Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charcoal or Gas? What kind of grill to buy?

Ah, the age old debate. Well maybe not age old, but for some time. I am not sure who made the first gas grill, but according to this timeline, Weber made their first one in 1971. Their first kettle was made in 1952. So, a decision that every grilling guy has had to make since 1971, gas or charcoal?

I have both and don't use either as much as I want to. I do however use them both about the same amount probably over the course of a year.

Let's examine the aspects of grilling and the pros and cons associated with each type.

I'm hungry, let's cook something outside for dinner. Well, how much time do we have? Getting the grill started and ready to cook on takes at least a half an hour or longer to get up to temp. I like to fire up my charcoal in a chimney then when lit transfer to the grill. From there I put the lid on it because I want to sterilize the cooking grate. With the gas grill I turn all the burners on high for about 5 minutes to sterlize the cooking surface and then turn it down to where I want it and voila! The gas grill wins this contest.

Off-set cooking. My gasser has three burners from left to right. I can turn on just the left or both the left and right and cook in the middle at indirect temperatures. My Weber has 2 baskets under the grill that hold a nice pile of lit coals and allow me to cook in the center as well. Both do a great job of off-set cooking so this one is a draw.

Direct cooking Goes pretty much the same way as that is exactly what they were both designed for, so I will give them a draw on that one as well.

Fuel cost. I think right now a 20 pound bag of kingsford goes for around 8 dollars. Depending on what I am cooking on the grill I am probably going to get up to 6 cooks out of that bag. That would be for just some quick grilling. The last time I filled my my propane tanks, I believe the price was 12.50 each. For some quick grilling I am looking at probably in the neighborhood of at least 25 cooks, maybe more off of one tank. So price wise, The gasser wins out in this round. You will have people say bad things about running out of propane, but guess what, you can run out of charcoal as well. I have 5 tanks. When I get down to 3 empty ones, I fill those up.

Here is the big one, the cooked product. You definately get some good flavors coming off of those briquets (or hardwood lump or what ever type of charcoal you are using). To combat this, grill makers are using flavorizer bars or a similar type of item. In essence, it is a plate that gets nice and hot over the fuel source. The drippings from whatever you are cooking hit this and put off smoke that helps to flavor the meat. In my opinion they both put out a pretty good product, but I think I am going to have to give a slight edge to the charcoal grill on this one.

Well, it looks like they stack up fairly close. I'd call it a tie even. Except for one missing category.

Nostalgia. When it comes to nostalgia, the charcoal grill is going to have to win over the gas grill. I don't remember when dad switched to a gas grill, but I do remember him firing up the charcoal grill. I remember an old black plastic container with charcoal in it that we had around the house that had to be fetched when it was time to fire up the grill. If anyone knows where I can find one of these, I would love to know where I can get one. It was designed specifecally for that purpose.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I remember the charcoal bucket. Will keep my eyes open for one.

Greg said...

Cool that would be great