Gas vs. charcoal grills: 7 things to consider when choosing

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As with many things in life, people have strong opinions about the type of grills they use for outdoor cooking. In general, these opinions boil down to two main categories: gas and charcoal grills (though there are certainly fans of pellets, wood and other fuel types).

If you’re in the process of buying a new grill for the upcoming summer season, you may be contemplating which one you want. There are pros and cons for both, and we’re going to break it all down for you here.

Here are seven primary differences between gas and charcoal grills, and how you can determine which option best suits your personal preferences.

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1. Taste

This category really comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the smoky quality that charcoal imparts to their food, though for quick cooking items like hot dogs, kebabs and burgers, there’s typically not enough cooking time to make a significant difference. When it comes to thick steaks and chops, or larger cuts like a pork tenderloin, the smoke can make a really big difference in flavor. If you’re using self-starting charcoal or use a bit too much lighter fluid to ignite your coals, you may also end up with a petrochemical taste on your food. That’s why a charcoal chimney or electric starter can be a great investment for charcoal enthusiasts.

Unlike charcoal, gas is very clean burning and creates little or no added flavor save for some of the drippings that may hit the hot surfaces of the grill and cause a little smoke. Of course, wood chips can be added to either grill type to add a smoky quality to your cooking. 

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2. Temperature

One of the reasons people love grilled food is for that sear that cooking over high heat can impart. This is caused when the sugars and amino acids in the meat react chemically (it’s called the Maillard Reaction). Beyond smoke, it’s the thing that makes grilled meats so delicious.

If you’re serious about getting a nice crust on that T-bone, you’ll find that a high temperature makes all the difference. The Maillard Reaction only occurs at temperatures above 285 degrees, so the hotter the grill, the better the reaction. Charcoal grills can hit a whopping 800 degrees Fahrenheit if the cooking surface is close enough to the coals. Gas grills, on the other hand, typically only reach about 500 degrees, even with more expensive grills. For a serious sear, charcoal is likely your best option.

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3. Control

When it comes to controlling temperature for even cooking – particularly if you’re grilling for a big crowd – gas grills tend to be superior. For one thing, the temperature across the grill can be controlled with multiple burners, so you can start at one end on high heat and finish your food on the other end at a lower temperature. And if your food requires longer cooking times, you can ensure maintaining even heat throughout the cooking process. By comparison, temperatures tend to decrease over time with charcoal, meaning large cuts may not be cooked all the way through before the coals begin to die down.

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4. Cleanup

Obviously, there are no coal ashes with gas grills, meaning cleanup is quicker and easier. And there’s no disposal of the ashes either. And while some people use charcoal ashes to increase the pH of their garden soil, the chemicals used in some charcoals may not be ideal for your plants or the environment.

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5. Health & safety

Those same chemicals found in charcoal ashes can also wind up in and on your food, which is why many people opt for natural wood charcoal that has no added chemicals. Also, charcoal grills tend to spark and can start nearby fires, particularly in the dry summer months, which is why many parks and apartment/condominium communities limit their use.

Gas, of course, is highly combustible, and improper use of a gas grill can result in serious damage, injuries and even death.

It’s a good idea to carefully read the manufacturer’s safety information regardless of the type of grill you end up purchasing, and ensure you and your family use it according to the recommended safety guidelines.

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6. Options & accessories

Both charcoal and gas grills come with a wide array of options and accessories, particularly the higher-end models. You’ll find everything from rotisseries and infrared burners to grill lights and side burners. If money is no option, the sky is absolutely the limit.

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7. Price

People often think of gas grills as automatically being more expensive than charcoal grills, but that is simply not true. It’s possible to buy a gas grill for under $100 and a charcoal grill for more than $2,000. That’s why it’s important to do your research when trying to figure out what grill is best for your needs. There are numerous websites with professional and consumer product reviews that can help you find the grills that fit your budget and lifestyle.

This article was syndicated by, where it first appeared.

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Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.