Which Is Better Charcoal Grill Or Gas Grill

The discussion of which is a better grill between charcoal and gas has actually been taking place for years. 60% of all grills available in the market is gas, as opposed to charcoal. Gas grills have a lot of modern features for quick and easy grilling, even for beginners. Charcoal grill is more of the traditional option and it is mostly sought after its smokey Southern style taste. 

Here is a guide of which grill would work best according to your needs based on the categories as listed below.

Charcoal Grill VS Gas Grill

  • Type of Cooking

​This is the thumb rule when it comes to your grill selection. If you will be cooking chicken cuts, bird meats, burgers, steaks, etc. go with a gas grill. Cuts like these are not going to be on the grill for a long time so the gas won't impart an off flavor on your meat. Cooking fish, vegetables, breads and pizzas is also best in a gas grill.

​But if you will be cooking thicker and larger cuts of red meat like brisket, ribs, lamb chops, pork chops, etc. you might be better off with a charcoal grill as they require to be cooked for a longer time.

  • Flavor

Cooking with a charcoal grill makes meats super juicy as the juices are produced naturally from food drippings that drop onto the hot coals, then bounce back to the food in the form of aromatic smoke. This is why the charcoal grill gives a distinctive smokey taste to your food. This smokey flavor suits red meats the best making it seem like the traditional Southern barbecue with its heavy and husky flavor and smoke.

However, this smokey flavor is too overwhelming for bird meats, fish and vegetables. When these are grilled over charcoal, their delicate flavor will be lost, so they are best cooked on gas grills. Meats cooked on a gas grill has lively bacon undertones. They are also moister compared to charcoal grilled.

That solid smokey flavor can also be somehow achieved in gas grills. Some gas grills feature a ceramic or metal shield that catches the juices to imitate that smokey effect. Steakhouse restaurants burn logs for smoke. For home grilling, add a small wood chip box to your gas grill, which you can purchase at hardware stores.

  • Appearance

​Cooking on a gas grill would make your food look like it has developed bright pink highlights. And it also gives a little bit of sheen that makes your meat super inviting. Whereas a charcoal grill is responsible of making your meat look dull brown with dark edges and crispy on the outside, while staying red or pink on the inside.

  • Convenience

The great thing about gas grills is that they are very easy to start and adjust than charcoal grills – with just a simple push of a button. It's as easy as turning on an oven. No need to wait for the coals to be ready. Just turn on the gas, ignite and adjust the temperature.

​Controlling the temperature on a gas grill is a way much easier due to its adjustable heat control that enables cooking of various foods at your desired temperature. Many gas grills are also equipped with porcelain enamel cast iron cooking grates that allow the heat to be evenly spread across the whole cooking area so that all food is evenly cooked.

Lighting and heating up a charcoal grill could be challenging, especially when it's windy or if your charcoal got damp by chance. Not only that but you also have to deal with stacking the coals, the smelly starter liquid, and manual adjustment of temperature levels. You may need a reliable thermometer to measure and regulate the heat. Mastering how to set up 2-zone grilling is also very helpful. When using charcoals, be willing to sacrifice your precious time to attain that smokey Southern barbecue-like flavor.

However, assembling a gas grill is more complex than charcoal grills because they are composed of many parts that should be handled with care in order not to break them and repurchase them from your supplier. What you see is what you get typically applies to charcoal grills. No need for assembly, just get your coals and tools ready every grill time.

  • Clean-up

Gas grills are very easy to clean. Regular cleaning only needs a metal brush rub over the grates. Every few months, scrape or pressure wash the carbon and grease buildups in the bottom of the burners. With charcoal grills, there is an ashy mess to clean up after. And it's not only the grill you have to clean but also yourself. Some charcoal grills have removable ash trays to make the clean-up less bothersome. But basically it is dirty to handle.

  • Price

Gas grills tend to be more expensive than charcoal grills because they have more complex features that make possible for fast grilling. They are also made to last with its stainless steel construction. Meanwhile, charcoal grills are relatively cheaper to buy. But it is defeated in terms of usage cost as propane gas cost lesser than charcoals. Gas grilling is far more economical.

  • Health Concern

​Grilling with charcoal poses a health risk as proteins when cooked at very high temperatures produce Heterocyclic Amines or HCAs, a cancer-causing agent. However, that said health risk can be minimized for up to 90% by marinating meats for more than 30 minutes. Read more about Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk by National Cancer Institute.

Another health risk caused by gas grilling is if you use a petroleum based lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire. Aside from the unpleasant smell, it also produces VOC’s or volatile organic compounds that can get into the food and in your lungs. To reduce the health risk, use alternative options to ignite the coals such as using an electric coal starter instead.

​One more charcoal grilling health danger is the carbon monoxide it forms which if inhaled directly is actually deadly. So make sure to do your charcoal grilling in a well ventilated area and make enough space between you and the grill.

​On the other hand, charcoal grill is a healthier option for your diet as fats drip away from the meat, leaving the meat with less fat, compared to cooking meat in a pan or skillet that only soaks the fat into the meat. But overall, gas grill is a healthier option for both the cook and consumers, than a charcoal grill.

  • Risk

​Gas grills have heat diffusers above the burners which works pretty well in preventing flareups. Charcoal grills is prone to flareups due to the drippings onto the coals, so have a squirt gun in handy to stop it immediately.

​Charcoal grilling is also banned in many apartment buildings due to its high risk of fire when coals and sparked escape through vents or chimney. So whenever you grill, may it be gas or charcoal, make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby in case there's fire that needs to be put out.

The question on whether you should get a charcoal or a gas grill depends on how you like your grill among other things. Do you like to stare into your coals burning and enjoy the art of grilling itself? Go charcoal and relive your primitive inclination to fire and meat. Do you want to save a lot of time and grill your meats quick and easy? Cook with a gas grill. It's perfect for anyone with a busy lifestyle.

​It also depends on the type of cooking you are doing – if it's for thick and red meats, best choice is the charcoal grill. Bird meats, veggies, pizzas and burgers go well cooked on a gas grill.

​If in luck, consider to look for a combo charcoal gas grill which combines both the charcoal grill and gas grill in one.

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