For the most hardcore grilling enthusiasts, charcoal is often the fuel of choice. The potential for intense searing heat, a smokeless burn, and the ability to control temperature quickly are all advantages of cooking with charcoal.
However, many people swear by natural untreated wood for cooking. Wood produces smoke with flavor, which can be beneficial in many cases.
Is it better to grill with charcoal or wood? Let’s take a look at both cooking fuels and find out.
Cooking on a Grill with Charcoal – Pros and Cons
When asking is it better to grill with charcoal or wood, charcoal is the more popular of the two. When considering all of the benefits, it’s not difficult to see why.
- Charcoal is easy to control, taking you anywhere from low and slow to searing hot.
- This fuel is easy to arrange in a grill to provide indirect or direct heat.
- Charcoal can burn for hours at lower temperatures, making it ideal for BBQ-style cooking.
- Charcoal is more affordable than packaged wood in most places.
There’s also the fact that some of the best grills are designed primarily for charcoal. The Weber Kettle is the world’s most popular solid-fuel grill.
The downside to charcoal is that it creates more mess than wood. There’s more ash produced and cleaning up is sometimes difficult, especially when the ash is mixed with food debris and grease.
Cooking on a Grill with Wood – Pros and Cons
Natural wood is free of additives, so there’s no risk of chemical contamination. You will know exactly what you’re getting when you buy wood for grilling.
The biggest advantage, and the reason many people cook with wood, is that it can impart unique flavors. Depending on the species you choose, you could go from a rich and smokey flavor with Mesquite, to a light and sweet flavor with Applewood.
- For longer cooking sessions, use a specialized cooking wood like this Smoak Firewood.
- For flavor, add smoker chips to the mix. This Western Wood Smoking Variety Pack has six wood types to try.
One downside of wood is that it can take longer to get to your desired cooking temperature, and it takes longer to master and control the temperature using vents and wood placement.
The Final Word: Is it Better to Grill with Charcoal or Wood?
If you own a charcoal grill, you can use wood as an alternative fuel. Typically this is done for flavor. Sometimes wood is used simply because it’s what’s available on hand.
Is it better to grill with charcoal or wood? The answer comes down to preference. Charcoal is more popular because it’s more convenient and more versatile.
Wood is an alternative but it comes in slightly behind due to its lack of versatility. You can get the best of bost worlds when you add smoker chips on top of the charcoal in your grill.
Both fuels ultimately do the same job, but if it’s the convenience and reliability that you’re looking for, charcoal is the best solid cooking fuel.