There are few things more enjoyable than firing up a few burgers and brats on the backyard grill. This time of year, I’m out back grilling almost every night. And while the battle over gas or charcoal may never officially be settled, I’m here to lend my support to the power of propane.
Here are ten of the reasons I choose gas over charcoal.
1. It’s Better for the Earth
While it’s true that gas is a fossil fuel and charcoal is a renewable resource, the burning of charcoal produces a much larger carbon footprint than gas. A 2003 study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory said using a gas grill for an hour emits about 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide, whereas a charcoal grill produces 11 pounds. In theory, you could reduce the charcoal footprint by using pure lump charcoal instead of common briquettes, but acquiring those coals may require shipping, thus offsetting any reduction in carbon footprint.
2. It’s Easier to Get the Temperature Correct
If you want to cook your food at a specific temperature, you’ll have an easier time using gas. Charcoal is less predictable, and it’s hard to adjust the temperature to accommodate different kinds of food. (Steaks may like a super-hot grill, while veggies might cook best with a medium heat, for example.) Stick with gas, and you’ll spend less time fiddling with your grill and more time enjoying your adult beverage.
3. It Gets Plenty Hot Enough
Briquette supporters will rightly point out that charcoal grills can get considerably hotter than gas grills. But how hot do you really need your grill to get? My gas grill easily gets above 500 degrees, which is hot enough for anything I cook. Remember: you’re cooking steaks, not firing pottery.
4. It’s Faster
It can take up to 20 minutes for a charcoal grill to get hot, while gas grills can usually get up to 400 degrees in no time. That’s good for when it’s weeknight, you just got off work, and the kids are clamoring for their dinner. Quicker food means a happier family.
5. It’s More Versatile Than You Think
Charcoal supporters will argue that you can produce wider range of flavors using coals over gas. But really, this is nonsense; coals do not impart any flavor. You might get a better char on your meat from charcoal, but I’ve had great success creating good char on my food just by cranking the heat and experimenting with various direct and indirect cooking techniques. Smoker boxes placed on a gas grill allow you to infuse your food with flavor from wood or coal shavings. You’d be surprised with what you can accomplish.
6. It’s Less Expensive
I can refill my propane tank at a local general store for less than $20, and it lasts me most of the summer. You can only get two bags of charcoal for that price, and you’ll still need to buy lighter fluid. The lower cost of the fuel more than offsets the higher price of gas grills if you do a decent amount of grilling.
7. It’s Cleaner
I’ve come home and fired up burgers on my gas grill while still wearing a shirt and tie. Try doing that with charcoal. Overall, gas grills don’t require as much cleanup after cooking due to the lack of leftover ash, and there are no black coals to handle.
8. Big Parties Are Much Easier
As long as you have a full propane tank, you can cook for hours on a gas grill. It’s perfect for when you have 50 people over for a Father’s Day picnic. With charcoal, you’ll have to change the coals out after a certain point as the heat dies down.
9. You Can Cook in Almost Any Weather
It’s very hard — and perhaps unsafe — to cook on a charcoal grill when it’s very windy. And charcoal grilling in the rain is a challenge. But I’ve used my gas grill in all kinds of weather (including snow!) The gas stream allows flames to remain consistent and are generally unbothered by outside elements.
10. It’s Less Deadly
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that between 2005 and 2009, charcoal grills led to an average of eight deaths annuallyfrom carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas grills, meanwhile, caused fewer than one death per year.