Grilling with Gas vs. Charcoal: The Ultimate Showdown

November 3, 2016 / Category Tag, Firestarters

Ah, grilling — there’s no better way to cook for you and your family. It’s relatively fast and easy, enhances the flavor of your food, and gives you a great excuse to spend some time outside on the porch, preferably with a nice, cold beverage in hand.

You can’t talk about grilling, however, without discussing the age old question: Which is better, gas or charcoal?

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get wildly different answers, opinions, and arguments. Pro tip — never try to convince a die-hard gas or charcoal loyalist that their method is the lesser one. The conversation will never end in your favor.

To help you settle the debate for yourself, we’ve broken down the pros and cons, benefits and disadvantages of both methods. Weigh the options, examine the differences, and at the end of the day, be confident in your decision to go gas or charcoal.

Gas Grilling Meats


Start and Heat Up Time


Gas: Starting a gas grill is super easy, given your propane tank is full. Typically, all you have to do is turn a knob and just like that, your grill is up and running. That said, it’s always a good idea to keep an extra propane tank on hand because, let’s be honest, the idea of having to stop grilling halfway through is slightly terrifying. After turning on the gas, you’ll have to wait about 10–15 minutes for your grill to heat up to your desired temperature.

Charcoal: Getting a charcoal grill started takes slightly more effort than a gas grill, but to most grilling enthusiasts, it’s worth it. Some assume that lighting charcoal is an act of patience, but really, it can be accomplished quickly. And with our ExtremeStart™ Firestarters, lighting charcoal has never been easier. Check out this video to see how it’s done.

After your charcoal is lit, it takes about 15–20 minutes for your grill to heat up to cooking temperature — roughly the same start up time as a gas grill, give or take a few extra minutes.


Taste of Food


Gas: For fast-cooking foods like hot dogs, frozen hamburgers, or fish, gas grills are typically the better choice. With these foods, you won’t notice much of a flavor difference between gas and charcoal grilling, due to the short cook-time, high-heat combination.

Charcoal: The deep, smoky flavor you can achieve when cooking over a fire is perhaps the main reason so many people swear by charcoal grilling. Where does that distinct flavor come from? According to WIRED, it’s not the charcoals themselves that do it, but rather drippings from the meat that rise back up and saturate the flavor. Here’s a more eloquent description from the article:

“…It’s the volatile compounds in the food…that are responsible for charcoal grillings distinct flavors. As the meat heats up, it releases drippings that strike the super-hot charcoal and combust with a tsss and a burst of flame. Those drippings are full of fats and oils and sugars and proteins that vaporize and rise back up into the meat whence they came.”

What’s more, once you become a charcoal grillmaster, you can double your charcoal grill as a smoker, using it to slow cook a variety of meats to tender perfection.

Hot Charcoal Ashes

Temperature Control


Gas: If you invest in a high-quality gas grill, the heat along the grates will be even and consistent. This ability to have more stable control over temperature is one aspect that draws so many grilling enthusiasts to gas-powered options.

Charcoal: While the heat from charcoal can be more challenging to control, charcoal grills have the ability to reach higher temperatures than their gas counterparts. With a hotter flame, charcoal becomes the preferred way to cook things like seared steak, when a higher temperature can make all the difference.

Cleanup and Maintenance


Gas: To keep a gas grill clean, you should turn it up to high before and after cooking, and brush the grates with a bristled grill brush. As far as long-term maintenance goes, keeping your lid closed between uses will help preserve your grates and keep them clean. Every now and then, you’ll have to check gas lines, the ignitor, and clean and replace drip trays.

Charcoal: Cleaning a charcoal grill consists of emptying out the ashes, preferably after every use, and brushing the grates before and after use, as well. Long-term maintenance is minimal. A charcoal grill should last you quite a while, although you might have to replace the grates once per year due to wear.

Here at Pine Mountain, we’re a little biased. When you combine grilling tasty food with an opportunity to (safely, of course) play with fire, what could be better? With that in mind, charcoal is our preferred method of grilling. But if you don’t agree, don’t worry, we can still be friends.

Even if grilling isn’t your thing, you can enjoy ExtremeStart™ Firestarters for both your outdoor and indoor fires. They’re easy to use and make starting your grill, fireplace, or fire pit a more convenient experience.

Click below to find ExtremeStart™ Firestarters online or at a retail location near you!

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