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Charcoal vs Gas BBQ: Which is Better?

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Charcoal vs gas BBQs. We all want to know who has the competitive advantage. And it can be hard to get your head around different. explanations of every type of BBQ 

We still get people asking us – how is a charcoal grill different from a gas BBQ?

The flame war between charcoal and gas BBQs rages on to this day. And this age-old debate made us think about the distinction between the two.

Some people say that their grill option comes down to taste buds alone. But even that might change once you get to know the differences between gas and charcoal grilling.

So if you can’t settle on a solid choice, we’re here to help you make the final decision. We’ve rounded up the pros and cons of charcoal and gas BBQ grills.

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In this quick article, we’ll help you make a well-informed decision as to which BBQ to buy for your next cookout. Whether you’re a novice cook or a chef, when you know the right way to fire up the food, you can achieve the best results!

Pros and Cons of Charcoal BBQs

Nothing beats the aroma and smokey flavour that a charcoal BBQ grill provides. It gets us salivating and excited to celebrate summer just talking about it.

But for every benefit charcoal BBQs have, there are corresponding drawbacks. Let’s keep it light and begin with the advantages!

charcoal bbq with white hot wood and briquettes

Pros

Charcoal BBQ grills reach the right cooking temperature, but they’re a lot cheaper.

Cooking meat to perfection relies on the grill temperature. The ideal cooking temperature is at least 600°F to achieve a nice sear.

And, while both charcoal and gas grills can reach these higher temperatures, gas BBQs are on the pricier end. This competitiveness  is where charcoal grills score high.

The higher the heat, the more flavour a grill can give. But ever wonder why charcoal BBQ gives off a better taste?

When meat drippings come into contact with the flames, they vaporise – penetrating the meat. This turns into flavour-packed steam and the smoke goes back into the meat.

This results in a traditional and smokier flavour. That’s the unique taste of charcoal grilling.

Besides the scrumptious, smoky flavor, charcoal BBQs are also more portable. They’re easier to transport and set-up than most gas grills.

Charcoal grills are perfect for home use or trips. Charcoal BBQs are great for camping, picnic, road trips, and beach parties.

Throw one in the RV or in the trunk of your car and take it anywhere you go. I mean, who doesn’t like it when you can take that great smoky taste with you in any place?

vegetables being BBQ'd in grilling basket

Cons

After serving your family with a flavoured grilled feasts, it’s time for some clean up. With all the good points of charcoal grills comes some bad stuff.

For one, cleaning a charcoal BBQ grill is trickier than gas. You need to empty it out and make it ash-free before scrubbing.

You also have to tackle the lids, inside bowl, grates, and the ash catcher. Charcoal grill maintenance can be a serious job!

Another thing is the fuel cost. Sure, charcoal BBQs give authentic flavours – all thanks to the briquettes. But bear in mind that a 20-pound charcoal bag might only yield three grilling seasons. So the fuel cost adds up.

To figure out how much charcoal you need, consider what you’re cooking and use your charcoal chimney as a gauge.

When it comes to cooking times, charcoal grills also take more time to heat. On average, they take about 15-20 minutes to reach the proper cooking temperature.

Keep in mind that the time it takes for the charcoal to actually catch adds precious extra minutes. The waiting game can delay your serving time, especially if you’re in a hurry.

charcoal fire and flames under BBQ grill

The bottom line

Even so, if you have enough time to prepare and budget, we can’t find any reason why you shouldn’t go for a charcoal BBQ. After all, you want to impress your guests with that authentic grilled flavour and some proper scorch marks!

Our best-selling charcoal BBQ grill

So you think you might want a charcoal grill? Well then, boy do we have a treat for you. 

Designed for ease of use, our BillyOh’s Kentucky Smoker is perfect for cooking up a BBQ feast. It has an accessible front door pellet and a crank to adjust the grill height and play around with smoking flavours.

Design insights:

  • Adjustable, foldable BBQ cooking shelf with front crank and door.
  • Bottom shelf gives this BBQ extra storage with easy access.
  • Side table on both sides with stainless steel hooks.
  • Lid and chimney keep smoke above the prep areas.
  • Thermometer to keep track of cooking temperatures.
  • A pair of wheels for portability.

But if you’re still unsure about whether to go gas or charcoal, let’s have a look at the opposition.

billyoh-kentucky-smoker-bbq

Pros and Cons of Gas BBQs

There’s no denying how convenient gas BBQ grills are. Apart from no leftover coals after cooking, gas BBQs also come with 2-3 sets of burners.

This lets you cook with ease and gives you more wiggle room – perfect for barbecue staples like burgers and hotdogs which usually rely on volume. But with ease comes with a price.

Let’s start off with the perks!

grilled skewers and sausages on BBQ

Pros

For this type of BBQ grill, you can forget about the cost of having to buy charcoal all the time. Gas fuels tend to be cheaper than charcoal in the long run.

So gas BBQs cost less to use and are far more cost-effective than their briquette buddies. A 20 pound propane bottle will allow you around 25 nights of outdoor cooking.

And, if you need to prepare your grill right away, a gas BBQ grill is your best bet! It simply heats up faster. The cooking grate preheats fast, guaranteeing gorgeous sear marks in no time.

Simply turn on the knob and push the button to fire up the grill. So we’ve got to give another point for the instant ignition.

Sometimes it’s also better to grill on a gas grill because it’s easier to control the temperature. Gas BBQ grills excel at maintaining almost any heat level. So you can really crank up the heat or even slow-cook at lower temperatures.

But temperature control isn’t all gas grills are good at. Some models even come with 4-6 burners. Talk about versatility!

Speaking of which, check out our best-selling gas BBQ grill below.

burgers and sausages on BBQ

Our best-selling gas BBQ grill

If you’re thinking of getting a gas BBQ, then we’ve got a top pick for you. Get ready for those warm, sunny summer days with the Matrix 6 burner gas BBQ. It even offers a large workspace with extra storage to keep your utensils organised.

Design insights:

  • Independent electronic ignition on each burner.
  • Bottom cabinet gives you a large storage space.
  • Side table with 3 stainless steel hooks included.
  • Side burner for increased efficiency when cooking.
  • Thermometer to keep track of cooking temperatures.
  • A pair of wheels to make this barbecue portable.

charcoal-vs-gas-bbq-billyoh-matrix-gas-bbq

Cons

Gas BBQs aren’t less durable than other types of grills, but they do have parts that might need replacing. If your grill isn’t taken care of, you may have to replace the burners or the gas line.

As for the taste, it’s subjective. Sure, gas doesn’t leave the same taste as its charcoal counterpart but come on how much better does BBQ need to taste?

You also can’t smoke with gas grills. There’s a trick on how to add smoke to gas BBQ grills, though. Otherwise you’re unlikely to have that option.

When it comes to portability, charcoal BBQ grills win. Sure, travel-sized gas grills are available. But it’d be much too difficult and even dangerous to tow a full-sized one.

And, although gas BBQs are more expensive than charcoal BBQs there’s a good reason for that. They’re simply brimming with extras like side burners, lighting fixtures, storage racks, and even sink units.

burgers, sliced cheese, and sausages cooking on BBQ

The bottom line

If you think about it, a gas BBQ grill is a great investment. Especially if you’re willing to take time to clean your gas BBQ grill. Plus, if you’re worried you’ll miss out on smoke you can always use that trick we showed you earlier to get that smokey flavour!

Charcoal BBQs are great on a budget. They’re also more diverse for smoking and smoke infusion options. But not all cooking is about smoke alone. Charcoal grills are also always going to win for portability. 

Charcoal vs Gas BBQ: The Taste

Charcoal BBQ gives a smokier taste. It gives a feel of traditional BBQ with that mouth-watering taste that you can get from wood chips and briquettes.

Some say gas BBQ offers a bacon-like taste. It’s also less likely to burn your food. This is because gas BBQs produce more steam than charcoal. This gives meat and fish more moisture.

meat cooking on BBQ with rosemary sprig

Gas vs Charcoal BBQ: Safety

Cooking in both charcoal and gas grill can be quite a risk. At the same time, if used properly, it can be as safe as anything.

For example, charcoal grills might blow over in high winds. On the other hand, gas grills are heavy enough and easily covered so as to be vulnerable to the wind. But when are you next planning on cooking in a hurricane?

If not properly tended, gas BBQ canisters could cause problems too. Temperatures over 160°C can increase pressure inside the tank, which can lead to an explosion. Although, this is highly unlikely.

The point we’re trying to make is – safety shouldn’t be a factor that puts you off either a gas or a charcoal BBQ grill.

bbq skewers, vegetables and condiments on a table
Credit: Unsplash

Charcoal vs Gas BBQ: Temperature Control

One of the perks of cooking in a gas grill is you can precisely control the temperature. It’s like when you’re cooking on your kitchen stove.

You can check and decide whether you’d need to adjust heat levels. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about strong winds blowing away your flame source.

Meanwhile, cooking in a charcoal grill requires your full attention. You need to observe the heat level often or you’ll end up burning or overcooking the food. This requires taking the lid off usually despite the best intentions of temperature gauges and vents.

But as long as the flame is always monitored, you’re good to go! 

Top tip: Use an instant-read meat thermometer for your convenience. It works in both grills.

man bbq'ing with flames obscuring him

Round-up

Charcoal and gas BBQ grills each have their pros and cons. Only you can decide which will be best for your family and lifestyle. Gas grills are great for a more permanent option and for larger catering. But charcoal BBQs have that plucky spirit. They’re cheaper, give great flavour, and they’re portable.

But with so many delicious grilling recipes to cook up this summer – or any time of the year, you can’t go wrong either way. Just make sure you get a BBQ before it’s too late. As to what type you go for, we hope this guide helped give you answers to your questions!

And if you’re thinking ahead to getting summer started with a BBQ – check out our ultimate guide for BBQ ideas and hacks.

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