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GAS vs CHARCOAL

What's the point of using a gas grill? The only thing it does is leave grill marks; otherwise, it's no different than using the broiler in your stove. OTOH, charcoal (with or without wood chips) imparts a distinct flavor to food.

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  1. Charcoal is far superior to gas, IMO but there are other considerations. In many areas charcoal is not allowed because of fire codes. Where I live, the only thing allowed is electric..no charcoal or gas. I use a few wood chips to get a flame and some char..and have great success cooking steaks with a char and still rare. I also customized my grill so the actual grill is closer to the heating element.

    Both electric and standard propane hit about 700f at grill level. We tested using a hand held laser thermometer gun. Charcoal can get considerably hotter...hotter is better. With wood chips, I got my electric over 900f at the cooking surface.

    Some people like the convenience of propane and electric, but if I could, I'd choose charcoal every time. I don't mind the wait and actually findsitting by the fire relaxing. Watching the electric element heat up doesn't offer the same experience..;)

    1. I use my gas grill for more than just grilling. I often use it like an oven in the summer to avoid heating the house up. When it's still hitting 110 at the end of September, the last thing my house needs is more heat. It's also less expensive than using charcoal (or my electric oven for that matter). A tank of propane lasts us a very long time. The grill still imparts a flavor that you can't get from using the broiler in the oven. It also gets much hotter than my oven. I also use wood chips when I want a smokier flavor.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jen76

        Why are you even outside grilling if the temp is 110? That's got to be worse than staying in an air conditioned house. Is the flavor you're talking about due to the propane? I use 'quick light' charcoal and know that if I don't wait until the flames die out, the food will have a slight lighter fluid taste.

        1. re: mucho gordo

          As I said above, it keeps the heat out of the house. If I stayed in the house to avoid temps over 100, I'd be inside for 4-5 months out of the year here in Phoenix. I think the flavor probably comes from charring the fat on the meat. There just seems to be difference between meat cooked in hot air, and meat that's been kissed by flames.

        2. re: Jen76

          agreed, but sometimes I need the charcoal grill, like when I'm roasting chiles in the fall or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. I have both and would really, really hate to have to give either one up.

        3. I can get my gas grill much much hotter than I can with my oven.

          1. I love my Weber grill. I can't imagine giving it up, even for the convenience of gas. My neighbor can grill an entire meal with his gas grill in the time it takes me to get set up my charcoal grill, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Nothing beats a ribeye steak with that charcoal coating... mmmm!

            1. I have to 100% agree that a gas grill is nothing more than moving a gas stove/oven outdoors. Pointless. If you really want to GRILL, charcoal is the only way to go.

              1. I love my gas grill. The side burner is very handy, and throwing a nice flat sheet of steel on the grill surface turns it into a very serviceable flat top. Also serves as a great warmer when cooking for a crowd on my charcoal grills and smokers.

                I'd never cook a steak on one, but it's still a handy piece of outdoor cooking equipment.

                1 Reply
                1. re: laststandchili

                  I do that too. I use cast iron fry pans on it (excellent for outdoor breakfasts). I value the "instant" cooking quality of it. I also have a great smoker box that I can cold smoke things in because my gas grill is huge so it is easy to keep a low temp to only smoke the food and not cook it. I also like my rotisserie!

                2. I used to use a gas grill. Then it caught fire. Fire + propane tank = hysteria.

                  I made the switch. I don't know when chimney starters came into prominence, but that changes everything from a convenience standpoint. The taste is far better. My grill won't explode.

                  Charcoal is more expensive than propane, especially when I'm only cooking for the two of us. But charcoal grills themselves are cheaper, last longer, and do not explode. Sometimes, I'll throw some kabobs on with whatever we're cooking, and use the veggies in other recipes throughout the week.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kevin47

                    Chimney starters are great, but something I love even more is the electric starter that Big Green Egg sells. It's basically an electric cattle prod that you shove down into a pile of charcoal. It's much easier and faster than using a chimney, and should work just fine even without an Egg.

                    1. re: kevin47

                      Chimney starters are the greatest invention since movable type.

                      And they don't explode.

                    2. I think there are advantages/disadvantages to both. I own both but use my gas grill more often than my charcoal simply for the convenience. After working all day I find it much easier to simply fire up the gas grill as opposed to getting the charcoal grill going, even with quick lighting charcoal etc.

                      I also totally agree with a previous post that living in a hot climate I often use the gas grill including the side burner to keep from heating the house up with the oven. I find that using wood chips I can get a nice smoke flavor with a lot less hassle than if I were using charcoal. Also with our drought conditions we are encouraged to use gas vs. charcoal.

                      1. Having cooked extensively with both, I feel that charcoal may have a slight taste edge—but the convenience and control of propane usually leads to a better meal, especially when wood chips are used to even the score. Charcoal burns cleaner and more smoke-free than people think it does; much of the "smoke flavour" of a charcoal grill comes from food drippings vaporizing themselves, which they'll do on the lava rock or heat tent of a gas grill as well. Furthermore, most quickly-grilled foods don't stay on the 'cue long enough to pick up much flavor difference from accumulated smoke, anyway. If you're just grilling a hamburger, the benefit will be slight.

                        1. I don't see it so much as an either/or thing, but I do use my gas grill a lot more that the charcoal one. It's there and ready to use as an adjunct to the kitchen without all the folderol and waiting, which is important if I just want to brown some sausages before I braise them with peppers and onions and stuff. It's also where I do steaks, even if I'm using my grill pan. My cooktop's exhaust fan is kaput, you see, and since it was installed BEFORE they tiled the wall it'll have to stay that way until we remodel the kitchen!

                          No doubt at all that charcoal is the better grilling medium, and I do want to have another large Weber kettle like the one I had in Nashville. I loved doing the indirect-heat cooking, especially with chickens and ducks.

                          1. Time to start gas grill: 5 seconds
                            Time to start charcoal grill: At least 10 minutes.

                            Nuff said.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: joonjoon

                              me, too -- plus we generally grill smaller things -- kabobs, chicken, fish, shrimp, chops -- rather than big things.

                              When it takes longer to get the coals hot than it does to cook dinner, there's something lopsided in the equation -- and as above, these lighter proteins aren't on the grill long enough to pick up a huge smoke flavor anyway -- but it most definitely tastes different on the grill than under the broiler (and then there's that whole heat in the un-airconditioned house thing).

                              1. re: joonjoon

                                Have to disagree. I favor gas but to be fair, it needs to heat up before the food goes on if you want any searing. Preheat for 15 minutes.

                                1. re: MRubenzahl

                                  Agree, plus if you use a box of wood chips on a gas grill, they take about that long to start smoking. iMHO the main reason to use gas is reducing pollution, a not inconsequential matter (to me, anyway).