The greatest discussion when it comes to grilling has always been the fight over which is better, charcoal or gas.
The enthusiasts of “traditional” grilling, or the old school, are only loyal to charcoal. On the other hand, there are those who value convenience and speed provided by gas.
Who is right in this discussion?
We will try to take a close look at both sides the best we can and draw conclusions by comparing charcoal and gas.
The best solution would be to have a charcoal and a gas grill but if you have to make a choice, this article will help you get rid of all doubt. Learn the upsides and downsides of both in order to know well which type of grill fits your situation better.
Charcoal vs Gas Grill – Head to Head Analysis
There is no better option than comparing both, taking into account the key aspects of grilling. Don’t get dragged into this fanatical discussion, instead choose the grill that will allow you to take pleasure in grilling delicious food.
I don’t think we need to convince anyone that the smoky flavor of food from a charcoal grill is the best. There is no way to achieve an equally good flavor of food on any other type of grill which obviously doesn’t mean that other grills are bad.
It’s just that charcoal gives a characteristic smoky flavor that you won’t get anywhere else.
A food from a pellet grill and a gas grill will taste differently.
The gas in itself won’t give an additional flavor to the food, which despite the absence of smoky aroma still tastes very good. If, however, it is very important to you, you can use a smoker box with wood chips in order to achieve smoke when cooking with a gas grill.
Also keep in mind that food needs a lot of time for smoke to give it a different flavor. This means that in case of very fast grilling the difference is small, but it changes a lot in case of cooking thick pieces of meat over a longer time.
Ease of use and comfort
Without a doubt, the greatest advantage of the gas grill is the comfort of cooking and ease of use. In order to start cooking, you just have to turn the burner knob and then press the ignition button. After about a dozen minutes you will achieve the right temperature for cooking.
When it comes to charcoal, first you need to make a flame appear (in this situation we really recommend a chimney starter). Once you manage to get the charcoal burning, you need about a dozen more minutes to achieve the right temperature.
All of that makes the gas grill incredibly easy, even for someone who has never used it before. When cooking with charcoal, you also need to be able to adjust air vents, which are another significant problem to many people.
From the moment of starting the burners, you need about a dozen minutes to start cooking. The truth is, it doesn’t differ that much from an oven where you also just need to wait a moment to be able to start cooking at the right temperature.
Charcoal unfortunately requires plenty of time, even with a chimney starter. Just getting the charcoal burning takes a lot of time, and you also need to keep in mind that the grill needs to achieve the right temperature for burning.
If you don’t have much time after returning home from work, a great solution will be a gas grill. A charcoal grill is sadly a good option for a day when you have a lot of free time to take care of it all.
You just need to adjust the burner power and that’s it, after a few cooking sessions you will be perfectly aware of how much burner power you need to achieve a particular temperature. A huge advantage is the ease of lowering the temperature, all you have to do is turn off or lower the burner power (open the lid when doing so).
When cooking with charcoal, you need to predict how much briquette you’re going to use and learn how to adjust the air vents. Another basic principle is understanding that cooking with charcoal takes patience.
Any changes to the setting of air vents take time, don’t change them every few minutes if you don’t see effects right away. Lowering the temperature is much more difficult than increasing it, a burner can be turned off and that’s it, whereas hot charcoal simply has to burn down.
A charcoal grill is definitely the cheapest and at the same time the most durable type of grill for a low price. For as low as about $160 you can buy a medium sized kettle grill with 10 years of warranty. In good hands, the same model will last for much longer.
If you’re looking for something more interesting then you will love the performer, which costs as much as a solid gas grill at the lowest price range (the $350-500 range).
A durable, efficient and medium-sized gas grill with the same kind of warranty costs 2-3x more than a charcoal grill of a similar tier. When it comes to the richer versions, you’re going to have to spend $500-800, or even more than a thousand dollars.
These days ash removal is not among difficult tasks thanks to great solutions such as the one-touch cleaning system or the removable ashtray for example. It is worth it to pay a little extra and buy a grill with this type of equipment.
The problem is when there is no ash removal system whatsoever, then it’s a pretty cumbersome task.
Gas burns clean, which means that all you have to do is clean the grill grates and empty the grease container.
You need to keep in mind that once in a while you will have to clean the burners, which simply tend to get clogged.
Accessories and fancy features
In both cases, you can expect a lot of interesting accessories sold separately but in case of charcoal grills the offer seems to be more interesting.
When it comes to the fancy features, however, in this regard well-equipped gas grills definitely win. Some models have as many as several additional burners that improve their versatility a lot (sear, rotisserie or side burner).
Out of the most interesting extra features in charcoal grills I can only list a burner, which makes it possible to quickly get briquettes burning, but we don’t consider it to be anything special.
There are plenty of portable grills on the market in which the source of power is burning charcoal or propane. Depending on the situation, both types of grills are great but you need to learn the key differences between them.
A portable gas grill is powered by small propane bottles. It’s an effective, easy to use and comfortable grill that sadly weight a lot, which is why we mainly recommend it when going camping etc.
A portable charcoal grill is characterized by much lower weight and in many cases more compact and convenient to transport construction. There are models that weight so little that you can easily hold such grill in one hand (weber go-anywhere).
The charcoal grill is characterized by much better durability because the grill’s construction is incredibly simple and free from electronics, which sooner or later will malfunction. That’s why fairly inexpensive models are covered with as many as 10 years of warranty, and history shows that they can last for even longer than that.
Some gas grills are covered with an equally long warranty but you still need to take into account the malfunctioning of burners in the future, without which cooking is impossible. Luckily it’s a very unlikely to malfunction element if you buy a grill from a reliable manufacturer.
Charcoal Grill Overview
There are many types of charcoal grills but overall all of them are pretty simple in terms of construction which guarantees their great durability.
Hot charcoal makes it possible to cook your food, while the air vents allow to control the temperature. The smoky flavor of food cooked on a charcoal grill is incomparable with any other type of grill.
A small downside is the amount of time required to get the charcoal burning, and then to achieve the target cooking temperature. Another downside is the ash left behind by burned charcoal – without the right cleaning system keeping a charcoal grill clean becomes bothersome.
Other than that, due to the simple construction, it is a cheap type of grill that very often comes with a great warranty.
- The authentic, clear smoky flavor (the best out of all grills)
- The cheapest type of grill on the market, for as low as $100-150 you can buy a solid grill.
- It is versatile, you can grill or with use of right accessories you can turn the grill into an effective smoker.
- Charcoal grills are characterized by the best durability and reliability because they are free from any complicated elements.
- You need a lot of time before you start cooking (getting the charcoal burning and reaching the right temperature).
- The temperature control isn’t exactly easy, it requires a lot of practice and learning how to use the air vents.
- Ash removal becomes very bothersome if you don’t have the right cleaning system.
Gas Grill Overview
First and foremost, it is necessary to mention the absence of smoky flavor of food, the fanatics of charcoal grills won’t be pleased with that.
All of that, however, is made up for by the incredibly easy operation and speed.
All you have to do is start the burner and adjust its power appropriately. That way it only takes about a dozen minutes to start cooking!
You don’t have to worry about adjusting air vents, if you need to decrease or increase the temperature, just adjust the burner power adequately or simply turn it off.
On top of that, gas leaves no trace behind which means that all that’s left for you to do is clean the grates and the grease container.
The downside is a fairly high price for a solid grill but personally we believe that the investment is 100% worth it. It’s a great solution if you don’t feel like cooking on a charcoal grill, which requires much more attention.
High quality models have very good equipment that certainly makes them stand out among other types of grills.
Gas grills are incredibly easy to use and quick, which allows you to start cooking as soon as about a dozen minutes from starting the burner.
The price range is so big that everyone will find something for themselves.
The models in the top price range have plenty of additional burners and features that you won’t find in any other type of grill.
- Fairly high starting price compared to a basic yet solid charcoal grill
- No smoky flavor of food (gas doesn’t give any characteristic flavor)
- Assembly of such grill tends to be a little more complicated depending on the model
- To many people, keeping a propane tank around means danger. On one hand, it is true, but if you have serious worries you can always buy a natural gas grill that runs on gas from a pipeline.
A perfect solution would be to buy both grills but if you have to make a choice, take into account all the above information and analyze what suits your situation best.
Take into account the upsides and downsides of both grills, that’s the only way to buy a grill that will 100% suit your cooking style.
There is no clear winner here, it all depends on your actual needs, which are different for every person.
You want to have a smoky aroma of food and have time to cook on a grill? Choose charcoal. You want quick or very easy and convenient cooking? Choose gas.
Another important criterion might also be the price, but if you don’t have this problem then buy both and enjoy all of their benefits.