Debating about gas grills vs. charcoal grills is about as sensitive as a political issue.
Then, how can we forget about the comical reference on one famous prime time cartoon television show? The deciding factor comes down to preference of taste, convenience, grill placement and cost.
There is no getting around gas grills do not enhance the taste of food whatsoever. Whereas, charcoal grills sear meat quickly, retaining natural juices and absorbing that deep smoky flavor. There is no argument this makes for the best grilled meat. In addition, there are a variety of charcoal briquettes to add different varieties of flavors that best fit your palate. However, in several independent taste tests, participants only detected meat grilled with charcoal for items that cook a little longer, e.g., thick steak and not so much for quick items such as hamburgers.
Just like there is no getting around the added taste from gas grills, there is also no denying the benefits of a gas grill. They are extremely convenient and ready to go at a moment’s notice. You still have to exchange the empty gas tanks which can be a hassle. With the price of gas, a lot of people are finding that this service is a lot more expensive lately. Whereas technology developed for charcoal grills has eliminated the need for lighter fluid or ready-to-light charcoal briquettes. Meaning much cheaper charcoal is now available.
To utilize this new method, you only need an inexpensive charcoal starter. They can be found in most hardware stores. You still have to be a little patient and wait for the coals to get just right, but it eliminates the need for more expensive brands of charcoal and buying lighter fluid. The device basically works by convection updraft currents getting the briquettes dry and white-hot and ready for the grill. Once ready, you simply dump them into your grill.
However, charcoal still does have one annoying little detail – dumping the used briquettes and if you are not utilizing newer methods for starting a charcoal grill and are impatient, you may be left with a slight hint of lighter fluid in the flavor of your food.
Regardless to the type of grill, cleaning is about the same in both gas and charcoal.
More importantly, space is a very significant issue when it comes to choosing a grill. Gas grills require more room. Therefore, a larger open area such as a patio or deck is essential. There are also usually strict regulations against gas grills on apartment and condo balconies. I can’t stress this point enough. You need to check your local policy if living in an apartment or condo. You may even be limited to an electric grill.
In my younger days while living in an apartment complex, there was a major fire from an innocent accident but not quite so innocent placement of a propane tank on an apartment balcony. While putting out a cigarette, the cigarette rolled under a storage door where the gas grill was kept and eventually set off a propane tank explosion – setting ablaze an entire row of apartments that even melted siding on other units 100 feet away.
Gas grills are usually going to run twice the price of their charcoal predecessors. The reason, gas grills have all sorts of bells and whistles today for all sorts of cooking. However, charcoal grills are starting to close the gap by offering comparable features. It all comes down to your taste preference, convenience, location and how much you want to spend. Remember, if you live in an apartment or condo with a balcony, always check the policy for what is and is not allowed.