Which is really better for cooking outdoors – gas or charcoal? The controversy has gone on forever, it seems. There will always be chefs who prefer one kind of fuel to the other. It can be hard to decide which is best for you, so we’re sharing this helpful guide.
COMPARING GAS AND CHARCOAL SIDE BY SIDE
Let’s take a look at the main advantages of both methods.
With gas, you have maximum convenience. The grill lights up immediately and you only have to wait a few minutes before cooking can begin. Shutting it down is equally easy – just turn off the gas supply.
Gas cooking is super versatile, too. You can get a grill with multiple burners and a large cooking surface, making it easier to prepare several kinds of food side-by-side.
Charcoal’s main advantage is the smoky flavor it imparts. People say food cooked on a gas grill just doesn’t compare. Also, charcoal grills are quite a bit less expensive than gas models. Smaller models can even be transported to the beach, the woods or any outdoor party site you like.
As far as temperature control goes, gas has the true edge. You can turn burners up or down, just as you would on an indoor gas range.
DISADVANTAGES OF BOTH METHODS
As noted above, food cooked over gas will not have the fabulous flavor of charcoal-grilled dishes. Any flavor comes only from the drippings, which are vaporized by the flame-taming system in your grill. Using a smoker box can help add flavor, too.
If you are using propane, it’s easy to run out of fuel in the middle of cooking if you haven’t checked your tank ahead of time. Also, gas grills require a LOT of space and are generally more expensive than charcoal-burning models.
Charcoal, by contrast, is less flexible than gas. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to start coals and they may need constant tending. Using natural lump charcoal with an electric lighter or chimney starter can help. It takes practice and guesswork to achieve the desired temperature, and many kinds of food will need to be cooked when coals are at their peak temperature, so this kind of grilling is much more complex than gas.
SPECIFIC POINTS TO CONSIDER
Gas grills can easily deliver lower temperatures. The highest cooking temperatures with gas come in at about 500F. With charcoal, you can achieve lower temperatures and also higher temps. Depending on the amount of charcoal you use, your grill can reach up to 700F.
Gas grills require special maintenance. Drip pans, flame tamer, and burners need regular cleaning to function properly. Charcoal creates a great deal of ash residue, which must be removed from the bottom of the grill after every few uses, but cleaning the cooking grate is relatively easy. Just scrape or brush it down while it’s still hot.
If you have plenty of space, a gas grill is perfect. Charcoal grills come in all sizes, so they are good for tighter areas – and of course, they are also portable. However, if you live in an apartment or condo, charcoal grilling may be prohibited. Check with your homeowners’ association or read your lease to find out.
And then there’s cost. Gas grills run anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand. Premium models with advanced features start at around $2,000 and go up from there. Charcoal grills start at about $30 for tailgate-size models, with deluxe grills around $1,000 or more.
So … at the end of the day, which method is best for you? It’s a combination of all factors we’ve reviewed above. Take into account the time, space and budget you’re working with and the passion you have for achieving specific flavors. Above all, have fun picking out your new grill! It’s all about enjoying your outdoor cooking experience.
GREAT OUTDOOR GATHERINGS BEGIN WITH JERRY’S KITCHEN
Grilling for friends and family is fun! But if you’re planning on a bigger crowd, call the catering services experts at Jerry’s Kitchen. We’ll bring the party to you with our award-winning food truck catering specialties – or, if you prefer, a classic menu with fresh favorites to please all your guests.
To book catering services or food trucks for your party near Doylestown or Philadelphia, just give us a call!
The BBQ Guys
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