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Charcoal Grill Users - Talk Me Out Of It!

I have owned a Weber One Touch Gold for about 10 years and it has always done right by me. However, there are only three of us living in my house and I'm getting less and less thrilled about firing up the chimney starter for 20-30 minutes for only 5-10 minutes of actual grill time for the food. Add on the 30-40 minutes afterwards that the charcoal is still burning, and I always think of it as a waste of charcoal too.

I never thought I would say this, but I am actually considering a low-end Weber gas grill (a Summit?) for those nights when we just want to grill up a few things for dinner.

I know that charcoal will always be number one in my heart (and taste buds) but I can definitely see the convenience of gas. I don't plan on getting rid of the One Touch, but I hope they can peacefully co-exist in my yard.

Has anyone else made this leap as well?

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  1. I like having both, side by side. Some times I have the time and enthusiasm to play some music, drink some wine, and do a perfect rack of lamb with smokey mesquite chips and charcoal. Other times I want a quick blue cheeseburger and watch the news.
    At this moment I have the music and wine, and I'm de-stemming parsley for chimichurri sauce for the whole churrasco shebang later, over charcoal and mesquite -Uruguay sausages, sweet breads, beef, pork shoulder.

    1. When certain of my relatives were alive, the charcoal was the only way they'd want their foods cooked. But then, they required that they be incinerated!

      Once you discover the convenience of the gas grill (I mean, what's better than walking out onto one's snowy deck in below-freezing weather and grilling steaks/chops/etc.) you'll doubtless not go back to the charcoal again. We do, however, use the occasional chunks of mesquite on the grill (after they've been soaked) for some flavor interest.

      Once a year, when I do fire up a grill (it's an old industrial barrel that's been cut in half, with a big ole grill on it that was probably the oven rack from an old stove) the charcoal-flavored chicken, hot dogs, and burgers are then accompanied by the old fashioned potato salad, macaroni salad, and cole slaw that we used to pick at while waiting for my uncle's electric charcoal starter to work. It took forever! But he wouldn't use a fluid starter... just that big ole electric thing that looked like a carpet-beater. It'd take 2 hours to heat up!

      It just occurred to me that perhaps he'd take so long heating up the grill because we were a family that enjoyed a long, long cocktail hour (or two) before our holiday meals. Boy, do I miss that guy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: shaogo

        Hahaha. LOVE your post. We've done the barrel thing for clam and crab steams. It's so much easier to put the huge pot on half barrels for a crowd. My husband got a couple sections of metal "catwalk?" to sit the pots on.

        McGuyver lives... pass the margaritas!

      2. I bought a used Weber Spirit a couple of years ago for the exact same reasons. I love my Weber kettle and I use it all the time too, but there are times when I want to throw a couple of burgers on the grill and eat. If you have room for the additional grill, I say go for it. I did and I'm happy with both.

        1. One more vote for propane and charcoal peacefully coexisting. Each has its uses.

          1 Reply
          1. re: alanbarnes

            Yep. We use our gas grill probably 3-6 times a week. I'm not going to mess with charcoal that often.

          2. I love my gas grill!! It has a side burner which does a wonderful job of lighting my Weber Chimney Starter.

            If its just wifey and I I might use my 14" Weber Smokey Joe, if I'm cooking for a few I'll use my red 18.5" Weber Kettle - If thats not big enough its time for my old red 22.5" Weber Kettle.

            There are options, sizes, you don't have to give up charcoal - and by the way, after you finish cooking you can close all the vents and the charcoal will be there next time :D

            2 Replies
            1. re: rich in stl

              "It has a side burner which does a wonderful job of lighting my Weber Chimney Starter."

              What a great idea! I just cancelled my newspaper & always have to scrounge for something to light my chimney starter. Might be the only times I use my waste of a sideburner though. :(

              1. re: pharmnerd

                I use my side burner all the time! I wouldn't buy a grill without one. Maybe I'm doing some teriyaki Skewers on the grill, some corn on the cob and I will use my side burner for the rice. Sometimes I like my sauteed mushrooms in a basket or sometimes I will use the burner for sauteed mushrooms in a wine reduction. Many, many uses!

            2. I'm a stick-burner, through and through. The only reason I have three cookers is because Mrs. ricepad made me get rid of the rest. I'm not about convenience when it comes to cooking outside. That being said, why do you want me to talk you out of it? You're already succumbing to the siren's call of convenience, so give in and buy an outdoor oven.

              The only thing I can say is not to scrimp - buy a quality unit (I don't know what qualifies as 'quality'), or else you'll regret it. A couple of my co-workers tried to go 'cheap' with their gas grills, and they hated them. They were flimsy, didn't get hot enough, used what seemed to be way too much fuel, and ended up in the trash heap after less than a year. One of them went back to basics (charcoal), while the other forked out big $$ on a much better gas unit. They're both happy with their respective decisions, btw.

              1. I also proudly have both propane & Weber charcoal. It's the perfect storm of grilling. There are times when I have both going---veggies on the gas & ribs or tri tips on the Weber. It's a beautiful thing. Definately the gas for a quick weeknight chicken breast or burger.

                1. Consider the Chargriller Duo - best of both worlds.

                  1. A so-cheap-it's-worth-trying option is to buy a large deep enamelled steel roasting pan, double line it with foil to aid cleaning, and use it as a fire box sitting on the coal grate of your Weber.

                    My 16 by 12 inch pan uses about 1/3 the charcoal of a full Weber, and would cook for three nicely.

                    If you go for gas, the Weber Q range is terrific, really well made, and can use a small canister for picnics. Pity it's $400+ though.

                    Edit: Just checked out the Summit range. Not low-end in my world!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      I'm guessing the OP meant to say Spirit, not Summit.

                    2. Ive been a windburning purist but I'm seriously considering an infrared grill for those nights when I just want to toss a burger or chops on the grill.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        I know it's a typo but I can't resist the image that comes to mind of windburning, involving bending over and holding a match behind...

                      2. We have a charcoal grill, a smoker and a gas grill. I'm glad we have all three.

                        1. I have four weber grills, and looking to add more. One is a very nice Genesis EP-320 in Copper. It really is easy to use. I have one Blue Master Touch (think one touch gold), one performer, and one Weber Smokey Mountain. They definitely can co-exist. Sometimes, I want to ignite, and cook.

                          But keep in mind, to properly cook on a gas grill you do have to preheat for 15-20 minutes. I think with adjusting your charcoal cooking, you can approach that time or less with the a chimney.

                          If you are only grilling for 5-10 minutes what are you grilling? You do not have to fill the whole chimney up. Sometimes I cook a steak for myself, and i fill the chimney 1/3 only or so. Also, after you are done cooking, you can shut off all the vents top and bottom, and the coals will die out due to lack of oxygen.

                          I use all my grills, bouncing back and forth. I mean, I cook steaks on gas, in a skillet over the range, over coals, with a blow torch. Get both use both!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: deeznuts

                            Maybe the 5-10 minutes was a bit of exaggeration, but if we're talking steaks or fajitas or burgers, it only takes about 5 minutes on each side (at most) to get medium rare. I do shrimp kabobs too and they only take about 5 minutes total.

                            As for quantity, maybe 2 steaks, 3 or 4 burgers, or 1 flank steak. Right now, it's just me, my wife, and a three year old. If I get the gas grill, it will mainly be for quick evening summer dinners. If I have people over, the main grill will be the kettle.

                            Maybe I'm just getting older and lazier. All of my in-laws have gas grills and sometimes when I cook over there I like the "no muss no fuss".

                          2. Maybe a Weber Smokey Joe would fit the bill if you still want to use charcoal but prefer to use less.

                            1. One other small data point...

                              If the set up time puts you off the charcoal grill, might I recommend switching charcoal? We use hardwood charcoal in a chimney starter and it's ready really fast -- much faster than briquettes. We had to get used to the fact that hardwood burns faster and hotter than briquettes (and so it also dies out faster), but it didn't require a lot of adjustment in cooking techniques. For us, using hardwood instead of briquettes makes firing up the grill for just the two of us and pretty easy and quick proposition.

                              1. I have had a Weber classic round grill for about 30 years (and it still is functional), but also have a gas grill. Use the gas grill for day to day stuff, but the Weber for stuff like long slow cooked turkey, roasts, etc. Have no recommendations on Weber low end gas grills. I have a Vermont Casting gas grill, which used to be sold by Home Depot, but no longer. It's a tank, and will outlast most grills on the market today. Vermont Castings has a web site, so you may be able to find a retailer near you. I recommend them highly.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: trakman

                                  I don't get the point of switching to the charcoal grill for long slow cooking. Gas holds an even low temperature much more easily than coals, and my three-burner Weber Genesis allows me to smoke meats beautifully by placing trays of wood chips over an active front burner and the food over inactive rear burners. It can hold a steady 225° - 250° for hours with no tending or fussing.

                                  Charcoal, on the other hand - especially real lump charcoal - can get much hotter than gas and as such is better for putting a good char on a steak.

                                  1. re: BobB

                                    My kettle with lump charcoal, wood chips and a properly vented set up with the lid on is great for low and slow cooks. The thermometer at least *says* I'm keeping it at 240.

                                    Reminds me, I gotta start thawing out that brisket for Friday's cook.

                                2. Add me to those who say you should just have both a gas and charcoal grill (in my case, a Weber Gold Kettle and a Weber Silver Genesis A gas grill). Frankly, I've most often used the charcoal this year, because the time it takes for coals to fire up is pretty much the same as prep time for lots of different dinners. Having a kettle with an ash pan has made all this possible, because it's so easy to keep it cleaned out enough.

                                  About wasted charcoal, you can shut the lower and upper vents on the kettle and suffocate the charcoal, which then can be reused for the next cookout.

                                  1. I've been trying to convince Mr. Juju that we need a small gas grill for burgers and dogs. He refuses to fire up the coals for anything that cooks quickly, so I never get a burger at home. :(
                                    (I know. I could do it myself... but that's our deal... the grill is his domain)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                      I have a Weber Smokey Joe that I use when there is just two of us. It takes only a minute to light and its up to temp in the time it takes to make a veg' and set table.

                                      You can cook a burger over a chimney starter if you want something even faster.

                                      1. re: Kelli2006

                                        >>"You can cook a burger over a chimney starter if you want something even faster."<<

                                        Careful with that, though. Once the air starts drawing through a chimney starter, getting enough heat from the charcoal is like getting enough water from a fire hose.

                                    2. Another vote for both. I use gas for grilling foods that require less than 20-30 mins(chicken pieces or fish or burgers) & Weber Gold if need smoke/low/slow cooking.

                                      1. i've started using a neo-kamado thing this year, and i'm in love with it.

                                        big steel keg - can go low and slow, for hours, can get blisteringly hot, and when you shut it down, there's more charcoal left over than you would expect.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: thew

                                          LOL nice!
                                          I was sizing one of those up just last weekend. The wife was shocked when she went to open the lid - had to use two hands.

                                        2. You are not using your kettle properly. Use it as a smoker, use a gas grill to grill. Charcoal burns longer for longer cooks. Gas grills turn on and off easily for shorter cooks. Don't choose one over the other. Use them both properly.

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: gordeaux

                                            To Gordeaux, I agree that a gas grill would be marginally faster, but you cannot say it is improper to "grill" (I assume you mean high direct heat) with a Weber charcoal kettle. I have both gas and charcoal grills, and the timing difference is not dramatic. And I do like the charcoal flavor better.

                                            With my cast iron grates, I won't cook on the gas grill with less than a 8-10 minute pre-heat. Meanwhile, a chimney of lump charcoal takes perhaps 15 minutes to come up to speed, and another 5 minutes with the kettle covered to heat the grill.

                                            Total time savings of gas grill for me is therefore maybe 10 minutes.

                                            1. re: Bada Bing

                                              but how long does cleanup take?

                                              there's also the effort consideration. to start a charcoal grill, you go to the shed or the garage, bring out a bag of charcoal, grab the starter and the newspaper (and a lighter), which takes 2 trips, maybe 3, depending on if you think the lighter is in your pocket and it's not. then you wash your hands because you have charcoal and newsprint on your hands (and wipe down the back door too, because you grabbed it on the way out with the lighter, and the wife noticed the black finger prints). you get the grill going and place the chimney down to handle later, since it's too hot to bring back into the garage, and then you get the grill up to heat for the food and clean the grates. when you're done cooking you get the chimney starter back where it needs to be, and get rid of the ashes from the grill, but that's later because it's still too hot. hopefully you've already got the bag of charcoal back to the garage because it's starting to rain. and make sure you wipe your feet before going back inside because you've stepped in some ash that blew out as you were dumping the starter charcoals into the grill.

                                              or you can turn a knob.

                                              and charcoal adds no flavor. it's carbonized wood. all of the oils and flavors have already been burned off. that's why you need wood (not carbonized) to smoke meats. the only flavor it adds is, possibly, and i say possibly because I don't believe that a hot dog or hamburger has enough time to absorb any of this aroma therapy, from juices hitting the coals and vaporizing back to the meat, which any gas grill does these days with "flavorizer bars" and other hot surfaces under the grates. put your face over some burning lump and tell me if you are savoring the flavors of apple and oak. if you say you are, you're fooling yourself, and your burger.

                                              1. re: tommy

                                                Well, I don't agree with you on taste, and maybe I just worry less about time (let's say your points add another five minutes). But once you mention the wife complaining about fingerprints, I have to admit that you're the more realistic individual here.

                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                  I'm happy you took that in the intended spirit.

                                                2. re: tommy

                                                  I disagree with the fact that charcoal dosn't add flavor but not the simplicity of a gas grill I personally never use one because as much as charcoal can be a pain you can use the warm up time to finish preping your meat or sides so your not wasting all of that time plus any time I feel like a bbq a gas grill dosn't come to mind and for the fingerprints a damp towl will cure that

                                                  1. re: droopy1081

                                                    you'll notice i wasn't focusing on the time issue. i have all the time in the world. time isn't an issue, as i think i illustrated quite clearly.

                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                      i guess i miss understood your drawn out discription of using a charcoal grill all I was really saying is I prefer charcoal over gas I use a webber for burgers and dogs and I use a chargrill for anything I smoke

                                                3. re: Bada Bing

                                                  In the op's situation, I don't think they are using it correctly. If their opinion is that it's a waste of time and charcoal, then they should use it for longer cooks. I use both gas and a kettle. I would never use the gas for ribs / brisket, shoulders, jerk chicken, smoked chicken, and I would never use my kettle for burgers or hot dogs (unless I was using it for something else as well.) I would never CHOOSE one over the other. Use them both properly for what you want.

                                                  It's not improper to use a kettle to grill, you're right. But it was built to do other things better, IMO.

                                                  If the op thinks it's a waste of time and charcoal to grill on the kettle, they should simply use it for smokin, and use the gas grill for grillin.

                                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                                    That's BS. Use a smoker for long, indirect cooking like brisket, ribs, pork shoulder etc. The Weber smoker is great, very easy to use and many recipes on the virtualweberbbq website.
                                                    Charcoal kettles are designed for direct grilling. They can be used indirectly, but no substitute for a water smoker for long cook times.
                                                    I can get my Weber kettle ready in 20 minutes. I keep the charcoal by the back door, newspaper is close by. Clean up is easier that a gas grill. Just dump the ashes on the lawn when the catcher is full (great fertilizer) and give the grates a rub down once it's hot.
                                                    The insides of a gas grill need to be cleaned once in a while, the gas lines can clog with various things and parts wear out.
                                                    With a kettle, you may need to replace the grate every few years, nothing else wears out.

                                                    1. re: saeyedoc

                                                      I honestly don't believe it to be bs. I think something like the weber bar b kettle makes a great smoker setup when used properly. If the op thinks the thing takes too long to get going, and also wastes too much charcoal, I think they should use it as a smoker setup and use a gas grill for a grill.

                                                      And if you're in my hood and you want to sample some of my product created by using a kettle as a smoker, just say when. Brisket, and a long slow pork shoulder, I admit, are a little bit tough to do*, but I can do ribs like nobody's bidness.

                                                      * But where there's a will, there's a way. I get really decent results.

                                                      1. re: gordeaux

                                                        I'm sure the kettle can be used to smoke, my point was that the kettle is ideal for direct grilling.
                                                        The problem with gas is that it's difficult with most units to keep a high temp without keeping the lid closed. I prefer the charcoal kettle for steaks, burgers, hot dogs, grilled (not smoked) chicken, etc. If you cook a steak with the lid closed, you're not just grilling, you're roasting.
                                                        If you like to cook low and slow, you should try the Weber Smokey Mtn, it's amazing how it keeps steady heat for long periods of time. I did a brisket for 10 1/2 hours and never had to add charcoal.

                                              2. anything that i'd use the side burner for i make ahead, generally inside. i find i appreciate the real estate more than a sole burner next to the grill.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  LOL - I've had a side burner on my current one for two years now. I let my brother and his wife have it. When they came over to look at it, I turned on the side burner for the first time to test it.

                                                  1. re: gordeaux

                                                    Side burner is great for lighting the chimney

                                                2. Tommy---I love your perfect description of the difference--I couldn't agree more. The only thing you forgot was when you take the cooking grid off the grill and lean it up against something while you are waiting for the coals in the chimney is trying to keep the dog from licking it because of the leftover burnt on food.
                                                  I took my side burner off the day I bought my grill--that's why I have a stove.

                                                  1. I haven't made the leap, but I understand your sentiment. I have a Weber one-touch 18", 22" and Smokey Mountain. I've had them all for years, only replacing the grills a couple of times on the kettles. They are all used on a regular basis, several times a week through summer. I find grilling and/or smoking an enjoyable relaxation, so prep time isn't a bother.

                                                    That said, when the wind is blowing at gale force speeds and the intent is to keep the fire and it's components *inside* the parameters of the grill structure, it would be nice avoid flying ash and and the worry of sparks.

                                                    1. Maybe not to talk you out of it but maybe something to think about... I load up on charcoal during the winter months and purchased 2 packs of Kingsford 24lb twin packs for $9.99 for 48lbs. A deal I agree.
                                                      I do quite a bit of grilling and went today to replenish my supply only to discover that the same twin pack is now $17.99 on SALE..... But wait ,there's more. Kingsford has repackaged their charcoal to 20lbs and 16lbs. The new twin packs I found is now 32lbs for $19.99 regular price.
                                                      I am not going to buy a gas grill anytime in the near future but if the price of standard briquettes are getting so costly, what is the price of those "designer "natural charcoal?
                                                      Gas grills are starting to look more attractive every day.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Duppie

                                                        I bought the Kingsford "competition" charcoal at Costco & that stuff burns down really fast so I am really going through it. That's something to figure into the price--when I run out I am going back to regular Kingsford. I wish the lump charcoal wasnt' in such big heavy 40 lb bags. I want some but don't have the room or the strength.

                                                        1. re: Duppie

                                                          Duppie, I have found lump, hardwood coal is less expensive that "Kingsford" and their like briquettes. It burns MUCH hotter, so for steaks, you get a beautiful sear and therefore can use less than you would the briquettes. Drawbacks: I havent found a brand that burns as long as (compressed) briquettes and because of the very high heat, chicken, fish and longer cooking meats can be a tricky proposition, but some practice will fix that. That said, I usually use a water soaked plank when cooking fish and usually keep a bag of Kingsford at hand for grilling chicken.

                                                          Spark, I find 20# bags all the time, but they do come in bags that are large - similar in size to what would likely be a 40# bags of Kingsford. Hardwood is also being stocked with more availability - I know that Academy Sports, Bass Pro and (been told) that Wal-Mart carries brands. If you have a BBQ's Galore store, they also carry it.

                                                          One thing to know is that not all lump charcoal is created equal. There can be huge differences in uniformity of lumps, actual heat generated, cleanliness of burn (taste, smoking, sparking and such), ash production (usually reflects purity of coal), type of wood. Once you find and use a good quality lump, you'll disdain having to use the Kingsford. Here is a web-site to explain further.

                                                          1. re: CocoaNut

                                                            Thanks CocoaNut.
                                                            I used natural charcoal in Florida and we would pick up a huge burlap sack for next to nothing, It definitely burns hotter and I prefer it over briquettes but here in NJ I found natural charcoal is generally bagged from a famous manufacturer and is just as if not more expensive that the Kingsford stuff.
                                                            If any one has a resource for inexpensive hardwood charcoal in central NJ, please let me know.

                                                            1. re: Duppie

                                                              Central Jersey Lump Charcoal on our Big Green Egg and grilling, baking or smoking just doesn't get any better. A week ago we splurged and bought a 3" thick prime porterhouse for a family steak florentine seared at 750 degrees and then backed down to 300 by shutting all the vents. Incredible. This weekend did a 17 hour smoke of 2 pork shoulders (13 lbs combined) using a couple softball sized chunks of water soaked hickory (1 buried deep and 1 on top of the charcoal). Smoked at 215 degrees for 12 hours, then 300 degrees for 4 hours and still enough of the original charcoal to boost it up to 400 degrees for the final hour to crisp everything. Phenomenal results.
                                                              Partly the egg, partly the prep and attention to detail and partly the charcoal. I still use big green egg brand charcoal (20 lb bags) because it has a pretty high percentage of large and medium sized pieces, does not spark, burns clean with very little ash, burns long and as hot as I ever need, has a clean, very mild smoke flavor and can be purchased by the pallet load (20 bags) with reasonable shipping cost. Same product in local retail store (Barry's Appliances in Bridgewater; Rt. 28/Union Ave) goes for $1. per pound. The last order (Nov. 2009) for 20 bags worked out to 0.70 per pound and that included shipping; although I did have to unload the pallet from the truck and run it into my garage via wheelbarrow. Order was via Fred's BBQ and Music somewhere in Pa. via the web.

                                                              1. re: ThanksVille

                                                                I think if you entertain a lot gas is the way to go. You have a constant controllable temperature. Totally reliable cooking times and end result guaranteed regardless of weather.

                                                                But for me I love charcoal and cooking indirect on my Weber.

                                                                1. re: ThanksVille

                                                                  Two pieces of wood provided smoke for 12+ hours?

                                                                  1. re: ThanksVille

                                                                    Thanks, Thanks!
                                                                    Great resource and I will give them a call,now all I have to do is make room in the garage.I go through mucho charcoal with a first generation Weber performer and 22'' one touch.

                                                            2. I've gone back and forth between bricket & gas grills for many years. From a compact "Smokey Joe" or classic Weber Kettle, to the Bells & Whistles Genesis Gold propane unit.

                                                              All have their pluses & minus's, as documented by the varied responses here. My cuurent, andfavorite LTD (life to date) set up is a Big Green Egg hardwood charcoal grill for the cooks when smoke & accurate temperature control is the priority, and a Weber "Q" gas unit for the days when I simply want to light 'er up and fast cook a burger or steak.

                                                              Both units combined take up less space than my old Genesis, and serve my two member family very sufficiently. If I wanted to cook for a crowd, I'd sure prefer the larger surface of a big Weber, but for every day coking my current combo can't be beat.

                                                              1. Lets make this easy. First throw away your chimney! Go buy a small propane torch from your hardware store. You can get propane anyplace including your grocery store, the green coleman tanks will fit a propane torch @ $2.75 ea. You go from cold to cook in three minutes or less.