Choosing Between Charcoal and Gas for Grilling

Loyal grilling enthusiasts are split on one of the basic questions of grilling: gas or charcoal? Each side has some effective arguments, and both sides are equally passionate about their choice. Both types of grills have good points and bad points to consider before you go out and spend your money on a grill for your patio or backyard.

A Matter of Convenience

When it comes to convenience, you can’t beat a gas grill. Most grills are powered using small propane tanks. The propane is connected to the grill, and all you have to do is turn the handle to start the grilling process. The propane jets inside the grill heat lava rocks that are spread underneath the cooking surface. The grill can be ready to use in mere minutes, compared to the long process of preparing a charcoal grill. When you cook with charcoal, you have to light the coals and then wait about 30 minutes for them to be heated all the way through before you can begin to cook. Cooking with charcoal is also more difficult because dripping grease will cause the coals to flare and char your food.

How Much Time do You Have?

Charcoal grills take quite a while to prepare. You can’t decide that you want to cook dinner on a charcoal grill at the very last minute. Preparation involves buying coals and spreading them in the grill. Then you have to light the coals, which can be a time consuming process. Once lit, the coals will take at least half an hour to warm up before you can begin cooking on them. You should set aside at least an hour for preparing a charcoal grill and cooking your food. A gas grill, on the other hand, is like using a kitchen appliance. You simply turn it on and begin to cook with it in mere minutes. Gas grills definitely save you time and effort, and provide some flexibility to your cooking schedule.

When Flavor is Important

Charcoal is the clear winner when it comes to flavor, though. The burning charcoal infuses your food with a smoky flavor that can’t be achieved through burning propane. You can also buy different types of charcoal to create different flavorings for meats and vegetables. If flavor is more important than time and convenience, there is no question that a charcoal grill is the grill for you. There are bottled flavorings that you can put on your food to replicate the smoky flavor of charcoal grilling, but none of them compare with the real thing. The occasional flares of flame that can lick the bottom of your food also add to the flavor of the charcoal grill.

Cleanup Issues

When it comes to cleaning, the gas grill has a slight advantage over the charcoal grill. Once the charcoal has finished burning it turns to ash, which piles up in the bottom of your grill. Even if you only use your grill occasionally, you will eventually need to clear the ash from the bottom of the grill so that it will continue to work properly. Charcoal grilling also causes the food to be messier, and cleaning the grate can take longer after each use. Propane gas grills burn cleanly and don’t create any ash to clean out. The most maintenance a gas grill requires is a periodic cleaning of the volcanic rocks that are part of the heat distribution system. You can clean them after each use simply by burning them at a high temperature for about 15 minutes to burn off any excess fat that has dripped onto the rocks.

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