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Charcoal Grill vs. Gas Grill: What’s the Difference

Someone grilling vegetables
Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock.com

Click your tongs together if grilling is your go-to cooking method. There’s nothing like the smoky flavor of grilled meats and vegetables. Plus, grilling makes it easy to keep your oven off and keep your home interior cool.

But grilling isn’t so simple. For many, when it comes time to get a new one or when people want to invest in their first one, the question arises of charcoal vs. gas.

Some people swear by the flavor charcoal provides, while others are gas grill enthusiasts. But, what are the differences, really? There are pros and cons to consider for both.

What Are the Pros of a Gas Grill?

An outdoor grill
Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.com

Many people who opt for gas grills do so because they think they’re easier to work with. There’s definitely some truth to that. According to the utility company, Jackson Energy Authority, some of the biggest benefits of using a gas grill include:

  • Ignition at the touch of a button
  • Easier temperature control
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to configure for multi-zone cooking
  • Can be utilized with gas or propane

If you’re a newbie to the grilling scene, using a gas grill will help you get started right away. But, even veteran grillers swear by it for the cleaner taste it provides, and how much easier it is to start grilling right away.

What Are the Cons of a Gas Grill?

A person grills kabobs.
Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock.com

Of course, gas grills aren’t perfect. BBQ purists will say that you don’t get a true “charred” flavor when you use gas to grill your food.

Plus, because you’re working with gas, it’s essential that you make sure your grill isn’t anywhere near any flammable materials. You have to use your grill in an open space, and since many gas grills are large and bulky, you often need to have a lot of space just to own one.

Then, there’s the price. Gas grills are often markedly more expensive than charcoal models. Starting costs are around $200, but they can easily reach up to $500. Charcoal grills can start for as low as $75. Of course, there’s the fact that you will need to purchase gas for your grill and continually replace it depending on your frequency of use.

BBQ Grill Cover

Keep your grill safe from the elements.

What Are the Pros of a Charcoal Grill?

Charcoal grills are more “old school” and tend to offer a more traditional grilled flavor, which is why so many outdoor cooking enthusiasts swear by them. But, aside from the superior flavor, some of the biggest pros of using a charcoal grill include:

  • Higher heat (no max temperature)
  • Easier to control heat zones
  • Usually less expensive
  • Easy to transport
  • Easy to repair

If you talk to a competitive BBQ participant, they will probably tell you that you should always use charcoal when grilling anything. But, it’s just as important to consider the potential drawbacks here, too.

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills are cost-effective and easy to set up!

What Are the Cons of a Charcoal Grill?

A barbecue grill outside
Pasko Maksim/Shutterstock.com

Using charcoal can really make you feel like you’re grilling. It’s fire and charcoal, and you’ll definitely taste the difference. But, if you’re just getting started with grilling, there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using one.

Since you can’t adjust the temperature with a dial the way you can with a gas grill, you’ll need to get accustomed to moving coals around to different areas to create direct and indirect heating zones.

You’re also probably not going to be able to fully cook any large chunks of meat on one round of charcoal if you’re keeping it on high heat. It only has a cook time of about 30-45 minutes. After that, you’ll need to add more briquettes, and it could take another 10-15 minutes for them to fully heat up.

Finally, charcoal grills can be harder to clean than their gas counterparts. You’ll have to clean out the charcoal ash after each use, wrapping everything in aluminum foil to prevent melting your trash can or lighting anything else on fire before throwing it away.

Charcoal vs. Gas Grill—Which Grill Is For You?

Sorn340 Studio Images/Shutterstock.com

So, which grill do you go with?

Obviously, there’s no “perfect” solution when it comes to the type of grill you should choose. They both have pros and cons to consider.

Instead, think about the type of grilling you’re going to be doing, how often, and who you’re cooking for. If you’re just starting out, you might find a gas grill easier to use and control. It can be less intimidating and provide more consistency.

If you’re up for a challenge, try your hand at charcoal grilling. It’s a more hands-on experience, and while you’ll have to learn as you go, once you get a feel for it you can become a grillmaster pretty quickly.

Charcoal grilling tends to have a better flavor, and it’s what the pros do when they want to win a competition or impress their guests. But, if you’re just grilling for the family and want consistently good food every time without a lot of fussing, go with gas.

KINGSFORD Heavy Duty Deluxe Charcoal Chimney Starter

Charcoal grilling is much easier when you use a chimney starter for your coals.

People tend to have pretty strong opinions about their grill of choice, but there’s no right or wrong answer. The most important thing you can do no matter which grill you choose is stay safe while you’re using it.

With gas, that means keeping it in an open area where nothing else can catch fire. With charcoal, make sure you’re keeping an eye on the coals and disposing of them properly so they don’t melt anything or light any other trash on fire. Choose the grill that feels right for you and your needs, and enjoy this grilling season to the fullest!

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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