Summer Grill Showdown: Gas Versus Charcoal

If you love grilling, you may be familiar with the great gas vs. charcoal debate. Perhaps your best friend prefers one while your father-in-law swears by the other. Every passionate griller has their preference, so if you’re still on the fence, approach the issue as objectively as possible to help you choose the right grill for you.

Gas Grill

Owners of gas grills love the primal pleasure of cooking outside while still enjoying the convenience and ease of a gas grill. For them, it’s the best of both worlds.

Pros

  • Easy to use: Gas grills are intuitive and take little practice to master. They heat up in just 10 to 15 minutes, hold a steady temperature and are easy to clean.
  • Customizable heat zones: Cooking different types of food simultaneously is a breeze with multi-burner gas grills. These can be configured to cook meat on high, grill veggies on medium and hold finished food on low.
  • Accessories: Gas grills have a plethora of accessory options. Rotisserie attachments, side burners, spice racks, night lights, side tables, storage drawers and more make grilling as convenient as possible.

Cons

  • Lower temperatures: Only the highest end gas grills reach the necessary temperature to cook steaks so they achieve a crispy outside and medium-rare inside. If you like your steaks well done, or you grill foods other than steak, cooking on a gas grill is no problem.
  • Not ideal for using wood chips: If you want to add wood chips to your grill for a signature flavor, you’ll need to construct your own foil packets unless the grill comes with a smoke box. Then, you’ll need to use more wood than usual because so much smoke is lost through poorly sealing gas grill lids.
  • More expensive: With more complex components, gas grills cost more upfront and are more likely to break and require repair.

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal purists tend to be a little snobbish, looking down their noses at anyone who can’t appreciate the ritual of setting up a charcoal grill and the thrill of playing with fire. They perceive gas grill users as too mainstream and lazy. Still, charcoal grilling has both pros and cons.

Pros

  • High heat: The biggest reason to put up with charcoal briquettes is the high heat they can produce. With the ability to cook up to 700 degrees F, charcoal lets you achieve a signature steak or lamb with a crisp, caramelized outside and juicy inside.
  • Smoky flavor: Those who prefer charcoal grills swear they provide superior tasting, smoky meats.
  • Less expensive: Charcoal grills cost less upfront, but depending on fuel prices, the cost of briquettes can be higher than propane or natural gas.

Cons

  • Messy: Charcoal is dirty to handle, but if you always use gloves and/or tongs, you never have to touch them with your bare hands. Still, be prepared to clean up ash after cooking.
  • Takes longer to prepare: Charcoal grills can be difficult to light, and they take about 15 minutes longer to heat up than a gas or propane grill.
  • Temperature is difficult to control: It’s hard to tell exactly what temp you’re cooking at, and it’s impossible to change the temperature rapidly. During long cook times, the temperature gradually decreases and you must add more charcoal.
  • Flare-ups can burn food: It’s possible to contain flare-ups with a squirt gun, but this makes cooking a little more nerve-racking (or exciting, depending on who you ask).

In short, gas grilling makes a few compromises to achieve greater convenience while charcoal grilling can yield excellent results with enough practice. Which route you take is purely preference.

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