We occasionally link to goods offered by vendors to help the reader find relevant products. Some of these may be affiliate based, meaning we earn small commissions (at no additional cost to you) if items are purchased. Here is more about what we do.
If you ask my husband, grilling season is any season of the year. He will barbecue when there’s snow on the ground as readily as when it’s 80 degrees outside.
He is most definitely the “grill master” at our home and won’t hesitate to take over the grilling duties at anyone else’s home, either. With that being said, I have become deeply familiar with all things barbecue over the years, and I want to share some of my husband’s wisdom with you, as well as some information that I have learned for myself.
For those of you who may be thinking of purchasing a barbecue grill for the first time, the first topic I’d like to discuss is the gas vs. charcoal debate. I know plenty of people who love their gas models, but I know just as many who wouldn’t even think about barbecuing with anything other than charcoal.
Seeing the pros of both types, I bought a gas/charcoal combo model for my husband so we can have our cake and eat it, too!
Now, if you’re a barbecuing novice, for ease of use, you simply cannot beat a gas unit. Even though it takes good bit longer to put it together than a charcoal one, once it’s set up, it’s as easy to fire it up and start cooking as it is to use your stove.
After you uncover the grill, simply turn on the gas supply, turn the control knobs to high, and the light it per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, it’s as easy as selecting the appropriate cooking heat for your food of choice and letting it preheat for about 10 minutes.
Of course, with charcoal, you have to get them burning, preferably in a chimney starter, then get the coals arranged the right way for what you’re cooking, then let the grill preheat for at least 15-20 minutes.
Once you get it just right, you have to work pretty quickly, because while the gas option gives you consistent heat until the fuel supply is depleted, with charcoal, to cook the most common items like burgers or steaks, the grill will only stay at the appropriate temperature for 10-15 minutes uncovered. You need to have the food ready and waiting so that no time is wasted once it’s ready to go.
This might go without saying, too, but a gas model is a big time-saver as well. Even if you work full-time, it’s no problem to barbecue every night of the week if you want. After you turn on your cooking apparatus, prep your meat while it preheats, and you’re ready for a delicious grilled meal just as quickly as cooking inside.
That’s simply not the case with charcoal, so if time is a big issue with you, gas is the way to go.
As I already mentioned, because of the much larger fuel supply with gas, you get consistent heat throughout your cooking process without having to give it a second thought. In this same vein, it should be noted that it’s also much easier, not to mention faster, to adjust the heat on a gas model. It’s as easy as turning a knob.
Let’s say you’ve planned on roasting some chicken breasts for dinner. With charcoal, you first have to wait for the coals to burn down from a medium-high heat (what you use for burgers) to medium, which takes an extra 10-15 minutes.
Now, while you’re cooking the chicken, your wonderful husband comes home from work and surprises you with some beautiful steaks for dinner. Great, but the grill is no longer hot enough to cook those steaks properly. If you have a gas model, that problem is as simple to fix as turning a knob.
Not all gas grills are created equal. The cheaper models are often made from flimsy materials but more importantly, their burners are lacking in both BTUs of heat and efficiency. Moreover, their lids do not provide adequate insulation.
Whereas the more expensive units, such as the various Weber models, are better built and provide burners with greater thermal capabilities and heavy duty lids that allow heat to build up to 500 or 600°F very quickly – this allows you to get a proper sear on a steak and to hold in place just long enough to bring the internal temperature up to the recommended point and then to finish it off at the desired end state (rare, medium, well, etc.).
Premium gas models such as theWeber Genesis 6531001 E-330 637-Square-Inch 38,000-BTU Gas Grill, available at Amazon, provide superior heat distribution and retention which allows you to properly sear and finish.
One last point in the gas grill’s favor is clean-up. You really don’t have to put a second’s though into cleaning up after you’ve cooked on the gas option. There are no ash or carbon remnants to get rid of, which is a huge pro if you’re a stay-at-home mother like me and really have no desire to clean anything else after a long day of cleaning and picking up and putting away toys and folding laundry and doing dishes ad nauseam.
You don’t even need to clean the grates after you cook.
The next time you go to barbecue, preheat your grill and merely take a stiff-bristled grill brush and scrub the grates really well to knock off the debris before you put fresh food down, and you’re good to go.
With all of that being said much more in favor of a gas grill, the biggest reason to barbecue food at all, in my opinion, is for the wonderful flavor that it can impart to food. A gas model simply cannot give you that great, smoky flavor.
The Weber 1351001 One-Touch Gold Kettle Grill is considered by many to be the ultimate in charcoal grilling equipment.
The smoke released from the burning coals makes food taste so amazing, and the flavor provided from the gas heat just doesn’t compare. This is the major pro with going the charcoal route, and this is the reason that hardcore barbecue fans would never even think of using a gas grill.
Sure, you can add a little liquid smoke to your steak marinade, but it’s simply not the same flavor.
Another consideration for charcoal is the fact that many models are on the market that afford you the ultimate in portability. Instead of lugging around bulky and heavy propane tanks, you can purchase a small sack of briquettes from the local market and have your barbecue anywhere you would like it.
The other alternative is to purchase a portable gas model that take disposable canisters but this can get expensive real quick.
Of course bulkiness wouldn’t deter some tailgaters and serious campers – these folks often bring the equivalent of complete kitchens with them!
The cast iron Lodge L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill and old and classic design, returned after many years of being out of production due to customer demand for the ultimate in tough and portable outdoor cooking devices.
Foodal’s number one pick for a small portable charcoal based model s the Lodge L410 Sportmans as picture above. It’s nearly 800 positive reviews (at the time of this writing) on Amazon is a testament to the quality of this little grill.
One final thing to consider is cost, and in that department you will come out a lot cheaper buying a charcoal model. You can get the most basic option for as little as $20, whereas a gas option will run you over $100 at the lowest end of the spectrum.
That’s a pretty big savings if you ask me, but you could always get the best of both worlds by getting a combination gas/charcoal version for around $200 to $500 (it’s worth it to spend a little extra to get a model that will last a few years). That’s the route we chose, and it has been a great choice.
The Dyna-Glo DGB730SNB-D Dual Fuel Grill is one of the higher rated dual fuel options on Amazon.
For weekend and holiday cookouts when we have more time, we love using charcoal for the great taste, but it’s also nice to have the ease and convenience of gas for weeknight meals, and the extra money spent was worth every penny.
Have more questions? Take a look at our entire grilling series now!
About Ashley Martell
Ashley has enjoyed creative writing since she was six years old, when she wrote her first short story. She majored in English literature at the University of Montevallo. After years of professional work, she is now a stay-at-home mom of three, who uses her craft to write about her life and adventures in and out of the kitchen.