Gas Vs Charcoal Grill: Choosing the Perfect Grill for Your Summer Cookouts


When it comes to grilling, the eternal debate between charcoal and gas grills rages on. Which one is truly the best? Is there a definitive choice that will elevate your grilling game to new heights? Instead of blindly guessing, we’re here to help you make an informed decision by weighing the pros and cons of both options. So let’s dive in and discover the tastiest choice for this summer’s cookouts!

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal BBQ/ a charcoal BBQ with hot embers flying off the coals

According to die-hard barbecue enthusiasts, grilling with charcoal is the only way to go. Charcoal imparts that rich, smoky flavor that even gas grills with an attached smoker box can’t match. Let’s explore the benefits of charcoal grills:

Pros of charcoal grills:

  • Higher Temperature: Typically, charcoal grills can reach higher temperatures than gas grills. Achieving a perfect sear on your meat requires a temperature of at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and charcoal grills, like kettle grills, can easily reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. While there are high-temperature gas grills available, they tend to be pricier.
  • Scrumptious Smoky Flavor: Ever wondered why charcoal-grilled food tastes so amazing? The secret lies in the higher heat generated by charcoal. When the juices from your steak, chicken, or veggies drip onto the hot coals, they transform into flavorful steam and smoke that infuses your food with a unique taste.
  • Affordability: Charcoal grills are wallet-friendly. You can find a basic model for around $25, while moderately priced ones go for around $150. Even higher-end charcoal grills are typically less expensive than gas grills, which can cost between $130 and $300.
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Cons of charcoal grills:

  • Longer Heat Up Time: On average, charcoal grills take about 15-20 minutes to reach the proper cooking temperature, excluding the time required to light the charcoal. In contrast, gas grills light up instantly and take about 10 minutes to heat up. There are various methods to light charcoal grills, but they do require a little more time and effort.
  • Fuel Cost: The cost of fuel can add up with charcoal grills. A 20-pound propane cylinder can provide around 25 days of cooking time, whereas a 20-pound bag of charcoal only lasts for three grilling sessions. Additionally, the type of charcoal you use can affect the taste of your food. Clean-burning hardwood or lump charcoal can cost around $35 to $40 for a 20-pound bag.
  • Cleanup: Cleaning a charcoal grill is a bit more cumbersome than cleaning a gas grill, which requires just a quick brush. With a charcoal grill, you need to empty the used ashes before scrubbing it. Be sure to follow proper grill cleaning tips for the best results.

Best Charcoal Grill: For durability and temperature control, our Test Kitchen recommends the Weber’s Original Kettle Charcoal Grill ($109).

Gas Grills

Cleaning outdoor gas grill before next grilling.

There’s no denying the convenience of gas grills when it comes to startup and temperature control. However, this ease comes with its own set of considerations. Let’s explore the advantages of gas grills:

Pros of gas grills:

  • Health and Environmental Benefits: Opting for a gas grill is scientifically proven to be better for your health. Gas-grilled meats contain fewer carcinogens compared to charcoal-grilled meats. Furthermore, gas grills have a significantly smaller carbon footprint compared to charcoal grills.
  • Quick Startup and Temperature Control: With a simple press of the ignition button and a turn of the dial, your gas grill is ready to go. After a quick preheat, you can start grilling without waiting for coals to heat up. You can easily adjust the heat from low to high, allowing you to cook a variety of dishes without the need to handle hot coals.
  • Versatility: Gas grills offer versatility. You can cook delicate foods like fruits and vegetables without worrying about overpowering them with a smoky flavor. If desired, you can add a smoke box or learn how to turn your grill into a smoker for that extra smoky taste.
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Cons of gas grills:

  • Assembly Time: Gas grills require more time and effort to assemble compared to charcoal grills, which can be set up quickly.
  • Safety Considerations: While safety precautions should be followed for any type of cooking, extra caution is required when using a gas grill. Ensure that your propane tank is properly attached without any leaks and that the grill is at least ten feet away from your home and deck. Keeping the grill free from grease is also essential. For effective grill cleaning, follow a simple checklist to maintain your grill’s pristine condition.
  • Portability: Full-sized gas grills are not easily portable, making it inconvenient and potentially unsafe to transport them to parks or beaches. However, travel-sized gas grills are available for more portable options.

Best Gas Grill: For durability and top-of-the-line cooking power, our Test Kitchen staff recommends the Weber Genesis II E-335 Gas Grill ($950).

Sliced grilled well-done Striploin steak with Pepper sauce on cutting board on burned black wooden background

The Bottom Line

Charcoal and gas grills each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately, the choice depends on your family’s preferences and lifestyle. With a wide array of delicious grilling recipes to explore this summer, you can’t go wrong with either option.

So, whether you’re a die-hard charcoal enthusiast or prefer the convenience of gas grilling, get ready to impress your family and friends with mouthwatering dishes straight from the grill!

Read more about grilling and explore amazing recipes at Family Cuisine.

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