming.
Gas grills are the oldest cooking method of the two. Seen in almost every household, they’re great for basic meals for the family. But what are the significant benefits and concerns?
Eco-Friendly – Healthwise, gas grills seem to be the more brilliant option. Why so? Well, gas-grilled foods have lesser carcinogens as opposed to charcoal-grilled meats. Therefore, a gas grill has one-third the carbon footprint of a charcoal one.
Quick – Gas grills start-up by simply pressing the ignition button and turning the stove dial. After the preheat time, you’re ready to grill instead of charcoal grilling, where you wait for the coals to get hot. You can alter the heat level, going low to cook bony chicken and then surging hot for steaks and kababs instead of waiting on coal.
Versatility – You can immediately grill delicate foodstuffs like fruits and veggies without worrying about overpowering smokey flavors from charcoal grills with a gas one. Professionals recommend using a gas stove to grill fish and shellfish to get a deep grilled taste instead of a smokey one. If you want the smokiness, you can get a cheap smoke box or even learn how to convert your grill into a smoke machine online.
Assembly Time – Unlike charcoal grills with their speedy assembly and setup, a mid-tier gas grill is slightly more complex to set up and install in a gas tank.
Safety – Of course, you have to be aware of safety protocols regardless of what you’re cooking. That said, be extra vigilant when using gas grills. Ensure that the gas tank’s secure with no leaks, the grills about ten feet from your house and that the grill’s cleared of grease.
Portability – While compact gas grills are accessible online and, in some shops, towing around a typical gas grill is highly challenging in public spaces.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Grill
Choosing the ideal grill for yourself means thinking about many factors and features, which can be overwhelming. So, we’ve collected our favorite tricks to find the perfect match for your home. Here are some things to consider before buying a grill:
Size is important, regardless of whether your grill is gas or charcoal. Most compact or medium-sized charcoal and two-stove gas grills are pretty suitable for nuclear families living in a decent-sized house. Grill measurements are typically in square inches. Grills ranging from 400 to 500 square inches are the way to go for everyday cooking.
If you’re the general host of the community BBQ scene or own a large house, reflect on a more sizeable model that can have up to six burners. Furthermore, if you aim to have a gas grill, but you also want to cook meats on indirect heat, then you’ll need a three-burner unit at the least.
If you plan grilling sessions both in and out of the home, make sure your grill has lockable wheels and legs. Large grills can be challenging to move otherwise.
As with most outside products, stainless steel provides the most robustness and weather protection. However, many grills use different materials that have their features, budgets, and benefits.
You don’t have to buy a stainless steel grill if stored in a garage or shed or if it stays under a durable grill cover. Lighter builds through materials such as aluminum are great if you need portable models instead.
Just remember, if you decide on a stainless steel grill, use the magnet test to see if a magnet sticks to the grill. If it does, then the steel is of low quality and is more prone to rusting.
Lids and Hoods
A grill that has a hood or a lid offers more versatility. Covering the grill with the lid while grilling keeps smoke and heat inside, so you can do more as everything is cooking. You also get a more robust smokey flavor with this feature via heat convection of the air and grill.
An inbuilt thermometer will let you monitor the temp inside the grill while cooking. It tells you if the temperature is too low or high and allows you to make adjustments accordingly.
Side burners allow you to cook or warm-up side dishes and sauces while you’re grilling, so you don’t have to keep running back and forth. They can also keep your grilled food warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I add charcoal to a gas grill?
Well, yes, in a way. Certain grills have an additional feature known as the charcoal tray. This component substitutes your BBQ grates and lets you put charcoal over the burners. The trays are a great addition to gas grills since they allow you to light charcoals quickly using burners. You don’t need to use lighter fluid to start a fire, which also helps improve food taste. While the coal burns, it just falls into your drip pan for easy cleaning afterward.
One aspect to remember, though, is size. There is no regular tray size, so particular trays work only with their designated grills. A manufacturer should have more details about add-ons listed in their manual so that you can call them for help.
If the grill doesn’t come with a charcoal tray, you might not be able to grill using charcoal on your gas grill. That said, a smoker box or tube is an excellent replacement for charcoal on gas grills. They provide the same unique smokey flavor, albeit less intense.
How do I use propane instead of natural gas for my grill?
Sometimes, it’s essential to switch to propane from your regular natural gas supply. Sadly, this idea isn’t as easy as unhooking a fuel source and hooking the other one in. There’s generally some assembly involved to make sure everything is functioning correctly.
Changing the type of gas type in your grill can differ with each model, but the general process involves altering the holes allowing gas flow into every burner. You’ll also have to change the grill’s gas flow regulator to an LPG one.
Most top-tier brands produce conversion kits, but you should still have professionals convert your grill for you to stay safe and avoid damage. Some grill manufacturers don’t offer convertible models, so make sure to get the right one for the gas fuel you use. Also, ensure that future conversions are possible before buying if you plan on changing the gas any time soon.
Should I use propane instead of natural gas?
While it is possible, we wouldn’t recommend the change itself. You may have your reasons for affordability, taste, or safety, but natural gas is much more effective than propane. Propane will give a weaker flame on a gas grill, which can hinder grilling to a terrible degree.
And yes, as we said, it might be possible to convert some models to propane ones. That said, this isn’t usually a sure shot. Suppose your grill stops working, and you void its warranty. Just be sure to weigh the pros against the cons before undertaking this step!
Can gas affect the flavor of my food?
Yes, the legend of mercaptan. Since propane and natural gas have no odor or color, a compound called mercaptan is present in these fuels. It releases a foul smell that alerts you to any leaks. You’ll probably have heard of the myth that grilling with gas leaves a nasty aftertaste and odor because of the mercaptans. This idea is not accurate.
When gas heats up, mercaptans are converted to sulfur dioxide, making sulfuric acid thanks to water combustion. The tiny amount of sulfur is only a fraction of the sulfur naturally present in food. You’ll find it in onions, garlic, smoke, and other rubs. Just know that natural gas is safe and has no underlying smell or test since it is clean-burning.
The Bottom Line
Well, there you have it—a comprehensive Gas vs. Charcoal Grill Review. No matter how much time goes by, this will remain a contentious topic that cooks, and grilling enthusiasts will speak on for years to come.
So, which one should you buy? Well, it depends on what you want to use the grill for. If the taste is essential to you, then we suggest you choose a charcoal grill. If ease of use is more crucial, then opt for gas. Or, even better, get both. Like how you have an oven and a microwave in the kitchen, you can have both grills to use whichever, depending on the mood.
Some hybrid models manage to work both ways, but we don’t have much information to recommend the idea. Even so, there will be more innovative models soon. Regardless, before you buy any grill, make sure to do your research and figure out what you want in a grill. Good luck!
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