Pros and Cons of Charcoal vs Gas Grill: Taste, Cost, Safety

hank hill charcoal grill

Interested in grilling but you can’t decide between a charcoal and a gas grill? Today is your lucky day as I will explain in detail the pros and cons of charcoal vs gas grills.

Soon you’ll find out the differences in:

  • Taste
  • Safety
  • Health issues
  • Environmental impact
  • Temperature
  • Cost

In a hurry, or don’t like reading long texts? Then make use of these quick links:

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Charcoal vs Gas Grill

The main thing that differentiates these two types of grills is the fuel that they run on, obviously. Charcoal grills use coal for fuel while gas grills use either propane or natural gas as fuel.

For most gas grills, you will need a propane tank that you will have to fill with propane for you to cook your meals. If you plan on using natural gas, then you will either have to get a pipe from your home gas supply for powering your grill or buy a model that specifically cooks on natural gas.

Find out more about propane and natural gas grills and know the differences.

There are other things that differentiate these grills other than the fuel that they run on and I will highlight some of them in this article so as to help you make the right decision if you are planning on acquiring a grill for the first time or are planning a switch from gas to charcoal and vice versa.

Let’s now get started on the pros and cons of these two grill types.

Charcoal Grills

charcoal kettle grill

There are a few reasons why you should opt for a charcoal grill for your cooking needs and one of them is the cost. Charcoal grills are not that expensive with a decent model not going for more than $100.

Charcoal grills also offer the users the true cook-over-a-fire feeling that is unique only to such grills.

However, they are more difficult to control than gas grills and this primal feeling of inconvenience is the reason why many new grilling enthusiasts don’t like them.

They also produce smoke that gives the meals that you are cooking a distinct flavor.

Choose the correct charcoal grill that will satisfy your cooking needs.

The Advantages of Charcoal Grills

1. Cheap and Portable

As I have mentioned already, charcoal grills are inexpensive and with $100 you can get a pretty decent grill.

They are also lightweight and portable and as such, you can take them with you on your travels.

2. Can Generate a Lot of Heat

Coal can get really hot and this will ensure that you have enough heat to cook your meals. High temperatures are also great for searing.

3. Produce Tasty Meals

If it is flavor that you are after, then charcoal grills are the kings.

Oils drop to the burning coal to produce smoke that adds flavor to the foods on the grill.

4. Make Them Yourself

If you really want to grill on charcoal but can’t afford one, then make one.

Charcoal grills are extremely simple contraptions, made from a bowl that holds the charcoal and the grates that hold the food. Simple.

5. Low Maintenance Cost

The only maintenance a charcoal grill needs is cleaning every once in a while.

charcoal grill cleaning

If something should break, like a handle or a leg, replacements parts are much cheaper and you can replace them yourself. It’s difficult and expensive to replace a propane regulator on a gas grill.

The Disadvantages of Charcoal Grills

1. Lighting up the Coal Is Difficult

Lighting up the charcoal can be difficult, especially if you’re new to this. Also, you’re not out of the woods just yet if you succeed in starting the fire as the flames can die out.

Most people use a charcoal chimney to light their coals to avoid this. But keep in mind that this is another expense that you will have to deal with as most grills don’t come with one.

2. You Will Have to Clean up Afterward

Charcoal burns and makes ash which will make your cooking area not only dirty but also more susceptible to rust.

3. Difficult to Control

Controlling the heat generated by the burning coal is another challenge that you will have to deal with.

4. A Bit of a Learning Curve

They are quite difficult to work with, especially if you’re new to this.

You have to figure out how many coals you need to reach the desired temperature, how to place them, how long they burn, how to control airflow, etc. On a gas grill, most of this done with a simple turn of the knob.

5. Are Prone to Hot and Cold Spots

Coals and briquettes, especially coals, come in different shapes and sizes. That’s why you can get uneven heating even when you spread the coals evenly across the entire grill.

6. Can Only Be Used Outdoors

Charcoal grills produce smoke, ash, loose embers, and tend to get very hot. That is why you are forbidden to use this type of grill indoors. Some landlords also don’t allow them on balconies.

It’s not a big deal if you have a backyard. But if you don’t have one (you live in an apartment complex, for example), then you’re going to have a bad time.

To Quickly Summarize

Pros
  • Are cheap and portable
  • Can get really hot
  • You can make one yourself cheaply and quick
  • Infuze meals with smokey flavor
  • Low-maintenance
Cons
  • The temperature control is difficult
  • Require a learning curve
  • Prone to hot and cold spots
  • You can have trouble lighting up the charcoal
  • Produce ash and take a while to clean
  • Outdoor use only

Gas Grills

cooking on gas grill

The Advantages of Gas Grills

Here are some of the benefits of gas grills.

1. Easy to Regulate

They have a knob and a different temperature setting for cooking. You can, therefore, regulate the temperature for an even cookout.

2. Fast Heat Up

They heat up really quickly and this greatly reduces your cooking time.

3. The Propane Tank Guarantees You a Lot of Cookouts

A full 20 lb tank of propane will provide you with about 10 to 20 hours of cooking time, depending on the size of your grill and how you cook. In general, expect the tank will last about 16 hours. This is enough to cook your meals on many different occasions.

4. There Is No Ash to Clean Up

Gas grills don’t produce any ash and this means that there will be none of it to clean up when you are done cooking.

5. Convenience

Gas grills are easier to use than charcoal grills. They have a knob that allows you to regulate the heat when cooking and this makes them convenient.

When you run out or are low on fuel, you just replace the propane tank (if you have a natural gas line, then you’re in luck as you have pretty much unlimited fuel) which takes only a few minutes. With charcoal, you need to wait for the new coals to heat up and this takes time.

6. Cheaper Fuel

Propane is much cheaper than charcoal and natural gas is even cheaper than propane.

According to Crown Verity, you spend only $0.60 when you fire up your gas grill.

Because of this, you’ll less often replace your propane tank than a bag of charcoal, meaning you’ll save on time and gasoline because you won’t go the store that many often.

The Disadvantages of Gas Grills

Gas grills are not without drawbacks and some of them include:

1. Expensive

Gas grills are more expensive than charcoal. A decent gas grill will cost you about $300 and there are others that cost 10 times this amount. The cost of the grill rises with an increase in the cooking surface and the number of burners.

The reason for this high price tag is their complexity: they have more components than charcoal grills. More parts equal more money in case of breakage. That’s why they are also more expensive to maintain.

2. You Will Need Wood Chips to Produce Smoke

Gas grills cannot generate smoke on their own for adding flavor to your meals. You will have to add chips to the grill to produce smoke.

3. They Are a Safety Risk

Gas leaks are very dangerous. They can start a fire or even an explosion in your home or in the backyard.

explosion warning sign

4. Heavy

They’re much heavier than charcoal grills, meaning that there’s limited mobility. This is especially true with full-sized models.

To Quickly Summarize

Pros
  • Highly convenient in many aspects
  • Fast and even heat up
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Cheap fuel
  • Fast and easy cleanup
Cons
  • Expensive to buy and upkeep
  • Gas leaks present a huge safety hazard
  • Don’t produce the distinct smokey flavor
  • Heavy, bulky, and less mobile

The Differences Between Gas and Charcoal Grills

Charcoal Grill Gas Grill
Fuel Source Charcoal Propane or Natural gas
Smokey taste
Safety* Safer Less safe
Health Issues Tend to produce more carcinogens Tend to produce fewer carcinogens
Enviromental Impact Worse Better
Temperare Can reach high temperature with ease Struggles
Maintenace Cost Cheap Expensive
Fuel Cost Expensive Cheap
Grill Cost Cheap Expensive
Temperature Control Hard Easy
Additional Features Few, if any Many
Indoor Use , but not always
Cooking time More Less

*If you want to know more about charcoal and gas grilling safety, then take a look at this nifty infographic.

Charcoal vs Gas Grill Taste Test

Conclusion

Charcoal and gas grills are the most common grills that you can choose for your cooking needs and this article highlights the pros and cons of charcoal vs gas grills. It teaches you everything that you need to know about these popular grills.

In short, choose a charcoal grill if you have the time for cooking and love the smokey flavor. If you’re strapped for time and/or have an emphasis on convenience in both cooking and cleaning, go for the gas grill.

In the end, if you can’t decide on either one then there are grills out there that accommodate both fuels – but this is beyond the scope of this guide.

Do you already own a grill?

About Mario 118 Articles
I am the owner of the Kitchen Guru Ideas. I've set up this site so I can share my kitchen tips and hacks that have been passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and show you how a wonderful experience cooking is and not just a way to save money. Even in this hectic lifestyle, there is time to prepare and most important enjoy a home-cooked meal.

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