Many purists would be offended by the mere mention of propane barbecue grills. They have a point to a degree. Charcoal briquettes do have a certain mystique associated with them. They do impart a taste to grille foods that is difficult, though not completely impossible to replicate any other way.
Even one of these diehard purists, however, can not dispute that propane grills have a place in the grand scheme of things. They are quicker to get ready, an important consideration when you don’t have 45 minutes to wait for briquettes to burn down properly. Properly utilized hickory chunks can closely duplicate the smoking flavor charcoal imparts to foods.
It is also easier to control the temperature on a propane grill. You might keep this in mind when you are tasked with grilling fifteen dollars worth of Ahi Tuna or some other delicacy that can go from perfection to disaster in a few seconds worth of inattention on a too-hot charcoal grill.
There is some question of affordability of propane grills compared to charcoal grills. Top of the line propane units can easily cost over $1000. It is possible to pay much more for this when you start adding size and features. A top quality stainless steel propane grill that comes close to matching the capabilities of a professional kitchen range can get into the $5000 neighborhood without too much difficulty.
Contrast that with the disposable charcoal grills you are your buddies might have picked up at the grocery store for $5. In the proper hands, these grills are capable of turning out perfectly acceptable burgers, steaks, hot dogs and brats. They are super convenient and portable and when they have outlived their usefulness, you can discard them completely without regret.
A really nice charcoal grill that has all the bells and whistles you could ever want, plus be made with quality materials that can last for years can be had for around $500.
So, given the extremes just discussed, are propane grills worth considering? Can they rival charcoal grills for that grilled taste that is ingrained on the palate of everybody that grew up with summer backyard barbecues and holiday picnics? Is it possible to buy a competent propane grill without breaking the bank?
The answer is: most definitely, yes.
Hardcore grillers will often have a propane grill in addition to a charcoal grill. Propane is the safer fuel for grills that will be located on a wooden deck. There is not risk of hot coals escaping and causing damage, or in a worst case scenario, fire. This is not to say that it’s safe to leave a any grill unattended, just that propane presents the lower risk of the two.
As mentioned earlier, it takes 45 minutes or longer for charcoal to be ready to use, but it can remain capable of starting a fire for four or five hours after use, where a propane grill is basically safe once it is shut off.
Well made, effective propane grills are also more portable than charcoal grills from the point of view of being acceptable to use in places where charcoal is prohibited. Think of tailgating parties at football games and concerts, or wilderness areas with fire restrictions as examples of this.
Propane grills with three to four burners, possibly another off to the side that is essentially the same as a burner on a gas kitchen range, can be purchased from around $150 to $300. Slightly larger units in the $300 to $750 range may be larger, or just have higher quality materials used for their construction. With a modicum of care, it is not unreasonable to get ten years of use from any of these, making the cost per year anywhere from $15 to $75, a bargain when the convenience of propane grills is considered.