Gas vs Charcoal Grills – Which is right for you?

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In an ideal world, you would have both a gas and a charcoal barbecue.

When you had lots of time, you would light some charcoal and sear steaks over a roaring fire. If you’re in a rush, throw some burger patties on the gas grill and you’ll be dining in 5 minutes.

Unfortunately sometimes you have to pick one.

Try to avoid the usual feud between gas and charcoal enthusiasts. The greatest grill for you will be the one you love cooking on and using the most.

In this essay, you’ll learn about the fundamental distinctions between gas and charcoal grills, what foods each grill is suited for, and the overall benefits and downsides of each.

What’s the fight about?

Gas vs Charcoal Grills – Which is right for you?

The primary distinction between gas and charcoal grills is, as one would think, the kind of fuel utilized.

But, as a home griller, what are the real differences?

Heres a basic run down:

As you can see, gas grills have some nice perks:

  • Gas grills are simple to operate; just turn the knob to ignite and adjust the temperature.
  • You can find a gas grill to suit most budgets
  • Higher-end grills have so many functions that you will never need to enter your kitchen again.

Charcoal, on the other hand, takes a little more skill to ignite and maintain the correct temperature.

  • However, if you know how to maintain your charcoal barbecue at the proper temperature, these grills are designed for searing and will easily achieve high temperatures.
  • Cleaning and maintaining a charcoal barbecue may need a little more effort.
  • In exchange, you receive mouthwatering, real tasting meals every time, without the need for costly additives (such as infrared searing).

Now that you understand the idea of the dispute, keep reading to find out what is true and what is fiction in the charcoal versus gas debate.

Related It doesn’t have to be either/or! See our guide to the best gas charcoal combination grills for more information.

How do charcoal grills work?

Gas vs Charcoal Grills – Which is right for you?

Charcoal barbecues are often basic and inexpensive. The traditional Weber Kettle grill may be seen in backyards all around the globe.

You may even get ceramic Kamado grills and, in rare situations, enormous built-in or free-standing grills.

The heat from ignited coals cooks your meal in all circumstances. Vents regulate the airflow to the coals, which in turn regulates the temperature.

Some charcoal grills have an adjustable charcoal tray that enables you to move the charcoal closer or farther away from the cooking grates for more intense searing if necessary.

Some individuals find it difficult to light the charcoal. The good news is that you don’t have to douse it with lighter fluid.

The simplest method to fire your charcoal is using a chimney starter, which is inexpensive.

The pros of charcoal grilling:

  • It is widely acknowledged that charcoal barbecues make the greatest tasting meals.
  • If you want to sear your food (and if you cook a lot of steaks), charcoal grills are the obvious option. Coal inherently reaches greater temperatures than gas alone (without the added expense of infrared searing zones).
  • With the proper knowledge, many charcoal grills can be used assmokers.’s Meathead Goldwyn puts it succinctly:

One of the biggest reasons to purchase a charcoal grill is because it can become hotter than regular gas grills without infrared burners, and heat is what you need to make steaks and lamb chops crisp on the exterior while remaining red or pink on the inside.

In most circumstances, a charcoal barbecue will be less expensive than an equivalent grade gas grill. This is due in great part to their basic design with less intricate pieces.

When it comes to operating expenses, charcoal will cost you more than gas. The precise difference will depend on where you reside.

To determine which choice is the most cost efficient in the long run, consider how often you intend to grill.

While we like cooking with charcoal, it is not for everyone.

Why charcoal might not be right for you:

  • When cooking with charcoal, you will have to wait longer for your food to be done if you are really hungry. Before you can start cooking, you must fire the coals, wait for them to ash over, and heat up the grill.
  • When utilizing charcoal, cleaning and maintenance become more difficult. By definition, charcoal is dirtier, and you must wait for the coals to cool before beginning cleaning.
  • To control the temperature of a charcoal barbecue, more skill and knowledge are necessary. Some may regard this as part of the pleasure, rather than a disadvantage. That is entirely up to you to decide.
  • Some apartment complexes prohibit tenants from using charcoal barbecues.

What Food is Charcoal Best For?

If you do a lot of searing and desire a rich, smokey taste, charcoal shines.

You may have heard that charcoal tastes better. But how much of it is true?

In 1998, Good Housekeeping magazine conducted a blind taste test. They discovered that taste testers couldn’t identify the difference between burger patties cooked on gas and those cooked on charcoal.

The difference in flavor became noticeable when it came to bigger portions of meat, such as steaks, which needed longer cooking periods.

If you’re willing to put in a bit extra time in the kitchen, perform a lot of searing, or even consider utilizing your grill as a smoker, charcoal is the way to go.

How do gas grills compare?

Before crowning the winner of charcoal grills, we need take a closer look at gas grills. Perhaps Hank Hill was onto something.

The fuel is the most visible distinction between gas and charcoal.

Natural gas or propane (lpg) will be used in gas barbecues. Propane is the most popular, which is why you’ll hear the terms gas and propane grill. They both have the same meaning.

To utilize natural gas, you must first install a gas line in your home, and then connect your natural gas grill.

In regions where this is not accessible, lpg, which comes in refillable bottles, must be used. These bottles are often placed behind or under the grill.

These grills are a little more sophisticated than charcoal grills. Let’s have a look at how they work:

  • A hose transports gas from the bottle to the stove through the regulator.
  • It then runs through the manifold and along the cooking area.
  • From the manifold, the gas moves through valves.
  • Turning the knobs on your grill allows you to adjust the quantity of gas burnt.
  • These controls govern the quantity of gas permitted to pass through the valves, hence controlling the temperature.

Infrared burners on higher-end gas grills may increase and evenly spread the heat generated by the gas flame.

Why gas grills are so popular

  • Gas moves quickly. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the grill will be hot and ready to use. For individuals who are short on time or need to cook for a large group, gas is unquestionably simpler to deal with than charcoal.
  • Gas grills cool rapidly and are simple to clean.
  • Temperature control on a gas barbecue is as easy as turning the dials. If you intend to employ the two-zone cooking approach, there is a little bit to learn, but after you’ve tested, gas will retain a consistent heat and there are no idiosyncrasies to understand like there are with charcoal.
  • There are several gas grill accessories available, allowing you to accomplish almost anything with a decent gas barbecue. You will, however, have to pay for these features.

Gas grills aren’t perfect though

  • If you intend on searing or smoking, cheap gas grills will fall short of comparable charcoal grills.
  • You may spend a lot of money on a gas barbecue with features like an infrared burner to improve searing.
  • If gas is not handled correctly, it might explode. While most gas bottles and grills now include devices to decrease the likelihood of this occurring, there are still situations when gas may explode with a loud explosion.

What Food are Gas Grills Best For?

If you get a basic gas grill with no frills, it will work best for cooking thinner pieces of meat like burger patties, wings, and sausages. When cooking thin pieces of meat, the absence of smoke taste is hardly discernible.

If you can afford a more costly gas barbecue, the possibilities are endless. You can cook almost anything nicely with the addition of smoke boxes, rotisserie kits, and searing zones.

You now see why both grills have devoted followers.

But you might still be wondering:

Is it better to use a gas or charcoal grill if I only have one?

Continue reading to see how these grills compare in four critical criteria.

Gas and Charcoal Grills go Head to Head

Ease of use

  • Gas Starting the grill is quick, controlling the temperature is straightforward, and cleaning is simple.
  • Charcoal Cleaning and maintaining the grill will be more labor demanding, and achieving and sustaining temperature will need some expertise and knowledge.

Temperature Control & Range

  • Gas Temperature control on a gas grill is as simple as turning some dials. If you want to use the two zone approach (which you should), there is a bit more to it, but all it takes is a couple of dry runs with a decent thermometer to experiment with your settings.
  • When it comes to temperature range, gas falls short. While higher-end grills can achieve temperatures high and low enough to smoke, inexpensive gas grills will not provide you with this option.
  • Charcoal Charcoal can achieve the temperatures necessary for searing while remaining cool enough to smoke. You should be able to accomplish this with almost any charcoal grill you purchase, but you will need to learn how to keep the temperature stable.

Fancy Features

  • Gas If you want features, there are many of them on high-end gas barbecues. The list continues on and on: searing zones, rotisserie kits, side burners, infrared burners, remote temperature monitoring systems, gas level indicators, rear lighting, smoke boxes, and so forth.
  • Charcoal: Many people choose charcoal barbecues because they are traditional. As a result, even on high-end charcoal grills, sophisticated features will be restricted. As the price rises, so will the build quality, and you can anticipate some amenities like an adjustable charcoal bin and simple cleaning, but you won’t find nearly as many fancy features as you would on a gas barbecue.

Environmental impact

  • Gas: Gas must be removed from the earth, and the techniques used to do so have an influence on the environment. When you cook with gas, smoke and fumes are emitted into the air, as with any other fuel that is used; nonetheless, gas is an efficient fuel in general.
  • When it comes to how charcoal is obtained, there are two schools of thought. While some argue that coal may be manufactured from sawmill scraps that would otherwise be destroyed, if you choose better grade lump charcoal, the quantity of wood felled to make that coal may be of concern to you.

Otherwise, while burning charcoal, there are certain air pollution issues to consider. A 2012 research discovered that using charcoal barbecues may raise air pollution by up to 2.6 times typical levels.

What About Grilling and My Health?

Some barbecue aficionados aren’t concerned about their health since they believe they are just here for a good time, not a long period. However, there are several variables to consider for individuals who are worried about being alive for an extended period of time.

Char is a proven carcinogen, and cooking with charcoal means you’re getting a lot more char down your gullet.

You should be concerned about more than just the black crunchy pieces on the top of your meal. Some of the chemicals in issue are produced by high-temperature cooking of meat.

As previously said, charcoal grills are better at attaining high temperatures, and managing the temperature might be more difficult.

While it is simpler to regulate the temperature of a gas grill, if you have a good enough gas grill, you will still be able to cook at temperatures that provide a nice sear (and perhaps a greater cancer risk), so grilling with gas is not entirely off the hook.

More study is needed to determine how many of these substances must be consumed before our health is seriously impacted, so it may not be time to worry just yet.

Meanwhile, if you can’t give up cooking over coal but are worried, restrict the number of times you consume meals cooked over coals each week, or try grilling with a mix of gas and charcoal.

It may simply be an excuse to purchase a gas and a charcoal barbecue.

Wrapping it up

There is no obvious winner in this head to head match, as we have not so gently implied throughout this piece. It all boils down to what your priorities are.

If you want a smokey taste and are willing to put in some more time and work, a charcoal grill could be the way to go. If you are willing to sacrifice some smokiness for convenience and quickness, gas may be the best option for you.

Or, perhaps you just need one of each

Check out our charcoal and gas grill purchasing guidelines to see which barbecues are best for your budget.

We hope you liked our charcoal vs gas comparison. Let us know what you think about this hot topic in the comments area below. And don’t forget to share if you found the post useful!


Is gas or charcoal grill better for health?

However, when it comes to your health and the health of the world, propane is the obvious victor. It all comes down to carcinogens in your food and the fact that charcoal is worse than propane and has a far smaller carbon impact.

Why do people prefer gas grills?

In addition, gas grills heat up considerably quicker than charcoal grills, so you don’t have to wait as long for the grill to be ready to cook. They are also simple to clean and need little upkeep. Gas grills are an excellent alternative for individuals who wish to cook quickly.

What is an advantage of using a gas grill over a charcoal grill?

A gas grill creates more steam and emits less smoke than a charcoal grill, therefore meat cooked on a gas grill is moister than meat cooked on a charcoal grill.

Why are propane grills better than charcoal?

Eco-Friendly: According to a 2009 carbon footprint comparison research, charcoal grills release 2,200 pounds of CO2 throughout its lifespan, which is three times the carbon footprint of a gas grill, which emits 769 pounds of CO2. Propane has no color, odor, or toxicity. It is one of the cleanest burning fossil fuels available.

What is the healthiest grill option?

Beef, hog, and lamb are all good options for the grill. Choose lean types of meat, limiting quantities to 3-4 ounces per dish, and keep fatty components like butter and oil to a minimum.

What is the healthiest way to grill?

5 Healthy Grilling Tips
Begin with a blank slate. Don’t allow the burned residue on your grill contaminate your dinner.
Fire and smoke. Heterocyclic amines are formed when protein-rich meat, poultry, and fish are exposed to intense heat and open flames.
Give vegetables and fruits the same prominence as meat.
Grill with caution.

What is the disadvantage of gas grill?

Gas grills should not be used near any things that might catch fire. Gas grills are likewise enormous in size and hence demand a lot of room to utilize. Gas grills also produce a significant quantity of smoke, necessitating their usage outdoors.

Is cooking on a gas grill good for you?

Grilling may produce carcinogenic compounds.

Cooking at high heat, particularly over an open flame, exposes you to two major carcinogens: heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to research, HCAs and PAHs produce DNA alterations that may raise the risk of cancer.

Do gas grills make food taste like gas?

What is the primary difference between gas and charcoal grills? The ones that run on gas do not add a smoky taste to the food cooked on them. One of the many reasons food cooked on a charcoal barbecue is so tasty and enticing is the smokey taste.

Are steaks better on charcoal grill?

Any steak cooked over charcoal tastes fantastic.

They’ll cook quicker and more evenly, while also keeping more seasoning. Season your steaks with salt and pepper about 15 minutes before grilling. This will give the salt ample time to dissolve and flavor the meat.


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