Grills

Propane Gas Grill vs. Charcoal: Which is Better?

Cooking your food on a grill can make a meal so tasty. Meat eaters and vegetarians both have multiple food options (seared tuna, juicy burgers, veggie kabobs) that can be cooked using a variety of spices and oils to get that good char and smoky taste.

As grilling is getting more and more popular, don’t feel like you are missing out! Now is always the right time to add a grill to your at-home cooking repertoire. Whether you are shopping for a grill in a specialty store or online, it can be a daunting task. There are two types: charcoal and propane gas grills. The question is, which one is right for you? As you make your considerations, one thing you can be sure of is that the end result will be juicy and delicious.

Cooking time

For quick lunch and dinner fixes, a propane gas grill heats up quickly, which is nice when you are short on time. To obtain the optimal temperature for cooking food, the propane gas grill takes about 10 minutes for preheating. In contrast, a charcoal grill needs 25 to 30 minutes to achieve a safe cooking temperature. 

Lighting the grill

The caveat with a propane gas grill is that you first and foremost need to check that your propane tank is full, and that it is connected properly. After that, it’s very easy for cooking enthusiasts to utilize. It’s just a push of the igniter button and a turn of the knobs to get the fire started. As for charcoal grills, your supplies need to be in order. You must have charcoal briquets, which are sold in bags at supermarkets, hardware shops, and online. There are a few methods to fire up the grill, including a chimney starter, which uses newspaper and coals, lighter fluid, or easy-to-light briquettes, which already have lighter fluid on them.

Control

One of the important aspects of working your food on the grill is to understand how to control the temperature. When buying either type of grill, check out the cover because many come with a thermometer. A propane gas grill is fairly simple since it’s similar to working a gas stovetop. You adjust the knobs to increase or decrease the flame.

Charcoal grills need a little different handling. To cool down the heat, it’s recommended to spread out the briquettes and to increase the heat, pushing the coals together will adjust the grill to a higher temperature. The other essential to look for is an adjustable rack. Raising the rack from the coals will naturally cool down the temperature, and lowering the rack closer to the coals will increase the heat. Additionally, vents play an important role in controlling your charcoal grill. Closing the top vent, which allows less oxygen in, will decrease the temperature. Opening the vent wider will increase the heat because you are letting oxygen in, and to hit maximum heat, you would open up both the top and bottom vents.

Here is a recommended guide to what grill temperature you need to cook meats, vegetables, and fruits:

450°F to 550°F: Meat kabobs, seared skirt steak, shellfish, fish steaks

350°F to 450°F: Thicker beef cuts, burgers, chicken, turkey, whole fish, vegetables, fruits

250°F to 350°F: Bratwurst sausage, pork tenderloin

200°F to 250°F: Brisket, ribs

Cleanup

Cleaning is an important part of preparation. The idea is to scrape off any leftover food or char with a special wire grill brush while either the propane or charcoal grill is preheating. Just use a cloth and soapy water to clean the outside of your gas grill. Charcoal grills are a little dirtier, which makes cleanup a bit more of a hassle because you’re dealing with leftover ash from previous grilling. Typically these grills include an ashtray, so you can remove and dump the ashes in the trash.

Accessories

Propane gas grills are equipped with burners, shelving, and storage racks; however, users need to purchase the propane tank. These are easily found at places like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Amazon. It’s important to thoroughly read your grill instructions to understand what tanks are best for your particular grill. Additionally, many stores offer a propane gas tank exchange program. Charcoal grills typically feature an ash catcher, cooking grates, vents, hooks for cooking utensils, and sometimes a convenient built-in thermometer.

Safety

Most critical is to take all precautions to ensure safety before grilling. With that in mind, it’s always suggested to do a quick inspection of your equipment, ensuring that valves are connected, propane tanks aren’t damaged, and grills are outdoors. Charcoal grills come with other risks like pieces of hot charcoal burning your hand or igniting when the wind blows. 

Cost

Generally, propane gas grills are costlier than charcoal grills. Propane gas grills require a tank (which is not included in the price of grills) and the propane gas (depending on the size of your refillable tank, this can cost from $10 to $25). Propane gas grills at a store like Home Depot will range in size and start at $150. Charcoal grills are a lot less fussy, which makes owning one of these more affordable. Again, Home Depot offers a range of sizes; a standard one starts at $45 (coal briquettes not included). One bag of charcoal runs at about $9.

Health

Propane gas grills burn cleaner than charcoal grills. Cooking on a charcoal grill may expose you and the food to PAH-rich smoke. PAH, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are a group of chemicals that are known carcinogens that may cause tumors.

Taste

Foods are really easy to cook on the grill. While you won’t get the true charred, smoky flavor on your propane gas grill, there are several methods to check out online to try to mimic a charcoal grill flavor. Pitmasters almost always prefer grilling on charcoal. Beginner backyard chefs can start with simple recipes like charbroiled salmon, BBQ ribs, beer can chicken, carne asada, grilled eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, and asparagus and, if adventurous, grilled peaches, pineapple, and apricots are quite delicious. Once comfortable working the grill, you can play up your skills by grilling slow-cooked briskets, baby back ribs, pizza, turkey, and so much more.