Charcoal or gas grilling can be a fun part to spring and summer. Once the weather turns, I know I am craving burgers and dogs, and fun times with friends. As a foodie and outdoorswoman, I prefer that great taste of grilled meats and veggies. But is charcoal or gas better for your BBQ? Here’s my guide on the basics between the two grilling methods.
Ease of Use
One thing people just starting to grill want to know is which method is easier. With charcoal, you need to start a fire with your briquettes. This can take some babying and you will need to use lighter fluid, which can be a little dangerous. There is also no temperature control and once you do manage to get a fire started, you can’t control the heat very well. I recommend when cooking with charcoal to leave empty spaces on the grate so that air and warmth can flow easily. Charcoal is relatively cheap and you can buy small bags, too.
Gas grilling is much simpler, and there is temperature control. Once you hook up your propane tank to your grill, lighting it is as simple as letting some gas into the grill and pushing the starter. You also have heat settings that control the flame. Propane can be a bit costly, however, and if you’re not particularly strong lifting the tank may be a challenge.
As mentioned above, gas grilling is a little pricey. A propane tank exchange where I live is $17, but to buy your first tank its nearly $40. You also have to take the tanks to a location to be swapped out for a full one. The good news is that many places, even gas stations, have tank exchanges. Another hurdle is that gas grills are usually much more expensive. The upside is that you do get bells and whistles, and temperature control, when you choose a gas grill.
Charcoal is pretty cheap and can be purchased just about anywhere, too. There are various briquettes designed to ignite faster or burn more slowly to help give you a little more control. Charcoal grills tend to be pretty inexpensive, too. I own a small round grill that I paid around $30 that gets the job done. The grill is very basic, but does cook evenly. The other downside to charcoal is the clean up involved in disposing of used briquettes, but that’s as easy as throwing it in the trash when its cooled.
The real issue is the taste. Can a gas grill possibly match the flavor of a charcoal grill? Some people will tell you the taste doesn’t differ much. However, charcoal grills tend to have a more natural, “grilled,” or smokey flavor. If you’re not a big fan of that taste, gas grilling might be better for you. Gas grilling imparts no flavor onto the meat or veggies, so its ideal for adding marinades and rubs. The taste part is just as subjective as any other part of the grill so it’s all based upon your personal preferences.
The verdict? I personally prefer charcoal. I love the taste but also like the low cost and the fact that its easy to change out the briquettes. My best friend would tell you that gas grills are the way to go, and only serves gas grilled burgers at her parties. I recommend going to several holiday parties or restaurants and sampling gas and charcoal grilled food before making your decision. The truth is, you can’t really go wrong when it comes to grilling. It all tastes amazing and I always find that a grilled meal brings together family and friends like no other.