For most Masters of the Grill, there is no compromising; you’re either in one camp or the other. Let’s look at the issues that are inflaming the debate.
Best for: A man (or woman) on the go who wants a grilled meal on the quick after work; the one who keeps occasional grilling primarily to burgers and dogs.
Benefits: Gas grills are fast to heat, easy to clean and leave no mess from charcoal.
Drawbacks: Gas grills don’t smoke barbecue as well as charcoal, resulting in a lack of charcoal flavor.
How to Buy: BTUs are one aspect to consider: higher is generally better, but adjustability is key (read: heat control). More important, though, is the surface area of the heat. Look for a gas grill with several heat sources. Grills with one flame-emitting bar don’t provide enough heat to evenly caramelize your food.
Best for: The more serious griller with more time to burn; a disciple of the art of low and slow barbecue.
Benefits: Charcoal grills deliver full-bodied flavor, cooking with an open flame, perfect for smoking.
Drawbacks: Charcoal grills take longer to heat, and there’s more to clean up.
How to Buy: Don’t skimp! Look for a charcoal grill with cast iron grill gates – they’re better heat conductors than stainless steel grill rods. And make sure the surface area is large enough to accommodate the big cuts of meat, like ribs and brisket, that are integral to barbecue.
If cost is a deciding factor for you, consider that gas grills are generally more expensive than charcoal. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money up front, a charcoal grill might be the answer. However, charcoal is the more expensive fuel. You can easily spend $5.00 or more on charcoal for your cookout, while gas is more likely to cost pennies on the dollar per cookout. In the long run, a charcoal grill won’t save you money.