Gas v. Charcoal Grilling

Grill Tips, Grilling, Kelly B's 101, Smoking

How can you begin to master the grill if you don’t even know which method you prefer? This great debate can often get heated, so it’s time to educate yourself on one of the first questions an aspiring grill master is faced with: charcoal or gas?

Short answer: charcoal.

Personally, I love the smoky flavor of a charcoal grill, but I understand why some go the gas route. So I took some time to write down the differences for any aspiring grill master out there finding themselves stuck on this decision.

Ah, charcoal. Your delicious scent and smoky flavors are the perfect addition to any backyard BBQ. You are the classic grill style, and much beloved. You are also a pain in the neck to clean. It’s give-and-take.

Taste: The flavor produced on a charcoal grill cannot be beaten. Coals give off a naturally smoky flavor that soaks into the meat and veggies as they cook. A grill master can also easily experiment with different grilling woods to create mouthwatering flavor combinations.
Convenience: Charcoal will make a patient grill master out of you. It’s is less convenient due to wait-time, but the wait is worth it. After you light the coals, wait for them to turn a nice, ashy gray. Revving it up to high heat can take 5-10 minutes, but achieving a controlled medium heat can take 15-20 minutes. Cleanup can also be a bit of a hassle but grill masters learn that with great patience, time, and practice comes great BBQ flavor.
Grill Price: Charcoal grills are generally less expensive than gas, but it all depends on quality. You can find a community charcoal grill in just about any park or campsite, but you can also spend hundreds on a top-of-the-line charcoal grill. The basic starter charcoal grill can be between $20-$60. It all depends on your budget and dedication but bottom line: a charcoal grill is, on average, cheaper. Just don’t forget the reoccurring cost of coals and various grilling wood.
The fastest grill in the game is easy to clean and heats up quick, but can be pricier and produces no smoky flavor on its own. Getting that smoky flavor is going to require some extra effort.

Taste: A gas grill still grills meat to perfection, but you won’t get a naturally smoky flavor. In fact, gas grills add virtually no flavor – they just provide the heat. A smoky taste must be recreated using a metal grill box filled with coals or grilling wood chips. The meat will grill to the same temperatures, but the classic taste provided by the charcoal won’t be there unless you put in a little extra work.
Convenience: A gas grill is generally easier because it heats up faster, and makes temperature regulation easier. There’s really no waiting and if you are willing to spend a little more on your gas grill, the bells and whistles take all the thought out of the process. If you aren’t setting your sights on competition barbecue, but appreciate speed and ease, you may want to look into a fast-action gas grill.
Grill Price: This is where things get tricky. Many gas grills (the ones with the bells and whistles) come at a higher price. That being said, your basic starter gas grill starts around $150-$200. It all depends on your budget. Don’t forget the propane tank, which costs around $30 and will need to be refilled at your local hardware or grocery store once it’s out. As with anything, you get what you pay for. Cheaper gas grills will have fewer features, be harder to control, and likely wear out faster.

Everyone has their favorite method. For many, this decision is made after many BBQ trials and tribulations. Best of luck navigating the charcoal/gas dilemma. Let us know how it goes.

Kelly B.