Is Gas or Charcoal Better for Grilling?
Why Not Both?
We’re often asked if gas grills are “better” than charcoal grills (or vice versa). The short answer is, no, neither option is inherently “better.” The long answer is, essentially, the rest of this article.
Like Ford versus Chevy, Bears versus Packers, or scrambled versus over easy, it ultimately comes down to personal preference, and there’s no “correct” answer. Here are some of the benefits of both gas grills and charcoal grills to help you decide which option is best for you.
Advantages of a Gas Grill
Gas grills are about as convenient as one could hope for in a grill. These appliances heat quickly, making them a good option when you’re looking for a last-minute dinner but still want something homemade. Whether you’re using a propane tank or a direct gas line, there’s very little prep work required. Once your grill is fired up, temperature control is also easy, with simple control knobs to raise or lower your heat.
Speaking of propane and natural gas, both make excellent fueling options since both are relatively inexpensive to use for long periods of time. Both are easy to refuel (especially natural gas), and there are no ashes left to clean up after grilling.
Gas grills are an excellent option when cooking food directly over top of the heat source, a process known as direct cooking. While indirect cooking is possible on some models with multiple burners and grill hoods, it’s not always practical depending on the grill you’re using.
One of the biggest benefits of gas grills is the sheer variety of options available. We offer literally hundreds of grill options on our site in all shapes and sizes. You’ll also have a wide variety of styles to choose from, with different burner options, special built-in features, and various other quality-of-life upgrades to help you get the most out of your grilling experience.
Best of all, many of these options are easily scalable to your interests or budget. No matter the size of your space, your budget, or the complexity of your cooking, we’re sure to find something that’ll work for you.
Gas grills are often a very safe cooking option when installed correctly and used with care. With no open, uncontrolled fire to worry about, flames can be easily extinguished in the event of an unexpected flare-up—simply kill the gas supply and the flames are out.
Advantages of a Charcoal Grill
It’s tough to beat the natural flavor created by a wood charcoal grill. While gas grills may have options like smoker tubes and charcoal trays available to attempt to replicate the flavors of natural wood, it’s impossible to completely replace the real charcoal flavor.
Many different types of wood can be used with a wood charcoal grill, and each offers its own subtle flavor notes. While not everyone can appreciate the differences, BBQ connoisseurs enjoy being able to experiment with different flavor combinations to create some truly unique recipes.
Burning wood gets much hotter than burning gas. If absolute heat is what you’re after, then charcoal will always be king. This makes charcoal the ideal option for cooking tasks like professionally searing steak like you’d get at an expensive steakhouse restaurant.
Remember, though, if you’re going to be cooking with charcoal, temperature control will be a more “hands-on” grilling experience than it would be with gas. Many don’t mind this extra effort, but you may want to consider gas if you’d prefer more precise control.
Direct or Indirect Cooking
Charcoal grills are great for both direct and indirect heat. As previously mentioned, direct heat is what most people would consider “normal grilling,” and charcoal performs the job exceptionally well. What makes charcoal grills different is their ability to utilize indirect cooking methods, as well.
Most common charcoal grill models, such as kettle grills, can have lit charcoal on one side of the grill while placing food on the other side. We cover this more in a different article if you’re interested in learning more about how this process works on a charcoal grill, but the short explanation is this allows for a different cooking style, and therefore, different recipe options.
If you’re looking to take your grilling game up another level still, charcoal grills also include smokers. These are true indirect heat machines which are excellent for creating traditional pit-style barbecue right in your own backyard.
The Final Answer
Ideally, you could install both charcoal and gas grills in your outdoor kitchen, since both have their distinct advantages and would complement each other well. Even within those two categories, there are many more variations to consider (like kamado grills, smokers, pellet grills, and more). At the end of the day, the “best” grill for you will be entirely dependent on how you plan to use it, so use the considerations above to make your decision.
Still, having trouble deciding? Our grilling specialists can assist you further. To speak with a member of our team, contact us by email or phone and we’ll do our best to help you find the right product for your space, cooking style, and budget.