Charcoal vs Gas Grill: Which Is Right For You?

You’re in the market for a new grill so you can impress your family and friends with some righteous barbecue skills, but you’re having trouble choosing between charcoal or gas.

Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to charcoal vs gas. Grill enthusiasts have been fighting over the question ever since the first gas grill was developed in the 1950s.

Traditionalists will argue that no self-respecting griller would dare use anything other than charcoal. But others are more open minded and believe gas is perfectly acceptable.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who will be firing up your new grill and you need to be happy with it.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the key considerations when choosing between gas and charcoal.

Cost

Price is going to be a key factor in any purchase decision and grills are no different.

Charcoal grills are way cheaper up front. You can get a basic Weber Kettle Grill for not much more than $100. That’s a solid charcoal grill that will last many years.

On the other hand, gas grills are much more expensive and if you get one that only costs $100 it won’t be very high quality. You’ll likely be shopping for a new grill within a few short years.

But upfront cost is just one factor to consider. There is also the ongoing cost of fuel.

You can pick up basic charcoal briquettes at just about any supermarket for around $10 to $15 per bag. If you want to take your barbecue up a notch you can upgrade to premium lump charcoal. It costs more but it’s worth it.

Propane is much cheaper. You can refill a propane tank for about $20 and you’ll get many grilling sessions with each tank.

Convenience

You just can’t beat the gas grill when it comes to convenience. Just light it up and in ten minutes you’re ready to start cooking. It’s easy to regulate the temperature and when you’re done you just turn off the gas. No need to dispose of messy charcoal ash.

Gas grills are perfect for weeknights when you get home from work and want to throw something on the grill but don’t want to deal with the time and mess involved with charcoal.

Charcoal grills require much more time to set up and are better suited for weekends where you can get your cook on at a leisurely pace.

Experience

Cooking on a gas grill is fine, but grilling with charcoal is a whole experience. Setting everything up, lighting the charcoal, enjoying a beer while you wait for it to be ready, monitoring the temperature, and moving food from hot to cool spots is a whole other level of cooking.

Flipping a switch to turn on a gas powered grill doesn’t even come close.

Space

Gas grills are bigger and heavier than charcoal grills. They can be a pain to move from one end of the yard to the other, and unless you get one designed for travel you really can’t take it with you on a trip.

Most charcoal grills are small enough to store in the garage or shed when not in use and they can easily be transported.

Safety

Whether you choose charcoal or gas, grill with caution. Both types of grill involve cooking with fire and there are real dangers.

If lit charcoal embers spill out of the grill they can start a fire or cause severe burning to anyone who touches them. And if you discard the ashes before they are completely burned out they could continue to smolder and start a fire hours later.

But gas grills can be dangerous too. In 2012, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm suffered severe burn injuries in an accident with a propane grill.

If you live in a condo or a townhouse you might not even be able to use a charcoal grill. Some even prohibit the use or propane, so you might have no other choice than an electric grill.

Flavor

It’s tough to beat the flavor you get when grilling over charcoal. Gas can do a great job but there’s just no replacing the smokey flavor of charcoal, especially when combined with wood. You can use a smoke box with a gas grill but it’s just not the same.

Popularity

As you can see from the chart below, gas grills are more popular than their charcoal counterparts. And electric grills are barely a blip on the radar.

Chart showing grill ownership by type

Image Source: Statista

Summary

I can’t settle the debate when it comes to a charcoal vs gas grill.

Personally, I own both types of grill. The gas grill is super convenient for weeknight meals when I come home from work and just want to toss some burgers or marinaded chicken on the grill.

I save the charcoal grill for weekends when I have more time to really enjoy the barbecue experience.

Charcoal vs Gas Grill