The gas vs. charcoal debate is almost as old as backyard cooking. When modern outdoor grills first entered the market in the 1960s, charcoal was the cooking fuel of choice. Propane gas models were introduced a few years later, offering convenience and ease of use.
Gas leads the market today, even with the recent introduction of electric grills. However, charcoal is still in contention, with many benefits to enjoy.
Your next grill is a big decision. We’ve broken down gas and charcoal grills into a few key categories so you can make the best choice for your needs.
Starting a grill should never be a chore, which is one of the reasons that gas grills became so popular in the first place. When it comes to starting, gas easily beats charcoal. With a gas grill, all you need to do is turn on the propane tank (or your natural gas outlet if you have one), use the grill ignition, and you’ll be ready to cook in minutes.
Charcoal grills require a few more steps. You’ll need to get your coals, light them, and then wait for the grill to get up to temperature. You can light a charcoal grill in around ten minutes, compared to near-instantaneously when working with gas.
Charcoal gets hotter than gas. This is a simple fact where there’s no debate. With a quality charcoal grill like a Weber Kettle or even a Kamado Joe, temperatures can easily exceed 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
This matters when you are searing foods like steaks, burgers, and hot dogs. High temperatures are also ideal for grill-fired pizzas and specialty bread.
If you want the highest possible heat, charcoal is the clear winner, although you can get close with most gas grills.
Heat control is easier on a gas grill. Simply adjust the burners and then monitor the temperature until it’s just where you want it. If you need to make slight adjustments, it’s as simple as turning a dial.
Charcoal grills aren’t quite as intuitive. Heat is controlled by grill vents and how much charcoal you use. For beginners, it can take a few sessions to get comfortable with the process, and it will still never be as easy or as accurate as a gas model.
Gas grills are easy to clean. There’s no ash or coal debris, so you’ll save a lot of time at the end of a cooking session.
Gas grills are also easier to turn off and are much safer because of this. With a charcoal grill, you need to manually cool the coals or wait for them to die down before disposal.
Even the best charcoal grills are limited in the feature set. Some models like the Kamado Joe can grill and smoke, but that’s about as feature-packed as you will get in the charcoal market.
Gas grills are endowed with features like LED lighting, side burners, infrared sear zones, rotisserie mounting points, and even smoker boxes.
If you want features for an all-in-one cooking station, gas is the obvious choice. If you prefer simplicity, charcoal would be ideal.
To see just how feature-rich a gas model can get, take a look at this Napoleon Prestige Pro 500 Natural Gas Grill.
Price often reflects features and performance. It should be no surprise that charcoal is the cheaper option. With fewer complex parts, even high-quality charcoal grills are relatively affordable.
The Bottom Line: Should You Choose a Gas or Charcoal Grill?
At the end of the day, both gas and charcoal can create delicious meals with rich flavor and amazing texture. When it comes to choosing a gas or charcoal grill, it comes down entirely to your preference. While both grills win in some categories, there are also compromises to be made.
For simplicity, low cost, and performance, charcoal is a great choice. For convenience, ease of use, and features, gas is the winner.
Choose a grill that best suits your needs and your budget. With top brands like Weber, Napoleon, and others, you’re guaranteed a great experience no matter your fuel of choice.