There are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing a fuel for grilling: Gas or charcoal. Those who take grilling very seriously are either in one school of thought of the other, and there is no crossover.
For the rest of us who simply like to occasionally barbecue in the backyard or on the deck or on an apartment balcony, we just want the best grills to develop the most flavor with the least amount of hassle.
If you’re new to grilling, or in the market to buy a new grill, and you haven’t made up your mind as to which fuel method you want to use, then keep on reading about the pros and cons of gas versus charcoal as well as reviews of a few models for each type of grill.
A majority of Americans prefer to cook with gas grills, partially due to their convenience factor. As long as the propane tanks are full or the grill is hooked up to a natural gas line, then you can prep a gas grill in no time.
Ignite the fuel, wait a few minutes with the lid closed until its fully preheated and then you’re ready to start cooking the dish of the day.
Lighting mechanisms differ from model to model, however, Consumer Reports found that electronic igniters tend to be more reliable than the older push button or knob designs.
Another benefit gas grillers swear by is the ability to maintain cooking consistency. Quick-fire items, such as hamburgers and steaks, don’t need a lot a time and are usually cooked at high temperatures. These items tend to turn out just fine with both types of fuel.
However, temperature control becomes more critical when grilling things over long periods, like briskets or roasts or whole chickens that take hours. Consistent heat will prevent flare-ups that can scorch the food or drops in temperature that add to the overall cooking time.
So being able to select a temperature setting and be assured the grill’s internal temperature will be maintained over however long you need it makes barbecuing a bit more hassle-free with gas.
Also, consider fuel efficiency. While it may not seem as big of a deal as a grill’s startup or temperature control, you are paying for the fuel, so effectiveness does matter. For the most part, gas grills conserve fuel.
If a grill is piped into your home’s natural gas line, then you don’t have to worry about the fuel source running low. Propane, on the other hand, usually is stored in tanks that are connected to the grill.
An average propane tank will burn approximately 20 hours. Even if you prefer cooking meats that require a low-and-slow approach, you should have enough fuel in one tank for several grilling sessions.
Here are a few gas grill models to check out.
GasWeber 46110001 Spirit E210 Liquid Propane Gas Grill, Black
If you don’t want an extravagant outdoor kitchen, but rather just a reliable gas grill, consider this compact design. Two burners provide plenty of heat and 360 square inches of cooking surfaces hold a fair share of burgers, steaks, chicken, or chops. A center-mounted thermometer in the porcelain-enameled lid allows you to check on the grill’s internal temperature without constantly opening and closing of the lid, which lets heat and flavorful smoke escape. If you’re cramped on storage space, fold down the two side tables when not in use, and simply flip them back up again when it’s time to grill.
MSRP: $399Char-Broil TRU Infrared Urban Gas Grill with Folding Side Shelves
Infrared grilling technology turns up the heat, literally. This feature boosts gas grills’ heat capacity in order to brown or caramelize the meat and trap in flavor. The unit’s convenient size, including shelves that fold down, allows for grilling in different sized settings and a built-in storage unit helps free up valuable space. A stainless steel lid and control panel require little to no maintenance other than an occasional cleaning.
MSRP: $239.99DynaGlo Smart Living 30000 BTU-2-burner Propane Gas Grill
A push of a button and minutes later the grill is preheated and ready for cooking your meat of choice. This grill produces big flavor with two enameled cast iron grates, two stainless steel p-shaped burners and two steel enameled heat tents. For extra sturdiness, two of the four wheel casters lock in place.
MSRP: $258.98Charcoal Grills
Die-hard charcoal fans remain adamant that you derive the best taste with this fuel source. They also insist that it’s the authentic grilling method. According to Dr. BBQ, also known as Ray Lampe, a competitive barbecue champion who has appeared on several television shows, including the Food Network’s “Chopped Grill Masters,” you just can’t get that same woodsy flavor with gas like you do with charcoal.
Although charcoal is a bit more labor intensive”stacking the bricks, getting them lit, and waiting for the coals to reach optimum heat”it offers versatility. You can still sear hamburgers and steaks at ultra high temperatures as well as slow-cook ribs or roasts. Also, charcoal grills are more conducive to smoking meat as well as grilling it. Put a few wet wood chips”hickory, oak, apple, cherry, pecan”in a foil pan near the coals and they will develop smoke as they heat up and meat juices drip on them. For some people, you’re not really “grilling” without adding a little smoke flavor to the food.
Some people claim that the major the drawback to traditional charcoal grills is that temperature control is more challenging. As coals continue to burn, they gradually lose heat. The solution is easy enough, simply add more charcoal briquettes to stoke the fire and keep the heat going. Also, manufacturers have developed various devices to help make lighting this fuel source easier, including charcoal chimneys and starter bricks. Some models have electric or gas-ignition starters to further simplify the process.
If you want to experiment a bit, try out different types of charcoal. Of course, there is the square briquettes with which most people are familiar. Then there’s hardwood lump charcoal, sometimes called char. However, the latter doesn’t tend to get as hot and burns out faster than the traditional briquettes.
Want a charcoal grill, but you also want some of the newest features? Then take a look at these three models.Best Grills”CharcoalWeber 741001 Silver One-Touch 22.5 inch Kettle Grill, Black
It looks like a traditional Weber dome grill and has all the best features of the older models, but this design is elevated slightly to make the experience a bit easier for cooks. For example, it has the tried-and-true kettle shape with a plated steel cooking grate, steel charcoal grate, and rust-resistant damper, but it also features the One-Touch cleaning system (no more shoveling out ashes). Blades in the base of the kettle direct ashes into a grate below. The grate also functions as a bottom vent.
MSRP: $99Char-griller 2828 Pro Deluxe Charcoal Grill
This barrel-shaped grill is larger than it appears. With 580 square inches of cooking area, it can handle everything from dozens of hot dogs to whole chickens. Another 250 square inches for a warming rack allow grillers even more cooking versatility. Maneuver the four cast iron grates to gain access to the coals to rearrange for indirect heat or to replenish over time. A wire basket runs the length of the grill where you can store spices and condiments.
MSRP: $129Char-griller 1515 Patio Pro Model Grill
This petite model is great when you have limited space. But don’t let its size fool you. It’s also heavy duty. The double steel bottom not only offers strength, but helps contain heat and keeps charcoal from burning out too quickly. Instead of top and/or bottom vents, this grill is designed with side vents, which are meant to better regulate heat and the amount of smoke you wish to achieve. You can gain access to the coals via a side drawer, which also makes for easy ash emptying.