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Aug 4, 2006 03:21 PM

Outdoor grills... charcoal vs. gas?

(I hope there hasn't already been a thread on this topic... I did a cursory search and didn't find one!)

My husband and I are on the market for our first grill (it's the first time we've actually had a patio/yard!). We can't afford to spend a lot of money, and we're on the fence as to whether we want gas or charcoal. My feeling is that gas is way more convenient-- I like the idea of being able to fire it up quickly and with no fuss for a weeknight dinner. But in my limited experience, I do feel like charcoal tastes better.

Right now, based on previous Chowhound conversations, we're leaning toward either the Weber One-Touch Platinum (that's the one with the easy ash disposal) or the Weber Performer (which has a propane igniter).

But I'd love feedback on other easy, convenient, but not-too-pricey options that we should consider, as well as others' opinions about whether we should opt for gas or charcoal. I just know that if it's time-consuming to use and to keep clean, we'll end up not using it as often as we'd like.

I'm also curious to know which would end up being more expensive, in terms of buying coals or propane. And, when you want to use flavored wood chips, can you still do this in a charcoal grill, and if so, how?

Thanks for helping us with this-- in our minds, it's our most important purchase for our new house!!

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  1. I'll jump in! As a grill enthusist, I have or have had many of the choices you are considering. First, charcoal for flavor and overall cooking nirvana, propane for convenience only. I too was lured into the idea of Webers with the bells and whistles, but the one I use more than all the others is simply the kettle grill mounted into a cart with a work shelf on it. Forgo the propane lighters, as they will cease to function down the road anyway. Just get a charcoal chimney lighter, simple, cheap, foolproof.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mattrapp

      All that. Plus get the Weber chimney. I first got another one and it didn't have the capacity to cover the grill with coals.

      While you're at it, look for Weber's Real Grilling book at Lowe's or Home Depot or where ever you're getting a grill.

      Did I mention, you can cook a 20 pound bird on the Weber kettle for Thanksgiving?

    2. I agree with mattrapp - charcoal is the way to go and forget the bells and whistles of the propane starter - just invest in the weber chimney starter your coals will be ready to go in 15-20 minutes -

      The Weber one Touch is an excellent first grill - you will have great results - and the ash catcher makes clean up a breeze -

      In terms of fuel I do prefer the chunk charcoal over briquets - and to use flavored wood chips (I assume you mean different wood for the smoke) just soak them an hour before you want to use and put them on the coals - this will impart the smoke flavor you are looking for -

      Happy grilling -

      1. Charcoal grilling is much yummier. It also requires a lot more lead time and a lot more cleanup. Given your stated concerns about cleanup and the general hassle involved, it sounds to me like you'd get a lot more use out of a gas grill at this moment in your life, especially on weekdays.

        1. We have both charcoal and gas grills. We probably use the gas grill about 3-4 times as much as the charcoal one, mostly for speed and convenience. When you want to grill some salmon filets for dinner, are you going to fire up the charcoal and wait 30 minutes, or light the gas grill and be done in 5?

          We use charcoal when we have more time to prepare meals, and we think the smoky taste charcoal gives is really important to the dish.

          Sorry I don't have specifics on gas grills, that's DH's domain.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cheryl_h

            I've gotten into the habit of going outside and lighting a chimney starter full of lump charcoal (which takes about 15-20 minutes to be ready) the very first thing. That way, by the time I'm done with the mise en place, the charcoal's all set to go!

            Actually, just the other day, my wife had an exceedingly clever idea that saved even more time! When I was done grilling the salmon, zucchini and corn on the cob, I threw some soaked hickory chips over the coals, placed an extra salmon filet on the other side of the grill, put the lid down and went inside to eat dinner. 20 minutes later, I went out to collect a perfect piece of hot-smoked salmon that ended up in chunks on top of a large green salad for dinner two nights later!

          2. We have a Weber gas grill and love the convenience but do miss the taste of the charcoal. I'm glad we bought the gas one, we work and there is nothing like being able to come home and with a flick of a switch have the grill ready in 5 minutes.
            And buying the propane is an easy matter, not expensive at all.

            But we are seriously considering purchasing a small charcoal grill for weekends - not for large family cookouts, just for our own personal pleasure.