One of the best things about summer has to be a barbeque. This leads to the question of, gas vs charcoal grills. People will have their own opinions, but this article will offer the pros and cons to buying and using both gas and charcoal grills. We’ll also be covering all the facts and tips that you might need with regards to gas and charcoal grills. Also, can you taste the difference between charcoal grilled food and gas? Watch the video in the latter half of the article to find out.
Gatherings around the grill is a pastime that most of us revere. Family memories are created and it’s just a great way to enjoy good food with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones. What would a camping trip be without a barbeque?
Gas vs Charcoal Grills | Pros & Cons
Though, before buying a new grill, you want to know that you’re getting the right type for your needs. The decision will probably begin by considering gas vs charcoal grills.
To begin with, I’ll point the basic pros and cons of gas vs charcoal grills.
Gas Grills — Benefits
Gas grills mostly owe their popularity to the fact that they save you time and hassle. You turn it on like a stove and begin cooking immediately. Though there’s more to it than just convenience.
- Gas grills don’t make much mess and are generally easier to clean.
- Propane is easy to store and is usually cheaper than charcoal.
- You are able to control the flame of a gas grill, making for more accurate temperature control.
- Gas grills often have several accessories and extra features. These may include smoke boxes for a woodsmoke flavor. You can choose from many types of woodchips and blends for uniquely smoked meats. They can also have side burners, to keep food warm and a variety of grates or griddles.
- Some gas grills can be connected to the gas supply in your home, providing unlimited use.
While gas grills are easy to use and relatively safe, there are some tricks that will help. Later in the article, I’ll provide tips on safely using your gas grill.
Compact Portable Propane Grill | Coleman RoadTrip LXE
Gas Grills — Disadvantages
Probably the biggest reason why people shy away from gas grills, is the price. They are more expensive than charcoal grills. Then there are a few practicalities that are not that favorable.
- Gas grills are not very portable (with some exceptions, see above image). They tend to be quite large and heavy. In addition to this, you need to transport the gas tank.
- Gas flames can flare up and burn the food.
- Gas does not burn as hot as charcoal.
Charcoal Grills — Benefits
Apart from being much cheaper than a gas grill, there several more reasons why some prefer charcoal grills.
- Charcoal grills provide a smoke flavor.
- Charcoal grills don’t flare up and flame as easily as gas grills.
- Charcoal burns hotter than gas.
- Charcoal grills are more portable.
Dual-Fuel Grill (Gas & Charcoal) — Dyna-Glo : DGB730SNB-D
Charcoal Grills — Disadvantages
The most obvious downside to using a charcoal grill is time it takes for the coals to reach the right temperature. Even when using charcoal igniters, it can take about 30-minutes before the grill is ready for cooking. There also some less obvious reasons why charcoal grills aren’t that great.
- Charcoal grills can be messy and falling coals may damage your lawn or patio, even pose a fire hazard.
- The food can become covered with ash.
- Charcoal igniters usually give off a bad odor. If not allowed to sufficiently burn off, this odor can affect the taste of the food.
- Charcoal has no temperature control and there’s a limited time period before the coals become too cool to use. Adding fresh charcoal, requires a waiting period for them to reach the correct heat.
Gas vs Charcoal Grills
Using your grill, cleaning, maintenance, and safety
Once you’ve decided which is going to be your best grill, it’s going to be with you for many years. You want to get the best from grill, be it gas or charcoal. This means using it properly and safely, as well as the correct maintenance.
VIDEO | Gas vs Charcoal — Can you Taste the Difference?
Gas Grill Tips
Using a gas grill isn’t rocket science. When it comes to maintenance, this isn’t too tough either. If you’re new to gas grills, a few tips for beginners should certainly help. So, if you’re considering as gas vs charcoal grill, it’s a good idea to know what you’re in for when it comes to using your gas grill.
A gas grill requires regular cleaning, as well as occasional maintenance and checking that all is good.
Cleaning your gas grill
A lot of people simply use heat to keep the grill clean. Cranking all the burners up to full power for a few minutes before cooking, means that most of the grime and fat is burnt away. This is okay, but not the best. At the very least, you should use a hard wire brush to clean away the burnt food residue.
Ideally, you should clean your grate, griddles, and burners with a degreaser after every use. If this seems like too much work, burn off the grime every time you use the grill (as described above) and do a thorough clean every 1 – 3 months. This will depend on how much you use your grill. If you grill every weekend, I’d suggest cleaning it at least once a month.
Clean the grease tray regularly, every time you use the grill, or at least once a month. Keeping the outer surfaces and control knobs clean is easy. Just wipe them down with damp rag and a little detergent.
VIDEO | How to Clean Your Gas Grill Properly
Keeping your gas grill in top condition
Routine maintenance will help keep your gas grill working properly for years and improve your safety.
The burners can become clogged, even with regular cleaning. Periodically check the holes in the burners. If they’re clogged, use a thin piece of wire to clean out the openings. Blocked burners will cause an uneven flame distribution. If you notice that there are gaps in the flames on a particular burner, you should check for blockages.
Grates and griddles can rust over time. You can protect the metal components of your gas grill by applying cooking oil from time to time. You can use a clean rag or paper towel to rub all the grate, griddle, side burners, and even the outer surfaces. Use only a little oil. Polish the metal surfaces until they are shiny and don’t have an oily residue that will attract dust.
Check gas pipes and connections regularly to ensure there is no damage or gas leaks. If you smell gas at any time, immediately turn the gas supply off at the tank. Make sure you identify the source of the gas leak and rectify the situation before you continue using your gas grill.
It helps to make sure you always have enough propane in the tank. Running out of gas halfway through a barbeque is no fun at all. It’s always best to have more than one propane tank. When one becomes empty, make sure you refill it immediately, so that you always have a propane tank on standby.
Always use your gas grill in a well-ventilated area.
Cooking with a Gas Grill
Grilling is mostly about temperature control and always keeping an eye on what’s going on. Meat or vegetables on a grill can burn in an instant. Most of the time, when food on the grill is burnt, it is because the person doing the grilling left to attend to something else.
A flareup can happen in an instant and get out of control very quickly. A flareup is when the burners suddenly burst into flames, much larger than where they are set. This usually happens when fat drips onto the flames and can burn the food to a point where it is no longer edible. The golden rule is to never leave your grill unattended whilst cooking.
VIDEO | How to Grill the Perfect Steak (on a gas grill)
Using the appropriate temperature settings on your grill gives you the control you need to cook food correctly. Searing steaks and thin pieces of meat is done quickly over a very hot flame. You should allow the grate or griddle to get as hot as possible before searing.
Cooking delicate food, like fish and most vegetables, requires the lowest flame setting. Large pieces of meat, like brisket or a whole chicken, requires low indirect heat. The best way to slow cook large items is not to use the burners directly beneath the meat. Use the burners on the sides (at low or medium heat) and place the large pieces of meat in the center. If your grill has a hood, close it. This helps provide an even heat distribution, like an oven.
Even with the correct temperature control, food can burn. Basting sauces and marinades usually contain sugar and can also have fats. Sugar burns easily, and fats will often result in a flareup. When basting meat, don’t have the flame setting too high. As for fat causing a flareup, this isn’t something you can avoid. As the meat cooks, fat drips down and can ignite the flame. The best way to manage the situation is to keep an area of the grill open and move the meat away from the raging flames when a flareup occurs.
It’s a good idea to have a cooking thermometer as part of your barbeque arsenal. When cooking thicker pieces of meat, even burgers, it helps to know what the temperature is at the center of the piece.
Charcoal Grill Tips
Cooking on a fire is an ancient rite of passage, that has been passed down from father to son since the beginning of time. We would assume that everyone can cook on a charcoal grill. We all think we can. But let’s face it, some are better than others. So, a few tips on using a charcoal grill should not go amiss.
Types of Charcoal Grills
The question of gas vs charcoal grills becomes a little more complicated when discussing charcoal grills. This is because an open charcoal grill (vs one with a hood) can make all the difference. Even though a charcoal grill with a hood is usually more expensive, I’d highly recommend buying one with a hood.
You can always open or remove the hood for grilling. But, for slow cooking, closing the grill is the best way to go. Charcoal grills with a hood should have vents that give you a reasonable amount of temperature control. By closing the vents, you can slow the combustion. It reduces the airflow, starving the fire of oxygen. A thermometer on the hood is even better. By monitoring the temperature, you can make fine adjustments to the vent positions and obtain the perfect heat for the type of cooking you’re doing. This can be anything from slow smoking, to a gentle roast, or rapid grilling and searing.
Keeping your charcoal grill in top condition
A charcoal is grill is fairly basic and, if used properly, will be safe. Perhaps, user safety is the most important concern, because we are dealing with an open fire here. It may seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: never use a charcoal grill indoors. Allow for enough ventilation, as carbon monoxide poisoning can happen without us even noticing it.
Remember that falling coals and hot ash can cause damage or fire, so always be aware of this. Using an igniter fluid is common, but one must be aware of the fire hazard. Pouring a flammable liquid onto open flames is extremely dangerous. Pour the igniter fluid onto the coals before you light the fire and don’t add more, even if the fire looks like it may die.
VIDEO | How to Clean Your Charcoal Grill
Keeping your charcoal grill clean is important for your health and the general taste of the food that you’re cooking. You can simply burn away old food and fat by placing the grate onto the fire after lighting it. Follow this up by removing burnt residue with a wire brush.
Though it’s best to clean the grate regularly with a degreaser and a hard bristle brush. Discard the ash after every use. To prevent rust, rub oil onto the grate and all other exposed metal every few months. Use a rag to rub the oil well, leaving a shiny surface.
Cooking with a charcoal grill
Using a charcoal grill is a subtle art that comes with practice. You never have complete temperature control, so it’s mostly about understanding the fire and timing everything perfectly.
Start your fire well in advance. Charcoal varies, some coals may take longer to reach cooking temperature. Different types of coal may also stay hot for longer. There can be no exact rule, a fire can take anything from 15 – 30 minutes before it’s ready for use.
VIDEO | Tips & Advice — Cooking with A Gas Grill
Always wait for the coals to turn white with a red glow in the center, before cooking. If you start cooking when the charcoal is still black, you run the risk of flaring flames. The black smoke that is emitted from coals being used prematurely is unhealthy and may give the food an unpleasant taste.
Controlling the heat as you cook may take some experimentation, every fire is different. As a general rule, the fire is always hottest at the center and cools toward the edges. So, you should place the meat for slower cooking around the edges of the grill. For searing, or fast grilling, place the food in the center.
You can shift coals around to concentrate the heat where you want it. But I find that it’s easier to move the meat around the grill. You can place a piece of meat in the center for a while and then move it out to a cooler position. Move it around as much as you need.
Fat dripping into the fire can cause flames to flare up at any time. Always be ready to move your meat away from the flames when this happens. Sprinkling a small amount of water onto burning flames is a common trick. But this can be a problem as it cools the fire and you only have a limited amount of time to use the coals before they burn out. If you choose to use water, do so sparingly.
Aluminum foil is a great aid when using a charcoal grill. To prevent too much fat from dripping onto the fire and control burning, place some foil under the piece that you’re cooking. It also helps prevent delicate fish or vegetables from sticking to the griddle.
For slow cooking larger pieces, close the hood and control the temperature using the adjustable vents.