The Difference Between Gas and Charcoal Grill

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Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Share My Kitchen

When we have friends and family over for a barbecue, we sometimes think of what grill to use – charcoal or gas grill? Do we prefer smoky flavors or simple clean-up? This article can help you choose the right grill for your needs, whether you are buying a new grill or replacing an old one.

The right equipment is essential if you want to be a grill master that wows at family cookouts. Both charcoal and gas grills are very popular and have many devoted fans. However, which grill is faster, more affordable, easier, and makes food more delicious?

You will read about comparisons between the two options, gas vs. charcoal, so that you can determine which one best suits your needs, budget, culinary preferences, and lifestyle.

Gas Grill vs. Charcoal Grill: What Are the Benefits?

Gas grills are best if you want to get your burgers and steaks on the table quickly. These gas grills heat up quickly, and its temperature can be controlled to your preference. They also don’t require frequent fuel purchases. The other benefits of using a gas grill over charcoal include:

  • Gas grills do not produce piles of ash, so they are generally easier to clean compared to charcoal grills.
  • Gas grills don’t emit nearly as much harmful air pollutants–like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and soot–as charcoal grills.
  • These gas grills usually have two or more burners, and they come with separate temperature controls. This lets you set different temperatures when cooking different types of meat, fish, or vegetables.

Charcoal Grills Are More Affordable Than Gas Grills

A basic charcoal grill has a rudimentary setup with fewer components. It usually only has a grill grate laid over a rounded metal charcoal chamber with attached legs. Therefore, you can find one for as little as $15 up to around $150. On the other hand, a gas grill, which consists of a grill unit with a wheeled frame and a gas tank, can cost anywhere from $130 up to $300.

Gas Grills Offer Better Fuel Economy Than Charcoal Grills

The fuel used for the charcoal grill is more short-lived, therefore it is more expensive every time you use it. A 20-pound bag of charcoal will cost you around $10, and it would last you three grilling sessions, at an average cost of $3.30 per session. Meanwhile, a 20-pound propane gas cylinder would cost $15. It would last 25 grilling sessions and would cost around $0.60 per use.

Gas Grills Heat Up Quicker

A gas grill makes it easy to make burgers in a hurry on a busy weeknight. It takes less than 10 minutes for the food to reach the desired cooking temperature (usually 130°F), from the moment you light it since the grill is connected directly to the fuel source. The fuel source could either be a tank inside the grill frame with natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (also known as butane), propane, or a gas supply line in your home. You don’t have to manually light the gas, or wait for it to begin heating up. The gas flame will ignite instantly with just a press of an ignition button.

On the other hand, reaching the desired cooking temperature on charcoal grills, it can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. First, you need to light the fuel source (either natural lump coal or condensed charcoal blocks, which are also called charcoal briquettes), and then wait for the carbon to turn into embers that radiate heat to cook food.

Gas Grills Allow for Easier Temperature Control

It is easy to adjust the temperature of a gas grill. All you need to do is turn a dial. Meanwhile, you need to add or remove charcoal from the chamber of a charcoal grill to manually adjust the heat intensity. You must also adjust the position of the food on the grill grate to place it closer or farther from the flame, or open or close the oxygen intake vents of the grill. An infrared thermometer allows you to quickly and accurately determine the temperature.

Charcoal Grills are Known for Giving Foods a Smokier Flavor

Charcoal grills produce lots of smoke, but the complex organic molecules that are burned in charcoal create aromatic compounds. The aroma compounds and smoke impart a unique char-grilled flavor to food. This enhances the depth of flavor in meat and poultry. To get the best smokey flavor, a kamado grill, which smokes meat slowly, needs to be considered.

Meanwhile, gas grills produce less smoke and, because they are simpler molecules, gas-only produces water and carbon dioxide once fully combusted. Therefore, gas grills give less flavor. It is, however, still a good choice for fish, vegetables, fruits, and other delicate foods.

Gas Grills are Simpler to Clean

Gas grills are generally free of ash. There might be food drippings that settle on the grill grate and grill base, but the gas vaporizes most of it. Therefore, when you clean a gas grill, all you need to do is scrub the base of the grill and the grate with a grill brush.

On the other hand, burning charcoal leaves a lot of ash in the charcoal chamber, and food drippings can accumulate over time. In order to clean a charcoal grill, you will need to empty ashes in the charcoal chamber before you can clean the base and grate with a grill brush.

Both grill types have grease that hardens and accumulates. So, use a degreaser on the soiled part, and let the solution sit for several minutes before you rinse it off with a garden hose.

Gas Grills are More Eco-friendly

Gas is the greener grilling option for eco-friendly homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint. A Department of Energy research examining the carbon output of gas grills showed that gas produced 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, which is nearly half of the 11 pounds per hour generated by charcoal grills.

Charcoal Grills are More Portable

A charcoal grill can be taken with you to tailgating events, local parks, or campsites due to its smaller size. Plus, you don’t have to carry a tank. The single-use charcoal grills are lightweight and convenient. However, they are not recyclable. A gas grill is too heavy to transport due to its cumbersome assembly, and the risk of having to carry around a tank of gas makes it harder to move.


The 22-inch Weber Original Kettle Grill is the best choice if you prefer a charcoal grill. It is large enough to cook a dozen burgers, easy to clean, and makes delicious smokier food. Meanwhile, the 54-inch Cuisinart CGG-7400 Four Burner Gas Grill is an affordable option with many bells and whistles if you prefer gas grills.

FAQs About Charcoal vs. Gas Grills

Both gas and charcoal grills can cook delicious meats, seafood, and vegetables. However, you might still have questions about which grill is best, unless you have already made your decision on the charcoal vs. gas grill debate.

Q. Is a gas grill worth it?

A gas grill is a great option if you have limited time and value convenience.

Q. Are steaks better on a charcoal or gas grill?

While you can cook great steaks on either a charcoal or gas grill, many people believe that charcoal grills impart a subtle smokey flavor to the sizzling meat. This, they believe, makes a steak great.

Q. Does food really taste different when you grill on gas vs. charcoal?

The smoldering charcoal produces smoke particles, which flavor the meat as it heats up above the briquettes. This flavor is particularly strong when you burn charcoal made from mesquite or hickory woods. However, even if charcoal’s smoky flavor adds a lot of zest to meat and poultry, it doesn’t necessarily enhance the delicate flavors of vegetables or fish.

Q. How does a charcoal grill work?

A basic charcoal grill is composed of a basin for holding the charcoal, a support stand that supports the basin, a lid that covers the top of the grill, and a cooking surface. First, you light the charcoal briquettes and allow them to dwindle to a smolder. Then, place the food on the grill’s cooking surface, a few inches above the embers.

Q. How does a gas grill work?

Gas grills can be more complicated than charcoal grills. They typically have temperature controls for each burner, a hose attached to the gas source (propane or natural gas), an electric starter to ignite the gas, a cooking surface, a lid, a grill body, and a stand to hold the body up. In order to use the grill, you need to use the starter to ignite the gas. Then, set the temperature as needed before putting your food on the cooking surface of the grill.

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