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Gas vs. charcoal grills: Which one should you buy?

Gas vs. charcoal grills

Should you buy a gas grill or a charcoal grill?


When buying a new grill for your home, there’s a debate that always comes up: Should you buy a gas grill or a charcoal grill? It’s an argument that nobody wins and, if you have picked your side, appears never-ending.

Both options are good and have unique benefits: charcoal highlights flavor while gas offers convenience. Gas is easier to use; charcoal needs a bit of patience and experience. Charcoal is for the weekends; gas is to use after work.

So, which should you choose? It depends on what your expectations and preferences are and how you expect to use it. Read on for more information on gas and charcoal grills, the pros and cons of both and to see some of our favorite products on the market.

How does a charcoal grill work?

To cook any food on your charcoal grill, you need to heat pieces of charcoal (it can be lumps or briquette, along with smoking chips) in the grate, graduating the temperature with the top and bottom air vents. Most charcoal grill users prefer it because it gives a different and particular flavor to the meat.

Charcoal grill pros

There are a few reasons why so many cooks prefer charcoal grills over gas grills. The main reason is flavor. The smoke and temperature that reaches every piece of meat in a charcoal grill seem to be perfect to seal it while keeping it juicy.

The charcoal grill is designed to allow the meat to cook evenly. The charcoal grill’s design allows you to put the pieces of hot coal evenly in the grill’s basket, distributing the grate’s heat. There’s no part of the meat that cooks less than the others.

Finally, even though it may seem that the charcoal grill produces more waste and clutter than the gas grill, in some cases, it’s the opposite. The charcoal grill has a fairly simple design, with approximately a dozen parts you can easily clean.

Once you dispose of the coal inside the fire bowl, it’s just a matter of cleaning external pieces of the grill. The charcoal grill still needs a lot of maintenance and cleaning before every use, but it’s not as complicated as cleaning a gas grill.

Charcoal grill cons

The main downside of charcoal grills is the preparation. Cooking with a charcoal grill is not as straightforward as turning on a microwave or lighting the stove. Heating a charcoal grill takes time and is far more complicated than turning on the gas on a gas grill.

Best charcoal grills

Weber Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill

This Weber grill is an all-in-one machine. You get all the best things about a charcoal grill without any of its downsides: It has a faster ignition, a cleaning system, a built-in thermometer and a removable ash catcher.

Sold by Amazon

Weber Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill

On the other side of the spectrum is this portable grill. It doesn’t have all the extra qualities of the deluxe version, but it does its job. It’s ready to work and is great for grilling on the go. It’s also affordable, easy to handle, and durable.

Sold by Amazon

Kingsford Charcoal Kettle Grill

With a price a bit higher than the Weber portable grill, but with a sturdier structure and a bigger cooking area, comes this Kingsford grill. If you’re looking for a practical and durable kettle grill at a friendly price point, this is the one for you.

Sold by Amazon

How does a gas grill work?

On the inside, the gas grill is a bit more complicated than the charcoal grill. The gas grill uses natural gas or propane gas to fuel the fire. The gas grill comes with heat plates to distribute the burners’ heat, minimizing flare-ups and preventing burner damage. Even though getting it to run is more complicated than the charcoal grill, the gas grill is easier to handle.

Gas grill pros

To put it in four words: quick, easy, clean and efficient. Gas grills not only allow you to turn up the temperature in a matter of seconds, but they also come with control knobs that let you adjust the flow of gas, the flame height and the cooking temperature.

While it may not produce the same flavors in the meat as a charcoal grill, it works perfectly with other foods such as fish, vegetables and even grilled fruits. It’s worth mentioning that the meat cooked in the gas grill does come close to the taste of the charcoal grill in some cases.

Gas grill cons

The obvious downside of the gas grill is the flavor. As close as it can get, no gas grill imitates what the charcoal grill does. If you’re cooking burgers or a steak, the gas grill lacks the depth in flavor that the charcoal produces. Sometimes, even the texture of the meat changes.

Aside from the flavor, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on how to best clean gas grills. The ignition and the cooking process may seem quick and clean, but cleaning can be more arduous than with the charcoal grill after cooking.

To avoid any malfunctioning, it’s necessary to unplug the burners and clean them thoroughly. If you’re not familiar with a gas grill’s specifics, the cleaning process can be long.

Best gas grills

Weber Spirit E-310 Liquid Propane Gas Grill

When it comes to gas grills, this may be the best-equipped choice. With a big cooking area, a porcelain-enameled lid and a durable structure, this gas grill is ready for a big job. The heat burners in this gas grill also provide better heat distribution.

Sold by Amazon

Char-Broil Performance 4-Burner Gas Grill

With similar features to the Weber Spirit, this Char-Broil grill offers a more affordable and still high-quality alternative with a smaller cooking area. The only downside is that this gas grill lacks a better heat distribution system.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a charcoal grill or a gas grill?

The answer is clear: charcoal for flavor, gas for convenience.

The prices are similar. The decision depends more on what is important to you.

Do you prefer a grill that’s easier to handle? Go with the gas grill. Do you want to have a full grilling experience? Go with the charcoal grill. Do you want to enjoy a barbecue on the weekends with your whole family? Charcoal grill. Do you think you’ll only use the grill occasionally with one or two guests? Gas grill.

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Juan Sebastián Torres is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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