Charcoal Grills Versus Gas Grills: Barbecue Pros and Cons

grilled barbecues on black and gray grill

Serious barbecue aficionados often debate whether outdoor charcoal grills are better or worse than gas grills. However, the argument can be misleading, as each barbecue type has its own pros and cons. Personal preference, as much as the primary use of a barbecue, affects whether a griller will buy a charcoal or gas grill.

Pros and Cons of Charcoal Grills

Charcoal barbecues are simpler and less expensive than gas grills. A good all-purpose charcoal grill can be bought for around $100. On the other hand, pricier, barrel-style charcoal grills can have cooking areas far larger than gas ones. This makes them ideal for parties and large family gatherings.

Charcoal grills are often more portable than similar small gas grills, especially since grillers only need to take enough coals with them for one use. Even portable gas grills with camping-sized tanks can be much heavier.

According to Weber’s latest Annual Grill Watch Survey, 58% of U.S. grill owners say charcoal grills make tastier food than gas grills. However, not everyone can tell the difference, as nearly a quarter of those surveyed say charcoal and gas are “about equal.”

The downside is that they require more skill to regulate cooking temperature, and they take more time to light – though a chimney starter is one charcoal grill accessory that can help get coals burning faster.

Charcoal grills, therefore, tend to appeal to serious grillers who prefer the smokey taste that charcoal imparts, and who often grill for many people at one time.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Gas Grills

Gas barbecues light instantly, heat up quickly, and can be easily used year-round. They can be cheaper to run for those who only barbecue small portions at a time. Gas grills also require much less skill to operate than charcoal grills, and there is no messy ash to dispose of (although gas grills have more parts to clean).

Because they burn with less smoke, gas barbecues can be used in places where ventilation isn’t ideal. Gas grills can also be connected to residential natural gas lines, meaning that grillers can cook at home without ever having to refill a propane tank.

Gas grills are good for those barbecue lovers who often cook only for one or two people, or who wish to barbecue in variable weather. They are also better for unskilled grillers who value convenience above other considerations.

Charcoal Grill or Gas Barbecue – Or Both?

Since outdoor charcoal and gas barbecues each have their pros and cons, some dedicated grillers like having both available. According to the GrillWatch Survey, one fifth of grillers in the the United States own both a charcoal and a gas grill.

Which type of barbecue a griller chooses depends as much on personal preference as on when, where, and how often the grill will be used. Luckily, there are enough options that the serious barbecue owner need not commit to any one method.

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