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What is the Difference Between Charcoal and Gas Grills?

Hot charcoal briquettes in a grill.
A grilled steak.
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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: R. Kayne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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There is strong debate between grilling enthusiasts as to whether charcoal grills or gas grills are best. Learning about the key differences between them will help you decide which is best suited to your outdoor cooking preferences. In general, charcoal grills are traditional, but gas grills are often thought to be cleaner and more convenient.

Gas grills are popular due to ease of use. Push-button ignition and heat controls make cooking with gas grills a breeze. You can preheat the grill, in much the same way you preheat your oven. Gas grills get sizzling hot in minutes--just lay on those steaks, burgers, or ribs. If you want to add more flavor to your grill creations, hardwood chips give food a smoky taste without the messy clean up associated with charcoal.

Cleaning gas grills is fairly simple. When the grill is cool, remove any wood chips or other flavor enhancing items and wipe the compartment clean. Cleaning the rest of the grill is comparable to cleaning an oven. Turn the gas up to the highest setting, close the grill lid, and let it heat up for a few moments; then turn it off. Once the grill has had a chance to cool down, wipe the rack with a dampened cloth. If the rack needs further cleaning, scrape it with a grill brush then wipe it again.

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Charcoal grills, on the other hand, require a bit more effort than gas grills. Just the right amount of charcoal and starter fluid must be used to create the perfect fire. Fluid should be allowed to burn off to prevent the fumes from ruining the food, but the coals must not be allowed to burn too long, or there won't be enough heat left to cook the food. For some, getting everything just right is part of the enjoyment of charcoal cooking.

Cleaning charcoal grills can be messy, and is best done with a wire brush before food has a chance to cool and harden on the rack. In some cases if the grill has accumulated a build-up, it will be necessary to create a hot fire in the BBQ to burn off the food. Charcoal grills often require a bit more scraping and wiping than gas grills.

There are certain dangers associated with charcoal grills, such as flying embers in windy conditions; or, if used in confined spaces, carbon monoxide poisoning. Charcoal grills must never be used indoors, no matter how well ventilated the area might be. Gas grills have their own risks. Gas leaks and other gas line issues could potentially cause explosions or fires. One way to minimize danger with gas grills is to check them thoroughly before each use.

Both charcoal grills and gas grills must be used with common sense and care. Read and follow all manufacturer's instructions and cautions. While you may prefer either a charcoal or gas grill, two things are certain: they are both enjoyable and they can both cook up a tasty meal.

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anon19297
Post 1

Being the owner of both type grills, hands down, the flavor of charcoal grilled foods is better than a gas grill. End of discussion.

And you don't have to use one drop of charcoal igniter. Buy the charcoal can starter. It costs about 10 bucks. You wad up one piece of newspaper in the bottom, fill the can with briquettes and light the paper. You have hot coals in 10-15 minutes. No mess.

Clean up between the two is about equal in difficulty.

Pros:

Gas:

Push the button it starts.

Multiple levels of racks.

Generally a bigger surface to cook on.

Charcoal:

Taste is much more what you want from grilling.

Stores in a very small space.

Cons:

Gas:

Large expense in buying more fuel.

You never know if you have enough for your dinner so it is almost worth it to have a spare tank. It is a pain.

Wrestling with and replacing the tank.

Charcoal:

Having to mess with the charcoal can be a bit challenging but once you get down your method it is not so bad.

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