Charcoal and gas grills are the two most common cookout equipment choices in the U.S. Most Americans prefer the unique features that either of the two types of grills brings, primarily due to taste and ease of use in preparing various barbecue recipes.
Choosing between the two can present a puzzle. Here, we’ll give you the lowdown on charcoal vs. gas grills to help you make a choice on which grill is better for you.
What is a Charcoal Grill?
A charcoal grill is one that uses lump coal or briquettes as fuel. These grills come in various shapes, with the kettle grill being the most common.
They consist of two parts:
- A lid top
- A grill bottom
The grill bottom comprises an upper cooking and base charcoal grate. Some grills also feature convenient cooking grates that allow you to add hot coals from the sides without having to take out your meat first.
Electric, chimney, liquid, wood, or torch starters are used to ignite the coals.
Regulation of heat, like everything else about the charcoal grill, is manually done, which for some barbecue enthusiasts is a deal-breaker. Air vents at the top and bottom also limit or increase the amount of oxygen inside the grill for lower or higher temperatures and heat controls.
What is a Gas Grill?
A gas grill uses natural gas or propane. Fueling using natural gas requires that your grill be connected to the mains line while grills that use propane are more portable.
Gas grills consist of burners that vary in number, ranging from two to six. Some grills also have searing and rotisserie attachments included. A grease tray is an essential component of this grill for no-mess, no flare-up grilling, and easy maintenance.
Several control knobs also make it easy to control the operation of the grill, and an in-built thermometer conveniently measures temperatures.
Charcoal or Gas Grills – What are the Main Differences?
It is much cheaper to grill using gas or propane over coal. Gas is the most affordable of all energy sources, and the one most used in American households.
Charcoal grills are most affected by cold weather due to their poor heat retention. These heat leaks mean that they combust more fuel to keep up the heat, resulting in higher fueling costs.
Authenticity and Flavor
Charcoal grills represent the original authentic barbecue experience producing the most flavorful food, and gas grills cannot compete. Charcoal grills also sear meat better than gas grills. While some grills have searing attachments, the small surface area of the sears means less searing at a time yielding food with a less smoky taste.
Gas grills typically cost more than charcoal grills. Natural-gas-fueled outdoor grills come with long hosepipes that connect to the gas line and complex brass fittings that add to the cost of the grills.
Safety and Space
A gas grill flame is much easier to control compared to a charcoal grill. The drip guard ensures that all grease is collected and doesn’t fall to the base causing potential flare-ups. Charcoal grills, however, don’t have these features and are consequently less safe to use.
The temperature control knobs also make it easy to control the flame and temperature. However, gas grills typically take up more space compared to charcoal grills.
Charcoal Grills – Pros and Cons
- Produce the most flavorful barbecues of all the grills on the market
- Portable and excellent for camp cookouts, tailgating, or cooking at home
- Affordably priced
- Yields tender, juicy barbecue effortlessly
- Costly to fuel
- The fueling and ignition process is manual, and it takes longer for the grill to heat up
- It isn’t straightforward to regulate heat
- Barbecues made from charcoal grills are not the healthiest, producing PAHs that have been linked to cancer
- The smoke produced can affect people living with lung problems
Gas Grills – The Good and the Bad
- Automatic ignition
- Convenient and affordable fuel supply
- Takes less time to get hot
- Quick and easy to clean
- Grills fueled using 20-lb propane gas are more portable
- Easy temperature control
- Healthier grilling with fewer PAH compounds
- Quite pricey
- The majority of natural gas-fueled grills are not portable
- Yields less tender meat
Both the charcoal and propane grill has alluring benefits that make barbecue enthusiasts subscribe to them.
We believe our comprehensive guide will make it easier for you to choose a convenient grill that you’ll love and one that offers the best benefits for you.
Do check out our definitive guide on the best electric smokers as well for more inspiration.