There are countless articles, forum posts, and full RANTS that discuss the merits of gas grills versus coal. But none of them really addresses ALL the different aspects of the debate.
So, to settle the argument once and for all, I put together the most exhaustive final confrontation review, thoroughly researched. It is quite epic.
EVERY concern on both sides of the fence is addressed in detail. NO bias, NO grill glitz, just a factual comparison of charcoal versus gas.
When the end is reached, these grills are two different beasts that have long been grouped into one general category.
Comparison is like putting a cougar and a lion together in a cage and then separating their differences. They are similar, but are clearly adapted to thrive in different settings with different strengths and weaknesses.
This publication weighs in 5 different categories, obtaining evidence from each side of the corridor.
The five categories we are looking at are: flavor, control, convenience, cost, and versatility. This is a huge beast from a post. If you don't have time to spend reading the entire article, I recommend that you first take a look at the sections that are most relevant to your grilling needs.
Or you can read the full article with it. me and become a gas and coal expert too. Totally your call.
If you don't already have a grill, you're about to dive headlong into the most comprehensive post on this topic on the web. In the end, you will know exactly which grill best suits your lifestyle.
If you already have a grill, in the end you will be equipped to make a smart decision about all future grill purchases and totally trample on anyone in a gas situation. coal debate.
If you roast as much as I do, you will be involved in this heated discussion. It's a touchy subject and grill masters everywhere generally gravitate to one side or the other. Most of the posts on this topic are ramblings from passionate grill men who have a pretty clear bias, not to mention what happens on the message boards. The carelessness thrown at those things is almost youthful.
I have cooked on both gas and charcoal regularly and keep this position neutral. I look at some real-world studies, facts, and figures to find a winner in each of the different categories.
Welcome to my carefully researched, over 5,500 word, carefully documented post on beasts! Let's end the debate once and for all.
Test the most important section of this article by far and the longest. After reading it, you will probably know more than you ever wanted, BUT the taste is WHY we roast in the first place. Grilling makes every meal taste 10 times better.
All meats and vegetables, and even certain fruits (if you haven't tried grilled peaches yet, you must) take it to the next level when grilling.
Let's go for it. Who takes the taste sample?
Common concern: Gas doesn't taste as good as coal!
Instead of expressing opinions, we want to see some concrete data. Several reputable institutions have conducted scientific studies comparing the taste of gas and coal. They found some interesting results.
Good Housekeeping Study
In 1998, the Good Housekeeping Institute discovered that tasters could not perceive a difference between hamburgers, hot dogs, and cooked chicken breasts on both types of grills. BUT they could feel a difference in how sirloin steaks were cooked and they preferred charcoal grilled steaks over gas grill versions.
The theory is that meat cooked for a shorter period of time will not allow the smoky flavor to penetrate, making the benefit of charcoal irrelevant. Steaks are generally cooked longer and have more time to absorb charcoal smoke.
Vanderbilt University Study
Vanderbilt University conducted another study that found that charcoal grilled meat had a juicier texture. The theory is that the flame coagulates the proteins on the surface of the meat, sealing the juices.
In layman's terms, this is probably due to meat caramelization, which we will explore in greater detail soon.  They also discovered that wood smoke rising from charcoal penetrates meat and gives food a smoky flavor.
Now here's the kick:
They also studied gas and discovered that the heat from a gas grill contains moisture, which "steam distills" meat. This opens the pores and releases the juices, giving the meat a "looser" texture.
Cooks Illustrated Study
In 2004, Cooks Illustrated conducted another study and found that charcoal produced better browning and browning. scorching than gas. They also tested a smoky flavor in foods cooked over charcoal, concluding results similar to the Vanderbilt Study.
It is quite clear that there are 2 characteristics that make your grilled food taste better: caramelization and smoked.
Let's take a closer look at both, so you can understand exactly what happens when your meat is grilled.
What are caramelization and gilding?
Caramelization and gilding are two different things. They are often used interchangeably among grill novices, but we should know the difference.
Caramelization takes place only at really high temperatures (around 400 ° F) when a chemical reaction occurs in the sugars in meat. This causes them to acquire a hardened dark brown rind and a characteristic carmel flavor. Surprise, there is some sugar in your meat, not everything is protein!
For caramelization to occur, there must also be zero humidity. So it is a good idea to dry the fillets before throwing them on the grill.
The grill will evaporate the moisture from the surface and then the steak will begin to caramelize and create that delicious crust. By drying them, you're helping to minimize the time the grill needs to evaporate moisture from the surface.
The grill surface also cools down dramatically the moment you add your meat. If your grill temperature is 400 ° F when you start cooking your meat, the surface temperature will take longer to rise enough for the meat to start caramelizing. To combat this, you need a much hotter grill surface before adding the meat, so when the surface temperature cools it is still above the 400F mark and the meat begins to caramelize.
Gold is totally different.
Darkening is caused by Maillard's chemical reaction. This is just a fancy term named after the scientist who discovered the process.
It's not too heavy for science, but browning is the chemical reaction of protein WITH the sugars in meat. This process occurs at much lower temperatures than caramelization (around and above 300F). That is why you can bake your steak and it turns brown, but it will not be crusted.
In restaurants, it's common for chefs to brown the steak at high temperatures to get that flavorful crust and then cook it in the oven. to finish browning the meat.
When grilling, we want both caramelization and browning.
So which grill gives you that tasty caramelized crust?
The charcoal grill outperforms the gas grill here 95% of the time. A charcoal grill can easily reach 700F, no problem. You don't need anything fancy to get to that temperature.
Gas grills often peak at 500-550F, but it all depends on the quality of your grill. If you have the money and can buy a Weber Summit ($ 1500 +), you can get up to 650F, if you leave the lid closed on a hot day with zero wind factor.
To combat this, some of the really high end gas grills will come with a search station. These high performance burners can heat the grill up to 800F. This is hot enough to achieve world-class caramelization.
A search station is your best friend if you are a steak lover. They are designed to achieve a caramelized crust, before moving the meat to the main burners to finish cooking at lower temperatures.
BUT these high end gas grills are expensive. The least expensive Weber gas grill with a search station will set you back around $ 800, and that's just for a 3-burner setup.
On the other hand, a high quality basic Weber Kettle charcoal grill will set you back $ 99. This $ 99 beast will give you great caramelization of your meat for 1/8 the price. It has no frills, so don't expect folding side tables, a thermometer, and a power button, but it gets the job done.
Signal Word: DO NOT buy a low quality, low budget gas grill. You will be extremely disappointed.
My brother has a cheap Char-Broil gas grill and just can't do much of the caramelization. He has gone to extremes and has put lava rocks under his burners to try to heat up the grills more. It works … sort of.
The LAST thing you want is a rubber steak that won't brown or caramelize. You could also save your money and just bake it in the oven.
So who wins? Well, it depends on how much money you are willing to invest. A high end gas grill will give you solid caramelization, BUT a basic charcoal grill will also achieve good caramelization.
Due to the large difference in costs, I think it is quite clear that coal is moving away from the winner.
So, now that it's resolved, let's move on to smoking.
Smoked, who has it?
A smoky flavor is what really differentiates charcoal grills from gas grills.
According to the Good Housekeeping Study, tasters could not tell the difference between gas and charcoal for hot dogs, hamburgers, and skinless chicken breast.
In contrast, the Vanderbilt and Cooks Illustrated Study tasters COULD pick up the smoke and I enjoyed the taste more.
Based on those two studies and my personal experience, I have to conclude that coal smoke is not a myth and it is a tasty benefit of using coal that adds a flavor that most people prefer.
However, all coal is not created equal. Hardwood charcoal is always superior to standard briquettes. Some briquettes have petroleum additives … they are not great. Hardwood will give you a better, smoker flavor. If you don't use hardwood yet, give it a try and see if you like it, you might be surprised.
Gas grills do not add any kind of smoky flavor to meat as it is obviously not cooking over charcoal. Wood smoke is not emitted while burning gas fuel.
Yes, there is a way to infuse some meat smoke with a gas grill. Gas grill manufacturers have been working very hard and have come a long way to ensure you get the most flavor in the best comfort.
So what is this voodoo magic of adding smoke to your meat with a gas grill? It's easy enough, all you have to do is buy a smoker box, add wood chips, and place it on your gas grill.
Does this work?
Well, it depends on how long you are planning to cook your meat. I call this indirect smoke .
On a charcoal grill, charcoal fuel ignites and produces smoke. This is direct smoke to food.
In a gas grill it is indirect. The gaseous fuel ignites and heats the grill, which heats the wood chips and produces smoke. It just isn't that efficient.
It is also very localized. When you put the smoker box on the grill, it's usually on one side or the other. This means that the meat closest to the smoker box has a better chance of absorbing the glorious smoked meat.
If you are slowly cooking a turkey, you have enough time for the wood chips to smoke and penetrate the meat, with hamburgers and hot dogs you probably cannot tell any difference.  If you have the money to spend, some of the high-end gas grills come with a built-in smoker box, so you don't even have to get a separate one to grill.
A note of caution: Wood chips and smoker box take the comfort out of the gas grill. Isn't that why we buy gas grills to start with?
It is recommended to soak the wood chips for 30 minutes to an hour before lighting the grill. This will emit more smoke while cooking, BUT it is an additional step and requires additional time and preparation.
So who wins? I think it's pretty clear that coal wins this one. With a charcoal grill you always get that smoky flavor. On a gas grill, you generally have to spend extra money and extra time doing it.
It is quite clear who occupies the first place in this category:
Charcoal triumphs in both flavor divisions: caramelization and smoked! Without a doubt, charcoal is the best fuel for optimal flavor.
But don't give up on gas grills just yet, they can come pretty close to replicating the taste of charcoal if you have a decent budget for a higher tier. gas grill and know how to use it.
Control is a delicate subject. Most seasoned charcoal grills will tell you that there is no benefit in terms of control with a gas grill. By control, I mean the ability to adjust how your meat is being cooked.
This is true if you have a lot of experience and know what you are doing. Having a little extra gear can also help significantly with control if you're not a pitmaster and still learning the ropes.
Temperature control is much easier to achieve on a gas grill. Simply adjust the knobs and more gas or less gas travels to the burners. Simple. Awesome.
Controlling the temperature with a charcoal grill is more difficult. Much is based on the amount of charcoal you add to the grill.
Once the coal is burned, you can adjust the intake regulator and the exhaust regulator. The intake damper is the main temperature control. It's at the bottom of the grill near the fire. The more you open the entrance, the more oxygen travels to the fire and the hotter the fire burns.
The exhaust regulator is on the lid. The more you open the exhaust, the more smoke can escape. This creates a lower pressure inside. The low pressure absorbs more oxygen into the inlet regulator and makes the fire burn hotter.
You can also control the temperature by moving your food to different places on the grill. If it is directly on the coals, it will cook at higher temperatures. If it is indirectly on the coals, it will cook at a lower temperature.
Temperature control on a charcoal grill is more an art than a science. It's hard? Not really, it just takes a little more finesse and some practice.
Indirect Heat Control
Indirect heat control allows you to slowly cook larger meat, such as a whole turkey. On a gas grill it's easy, light a burner on the right and a burner on the left and leave the center burner off. Boom, you have indirect heat for your mega bird.
With a charcoal grill, you can push the coals to the left or right side and place the bird on the other side. This is a less precise approach, but it works. However, it is better to use some Weber carbon briquette carriers to gain more control over the indirect heating process.
So who wins? It is quite clear that gas grills are easier to control and win this category.
This will be a fairly short category. Should I even explain why gas grills win in this category? Probably not, but let's compare in detail so you know exactly why gas is the favorite here.
Starting and Preheating Your Grill
With a gas grill, you can simply turn the knob, press the power button, and As the magic fire is heating the grill. Wait ten minutes to preheat and you will have a HOT grill ready for you to toss your food. There really is nothing easier than that.
Charcoal, on the other hand, is not that easy. You have to light your coals.
What is the best, most efficient way to do this?
You could dip your charcoal in a lighter fluid and light it, BUT this is not a great option. It can and does leave a synthetic gasoline flavor to your food. It is much better to get rid of the lighter fluid and use a fireplace lighter.
If you don't know what that is, search it on Google. It is the only way to go when starting a charcoal grill.
After lighting the charcoal, it takes about 20 minutes to clean it and ready to throw your meat on the grill.
It is not difficult to start a charcoal grill, but it does require some additional steps and some time.
With a gas grill, just turn off the knobs and you're done. Easy.
With coal, there are a few more steps. If you have a good quality charcoal grill, you can save some of the partially used charcoal.
To do this, put the lid on, close all the vents and the lack of oxygen will put out the fire. They can stay hot for up to 24 hours, so make sure your grill is located in a safe place that won't tip over and light the fire.
Cleaning Your Grill
Let's be honest, a charcoal grill is more messy than a gas grill. With a gas grill, all you have to clean is grease from food. With higher quality grills, you can remove the grease collector from time to time and clean or replace it. That is practically everything. My Weber works this way and I love it.
With charcoal grills, you have to deal with charcoal ashes. You have to wait for it to cool down and then take it out of the ashtray, then you have to get rid of the ash. If you are using hardwood charcoal, you can throw some on your compost. If you are using briquettes, it is best to throw it away as most of them have some synthetic chemicals that you will not want in your garden.
You will also need to scrub the inside of your lid occasionally. A layer of charcoal will form on the bottom of the lid and should be cleaned from time to time.
Is it important to clean your charcoal grill? Not really. Is it more work than the gas grill? Yes.
With the gas and charcoal grills, you will have to clean the cooking grates. This is very easy to do before you throw the meat on the grill. Once it's hot, use a wire mesh brush to remove burnt food particles from the last time you grill. I have a bookmark published in my Top Tool Guide that I swear.
Results of convenience
So who wins? This section clearly goes to the gas grill.
This is a beastly section, but probably the one you are most interested in reading.
There is much more to discuss than just the initial cost of the grill. I also believe that it is important to consider the cost of fuel and understand the cost of grill replacement, both long-term factors that all grills should consider.
Cost varies widely depending on the grill you are operating and what fuel you prefer to work with.
I'm going to have to make a few assumptions to illustrate my point, so please note that you may need to adjust it a bit to suit your own grill style.
In the end, I will give you a formula that I designed, so that you can really determine, financially, which is the best grill for you.
A word of caution: this is for the budget nerd and I've probably been way over the top. one. But, you'll thank me later.
Initial grill cost
For charcoal, the initial cost of a basic quality Weber 22.5 ”classic kettle is only $ 99. A high-end charcoal grill can cost up to $ 400.
For gas, a basic quality grill will cost around $ 400. In the high end it can cost more than $ 3,000, if you want to go crazy.
Without a doubt, charcoal grills win in an initial cost comparison. It can run on natural gas, propane, or both. Gas grills that are equipped to handle natural gas in addition to propane are often more expensive than their propane equivalents alone.
If you are going to connect to natural gas, it will often be cheaper and you will have the added benefit of never having to refill a propane tank. The cost of natural gas varies depending on where you live and your provider's rates. For the remainder of this discussion, due to wide variation in costs, we will focus on grills that use propane, just keep in mind that natural gas is an option.
Once you have purchased your 20-pound propane tank, a gas refill is about $ 20 at your local hardware store. So this means it is $ 1 per pound of propane fuel.
A general rule of thumb is that one pound of propane fuel equals one hour of cooking time.
This general rule varies greatly depending on which grill you use, if you are using a two burner grill you will use less, if you use a six burner grill you will obviously use more. Simply, the more gas you burn, the more expensive it will be per cooking session.
Again, making a big assumption here, let's say you always grill for a 45-minute session. This means that in each session you spend 75 cents on fuel. This is difficult and everyone's grilling habits are different, but this is a fair starting point for the average steakhouse like me.
Ok, let's see how coal works. So far, 75 cents on the gas grill doesn't look too bad!
Charcoal grill operating costs … Also known as your coal cost
The cost of coal varies much more than gas. You can use hardwood charcoal, briquettes, easy start briquettes with infused lighter fluid, brand name products, non-brand products; The list of options is extensive. I am going to make some key assumptions with coal.
A basic charcoal grill uses approximately 6 quarts of coal, that is approximately 6 pounds of briquettes. An easy starter for your fireplace, which makes starting your charcoal grill liquid-free for lighters easy, holds 6 quarts.
40 pounds of Kingsford coal briquettes cost around $ 20 at Home Depot. Suppose one use requires 6 pounds of coal. This will fill a standard Weber Kettle grill and last approximately 45 – 60 minutes before you want to add more charcoal.
6lbs / 40lbs = 0.15 or 15% of the 40lbs of charcoal
$ 20 x .15 = $ 3 per use
If you prefer to use charcoal on pieces of hardwood, it will be a bit more expensive.
A 17.6 lb bag of Royal Oak lumps of hardwood lumps costs around $ 13 at Home Depot. Suppose you use 6 pounds of hardwood charcoal again.
6lb / 17.6lb = 0.34 or 34% of the 17.6 pound charcoal bag
$ 13 x .34 = $ 4.42 per use
Important note: if you know what you are doing, you can potentially save some of unused charcoal for your next cooking session. This will reduce part of the cost.
You can use less or more charcoal depending on the grill you are using and what you are cooking, please note this is a rough estimate based on an assumed scenario.
Charcoal is a great topic in itself and should be the subject of another EPIC publication. There are advantages and disadvantages to both hardwood and briquettes. The general consensus is that hardwood charcoal is the top choice. As I mentioned earlier, it gets hot, doesn't over-process, has no chemical additives that can be harmful, and the best part is that it REALLY looks like wood.
If you want to feel like you are cooking over a real wood fire, lump charcoal is the way to go. If you are on a budget, the cheapest briquettes will cover your wallet.
Both coal options are much more expensive than the .75 cent cost for propane fuel. We will see how all this is combined with the initial cost included after a little analysis of the replacement cost.
Launching replacement cost makes achieving a winner even more complicated, but I think it is important to at least mention it.
Charcoal grills last longer than gas grills.
My father has been using the same Weber Kettle grill for the past 15 years and is STILL getting stronger. Charcoal grills just don't have as many parts and as many places where they can fail and need repair.
A survey by About.com found that 47% of more than 4,000 gas grill owners expected their gas grill to last 3-7 years.
According to The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, the average gas grill lasts approximately 4 years and the average charcoal grill lasts approximately 5 years before requiring replacement.
To be fair, there are many factors you have to consider when determining when your grill will need to be replaced:
- How often is the grill used?
- Do you keep it?
- Did you put a lid on it?
- Do you sit outside in bad weather? AKA, do you live in North Dakota or California?
- Was it a cheap grill to start with?
- Can you fix the grill and not have to buy a brand new grill?
You can buy a really cheap gas grill and it may only last a year, or you can buy a more expensive and better quality grill. It will last you more than 10 years. Just remember that gas grills are initially more expensive and are also replaced more frequently than charcoal grills.
Total cost of ownership
The total cost category combines the initial cost with the operating cost. Gas is cheaper than coal at $ 2.25 for briquettes and $ 4.65 for lump coal.
I designed this handy formula so you can find out if buying a gas grill will save you in the long run. The $ 99 is what I would have spent on a Weber 22.5in Kettle grill. The $ 2.25 is the amount you save by using gas instead of coal. It is multiplied by every time you use the grill, basically every time you use it you are saving $ 2.25.
[Cost of Gas Grill] – $ 99 – ([Number of Uses] x $ 2.25)
Suppose you buy a quality $ 400 gas grill and connect it to the formula.
According to the Home, Patio and Barbecue Association, domestic barbecues average 20 times during "The Season".
$ 400 – $ 99 – (20 x $ 2.25) = $ 256
This means that during the first year of ownership, the gas grill costs $ 256 more than the charcoal grill. If your grill breaks down or you stop using it permanently, it would have been cheaper to get a charcoal grill.
Of course, this varies widely depending on the grill you buy and how many times you plan to use it. I cook a lot, generally 2-3 times a week, even in winter, so my number of uses will be much higher than the 20 we assume. So it is better to insert your own numbers in the formula.
Let's go one step further and add years of use. This makes it a little more complicated, but provides a clearer picture of the total cost of ownership.
[Cost of Gas Grill] – $ 99 – ([number of uses per year] x [number of years in use] x $ 2.25)
Vamos a ejecutar nuestro cálculo nuevamente, suponiendo que su parrilla dure 4 años.
$ 400 – $ 99 – (20 x 4 x $ 2.25) = $ 121
En En este punto, cocinar solo 20 veces al año durante 4 años, la parrilla de gas aún costará $ 121 más para operar.
Honestamente, si solo obtienes 80 usos antes de que sea necesario reemplazarla, probablemente compraste un parrilla mal construida en el rango de $ 100 a $ 200.
Conectemos mis hábitos personales de asado a la fórmula.
$ 400 – $ 99 – (90 x 4 x $ 2.25) = – $ 509
En mi caso, estoy ahorrando $ 509 durante 4 años al usar gasolina. También espero que mi parrilla Weber dure más de 4 años.
Resultados de costos
Entonces, ¿quién gana?
Estoy llamando a esto empate.
SU costo total de propiedad depende de sus hábitos de parrilla, qué combustible usa y el costo inicial de su parrilla.
Usa la fórmula anterior para decidir cuál es económicamente más inteligente para tus necesidades.
Una buena regla general es que si no asas con mucha frecuencia, el carbón probablemente sea más barato, si asas todo el tiempo, un la parrilla de gas te ahorrará mucho dinero.
Preocupación común: ¡las parrillas de carbón no son tan versátiles como el gas!
Ahora, aquí es donde se pone raro. Se podría pensar que las parrillas de gas serían las más versátiles, pero ese no es necesariamente el caso. Puede adjuntar una gran cantidad de actualizaciones a cualquiera de las parrillas y engañarlas según cualquier especificación.
Decidí enumerar todo lo que pude encontrar que puede adjuntar a las parrillas de gas y carbón y ver quién tiene más campanas y silbatos
Probablemente no te das cuenta de lo versátil que es tu parrilla.
Ten en cuenta que, al final del día, esta es probablemente la categoría menos importante. Una parrilla está diseñada principalmente para pozo, GRILL. Todo lo demás es solo la guinda del pastel.
Parrillas de gas y carbón
Solo parrillas de gas
Solo parrillas de carbón
Sí, realmente puedes convertir tu parrilla de carbón en un horno de leña para pizza si quieres pagar $ 150. Definitivamente es bueno saber si eres un amante de la pizza.
Resultados de versatilidad
Entonces, ¿quién gana?
La parrilla de gas se lleva la victoria en la categoría de versatilidad. Si bien puede hacer casi todo con la parrilla de carbón que con el gas, es mucho más difícil y casi siempre más costoso.
Es mucho más fácil y económico usar accesorios en una parrilla de gas. Por ejemplo, el asador Weber para la parrilla de carbón cuesta $ 150 mientras que el asador Weber para la parrilla de gas cuesta alrededor de $ 80.
También vale la pena considerar la conveniencia de una mayor versatilidad. Usar una plancha en una parrilla de carbón no es fácil. Es mucho más fácil cocinar huevos y tocino en una parrilla de gas donde puede controlar fácilmente la temperatura.
La opción de quemador lateral en una parrilla de gas también es más versátil. Puede cocinar agua y hacer sopas o salsas sin perder el ritmo. Ya no tienes que cocinar algo en tu cocina al mismo tiempo que asas a la parrilla. Las parrillas de gas realmente pueden equiparse para hacerlo todo y convertir su patio trasero en una cocina al aire libre.
Contar los resultados
Costo: Empate (use the formula to get your result)
I am leaving it up to you to decide what to do with these results. If all of the categories have equal weight for you, then a gas grill is the obvious choice. If taste is 3 times as important to you as the other categories and you don’t care about versatility, then a charcoal grill is the clear winner for you.
You now have all the information to make a very informed grill decision.
What do American buyers choose?
Times have changed. According to The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, in 1985, 7.9 million charcoal grills were shipped to North America. Only 3.2 million gas grills were shipped that year.
In 2013, only 5.6 million charcoal grills were shipped, while 8.1 million gas grills were shipped. Total grills shipped rose in the last 29 years, with a preference for gas grills. In 1985 there was a clear preference for charcoal.
You can chalk this up to both better gas grill technology and better marketing by gas grill manufacturers.
Wow! If you made it to the end of this, you are a badass. You’re a serious grill enthusiast – welcome you to the club!
This was a beast to write and I would love to hear your feedback or any questions you have. If you think I missed something or have anything to add, post it below. Thanks and grill on!
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