Thursday, April 26, 2007

Charcoal vs. Gas Grilling

I recently told you that I'm considering buying a new gas grill after many years of cooking exclusively over coals. I gave you a couple reasons why I'm thinking of adding a gasser to my arsenal, but I thought I would expand on it a little. Hopefully this will help some folks that are buying their first grill, or looking to expand their collection. It's odd for me to think of somebody buying their first grill. I grew up with tongs in hand since my Dad is an avid griller. He doesn't smoke a lot, but we did have an unmodified ECB and turned out some good food on it. I guess since I learned through observing my Dad that it just comes kinda natural to me. I do know folks that couldn't cook a decent hamburger or hotdog if their life depended on it....and I think that is a cryin' shame.

So, here are my pros and cons for Charcoal vs. Gas.


  • Pros
    • Convenience--Once you figure out the right settings for what you're cooking, it's almost set it and forget it. No charcoal to worry about. No real mess, although you should clean the grill grate after every use.
    • Inclimate weather--If it's nasty outside (cold, rainy), just crank up the gass and let it roll. You can definately spend more time inside where it's comfortable instead of outside tending the fire.
    • Time--You can get your grill up to temp super-fast. No lighting charcoal and coming back a half hour later to start heating up the grate.
  • Cons
    • Flavor-- I'll cover this more in the "Pros" for charcoal, but I don't think gas can match the flavor of charcoal.
    • No smoke!!-- This is the reason the flavor is different with gas.
    • Stigma-- Be cool is it actually light a match and play with burning coals instead of just mashing a button to get your fire.
  • Pros
    • Flavor-- Again, I think food cooked on charcoal tastes better. Especially if it's cooked using lump charcoal. And it's easier to add wood to a charcoal fire compared to a gas fire, too. If you've read my brining posts up to this point you know that I add wood to my indirect cooks all the time. If I was doing it on a gas grill I would have to mess around with foil pouches and wood chips instead of just dropping a couple chunks of hickory onto the coals.
    • Versatile-- With a little experience you can easily cook anything on charcoal. it's easy to cook directly or indirectly and it's easy to add smoke or not.
    • "Manley"-- The opposite of the "stigma" of gas...uggg, me cook meat on fire..ugg. ;)
  • Cons
    • Messy-- Cooking with charcoal can be messy. You've got to deal with the charcoal and dust beforehand and you've got all that ash to deal with afterward. This is just something you have to get used to. If you use lump charcoal you'll cut down on the ash considerably.
    • Time consuming-- Like I said in my "wish list" post, this is my biggest thing right now. One thing I do during the week is light a chimney of charcoal as soon as I get home. By the time I go and change clothes and play with the girls for a minute the coals are getting close to being ready.
    • Fire management-- While playing with the fire is one of the most fun parts of cooking, it can be frustrating, especially for beginners. With experience, though, this becomes less of a "Con"

Well, now you know what I think about grilling with gas vs. charcoal. I really do think there is a place for both on your patio. I prefer charcoal, but can appreciate the benefits of a gas grill. But, if I had to choose only one, it would definitely be charcoal...hands down.


wolfpackskier said...

Back in an older post you mentioned the charcoal baskets for your smoker. Did you have to make any spot welds to get those to fit in the rack in the smoker, or will two racks just rest on the ledges?

Hogwild said...


No, I went to Home Depot and bought a piece of 1/4 inch (I think, you better measure it) steel rod. you should be able to see it in the picture on my arsenal post. I cut the rod to length with my Dremmel tool, drilled holes in each end and inserted a carter key (not sure if that is the correct name) to keep the rods in place. Click on the pic to see a large version. The steel rod is bent all out of shape now from the heat of the fire. I need to get a length of cold-rolled rod that can withstand the heat.

Let me know if you have anymore questions.

Thanks for reading,

Terry said...

I have two gas grills, one is a Holland, the other is a Char-Broil.
The Holland is a super grill, I did a few mods. to it and I get all kinds of smoke, the only problem is, it is either on or off. But it cooks at a very consistent 325-350. Which I know is too high for Q.

The Char-Broil is a four burner and used for beer butt chicken & burgers and indirect cooking. I cooked for years with charcoal but grew tired of the hassel so I switched to gas.

Now, that I am a member of a bbq team, I have come almost full circle back to charcoal for my backyard cooking. Hope this helps.

Oh,and also, our sister bbq team out of Memphis is called Hogwild.

We are the Peg Leg Porkers.

Hogwild said...


Thanks for commenting. I've heard of the Peg Leg Porkers...not sure where, but I'm sure I've read about you somewhere. There are lots of folks who use "Hogwild" in the BBQ world. Teams, restaurants, etc. I've used it since college (early nineties), so I decided just to use it for the blog. I've thought about posting about the name...maybe I'll do that.

I don't even own a gas grill at the moment. I probably won't until the fall. I'll try to get one for a reasonable price before the harsh NE winter so I don't have to spend as much time in the cold cooking next winter....especially during the week.