Are Charcoal BBQs Better Than Gas? - Charcoal vs Gas BBQ

Struggling to decide on the perfect BBQ for you and your family? We take a look at whether or not charcoal barbecues are better than gas, while comparing each on a variety of factors.

Truth be told, a charcoal BBQ can be better depending on your preferences. Charcoal alternatives burn hotter and are usually much more portable.  Combine this with that unique, smoky taste that is transferred to the food and it's clear to see why many people consider them to be the very best.

Are Charcoal BBQs Better Than Gas? - Charcoal vs Gas BBQ

Taste Of The Food

Let’s start with arguably the most important factor when it comes to barbequing. As you can probably imagine, the freshly cooked food will have a different taste, depending on whether you opt for charcoal or gas.

 
That typical, smoky BBQ taste is often attributed to charcoal. In many cases, this is the flavour people try to replicate when cooking on a BBQ. This distinct taste is caused by drippings from the food, which vaporize immediately when coming into contact with the charcoal below. As the infused smoke rises, additional flavour is reinstalled into the meat. While there are methods to replicate this when using a gas BBQ, the taste isn’t exactly identical.


At the end of the day, finding the perfect taste is down to your palette. Some people enjoy food cooked on a gas BBQ, but according to research and statistics, charcoal is the winner in this category. Various surveys have been conducted and according to one particular set of results, almost 60% of Americans prefer the taste of meat cooked on a charcoal grill. An additional 24% were indifferent while the remaining interviewees opted for gas cooking.

Ease Of Use

Prefer to enjoy the atmosphere of a BBQ, without the need to spend all your time attending the food? Let’s take a look at ease of use.

Portability

First, having a portable BBQ solution is important to many. After all, there’s only so many gatherings you can have in your garden. Cutting straight to the chase here, charcoal is often your best bet. Whether that be a small disposable BBQ, or a picnic grill, you tend to get more options with charcoal alternatives. Even better, you don’t have to carry a gas canister around with you. All of the charcoal can sit preloaded in the device.

Speed Of Cooking

After lighting a charcoal BBQ, you can expect to spend around 20 minutes waiting for the right cooking temperature. With gas, this can be cut in half. However, charcoal does burn much hotter. The maximum temperature for gas grills sits at about 315 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 630 degrees Celsius of heat you can achieve with charcoal. This increased speed of cooking can benefit you greatly if cooking for a larger crowd.


Temperature can be maintained, or adjusted, with the turn of a dial when cooking on gas. Charcoal requires a bit more effort, with various methods to control the heat. These procedures include spreading out the coals, adjusting the distance of the grill or altering the air flow.

Starting The BBQ

Similar to how you control the heat, gas BBQs can often be started by the turn of a dial. The procedure for preparing your charcoal grill can be a bit lengthier. Here are the steps:
  • Arrange the coals evenly in the area of which you wish to cook.
  • Apply lighter fluid to the coals, or pack newspaper/firelighters between groups of charcoal to get the fire started.
  • Light the coals or newspaper/firelighters.
  • Wait 20 minutes before applying the grill and beginning to cook. During this 20-minute period, keeping a close eye on the coals is crucial.

A final note in regards to ease of use, is that gas barbecues are considered to be much easier to clean. This is an important step for preserving your grill, it also helps to stop your next batch of food from burning (And yes, both types of BBQ do require maintenance).

Costs

The cost of barbequing differs slightly when it comes to age old argument of charcoal versus gas. One of the main factors is how often you plan on using the BBQ itself. If you only plan on a couple uses per year, for example, a disposal charcoal BBQ is likely your best bet in terms of cost. You can pick these up for roughly £3.00 from most supermarkets.


More regular users have to take both the initial spend and running fees into consideration. Typically, gas BBQs are more expensive at first, but lower running costs can see you saving money over time. Delving deeper into the cost of running, a charcoal BBQ can set you back approximately £2.00 per cooking session. In contrast, gas should only set you back about 80p. Keep in mind that these numbers are based on cooking average portion sizes for 6 people.

Are Charcoal BBQs Better Than Gas? - Charcoal vs Gas BBQ

The Greener Choice

With concerns growing over the preservation of The Earth, and rightly so, we thought that taking a quick look at the environmental repercussions of each option could prove to be important. Keep in mind however, that the carbon output from grills is negligible. In addition, finding the greener option is perhaps more complicated than you may first think.


Charcoal barbecues emit approximately three times the amount of carbon than gas. However, a majority of charcoal comes from waste wood. This means that charcoal grills do produce additional carbon dioxide but are seen to use a more renewable source of energy. Ultimately, even experts are having a tough time deciding which BBQ type is best from an environmental standpoint.

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