Let’s get down to the real question.
What’s more important to you on a daily basis: flavor or convenience? They’re both good answers, and I won’t judge you for being swayed either way. But that’s what this topic really gets down to.
Let me please take this moment to say that I think grilling in the summer is torturous. Why do you freaks like to gather around a flaming hot pit when it’s already 98* outside while mosquitoes chow down on your ankles? Winter grilling makes so much more sense. Just sayin’.
First, let’s talk about the benefits and drawbacks of both gas and charcoal. I’m not even bringing up electric grills because I think they’re a little stupid. I won’t judge you if you have one, but why not just go get a George Foreman grill and call it a day?
- It’s hotter. Temperatures can reach 500°-700°. If you’re a steak-eater, only charcoal can give you that perfect steak with a crispy, caramelized exterior with a pink or red center.
- Better, smokier flavor. Yeah, in your face, gas users.
- It’s a ritual. Most of the reason I like to grill out with friends is because it’s a ritual. It takes time. It’s fun to play with fire too. And plus, it’s good to learn a skill.
- More portable. Want to take your grill to the park, campground, beach or your bathroom? Charcoal grills rule in portability.
- Cheaper to purchase. We’ll get into the specifics later, but charcoal grills themselves are the cheaper option.
- It’s dirty. Use gloves or tongs. Don’t be a wimp.
- Takes longer than gas grill. Touché. But only by 15-20 minutes of warm-up time. The question is, is it worth waiting another 15 minutes for better flavor? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
- Harder to control the temperature. When you’re a doof like me and tend to plop the coals all in the center, yeah, it IS hard to control. But do what the pro’s do: Put the coals on one side of the grill so you have several cooking temperature zones. Put the fatty meats on the other side of the grill to reduce flare-ups or have a squirt gun to douse the flames.
- Too much ash. I really want to make a derogatory “ash=ass” joke, but I’ll keep moving. Get a grill with a removable ash tray and your problems are over.
- It’s a pain to buy charcoal. Yeah, well it’s a pain to fill up your tank too, isn’t it?
- “It takes way too long!” Not with a chimney charcoal starter, suckers!
- “Waaah, it’s hard to light!” Not with a chimney charcoal starter, suckers! You don’t even need lighter fluid. Put your recycled paper underneath the chimney, throw the charcoal on top, light the paper, and walk away.
- “I never know what the temperature is!” Get a cheap oven thermometer for $5 and call it a day. Even with a gas grill, you still need to get yourself a reliable thermometer because they’re usually wrong.
- Convenient and fast. We grew up with a gas grill, so I’m not a hater. It was nice to be able to throw some stuff on the grill at the last minute and be done with it. A hot grill ready in 10 minutes is a nice feature.
- Temperature control. Flip the switch and the temperature can soar or die in seconds. I must admit, it’s nice to have that control (especially when you start a grease fire with bacon like I did last week).
- Cleaner. There’s hardly any ash with a gas grill, so it’s cleaner to clean in the short run.
- Not hot enough. Most gas grills can only get to 450°, not hot enough to give your red meat that beautiful, caramelized sear.
- Unreliable thermometer. The temperature on the thermometer you see on your fancy gas grill isn’t necessarily correct. From a cold day to a sizzling hot day, that temperature could be off by 40°. Get yourself a cheap oven thermometer.
- More expensive to purchase and repair. The cost of the actual grill itself and the cost for any repairs are more expensive than charcoal. More details below about this.
- More flare-ups. As far as safety is concerned, I believe gas grills actually can be more hazardous than charcoal grills in some ways. With charcoal, you’re using the hot coals and smoke to cook your food, not flames like a gas grill does.
- Where’s the flavor? The most important drawback of them all: the flavor. Where is it? The flames don’t have the flavor- the coals and the smoke do. For some things like thin burgers, it’s not a big deal. But what about for that big, juicy rib-eye?
So what about you? What kind of grill do you prefer? What are some more benefits and drawbacks that I’ve left out?