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Grills - Gas or Charcoal

Guys Grilling on Gas Grill
Lots of Grill Options

If you've been looking around at grills, you'll know that the two main types are charcoal and gas. And, you've probably heard diehards from each camp touting the advantages of their choice and slamming those inclined to use the other. When it all boils down, you're looking at taste with charcoal and convenience with gas.


Charcoal grill fans will sneer at the thought of cooking over gas. This is akin to asking a Harley fan to ride a crotch rocket. It probably isn't going to happen, and if it does, it won't be pretty.

There is no doubt that charcoal cooked food is tastier than gas grilled. I remember a church hamburger cook out a number of years back. Some burgers were left over, and my dad purchased and froze the extra burgers. One bite, even after freezing, was enough to determine whether the burger being eaten had been on the charcoal or the gas grill. Everyone in the family would grab a burger and hope it was charcoal cooked. The taste difference was huge.

On the down side with charcoal, it does take more work and more skill to cook over coals. Starting and regulating a fire can be a challenge. Clean up is quite a chore. With the right tools and with experience, charcoal grilling becomes second nature. Still, it's not as easy as gas grilling.


Gas grill fans think the charcoal cooks are nuts. Grilling is supposed to be fun, and the extra work is not appealing to many families.

When I'm really tired, it's nice to click the button and have instant fire. I don't have to worry about watching the fire, since the heat is regulated. Clean up is as simple as burning off the drips and wiping up later.

When my boys were younger, I often appreciated the simplicity of cooking over gas. I remember a trip to the mountains. We rented a house with a big gas grill. After a day on the pontoon boat, I plopped boneless chicken breasts on the gas grill and fried squash from the farmer's market in a pan on the cooking eye to the side. With fresh strawberries, we had a complete meal in about 20 minutes and everything prepared and served right on the big porch overlooking a stream.

Here is a more detailed list of pros and cons for charcoal and gas grills:

Charcoal Pros 

  • Food tastes better. That smoked flavor is impossible to duplicate with gas even if you buy the smoke products.
  • Charcoal grills are less expensive.  A quality charcoal grill runs between $50 and $100.
  • It's easy to find portable charcoal grills to take on trips.
  • Cooking over charcoal becomes an event. If family members get hooked on cooking over charcoal, they will enjoy playing around with different techniques.


Charcoal Cons

  • Starting a fire can be a problem especially on damp or rainy days. It does help to keep the charcoal good and dry and an electric firestarter can also be used.
  • It's easy to burn food over charcoal. The heat is regulated with vents, and the cook must know how to use the vents and lid to keep the fire from flaring or burning too hot.
  • Coals must cool before the grill can be cleaned. This can take several hours.
  • A charcoal grill is messy. Grease, charcoal and ashes are not the easiest things to clean up.


Gas Pros

  • Starting a gas grill is as easy as turning on the gas and pushing a button. Do be careful and follow directions.
  • Flames and temperatures can be fine tuned with the settings on a gas grill. If you have recipes that call for temperature settings and times, then gas is super simple.
  • Most gas grills have two sides with separate controls, so it's easy to cook two different things at once even if they require different amounts of heat.
  • Clean up is really easy.


Gas Cons

  • Food cooked on a gas grill does not have charcoal flavor no matter what you do.
  • Gas grills cost more. Expect to pay at least $100 for a good gas grill. Some run in the thousands.
  • Most gas grills are large and are hard to take on trips.
  • If you run out of gas, you're out of luck.



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