If you ask a diverse group of outdoor cooks about their preferred grills, the debate is sure to heat up faster than the grills do. The classic gas-versus-charcoal argument has been going on for ages, and both sides have valid points. Here are a few reasons why each type of grill has its devoted fans.
Gas Grill Pros
Gas grills offer some pretty impressive benefits. The perk that probably explains their domination of the market is convenience. They ignite instantly and can be ready for use at a moment’s notice. There’s no need to wait around for coals to be ready. This is perfect for families who like to grill often or those who are short on time. The ease of operation also makes them more available for year-round use.
A gas grill’s flame isn’t likely to falter, and the heat is easily controlled for even, predictable cooking. There are more options available on gas models. These include side burners, shelves, multiple heat zones, storage, and even night lights. After cooking is finished, there are no ashes to dispose of. Most grates can be cleaned by simply turning the grill on high heat to burn stuck-on foods and then brushing the remains away.
Gas Grill Cons
Purchasing a gas grill is a much larger initial investment. Even a basic model can cost several hundred dollars. There are many delicate parts that have to be cleaned, maintained and checked for safety. Ignitions may periodically have to be replaced or repaired.
The greatest controversy in the gas-versus-charcoal debate pertains to the taste of the food. Many charcoal fans insist that steaks and other foods cooked on gas grills simply don’t have the same smoky flavor. This may be true, at least for some foods. One fact should be noted in defense of the gas grill; the vast majority of high-end steakhouses grill with gas, not charcoal. Adding wood chips may emulate some of the smoke flavor that charcoal imparts.
Charcoal Grill Pros
Charcoal grills have their own perks. The flavor, according to many, is unbeatable. These grills are far less expensive. They are easy to assemble, lightweight, fairly simple to clean, and they don’t take up much room. They can reach temperatures of up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit to more effectively sear foods. There are few working parts, so maintenance and repair is minimal. If you’re very skilled, they can even be used as smokers.
For some, using the charcoal grill offers an element of fun and authenticity. Without modern push-button ignitions and convenient flame control, the charcoal cook has to develop a finely-tuned ability to master the art of cooking with unpredictable fire. Those who have become adept at this art should be given due credit.
Charcoal Grill Cons
Charcoal takes more preparation time. Once charcoal is stacked and lit, it can take up to 20 minutes to attain cooking temperature. It may be difficult to get coals to cooperate without the use of lighter fluid, which is a toxic petrochemical that could taint the flavor of the food. While the charcoal grill is inexpensive, the charcoal itself costs more than gas over time. Handling raw charcoal and ashes is messy.
For those who prefer the taste of charcoal but are discouraged by the cons, there are a few tips and compromises. Lump charcoal is easier to light and manage than standard briquettes. Some charcoal grills are designed so that the coals or grate can be raised or lowered for better control of the temperature. A large cylindrical starter chimney can make preparing the coals easier and faster. Finally, for the truly undecided, there are hybrid grills that use both gas and charcoal.
Making the Choice
Once you have considered factors such as convenience, flavor, cost, space limits and safety, the ultimate decision comes down to personal preference. If you’re a skilled cook and take pride in your food, you’ll be able to create your masterpieces on either type of grill.