There are many reasons why summertime is the best part of the year - swimming pools are open, the roads are ready for your motorcycle or convertible, and, best of all, it is grilling season. The decision to have a cookout is never tough, but the choice of whether to use charcoal or gas can be difficult for novices. The answer to which grill to use depends on what you’re cooking, how much cleaning you can tolerate, and how much cash you have in your pockets to keep those machines running.
Grill, fuel and other operating costs
A basic charcoal grill easily bests a standard gas grill in terms of initial costs, as the charcoal grill can be purchased from a hardware store for as low as $35, while the most basic gas grill costs at least $100. Of course, the charcoal grill will require a 16.6-lb bag of charcoal briquettes for around $11.99 and some lighter fluid for around $6.00, but a 20-lb propane tank needed to operate the gas grill can cost around $29.99. This category is a clear advantage for the charcoal grill.
Ease of use
It’s hard to argue with the convenience that the gas grill offers over its charcoal counterpart. Gas grills can heat up in just 10 – 15 minutes, hold a steady temperature, are simple to clean, and can easily be configured for different sections of the grill to operate at different temperatures. Charcoal grills are messier to handle, take longer to heat up, produce flames which flare up, and generate ashes that need to be cleaned often. To top it off, the temperature cannot be reduced promptly. The charcoal grill can’t compete with the gas option in its ease of use.
Some people claim they can’t tell the difference between foods cooked on a gas or charcoal grill, but there are subtle differences. Charcoal produces more smoke than a gas grill, but foods that cook quickly like hot dogs or hamburgers infrequently stay on the grill long enough to absorb the smoke. A lot of flavor produced by charcoal grills comes from meat drippings that vaporize then condense on or penetrate the meat. These dripping are made of water, fat, protein and sometimes sugar, depending on whether you add BBQ sauce or not. Additionally, the higher temperatures produced by a charcoal grill can give a crispiness to the outside of red meats, while keeping the middle either medium or medium-rare.
Most gas grills use metal plates, lava rocks, or ceramic rocks to cover the flame jet and absorb its heat. When meat drippings hit these plates, they vaporize to produce smoke or steam just like a charcoal grill, but propane combustion creates more vapor than charcoal, which keeps the meat moister on a gas grill.
There are many reasons to go with either option. If you prefer to cook more chicken, fish, and veggies, then the gas option is probably better for you, and you’ll also have less mess to clean. If you like your red meats with more of a smoky flavor and pink or red interior, then charcoal is the best choice for you. Whether you decide to go gas or charcoal, please remember to have fun this grilling season—and be safe!
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.