Gas or Charcoal BBQs? How to choose.

For the average person, a burger is a burger, and they don’t much care what was used to make their steak. But for the barbeque aficionado, the gas vs charcoal debate can easily turn into a fist fight. Each option has its pros and cons, and it comes down to a matter of preference, but the next time you’re backed into a hot corner, here are a few pointers.

One of the first considerations is how much you’re willing to spend. A charcoal grill costs half the price of a gas grill, and sometimes, the price gap is even bigger. And in addition to the initial cost, a bag of charcoal costs far less than a bottle of gas. On the other hand, you’ll get more use out of that one-off gas purchase than you will from an equally heavy charcoal pile.

Lighting the barbeque is another matter. Gas is easy. You can light it in seconds with a match and a twist. Some units even have electronic starters. Charcoal lighters have to be lit the old fashioned way by teasing the wood-based fuel until it catches fire. Depending on your skill (or lack of it), this could take a while.

Once the flame is lit, a gas grill needs about ten minutes before it heats up enough to use, while a charcoal burner could take up to half an hour. Modern charcoal burners are easier to light than their flaming ancestors. You can use a chimney lighter to save time, for example. But even then, getting a gas grill started is easier and faster.

Similarly, charcoal needs open air to burn. The wind raises the flames higher for a better burn, and the ventilation disseminates the smoke and carbon monoxide. It’s not safe to use a charcoal grill indoors because it can cause toxic emissions.

Gas, on the other hand, gives off minimal carbon monoxide and is safe for use inside the house. That said, the smoke from charcoal burners gives the meat a rich, smoky flavour that you can’t achieve using a gas-powered grill.

The difference in time isn’t just in the lighting process. Cleaning up a charcoal grill can be time-consuming because you have to get rid of all the ash and residue. You also have to deal with the smoke and soot on your clothes and cooking implements.

Gas grills are easier. You simply switch it off, wipe it down, and empty the grease tray. If you had lined the tray with foil, then you just discard the foil, and you’re done. Once a season, the gas grill needs a deeper clean. You can get rid of grime and residue, changing the hose if necessary. But on use by use basis, gas grills are far less messy.

When it comes to looks, both units are beautiful and are available in multiple styles and accessories. But when it comes to bringing the heat, charcoal grills achieve higher temperatures than gas burners. This mean charcoal cooks faster and can give you a better sear mark. That said, it’s easier to adjust the temperature on a gas burner.

Many gas grills have temperature markers, and it’s relatively simple to dial a gas knob up or down to change the size of the flame. Charcoal barbeque units do have methods of adjusting the heat. You can use the damper control, though it’s not as basic as turning a gas button.

For many barbeque lovers, the battle isn’t as complicated as we make it. They are well aware of the benefits and flaws of both grill models. And since they love their daily barbeque sessions, they just do both. They buy a fast, efficient, no-mess gas grill that they can use on weeknights, or when it’s cold and drizzly outside. Then on warm, dry, weekend afternoons, they fire up the charcoal grill for a nice smoky cut of beef. Now they can enjoy a quick Wednesday roast and a smoky slow burning steak with their Friday night beer. Best of both worlds.

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