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Charcoal Grill vs. Gas Grill: BBQ Showdown

Charcoal vs. Gas Grill

While many grilling purists will hardly ever use anything besides a charcoal grill, few can disagree that grilling with others such as the gas grills is easier, faster and cleaner.

The debate on which grill between the charcoal and gas grills works best is the kind that will not be settled any time soon as there are almost equal proponents and opponents of each grill type.

Instead of having to pick either, many barbeque enthusiasts will invest in both and use them for different occasions.

But, if you do not have the privilege of owning both or just prefer having one grill, this piece is for you as we not only highlight the merits and demerits of each but also provide an in-depth comparison to help make your choice a more informed one.

Charcoal Grill Overview

Charcoal Grill

For anyone looking for an authentic and more traditional grilling experience, nothing beats a charcoal grill. Better yet, the distinctive smoky flavor you get with these grills is hard to replicate with gas or other grill types.

Charcoal grills will use either lump charcoal or briquettes, but both fuel sources will still provide that fantastic smoky flavor that is hard to get with the other grill types.

With a charcoal grill, you can also reach relatively higher temperatures than you would with gas grills which means it will be perfect for both searing and grilling. And if you are using briquettes, you can also easily attain the low and slow cooking you need for smoking.

You also do not need to spend a lot of cash to get a charcoal grill as some basic models can cost as little as $30 which is a fraction of what you would pay for a simple gas grill.

Pros:

  • Reaches higher temperatures
  • Gives food a distinct smoky flavor
  • Ready to use with minimal assembly
  • More affordable

Cons:

  • Relative longer heat up
  • Temperature control is harder
  • More tedious cleanup

Gas Grill Overview

Gas Grill

Gas grills are designed to make grilling more convenient and user-friendly, and they will also provide a cleaner grilling session because unlike charcoal there will be no ash to deal with.

These grills will use either propane or natural gas and unlike charcoal ones which are mostly for indoor use, they can work both indoors and outdoors.

Starting up your gas grill also does not take a lot of effort as it will only require you to twist a knob, and it will also have a relatively shorter heat up time.

Controlling the temperature will also not take a lot of effort as there are no vents to open or close, and this also makes them more versatile as you can easily cook all kinds of food on a gas grill.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy startup
  • Easier temperature control
  • Simple to clean up
  • More accessories available

Cons:

  • Relatively pricier
  • No smoky flavor
  • Cannot reach very high temperatures without infrared burner

Comparison Table


Charcoal Grill

Gas Grill

Fuel Source

Lump charcoal and briquettes

Propane and natural gas

Flavor

Superior smoky flavor

No impact on food flavor

Temperature Range

225°F to 800 °F (up to 1,200°F for some)

200°F to 600°F

Temperature Control

Air vents

Knob/dial

Heat Up Time

Around 30 minutes

5 to 10 minutes

Ease of Cleaning

A little hectic

Super Easy

Average Grill Prices

$30 to $300

$90 to $1,000 (or more)

Charcoal Grill vs. Gas Grill

The choice between the charcoal and gas grills will ultimately depend on the grilling experience you are looking for and also how much money you are willing to spend. But, here are some points that highlight the key differences between the two to simplify your choice.

1. Fuel Sources

The fuel source that these grills use is their most obvious difference and will be what most people base their choice on when deciding what to buy.

Charcoal grills will use either lump charcoal or briquettes and it is important to know that the increasingly popular pellet grills do not fall into this category. Lump charcoal grills are perfect for fast and high-temperature cooking while briquettes will be ideal for slow and low cooking

The gas grills, on the other hand, will use either propane or natural gas. Propane-powered gas grills are more portable as you can use them from anywhere provided you have propane can while the natural gas ones will require a connection to your home’s supply but are more cost-effective to use.

2. Impact on Flavor

Most of charcoal grills’ popularity stems from the strong and distinct flavor that they produce which comes from the smoke generated by the lump charcoal or briquettes.

This authentic charcoal flavor is unmistakable, and it is one of the things that make barbeque lovers look forward to the grilling season.

A gas grill will not add any flavor to the food given that it does not produce any significant smoke. However, you can still get a nice smoky flavor with a gas grill by using one with a smoke box, but it will still not be the same as what you get with a charcoal grill.

3. Temperature Range

Besides giving your food an amazing flavor, charcoal grills are also famous for cooking at higher temperatures than gas and most other grill types.

A typical charcoal grill will provide a temperature range of between 200 and 800 degrees which is ideal for most cooking methods from smoking to grilling and searing. Depending on the charcoal grill type and charcoal type you are using, some models can even get as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

With a gas grill, you can get a temperature range of between 225 and 600 degrees which is also good enough for most cooking methods. And if you have the more efficient infrared burners, the temperature can get slightly higher than this. But, what gives gas grills an edge is the fact that the temperature is more consistent.

4. Temperature Control

You cannot cook well with either the charcoal or gas grills if you cannot be able to control the temperature easily and more precisely.

When it comes to the temperature control, the gas grills have an edge because besides coming with an accurate temperature gauge, they allow you to regulate the temperature more precisely with a knob.

For a typical gas grill, adjusting the temperature will require you to close or open the air vents to regulate the airflow which is not very accurate. And while some modern models also have a temperature gauge, it is not always very precise.

5. Heat Up Time

All grill types including charcoal and gas grills will have some heat-up time before they can get ready to cook, and the amount of time they take will affect the overall grilling experience.

Gas grills will take little effort to fire up as most will include an auto-ignition which will only require you to twist a knob to fire it up. As for the heat up, most models will only take between 5 and 10 minutes to be hot enough to cook.

Charcoal grills do not light up easily since charcoal types like briquette will require higher temperatures and more time to light up completely. And while there are some charcoal types with a special coating meant to speed up the lighting, they are not the best for grilling as the coating produces a chemical odor.

Besides the extra effort required to light up the charcoal, the charcoal grills will also take more time to get hot enough to grill with most averaging at around 30 minutes.

6. Ease of Cleaning

Clean up will be much easier when using gas grills than when you are smoking or grilling on your classic charcoal grill.

Gas burns cleanly and will not leave any ash behind unlike charcoal which besides burning with lots of smoke that may leave soot behind, there is also lots of ash to clean up afterward. But note that natural lump charcoal leaves behind relatively less ash than briquettes which often have additives.

To clean up your gas grill, you will only need to turn up the heat to the high setting and allow it to burn off any remaining food chunks and then scrape off anything remaining on the grates. But, it is also worth noting that the gas grills will have more parts than charcoal ones and might require additional clean up occasionally.

Besides cleaning up the ash left behind when using the charcoal grills, you will also need to clean the grates relatively more vigorously for proper cleanup.

7. Average Costs

Given that charcoal grill are quite basic as they do not have any fancy features because the firebox, ash compartment, and grates are all it takes for one to function, they are relatively more affordable.

You can get a simple charcoal grill for as little as $30, and it is also possible to get one as cheap as $20 although it will be small and not as efficient.

For the gas grills, prices will start at around $90 and depending on the size and features can go up to $1,000 or even more.

Besides the initial price of buying these grills, there are also operating costs which you need to take into account when deciding which one to buy. Charcoal grills are pricier to operate given the high cost of lump charcoal. And even if you use briquettes, the cost will still be relatively higher in the long run when compared to using both propane and natural gas grills.

Conclusion

Both charcoal and gas grills cook amazingly well and will be ideal for both grilling and smoking. And because each has its pros and cons, what you choose will depend on your specific preferences and budget.

If you are looking for a cheap grill, want something that gives food a strong smoky smell and can also cook at super high temperatures, charcoal grill be the better option.

However, if you want a grill that is much easier to use, will not take a lot of effort to clean up after use and is cheaper to operate, go for the gas grill.